Michael Marantz is constantly in pursuit of stirring people to feel the same way he does, alive. To achieve this goal, he founded the digital storytelling platform Already Alive to do exactly that. His work has taken him on projects far and wide, from the renowned festivals of Bonnaroo and Burning Man, to the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Above all, Marantz’ philosophy is rooted in a thirst for authentic collaboration, which in is his mind, is the key to creating the awe-inspiring content he strives for. MISSION spoke with Michael about the foundation of Already Alive, his experience on the Playa in Black Rock City (Burning Man), plus the challenges, and rewards, of being a filmmaker.
Who (or what) is Already Alive? What are you trying to accomplish through your work?
Quite simply, we are a group of filmmakers with a shared belief system and a common mission. We want to create work that affects the viewer. Not just escapism media, but something you can experience and take with you as a tool for the rest of your life. We think creating more work like this in the world is important. Not just something that looks cool, but something that creates such a deep emotional experience, but something that will forever change you, even if only the tiniest bit.
Personally, it is important to have amazing collaborators to work with. Having an organization that is larger then any individual is so important to get these talented individuals together. I was sick or just making things on my own, as filmmaking is such a collaborative endeavor. Already Alive was a perfect way to attract people with shared beliefs and aesthetics.
Can you think of an anecdote / story that embodies Already Alive as a whole and what you are creating?
When I was in college I had a pretty intense experience in my life. I got cancer. A treatable form, but still cancer nonetheless. At 21 years old this was a complete shock to the mind and I had to start dealing with mortality and all sorts of other thoughts a 21 year old doesn't normally think about. It took years, but eventually this experience started a chain reaction; a motivation of sorts to really take advantage of life; to not waste it. I created an organization so that I could be reminded every day to do just that.
After having made the pilgrimage to Black Rock City (Burning Man) this summer, what would you say is the most important lesson learned from the experience?
Let go. That's it. Such an incredible lesson to learn and an amazing practice in daily life. Being able to let go of pain, of expectations, of fear, this is such a huge part of leading a fulfilled life. Having ritual behind this idea of letting go is what Burning Man is all about to me.
You see, on the playa, you can't communicate by phone. You run into people randomly, and you miss them just as randomly. You learn very quickly to accept that fact of life. That you will see whom you will see for that week and it is silly to make plans. That idea of letting go of what you plan on doing and a schedule I found to be one of the most liberating parts of Burning Man. And then of course there is the burning of the man and of the temple, both incredible experiences. Many people spend months planning and building these structures, just to burn them down. There is something absolutely beautiful about that idea. Appreciating the journey, not the end result. Knowing there will be challenges and accepting all of them.
I have tried to really make letting go a consistent practice in my life, and I must say, it has most surly helped.
If you had the choice to film any event, country, region, people, etc., is there something in particular that comes to mind? Why?
Oh, wow. That is a difficult question. I am going to give you a little bit of a different answer.
I'm going to say that I'm not sure yet.
I truly accept all experiences that come my way. And I really embrace them. I want to film anything that I can come into with new eyes. Experiencing it for the first time with my camera and a mission to tell a good story. I think that is the most exciting way to choose something to film.
For the aspiring filmmakers out there - what piece of advice would you impart on them as they pursue their dreams?
Don't stop. If you truly love what you do and you are doing it for reasons that you can believe in, don't stop. I can tell you that I have had so many challenges in my career. I have failed so many times. I have been in great bouts of depression and in every single project I have ever done, I doubt the legitimacy and quality of the project that I am doing.
These things are normal. Don't let them stop you.
You have to keep pushing. And the most important thing that I have learned is that failure is not an excuse to give up. It is a reason to learn. There have never been situations where I have learned more in such a short amount of time then in my failures. Sure, they hurt a whole hell of a lot when they happen, but if you can try to pull back, if you can try to learn from them… man, that's what it is all about. Getting perspective, not making the same mistakes again, letting go and moving on.
It's so much work. And you will be mentally exhausted for so much of your experience. But that's okay. Learn to love the challenge.
In the end, life is so much more rewarding when there is a good challenge to rise to.
Andrew is Managing Editor of MISSION.tv. He is a global enthusiast with a passion for the road less traveled. This fascination with the world at large has taken him to over 20 countries (so far) through studying, volunteering, and writing about his travels, with no signs of slowing his globetrotting nature down. For story inquiries, ping him at email@example.com.