There´s a new film out called ‘No Cameras Allowed‘ which shows the journey of a guy named Marcus Haney who got into Coachella festival with a fake press pass and took exclusive film footage of famous bands. Furthermore, after doing this, he got invited by bands like ‘Mumford and Sons’ to join them on tour. It would appear that this film-trailer has become a big hit on Youtube. Is “No Cameras Allowed” real or just a fake story to get some money out of kids who believe this is how the music business works? Read on.
Who of you who are into music photography wouldn´t want to shoot directly for bands and go on tour with them? Who wouldn´t want to be a Rock-Superstar Photographer overnight and who wouldn´t want to make a living out of concert photography? Most of us want to live this dream. And now, following the release of the film „No Cameras Allowed“, it seems so easy. You don´t have to be honest or hard working anymore. By faking Coachella festival wrist bands, Marcus Haney snuck in under the security radar and filmed footage from the photo pit. The film trailer also shows that he went on-stage to shoot exclusive footage with his Press wrist band. And they state that after the bands had seen his footage, they immediately took him with them on tour.
I have been a pro-music photographer for a couple of years and have worked directly with artists such as Iggy Pop and The Prodigy and have shot hundreds of bands such as The Rolling Stones, Nine Inch Nails, Miley Cyrus. Iron Maiden, Rammstein and Foo Fighters for many international publications. I am also the tour photographer of the German band Shantel and have travelled with them on tour for the last year. I found my way to get into the music business with an approach that is honest to bands/managements, because I think this is the professional way of doing things. This is what I believe in and if you´re doing things the wrong way in this business, you´ll be kicked out faster than you can click your shutter button.
I just want to make clear at the beginning that I am not jealous of this guy, because I am already there. I just want to tell you my point of view about the trailer I saw, because I think a lot of people will believe what they see in “No Cameras Allowed” and it might distort the reality of working as a music photographer.
1. How do you get Press Accreditation in reality?
A press accreditation is basically an agreement with the band’s management that allows you to enter the venue with your professional camera gear and take photos of the concert. This means you need someone like a music magazine to give you permission to do this. Then the magazine gets in contact with the concert organizer. Concert organizers are companies that book bands who will then check with the bands’ management to see if they agree to allowing photographers into the gig. As you can see so far, there’s some steps to be taken before you get a press accreditation. In „No Cameras Allowed“, Marcus Haney faked a wrist bands to sneak by the security guards. Ok, this might work, because Security guards have to check thousands of wrist bands and getting over this hurdle is definitely possible.
However, if you shoot for famous bands, you have to sign contracts with the band’s management before you’re allowed to shoot them. They will check the magazine in which the pictures will be published, because big stars want big media coverage. So, how would he be able to get into the pit with a fake wrist band with fake media coverage?
2. The Photo pit
Once you get into the festival venue, you head to the Photo Pit. This is the dedicated space in front of the stage where concert photographers work. In general, you’re only allowed to shoot from the photo pit for the first three songs, after which you get kicked out of the area. So, Marcus Haney might have managed to enter with his video camera and film from there. I am a photographer and not a video guy, but from what I know, even the largest Television team (here in Austria) is only allowed to film a couple of seconds of the gig and they´re sometimes not even allowed to record live audio. This might be different in the US, but there are definitely strict limits for more famous bands (see the contract issue mentioned above). So how should he got his awesome film footage then?
3. Onstage action
The trailer also showed that he got onto the stage with his fake wrist band and shot whilst onstage. This is where the film gets really far-fetched. I have shot onstage for bands such as Iggy Pop, The Prodigy and Portugal. The Man and there’s no way you can get onto the stage without knowing the tour manager or the band! A normal wrist band won´t do the trick and you´ll need an AAA (Access All Areas) pass. There are stars like JayZ and U2 in the film! So do you think anyone with a fake Press pass can just get onstage and film from there? If you have no direct contact with the band, you´ll be kicked out of the venue immediately and probably never get back in!
