photo by Jamie Cary
In 2009, I was just about ready to give up on my MTV and throw in the towel for good. Frustrated by a successful season of guidos and guiedettes, I had lost any hope that I had in the network to bring in shows that would speak to my generation. What I wanted to see was real people sparking motivation and inspiration among young adults my age. As a sophomore in college back then, I felt comfortable in my routine of going to class, going to my job, and writing for this blog, but is that all that makes up a life? That’s not all I wanted to make up MY life. Life is too short. It’s too short to do the things you hate because you have to. It’s too short to not take the risks on things that you want to do. Are we using our time wisely? That is essentially what The Buried Life is all about.
The four guys from Victoria, BC made up their list of 100 things they wanted to do before they died and after doing so, I imagine that they just shrugged their shoulders and asked, “Why not?” The guys have crossed off 75% of their list and have added more items expanding their list past 100. I have to also note that their list includes things like: “Crash a party at the Playboy mansion,” “Play basketball with President Obama,” and Deliver a baby” among other things. And guess what? They’ve done it. They have traveled through Canada and America in a purple bus named Penelope crossing things off their list, but their project isn’t just for them. Every time they achieve something from their list, they help another person cross something off of theirs.
Having the opportunity to interview The Buried Life guys was something that I have wanted for Yow Yow! even before the show had aired. I was blown away by their project and have a great deal respect for them and what their doing. Spending the day with them when they were here at Seattle University is an experience that I will never forget. They are the type of guys that you would want as your friends and they are exactly the same in real life as they are on their television series. Below is the transcribed interview that I had with Buried Life cast members Ben Nemtin and Duncan Penn, which originally started as just audio using my FlipCam until the guys decided that they wanted to film each other back and forth answering the questions. If you’re wondering why the camera’s so jerky and the footage is so raw – that’s why! It’s cause it wasn’t planned. From the interview you’ll learn who is the messiest to live with, what the guys would be doing if they weren’t pursuing The Buried Life and what is in store for them next.
Q: First off, I’d like to welcome you to our campus and thank you guys so much for being here!
Ben: Thank you.
Duncan: Thanks for having us.
Q: It’s been almost two years since we were first introduced to you by MTV and the project has definitely been going on for much longer than that. What did this journey look like before you guys had the television series in terms of funding, transportation and support from your family and friends?
Ben: I would say that it’s changed in terms of exposure, but we try to keep it as close to how we started as humanely possible. We made a commitment to each other when we started the show that we were going to do our best not to change anything and so we’ve had to keep each other in check, but we have the same crew. We’re in control of the show. We edit it and we choose the music and we hire everybody. We’re really lucky to be able to do all of that. Our mantra is that we make stuff that we think our friends would like and that’s what we’ve always done and so that’s what we try to stick to.
Q: You guys are obviously pretty close friends, but close friends or best friends don’t always make the best roommates. Was it tough to be on the road for so long? Did you guys ever get on each other’s nerves?
Duncan: Well, Jonnie and I are brothers, but we’re all like brothers and we fight like brothers. It’s actually unbelievable how well we do get along, I would say considering we lived in the back of a bus for so long. Dave’s really messy – as you can imagine, but we get along very well. That’s the thing – you know – we weren’t best friends coming into this. We met very serendipitously and have become very close and have been through a lot of big ups and huge downs together… in the trenches.
Q: I imagine sometimes this journey has to be difficult. I mean you’re meeting strangers along the way and everyone has a story to tell and sometimes those stories are really difficult to grasp and there are so many backgrounds – some emotional, like Sam. At the end of the day, what makes it all worth it for you?
Ben: I think what makes it worth it is just seeing the response and the impact it has on people that we’ll never meet – random emails from someone saying things like, “I was suicidal and I saw the show and now I’m not.” You get one of those and that makes it all sort of worth it. Also, we’re doing everything we’ve ever wanted to do. This kind of project has turned into our lives and that’s something that’s just really really cool.
Q: You guys obviously have great taste in music –
Q: You were at Capitol Hill Block Party and you choose your own music for your show. Are there any up and coming bands that you would recommend for Quadstock?
Duncan: Yeah, Tupac. It’s just this up and coming band – a lot of urban stuff.
Ben: I really like The Tallest Man on Earth? He sounds exactly like Bob Dylan.
