Before No Cameras Allowed premiers on MTV, you can catch the controversial documentary at IFC Center in New York City and Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena, California. The documentary tells the story of Marcus Haney, a kid who snuck his way onto the front-lines of the music world and into the pages of Rolling Stone. Since the trailer leaked a few weeks ago, the internet has been buzzing with this ballsy guy's story and the documentary which gives viewers a backstage pass into some of the biggest music festivals in the world.
The film takes no time in directing the morality issue. Haney is sneaking into festivals which thousands of people are spending hard-earned money to attend, breaking into press areas which professional photographers have spent years to earn the credentials to be at, and sharing the stage with artists who make a living off the profits of their performances. So how does Haney manage to swindle his way to the front-lines of the music world and all the while be surrounded by the smiling faces of the other festival-goers?
To start off, this kid is charming as hell. Within the first few minutes of the film, one is pulled in by Haney's charisma and captivated by his passion to pursue this crazy, but extraordinary dream. Similar to the setting of a confessional booth in a reality television show, Haney sits right before the camera and narrates his experience. He starts off with the question of whether what he is doing is ethical, but states that in the end his desire to reach his goal outweighed any questions of ethics. Haney addresses the moral predicament right there and then, but that is it. If you are looking for a long justification of why Haney did what he did, then go check out the latest blockbuster instead because that's not what this film is about. If you want to see an inside look at some of the biggest music festivals in the world, then check out this film. The documentary is filled with great footage of some of the biggest name’s in music; Jay Z, Young the Giant, Skrillex, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and the band which helped Haney on his way to fame, Mumford & Sons.
One of the questions which many asked when the trailer for No Cameras Allowed was released was how did Haney manage to break into the festivals? And how did he get the quality of footage which he did? The first question is answered by Haney taking viewers through the whole process via the lens of his camera and a cartoon version of himself. The use of animation allowed the film to illustrate the beginning of Haney’s journey when he first snuck into Coachella in 2010 and wasn’t aware that his footage would lead to a full-length documentary. The documentary uses cartoon versions of Haney and his partners in crime, interwoven with the bit of footage Haney managed to take during his first break-in, and scenes of the various people involved describing their experiences. All these features combined allow the film to do a good job in telling Haney’s story with a significant lack of resources.
Now we come back to the question, but was it all real? Not in the sense of did it happen, but are Haney and MTV presenting a skewed version of the events that passed. Haney’s story is compelling and definitely fits well with the cool image MTV tries to exhibit, but is it too good to be true? In the film Haney claims that he literally just walked into the back entrance of Glastonbury while security guards were leaving their shift. Haney either got lucky or he’s leaving out some crucial details.
While the animation used in the beginning of the film explains how Haney was able to illustrate the beginning of his story with the lack of footage, there are still questions that need to be asked. Was all the footage in the documentary shot by himself or one of his friends attending the festival with him? If not, did he borrow footage from other videographers? That would explain some of the higher quality, crowd-sweeping shots that fill both the film and its trailer. This issue was never addressed in the documentary and leaves me with a lingering doubt, despite really wanting to believe Haney’s amazing story.
No matter the questions No Cameras Allowed has created, any music lover will appreciate some of the amazing moments this guy catches on camera. Not only are there great shots of big acts such as Jay Z and Skrillex performing at the various festivals he breaks into, but there are also a collection of intimate moments Haney captured of the various bands. There are scenes of Haney partying with Young the Giant and Grouplove backstage as well as some hilarious dialogue between Haney and some of the festivals' security guards.
Haney really hits his stride while filming Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show during the Railroad Revival Tour. The rebellious kid’s parents were not thrilled when Haney left school to join these bands on tour, but based on the footage in the film alone, I would definitely say it was worth it. The best footage from his time on tour is when he captures moments that fans normally would never get to see; all three bands jamming together in the sunny train car, the musicians cracking jokes backstage, and seeing Mumford & Sons get busted by security for getting a little to rowdy in their hotel room. These moments are when viewers truly get to see something that you wouldn’t get from a standard live performance video. Not only will you see fantastic shots of amazing bands playing a great show, but you get to see the artists goofing around like normal people.
During the film, there is a quote from Grim Grim, a friend Haney meets at Glastonbury, and he says, “If you ever get a chance to meet someone like Marcus, and he offers you the most stupid sounding, irrational, impossible, illogical scheme – do it!” This quote captures the notion of Carpe diem which is constantly present throughout the film. This guy had a crazy idea and was probably doubted by hundreds if not more, but look at where it led him. Haney has had his work featured in Rolling Stone, HBO, and is now the official photographer for Mumford & Sons. This film encourages viewers to take risks and do the unexpected because sometimes they pay off bigger than you could ever imagine. Haney emits an amazing nothing-is-impossible energy throughout the film, and it's hard not to fall under his spell. Being backstage and hanging out with your favorite band would be every music lovers dream, and although Haney's method of getting there may be drastic, his journey is definitely an entertaining one to watch.
No Cameras Allowed will be aired on MTV on Friday, August 29th, 2014 at 10/9c. Check local listings. For more information, check out No Camera's Allowed official Facebook page.