James Marcus Haney: Renegade Filmmaker
James Marcus Haney did what all of us music lovers only dared dream to do – he snuck in to every major festival, amassed footage like non-other, got a job touring with Mumford & Sons, and managed to make a documentary on the whole thing. With the premiere of No Cameras Allowed right around the corner, we talked with Haney and found out how this project came about, how he managed to sneak into a gigantic Canadian venue, and what it’s like to get kicked out of Bonnaroo.
So how long did it take you to film the documentary?
Well, I didn’t know I was making a documentary until later. The first festival was Coachella 2010 and the movie goes until Austin City Limits 2011, so it covers about a year and a half.
So how did the idea come about? Was it just like you wanted to go to festivals or was there always some sort of artistic pursuit behind it?
No, it was literally like, I really wanted to go to Coachella and I had no money and I used the camera as a prop as one of the ways to get in. I did it for more festivals just to see the bands, cause I love these bands, just to get in, just to hang out with this one girl – she was at Coachella and uh…
Is she in the documentary?
Yeah she’s a big part of the film.
How did it come about that it’s getting on MTV now?
When I realized I could make a feature film out of it all I brought an editor friend in and we put together a rough cut and then we got a production company on board to help with the finishing funds and everything cause you know, all the mastering and mixing, music rights, animation, that shit is so expensive. And then they helped us get a screening room at the agency and we showed it to a bunch of distributors and MTV ended up being the ones we partnered with. There’s actually a lot of controversy out right now with people thinking that it’s a product of Hollywood, that it’s a fake scripted thing and that they put a lot of footage into it and beefed it up – not the case whatsoever. Everything in that film I shot, except for the shots where I’m in the shot, which my friends shot. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is from anyone else.
So Coachella was the first festival but what was the first band that you met backstage?
I didn’t meet any bands until I met Mumford and Edward Sharpe after I handed off the DVD – one of the shorts films I made, Connaroo, is about sneaking into Bonnaroo and Coachella – so I took that DVD to a Mumford show a few months later and I handed it to a roadie, and I said “If you like this pass it along to the band and if you don’t like it just throw it away”, never thinking he’d even watch it but he watched it, he gave it to the band, the band watched it, they gave it to management, management gave it to Edward Sharpe and that’s how I met those bands, and they brought me on the train tour and that’s how I got my start professionally – by getting invited on the most amazing tour in the world.
Yeah I heard that Mumford & Sons gave you a challenge. Is that right?
Yeah, so after I’d been on tour with them I was actually up here in Canada with them and they took my pass away, kicked me out of the Air Canada Center in Toronto, and said “You gotta get back in before we go on.” The doors had just opened, there were opening bands, so I had a lot of time but Air Canada Center is like a big hockey arena, you know there’s no open roof – you can’t jump over anything. And within 20 minutes I was onstage getting a photo of the crowd and then a couple of minutes later backstage in the dressing room and they were all freaking out.
What’s the worst that happened when you got denied access? Did you ever get involved with police?
I’ve been involved with police a bunch – I’ve been handcuffed but never arrested, luckily. I think the worst was at Bonnaroo 2010; the last day I got kicked out, put onto like a golf cart carrier transport thing and driven 4 miles off site in the middle of nowhere and dropped and left.
That’s so scary!
Yeah it was in the highway in the middle of nooowhere in bumblefuck Tennessee and that’s so they would ensure I wouldn’t walk back but it was the middle of Sunday so it didn’t really matter, AND they actually drove me in the right direction to the other side of the state where I needed to get to, so it worked out.
You know how a lot people say about Pop Art, “oh I could’ve done that, but I didn’t.” But I couldn’t have done what you did, it’s so crazy, it’s so smart! But you’re probably gonna make it harder now for people to break in.
Well this film is definitely not a call to action to sneak in; if you actually see the film it’s a lot less about sneaking into festivals than it is a coming of age story set in that music festival world. It’s a real shame when you hear that kids keep crashing your event and being so rambunctious and physical that security guards just get hurt. You know, you gotta really question the motives there. Like for me and my friends it was always to be in a music festival to enjoy the music and to have the time of our lives together – as soon as you put someone else’s safety in jeopardy that just completely ruins the whole thing. There are a lot of idiots out there, so if you absolutely have to sneak in don’t be an idiot about it.
Watch No Cameras Allowed premiering August 29th on MTV
All photos by James Marcus Haney