By Bad Seed
In 2003 Bill Breithaupt was again asked by Burning Man Head of Media Operations Jim Graham to create another film, this time to headline the 2nd Burning Man Film Festival in Santa Cruz, leaving him only one month between Burning Man and the film festival to edit a new film. With less than two weeks till Santa Cruz, Bill took some time off from his grueling editing schedule to attend the Coney Island Short Film Festival in New York. Not only was AquaBurn an official selection in the festival, but it won the title of Best Documentary Short Film. Returning home with a cleared mind, Breithaupt resumed his editing schedule and completed Burning Karma the very morning of the Santa Cruz Burning Man Film Festival.
Burning Karma is darker and more intense than its predecessor, AquaBurn, yet it maintains a focus on the incredible art installations of the year's theme (Beyond Belief). Following many of the artists from AquaBurn, we see Terry Schrek’s project “In God’s Hands”, Peter Hudson’s return with Sisyphish, David Best’s Temple of Honor, plus sky diving footage from Brian Burke & the Sky People, all set to classical music and hypnotic techno beats.
In July of 2004 AquaBurn also headline The Burning Man Film Festival held at the Raven Theater in Healdsburg, CA. It was such a hit with the crowd that they demanded more and an impromptu screening of Burning Karma and Are You Lost? followed, even though most of the audience had already sat through hours of Burning Man films.
In February of 2007 Burning Karma was chosen to be the only film shown as part of the exhibit “Burning Man & Beyond” hosted for one month by the Santa Rosa Junior College.
Although not the first Burning Man film by Bill Breithaupt, AquaBurn has become the most popular. Breithaupt is a ten year Burning Man veteran, having attended and filmed the festival every year consecutively since 1999, when he ventured out to the playa for the first time and was blown away at what he experienced. Returning home he couldn’t stop talking about how amazing Burning Man was. Realizing that he never could quite convey the experience to others through words, he decided to express it through film, a medium he’s been working with for over 20 years. Breithaupt hunkered down and spent hours editing his footage into a film, Playa Project, which featured Dr. Megavolt. When he came back to the playa the following year he brought with him 100 copies of Playa Project to gift to his fellow burners. This became his annual tradition, filming, editing and returning the next year with films to gift on the playa.
In 2000 Breithaupt started screening his films at Flambé Lounge, a pre-Burning Man party held in San Francisco. At Club Cocomo he gave the video jockey a copy of Playa Project, which was promptly played on the screens in the club. It was a hit with the crowd, hailed as “hip, new, and exciting”. The next year at Flambé Lounge they showcased his film, Got Fire? from Burning Man 2000. It was through this event that he met Andie Grace, Burning Man Org Communications Manager, with whom he shared his idea of a Burning Man Film Festival to showcase the many Burning Man films suddenly springing up. There was electricity in the air as people embraced the year’s upcoming theme The Floating World at the Flambé Lounge Blue Ball in 2002. Breithaupt showed his 2001 film PlayaScape, and the crowd was ecstatic, cheering in unison as the credits rolled.
A few months later, in July of 2002, Burning Man Head of Media Operations, Jim Graham offered Bill Breithaupt a spot in the 1st annual Burning Man Film Festival held in Santa Cruz, CA. This was a surprising request, as Burning Man is known for having strict policies regarding filming at Burning Man and the usage of such footage. Jumping at the opportunity Breithaupt headed to Burning Man for his fourth year in a row, partying with his friends and filming the entire week as usual. Aside from the beautiful time-lapse footage and cinematic shots he’s known for, he also captured some fantastic insight from his fellow burners thanks to the verbal skills of his good friend Scott Sheppard. When he returned home he locked himself in his studio and edited, determined to make his best film yet. With only three weeks between the end of Burning Man 2002 and the day of the film festival, he began burning the midnight oil, editing 14-16 hours straight, rarely sleeping. At the end of this crazy schedule Breithaupt had edited a total of 180 hours, and was off to the festival without having slept for two days straight. The final result was the film AquaBurn. The 300 + audience that packed into the Rio Theater that day were awed. At the end of the film they cheered, then quieted to watch all the credits, and then cheered again, rising to give Breithaupt a standing ovation (at the end of which he thanked his mom). True to form, he filmed the audience’s enthusiastic reaction, and was even quoted as saying “it was one of the best moments of my life”.
Officially beginning on Baker Beach in 1986, Burning Man began on an impulse when Larry Harvey & Jerry James created a man out of wood and burned him on the beach. Various myths and rumors circulate about what the man represented: a love lost, a memorial to Larry’s father, etc. Larry insists it is not what it represented that matters, but that the act of burning the effigy was the “first recorded form of what we now call ‘radical self-expression’ ” (from Burning Man’s MySpace page) a concept that became his gift to the world. Others joined him for the burn on the beach, bringing their influence and arts, having their own moments of “radical self-expression”. The crowd grew each year, and in 1990 San Francisco police stepped in to halt the expanding event, and a new location was obtained in the Nevada desert.