James Marcus Haney snuck into everything from Glastonbury to the Grammys.
James Marcus Haney is a USC dropout who has snuck into nearly 50 music festivals over the past four years by hitching rides via Craiglist, recreating tech-equipped wristbands and walking in through press entrances while covered in countless cameras. Thankfully, he always kept the Canon 5D around his neck on "record" so he could collect footage of his favorite acts like Mumford & Sons, Jay Z and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros -- and the lengths he'd go to see them.
It's all strategically compiled into No Cameras Allowed, the documentary Haney has created that's set to air on MTV on Aug. 29, but he warns viewers to adjust their expectations.
"People are expecting a music festival break-in 101, but it's not that," he says of the film, which is free of reenactments and sprinkled with animation, psychedelic effects and head-tripping cuts to emulate each festival's distinct vibe. "It's a film that everybody, regardless of your age of musical tastes, can relate to. There are universal points that connect to your core rather than just your musical sensibilities."
Still, it's a scene that might have an expiration date: "Every year, they get bigger. This generation is definitely the peaking point of the festival."
Did you always want to take a more narrative approach to the documentary?
I originally wanted to make a rock doc about musicians and performances, and we got a pretty cool rough cut, but it was only as cool as any straight tour doc, and would basically only appeal to fans of those bands. We put in some of the sneaking-in elements, and people wanted more of that. But to tell that story in depth, I had to put my voice in it, which I hated. The more that happened, the more the personal things started etching in, and people really responded to the personal element. It took a while for me to come around, man up and put that personal perspective in there.
Music festivals aren't what they used to be — it's not just flooded with music acts, but also product samples, fashion ambassadors, etc. that some say are inauthenticating the experience.
It's a good conversation that I have a lot: these festivals that are grounded in music are being infiltrated and overrun by branding — creative branding, but branding nonetheless. But I can still love Coachella just as much each year because you have to accept that the branding is there. Even SXSW, which started off as something else, is now just one huge Doritos billboard, but you go there, accept what it's gonna be.