I am super excited to be able to bring you an interview with multi-talented Producer/Writer/Director and Actor (is there nothing this man can’t do!) Dominic Burns. Dominic takes time out to discuss with us his journey from acting in short films to writing/producing feature Madness in the Method, co-producing the Jay & Silent Bob: Reboot with cult legends Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith and why the film industry is so important to him.
Dominic, I am so excited to have you join us. How's the Covid-19 lockdown been for you so far as a creative?
It’s difficult to answer in a way because it’s been incredibly hard for everyone and so many people have had a much worse time than me, so I hate to complain; but with that in mind, things have been very tough.
From a business point of view, it’s disastrous, as anyone in the business will know, getting a movie off the ground is a nightmare in the best of times, never mind in the middle of a worldwide pandemic!
From a creative point of view, at first, I couldn’t wrap my head around anything creative at all, I really struggled. But after a while, as the reality of the situation sank in and became a depressing new normal, I started writing again and of course writing can be an incredibly effective escape from reality. I’m neck deep in developing a TV show at the moment and I’ve found that to be a very welcome thing to focus upon. So creatively, things are flowing again, business wise, it’s going to take a little longer.
Tell us about your new feature film Madness in the Method, which you not only wrote, produced but also acted in? That’s quite a feat!
Madness in the Method was a truly remarkable experience with countless stories that I could tell, almost impossible to know where to start! Honestly, I think the most challenging part was the edit, or perhaps that’s just because I was chatting with one of the other editors about it recently and it’s fresh in my mind.
But I guess a standout moment that I think might interest people actually came after the movie was finished. We were lucky enough to have Stan Lee in the film (as Stan was good friends with Jason Mewes, our director and star). I’d actually met Stan before in London (again through Jay) but you couldn’t help but be star struck by him, he was so nice, full of energy and really funny! The way he embraced and enjoyed life is an inspiration in and of itself, without even factoring his genius mind!
It wasn’t until I was sitting in a cinema after watching Spiderman: Far From Home that I realised there was no Stan Lee cameo in the movie. It suddenly dawned on me that Avengers: Endgame would have been the last cameo Stan Lee filmed for Marvel. We already knew we were the last movie Stan filmed and that Marvel had ‘banked’ a bunch of cameos when they filmed them all at once, for their next few movies, but we didn’t know that Avengers: Endgame would be his last, until I’d seen Spiderman: Far From Home.
I immediately text Jason and said something like ‘Bro, it looks like you’re the last person to have ever directed Stan Lee on screen’. And he text back something like, ‘And you’re the last person to have ever written his on screen dialogue’. That was a crazy moment until my mate pointed out that I shouldn’t get too excited as nobody remembers who wrote John Wayne or Marlon Brando’s last words on screen, so I should get over it! You can always rely on my mates to keep my feet firmly on the ground!
I hear this was partly filmed in Los Angeles and Derby, is this correct?
Yes, this is true! As far as I’m aware we’re the first movie to double Derby for LA! I mean, why wouldn’t you think it possible to film in Derby in January and pretend it’s Los Angeles? You can imagine how impressed 150 Extras were when we were filming a scene outdoors in January and I told them they all had to take their big coats off and pretend they’re in the Californian sunshine!
We shot in both Hollywood and my hometown Derby, I love bringing movies to Derby. I’ve already brought Mark Hamill and Jean Claude Van Damme to Derby to film, so I figured it’s time Jason Mewes, Gina Carano and Vinnie Jones came to town too! I’ll never forget Vinnie Jones’ face when we were sat in Los Angeles and I told him he’d have to fly to Derby, in the winter, so we can pretend he’s back in Los Angeles!
You’ve forged a close personal and creative friendship with Jason Mews in recent years. How did that come about and why was it so important for you to tell this story with Jason?
