Marcus Haney has never paid to go to a festival. He makes replica wristbands, sneaks past security guards, and walks with confidence. Sure – he gets chucked out. But often he ends up on the main-stage, hangs out with bands, and captures unique views with his camera.
In the space of four years Marcus has been to almost fifty festivals around the world. Along the way he’s made friends with bands like Mumford & Sons, found himself clinging underneath festival cess-pits, and hanging out with a guy called Acid Chris. This is not his day job – he shoots for stations like HBO and creates music videos. But somehow, between hitch-hiking across the United States and being one of the most sought-after photographers in music, he’s found time to compile his four-year festival experience into a documentary.
The film is called No Cameras Allowed and you can watch a trailer for it above*. Marcus told me it’s important to note the trailer is leaked – the film has been passed around interns, shown to Chris Martin from Coldplay (who he hopes will pass it on to Michael Eavis), and as a result it is not representative of the final piece. He tells me a couple of names are missing from the trailer's credits and deserve a shout-out - most noteably the Naked and Famous, who he befriended a couple years back and have provided songs for soundtrack.
I called up Marcus yesterday evening to find out more about the film, his life, and whether or not he decided to graduate university or go on tour with a world-renowned band.
Noisey: How did this all start? What was the first festival you broke into?
Marcus: It was Coachella 2010. That was the first festival I ever went to.
Have you ever paid to go to a festival?
I’ve never paid yet, no. It really came down to Coachella being really close, we’d been talking about it for months, and this girl I really liked at school was going to be there.
It all started with a girl; a classic story. When you went to Coachella, did you have someone inside helping you out or did you blag your way in?
It was me and my friend Adam. We had no money for gas – we met a guy called Acid Chris on Craigslist to help put gas in our car. We snuck in at about 4AM on Friday morning, dressed in all black, jumped the fence, and slept underneath the trailers and porta-potties until the festival opened at noon.
The trailer for the film shows you guys printing off fake passes and making wristbands. What techniques have you used to get into festivals?
We’ve done everything. Everything from jumping fences to fake wristbands to posing as security to posing as artists to posing as press to running through truck entrances to going underneath fences.
What’s been the most exhilarating?
It’s always the one’s where you’re jumping and running – it’s the most old fashioned way but when someone is hot on your tail and you’re running through a sea of people, it’s like a high-speed pursuit but with a crowd watching and cheering you on.
I read a story once about a guy breaking into Glastonbury – it took him three days to jump the fence.
Glastonbury always stirs up the craziest stories because it’s the most guarded. It’s the crown jewel of music festivals. When I snuck into Glastonbury I got super lucky – I walked through a truck entrance at the right time when security were dealing with other people that had snuck in.
Even if you’re headlining it’s really hard. Last year when Mumford headlined we had to sneak someone in. We put him on the floor of the Mumford bus and they still almost caught him.
The best one I ever heard was someone hang-gliding into the festival. It’s quite risky heading to Europe from the States without a Glastonbury ticket though… How did that happen?
I had a job with HBO – the Running of the Bulls in Spain. It was for four days and I extended my trip. I travelled around, crashed on couches, and hitch-hiked. Hitch-hiking was how I met a guy called Grim Grim, who is in the trailer.
Is he the guy that 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"?
Yeah - Grim Grim is a special dude. He picked me up when I was hitch-hiking to Glastonbury, we kept in touch, and he’s since been a part of my adventures across the world. I shot the album cover for Mumford and Sons and if you look at that cover he’s in it, in the background.
That’s amazing. In the trailer I could spot Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, and Coachella. What festivals have you been to?
The one’s that made it into the film are Coachella, Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, Ultra, the Railroad Revival Tour – which was my first tour. But the credit sequence is my favourite bit of the film, which is sneaking into the Grammys.
How the fuck do you sneak into the Grammys????!!!
It was tough. It takes a lot of watching for the right opportunity to get past security, past scanners, past metal detectors, all the way down to the nominees floor where everyone is sitting. The Mumford boys were down there. I didn’t tell them I was going to sneak in – I turned up in a thrift store tux – and they went nuts. They let me sit with them. It was crazy and pretty surreal.
