Spark: A Burning Man Story

Synopsis: Each year, 60,000 people from around the globe gather in a dusty windswept Nevada desert to build a temporary city, collaborating on large-scale art and partying for a week before burning a giant effigy in a ritual frenzy. Rooted in principles of self-expression, self-reliance and community effort, Burning Man has grown famous for stirring ordinary people to shed their nine-to-five existence and act on their dreams. Spark takes us behind the curtain with Burning Man organizers and participants, revealing a year of unprecedented challenges and growth. When ideals of a new world based on freedom and inclusion collide with realities of the "default world," we wonder which dreams can survive.
Production: Paladin Films
  1 nomination.
Rotten Tomatoes:
90 min

[no sound]

[mysterious drum and flutes, ]

[Drum and flutes continue, ]


I drew a line on the ground.

And I said, "On the other side of this

line, everything will be different."

And everything has

been different.

[ "Feel the Love" by


To a lot people who aren't here,

this is just a big party

in the desert.

But really it's a place where

you can explore

the possibilities of what we

would create on this world

if we weren't so busy with

our 9 to 5's.


The place is an idea.

And that idea is that people have

permission to be whomever they want to be.

That's so powerful

and so alluring,

that people go to the

worst place in the world,

just to get a little

taste of it.

Burning Man is all about

"Why not?" overwhelming "Why?"

Why not dress differently, act

differently, think differently... why not?

We use the word

ethos, and ethos means a way of life.

This is all about identity.

It's hard to belong.

And that's really, in creating a city here...

talk about a powerful sense of place.

A cosmic sense of place.

[MARIAN GOODELL]: We had drawn all

these people like moths to the flame.

They were having these

transformative experiences.

But what if they were more

than we could handle?

People say, "What,

you do Burning Man all year round?

Which is insane, of course, because I feel

like I do five or seven people's jobs.

And if we do our job well,

no one even knows we exist.

They don't see

the infrastructure.


There is no book on

how you do an event called

Burning Man.

We sort of made it

up on the fly.

Is this going to work?

Let's try it.

I did have some

advice from circus carnies

and designers and architects

and people like that.

The ten principles

are guidelines.

You know, it's

something to work with.

It means...

Everyone is invited to come

and play and build and do.

Helping each other find that

little spark of creativity.

It means being responsible for


and also being

responsible for others.

I am holding the



Pick it up,

even if it's not yours.

You brought it in,

you can take it home.

You know, we have very intimate

partnerships, you know, the six of us.

Michael Mikel met Larry in 1988.

And then Larry briefly

dated Harley.

And then Crimson came along

and brought Will in.

And then I came along and was

brought in by dating Larry.

So then what you have are, you

know, intimate relationships.


I'm not really a joiner.

And I like to stand off

and watch how people behave.

See I never had to

join anything, people join me.

You know, that was

my solution to that problem.

[TV static]

Your first...

Well, I've had enough!!

[man laughing]


I really wasn't an artist.

I had a very, very modest, small

landscaping business.

I was hanging out with

a lot of people,

all of whom were,

in their spare time,

writing novels or painting

pictures or playing music.

So it was sort of a

Bohemian scene.

We had a friend who was

a carpenter, you know, and uh...

I just called him one day and said,

"Let's burn a man on the beach."

That's all it amounted to.

I think he may have asked me

to repeat my statement.

[drumming and jingling]

And along the way,

we called a few friends.

[drumming and

jingling continues]

[people chattering]

[woman] Stay back!

In 1988, I heard

about a group of people

who were going to go

down on the beach

and burn this wooden figure.

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