Q: This isn’t your first college tour, but I want to know what motivated you guys to have this college tour in the first place?
Duncan: You know what? We’ve been speaking at schools and universities from the very beginning. Ben and I – when we were first starting out – used to go speak to ESL classes at the local university for 40 bucks just to make some money and to talk about the project. But for us, the speaking part is really rewarding because it’s a chance to kind of talk…television is a very one-sided conversation – and going and meeting the people and actually asking the question, “What do you want to do before you die?” is a way to have a conversation and meet the people who are watching the show and are interested in the project. It’s been really rewarding to make those connections.
Q: Before you guys started this project, you were all students and you all had jobs, but if you weren’t doing The Buried Life, what would you be doing?
Ben: Oh that’s a good question! If we weren’t doing The Buried Life…
Duncan: I’d be an astronaut. Maybe an astronaut cowboy.
Q: Can you describe what that is?
Duncan: Yeah, it’s basically an astronaut. You seen cowboy movies?
Q: Uh…a couple.
Duncan: It’s basically like cowboys on the moon, but you’re an astronaut and you’re mostly just doing lassos in zero gravity. Full time.
Ben: And I would be something like nuclear physicist or a brain surgeon, uh something that uses a portion of my abilities, you know?
Duncan: A rocket sociologist.
Ben: A rocket scientist
Duncan: You’d be into rocket scientry.
Ben: Rocket surgery and stuff like that – and such.
Q: I noticed that the most recent item checked off your list was #116 Design a Shoe. It looks like you guys are expanding pass 100 so what does this mean? Have you already completed your 100 things off your list? Are you guys going to 200 now?
Duncan: That’s a good question; I’ve had a lot of people ask. The thing about the list is that it’s not necessarily about the 100 things. Things drop off the list; we add things to the list. It’s always been about going after the things that you’re truly passionate about so we’re always adding things to the list. Design a shoe was very exciting for us and that idea spawned from seeing the little kids walking around in their LA Gear’s that light up and being like, ‘Why can’t adults have sick light up shoes?’ and that is why we made those.
Q: In what ways has this experience affected the way you look at life today?
Ben: How is th- you mean The Buried Life?
Ben: I think it’s totally changed our perspective. I mean – it’s change my perspective. The fact that you can just do whatever it is you want to do. There’s really nothing that you can’t do. If you work hard enough and you want it bad enough, you make it happen.
Q: I learned yesterday some kind of disappointing news that MTV would not be renewing your third season. What were your reactions to that and what plans do you have for The Buried Life in the future with or without MTV?
Ben: Good question. Well, we’ve been talking with MTV about it for awhile and we didn’t really want to make the same show again. And so we actually just signed a deal today with them to develop a new series so that’s why Dave and Jonnie are in Vancouver right now – they’re filming. Basically that happened today and we’re working with them to kind of reformat it and play with some stuff. So I mean, yeah, we’re not going anywhere. But it’s good because The Buried Life has always been stepping it up and going the next level so that’s what it is for us – it’s like what’s the next level for the show and that’s what we’re working on right now.
Q: Great, I’m glad to hear it. I have no doubt in your guys’ success and I think you guys are going to continue to do great things and inspire people all over the world.
Ben and Duncan: Thank you
Q: Are you still in contact with the people you’ve helped along your way?
Duncan: We’ve actually made some really close friends over the whole thing and it’s been a privilege to be a part of a lot of those stories – talking about Sam and Laban tonight. After the episode was finished, we had the privilege of watching their relationship as it kind of fostered. It’s funny, we just did four speaking engagements and we had somebody that was in the episode in each one of them – somebody that we had helped so we’re always seeing them and it’s pretty cool. And Ben’s really close with Lexi – who he helped in –
Duncan: Minnesota. Rochester, Minnesota.
Q: What was that one about again?
Ben: She wanted to make it okay for it to talk about depression in her hometown. And I met this rock and I helped the rock and we still – I’m in contact with it all the time.
Duncan: Yeah, the rock really wanted to rock and roll and so Ben uh –
Ben: …gave it a little nudge
Duncan: …gave it a little roll. It’s a true story.
Thank you so much Ben and Duncan! We can’t wait to see what you guys do next and we hope to see you very soon!