Speaking of Mumford – how did you end up meeting them?
It was after Coachella. I had snuck in, shot a lot of bands I liked, and I made a short film called Connaroo about breaking into Coachella and Bonnaroo. I handed the film to a roadie at one of their shows - because the band was in it - and said – “Hey, if you like it, pass it on to the band. If you don’t, throw it away”. I never even thought he’d watch it but he did. He gave it to the band. The band gave it to the manager. The manager gave it to Edward Sharpe. Edward Sharpe watched it and, collectively, they invited me on the tour.
But the only thing was, that train tour was during the same time as my finals at university. I had to choose between graduating or going on the train.
You chose the train. What was your course?
Cinema Production. I am still a high school graduate.
In the trailer there’s a clip of you being kicked out of a festival. What situations have you been in where people have asked you to leave and how have you dealt with it?
You get kicked out loads. As long as you flip your shirt inside out and take a different approach, you’ll be fine. The gnarliest one was Bonnaroo 2010. I got kicked out on the Sunday, they put me in a farm equipment, hay-bail carrier thing, and drove me out the site. They ended up dropping me about four miles away, in the middle of nowhere, and took off.
But that was the worst. I’ve been in handcuffs but never arrested.
After getting into Coachella, what spurred you on to continue breaking into festivals? The fact that you could get in for free?
For one, Coachella completely bit me. I had such an amazing time. Like, such an amazing time. I put my photos from Coachella in a Facebook album and a mutual friend, who was an intern at Bonnaroo, saw them. She passed them on to her boss, he took a look at them, and hit me up.
He basically said – “We like this photo of JAY Z. Do you mind if we use it for promotional purposes or something?”. I replied like “Yeah! That’s so cool! Do it!”. They said they couldn’t pay me but could give me two passes to Bonnaroo. I sold one pass and used it for air fare. Except the pass I had wasn’t a media pass and they wouldn’t let me bring my camera in. I ended up not using it and snuck in instead.
Is that where the name of the film – No Cameras Allowed – has come from?
The phrase has been in a lot of places: concerts, side of stage, places where you’re not allowed to be shooting.
In the trailer you talk about the morality of breaking into festivals. Do you ever feel bad? Or are you like, fuck it, I’m going to festivals for free, it’s sick. I personally don’t think it’s a bad thing – enough people pay to go to festivals.
The first thing I think about is – I’m not hurting anyone. But am I stealing anything? Am I stealing a ticket or opportunity for Coachella to make money? Well no, Coachella is sold out. And then I start to think – is there any way I’m able to twist this and make it feel like I’m helping the situation?
The trailer makes the film out to be about a guy sneaking into festivals but it’s really a coming of age story set in a music world. It’s a love letter written to these festivals, in a way. And it shows them in such a great light that my goal is that people will see my film and then go and experience live music on their own. There’s no way you can translate the live music experience on to film.
You’re right. Every time I get back from Glastonbury, you can’t explain it to someone that hasn’t been.
It’s inexplicable. I can’t put it totally on screen but if I can compel people to go and do it on their own, that’s my goal.
Alright. Last question – what’s your favourite festival?
Americans go to Coachella and think it’s the happiest and best place on earth. But if you ever get a chance and want to experience something out of this world, you have to go to Glastonbury. You can go there for eight days if you really wanted to and have the time of your life; that’s how ridiculous it is. People don’t understand – you go to Coachella and there’s nothing to do except go to a stage. Glastonbury is a fucking Alice in Wonderland…
I call it Disneyland for adults.
Dude, it’s insane. I don’t want to do anything that jeopardises what they do; I want to celebrate them. Thank god for the Eavis family.
If you live in LA, you can catch the first screening of No Cameras Allowed tonight at The Wiltern. Tickets available here.
All photos in this piece are by Marcus. You can view all his work here.
Follow Ryan on Twitter: @RyanBassil