4. High quality film coverage vs. analog footage in ‘No Cameras Allowed’
In the trailer, Marcus Haney uses an analog film camera to cover the concerts. However, most of the trailer shows high quality film footage shot from above (possibly from a helicopter or crane), onstage action and musicians smiling into the camera. Maybe he also had a fake technician crane or helicopter pass? Oh, and why is it produced by MTV…?
5. Legal issues
And then there are also the legal issues. If he had to sign a contract which normally states that you’re only allowed to post your footage in the magazine you have permission to shoot for, then he would be in big trouble. And eventhen if he didn’t sign any contract, then it’s not clear if he’s allowed to use his film footage to make a film and make money from a commercial product. How’s it possible that none of the bands’ management, sued him and cancelled the project? Maybe they‘re also involved and will get their share of the proceeds from this film?
6. Marketing stunt or the real s**t?
When I firstt saw the video, I was instantly reminded of “The Blair Witch Project”! I don´t know if you can remember this fake horror movie, but it´s where some students disappear in the forest and weeks later someone finds the video tapes showing they were propbably killed by a witch? This film was also released in cinemas and it was an enormous success, because it was a new approach to making a movie different and special. I have the same feeling about „No Cameras Allowed“. Maybe it´s just a great marketing stunt by the music and film industry working together, to make the Rockstar life of musicians more interesting?
6. It´s a punch in honest concert photographers faces!
It doesn´t really matter if “No Cameras Allowed” is fake or real. But what matters is the fact that Marcus Haney, by acting dishonestly (if this is true) and doing things illegally, gets the respect of all the media and musicians. Scott Kelby mentioned this on a recent youtube comment and got already some nasty comments back. What do they want to say with this film? Do things that aren’t allowed and you´ll get what you want?
I think it’s a punch in every honest concert photographers faces! I know of so many people around the world who are great and honest guys. They live their passion as music photographers and give their best to make a living out of it. And then along comes this film which tells you, just fake a press wrist band and all doors will be open to you!
I can understand why made this film for commercial reasons. Sure, the rockstar business seems like a cool business to be in and it should stay like this. I haven’t watched the movie yet and I am interested as to what other secrets about the music biz this film tries to reveal. In a long term, I guess it’s just another way to make the already struggling music industry seem a bit cooler. Marcus probably met the right people at the right time and I think all of us would have taken this opportunity to become a Rockstar photographer overnight.
Again, these are just my thoughts on the film. I don´t know if this film is really or fake, but it seems they took more care trying to make his movie sellable than showing the truth about being a concert photographer.
What do you think? Fake or real?
UPDATE: Ok here’s some news about the story. After posting my article on my social media channels it spread like wildfire. First Music Photographers and Gig-Photographer jumped on the train and there was a lot of buzz going on in the concert photography community. Also Todd Owyoung tweeted: ‘Is #NoCamerasAllowed a fake? @MatHombauer thinks so. Some interesting points’ and David Hobby (Strobist) wrote: ‘Totally agree w/photographer Matthias Hombauer, who is calling bullshit on the new “documentary” No Cameras Allowed. http://goo.gl/LS4wh7 ‘ Finally it got covered by PetaPixel who also published the original story about “No Cameras Allowed” before.
So it seems most of the music photographers see it as a fake marketing stunt. Even more funny is the fact what my photog friend Marty McFly found out: “the Youtube link is marked as deleted due to copyright claims by “F the fence, LLC” (which seems to be an LA based filmproduction startup and also listing Caafilmproductions and Fake Empire Inc.)”. The television division of Fake Empire is based at Warner Bros. Television, which distributes the Gossip Girl, Chuck, Hart of Dixie, The Carrie Diaries, Cult, and The Astronaut Wives Club television series. Marcus Haney said in an interview with Noisey that the trailer was leaked and maybe this is the reason it got deleted.
I am still not sure what to think about it. Marcus’ music portfolio is great and therefore I would assume that he is a concert photographer. However, reading the intro of the Noisey interview doen´t make me take this guy too serious: “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 mainstage, hangs out with bands, and captures unique views with his camera.” Maybe this is the new way of becoming a Rockstar Photographer in 2014. At least for MTV.
If you want to become a Rockstar Photographer check out my “Guide to Rockstar Concert Photography”. Click here to learn more.