If you had one day to live, what would you do? Would you climb a mountain? Would you kiss the girl of your dreams? Would you tell someone how you really feel? Now, if you had a whole lifetime to live, would you lose that drive, or would your list just keep getting longer?
This is how every episode of MTV’s new hit reality show, The Buried Life, begins. The show chronicles the adventures of four 20-something guys from Victoria B.C. who asked themselves the question, “what do we want to do before we die?” and then set out to accomplish all of their goals.
The four guys are Dave Lingwood, a sociology student at Concordia University currently taking time off to film, Ben Nemtin and brothers Jonnie and Duncan Penn.
“Fundamentally, the project has always been about asking why people aren’t going after what they want in life,” said Lingwood, “and then asking ourselves, why aren’t we doing it?”
In 2006, the guys came up with a list of 100 things they wanted to do in life and decided to live every day like it was their last. They borrowed a van to travel in and raised money from corporate sponsors with the intention of making a documentary film about the process. The name “The Buried Life” comes from an 1852 poem by Matthew Arnold. The idea behind it is the notion that your daily obligations can “bury” you and make you forget what you’re really passionate about in life.
However, things took a twist when they were approached by MTV in 2007. At the time, they declined the offer to have their journey made into a TV show because they wanted to stay true to their original goal (even though number 53 on their list is have a badass TV show). But when MTV offered them the creative license they were looking for last year, they couldn’t resist any longer.
“This time our vision aligned,” said Duncan Penn, “we’re executive producers on the show and we have full control. We basically made the show and gave it to MTV.”
They stress they don’t get any help from MTV in doing any of the things on the list and that they raise all the money they need themselves.
The items on the list range from the ridiculous (95: play ball with Obama) to the philanthropic (71: take a kid on a toy shopping spree). They haven’t reached number 95 yet, but they’re already pulling out all the stops to make it possible. Each episode covers the guys’ attempt to accomplish something from the list. They decided early on during the process that every time they crossed something off of their list, they would also help a stranger do something they wanted to do before they die.
Both Lingwood and Penn say the most rewarding experiences they’ve had so far have involved helping others.
“We met a man in Dallas named Sam and he hadn’t seen his son in 19 years,” said Penn. “We helped them reconnect and we were able to follow along on their first meeting. For me, seeing that relationship grow and knowing that we helped them has been amazing.”
Because of the nature of what they do, they aren’t able to air a large portion of their footage because of privacy issues. They film first and have to get permission after. In the first episode of the show, the guys attempt to sneak into the Playboy mansion. At first, Playboy forbid them from showing what they filmed, but after sending a handwritten letter to Hugh Hefner, with a copy of the tape attached, they were good to go.
They don’t always get away with everything they attempt, however, and they admit to being arrested on more than one occasion.
“We kind of operate on the idea that we can get in anywhere,” said Penn, “and that can sometimes get us into trouble.”
The guys see no end in sight when it comes to the list and they say they intend to continue their mission even after MTV pulls the plug.
“It’s always evolving as our priorities change,” said Penn. “One day we might put getting married or starting a family on the list. It’s as simple as asking yourself what’s important to you at this point in you life and going after it.”
When asked what they want viewers to take from the show, both guys essentially reiterated their original mission.
“We want to show people that you really can do anything,” said Lingwood, “and ultimately we want them to ask themselves the question: what do you want to do before you die?”
You can see new episodes of The Buried Life Monday at 10 p.m. on MTV or at mtv.ca. For more information on the guys and to check out their blog visit: theburiedlife.com