INFERNO

live-action self-portrait

*The first minute or so has no visuals. That is intentional.

Several years passed before I showed anyone this video, outside of a handful of close friends. Sometimes, I used the part where there is no video to give a quick synopsis of what they were about to see. Other times, I'd use the first minute of darkness to set the mood, cleanse the viewer's visual palette, etc. 

Music by Dead Can Dance and Pink Floyd (that I time-warped...)

INFERNO

Personal Project, 1997

I went up to the beach at sunset, poured a can of rubber cement on my head, and lit it on fire.

concepts

I had recently seen a clip from a German TV station ID showing a woman with Christmas ornaments in her hair, rotating her head back and forth -- and an idea came to me that it would be cool if those ornaments were flames, dancing across the face casting shadows.

if

...in the midst of chaos...

peace

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I set out to figure out how to bring this to life.

I envisioned a man with his head shaved into 7 braids, the end of each on fire. I quickly reasoned that no actor with long hair would be willing to shave it the way I envisioned or, more importantly, set themselves on fire.

You'd have to be crazy.

Also, I had long hair so it sorta worked out.

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The company I worked for had an in-house production team headed by the very talented Simo Nylander. I told them I was going to set my head on fire and asked if they'd mind filming it.

We headed to Pismo Beach at sunset — bringing along glitter, a jar of rubber cement, and a cow skull that I had been gifted by another co-worker, Ron. 

25 years later, that same cow skull hangs behind me as I work. Thanks Ron! Thanks Simo!

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Up at the beach, I stripped down to my undies, covered myself in fire gel (to protect from burning) and then glitter. I held lighter up to the end of one of my braids. Roll camera. 

Flick. Flick. Nothing.

My socks were nearby so I tore them up into pieces which I tied to the end of each braid.

Flick. Flick. Nothing.

I had done no tests beforehand to determine how flammable hair was, socks were, etc. But on a hunch, I had stopped by a convenience store on the way to the beach for a can of rubber cement. My co-workers took the applicator brush and lathered the socks. 

Flick. Flick. Something.

A couple of the braids lit up for a flash. We were on to something. My braids were collected together on top of my head and the entire can of rubber cement was poured onto my head.

Flick.

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Searing heat. My eyes were closed but it felt like I was staring into the sun.

I hadn't really planned ahead and brought a fire extinguisher. The ocean was about 100 yards away. Instinct kicked in and I dove headfirst into the sand as a couple people kicked sand on me to help put it out.

I was stunned, took a breath, and a smile crept in. Woah. I wanted to do more.

Simo lived nearby and had a pool. We went to his house, where his daughter then put pipe cleaner in each of my braids so that the would be further from my face. I put some of her makeup on and then sat out by the pool for the next series of shots (the idea being that if things went south again, I could fall into the pool). 

Other than flaming rubber cement dripping onto my shoulders, this part of the process went much smoother. The imagery was perfect for the original intention of communicating "peace within chaos."

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weird

This is what I looked like driving home.

I still remember the face of the woman in the car next to me when I came to a red light in Arroyo Grande, CA on that random Tuesday night in 1997.

Hi neighbor!

. .. ... ..... ........ ......I...... ........ ..... ... .. .

Super Bowl LVCreative Director for augmented reality graphics, 2021 (Silver Spoon Animation)

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+01 201 707 9630
jessenewman@mac.com
@RebirthofGaea

© Jesse Michael Newman, 2021