Jason Mewes is an incredible person and I feel sincerely privileged to be his mate. We get on like a house on fire and he constantly makes me laugh. If you know his movies, then you can imagine how much fun he is to be around. I’ve been a massive Jay and Silent Bob fan since I was a teenager, so I still have to pinch myself that I get to work with Jay and Kevin.
On the back of Madness in the Method, I had the opportunity to join Jay and Silent Bob Reboot as a Co-Producer and that was the most surreal experience of my career thus far. Jay and Bob are two of my favourite characters in cinema and to be part of producing their latest movie was just insane to me and the cast we had was off the chain. Every day we had another A-Lister flying into New Orleans (where we shot the film).
I also got to see Liz Destro and Jordan Monsanto in action and to say I learned a lot from these two bad ass producers would be an understatement. I just tried to soak in every second of that entire experience and the film has been received so well by the fans, it’s just been an incredibly rewarding project.
What’s next for you?
Well, in truth, who knows! Right now, it’s immensely difficult for independent movies, in fact, it’s incredibly difficult for all movies and TV. But we’ll get it figured out, productions are getting back up and running. I have a movie project that was about to go until Covid hit, so we’re hoping to get that up and running again ASAP and I‘ve already mentioned a TV show I’m working on with a close friend of mine. But right now, I feel it’s too soon to start talking about anything that may never happen. I’ll keep working as hard as I can and hopefully it’ll come good sooner rather than later.
How do you feel COVID-19 will affect indie filmmaking in the future?
Obviously if we find an effective vaccine or medicine sometime soon, I think indie film will quickly bounce back, nobody I know who works in film are work-shy, everyone’s gagging to work and raring to go.
However, if Covid-19 is here to stay for a lot longer then, the economics of indie film is going to get very complicated. The added costs of shooting through a pandemic really do mount up. The amount of safety precautions that must be brought in are expensive, plus it slows the entire production down, which in turn means you have to shoot for longer, which of course costs more money. And the insurance is a total nightmare.
With all that said, nobody makes indie movies because it’s easy. They make indie’s because they’re fiercely passionate and because they have stories they feel must be told and because they believe in what they do. Plus, if you’ve even attempted to make an indie, then in my opinion it’s likely you’re very brave. So, you put all that together and you’re looking at a community of people who will somehow find a way to make it work. It might slow us down a bit at first, but indie movies will continue to be made, of that I have no doubt.
How important were making short films to you as a filmmaker when starting out?
I was only ever in short films as an actor, I never directed, produced or even wrote any shorts. And the problem with that is by jumping in with two feet and making a feature film, you end up learning your lessons on a very public platform! I love short films and I think there’s few things better than a group of creative people all getting together to combine their skills to create a story. It’s an awesome way to learn and improve and most importantly it’s a great place to make mistakes.
My first film was the first feature horror movie in the world to be filmed in one entire single continuous shot, it was chaos! All I kept getting told was that it was impossible, couldn’t be done. And the more I heard that, the more convinced I was that we were going to pull it off! And this began my journey into feature films, but I made a lot of mistakes, got a lot of things wrong. I learned and I learned, and I learned, tried to soak it all in and improve. But I guess looking back, it would have been nice to learn some of those lessons making shorts instead of features!
Do you have any advice for any up-coming filmmakers joining the industry now?
The film business is cut-throat, make no mistake about it. If you want to break into movies or television (or both) you must understand how insanely competitive it is and whilst there are of course examples of sheer luck, the vast majority of people working in the business, be it in front of or behind the camera, have worked harder than most could imagine to get there.
I was brought up in a world of tough love and I guess I’ve always subconsciously applied that tough love to the people I love and believe in most, which I’ve grown to learn isn’t always the best approach. But with that said, you have to be so tough to stand a chance in the entertainment industry. You’ll have countless hours of self-doubt, you’ll question whether you’ve made the right choice and you’ll look at friends your age who are enjoying the spoils of what life has to offer and the chances are you’ve had to sacrifice many of those things in order to pursue what you love. And that’s the point, that’s the best piece of advice I know how to give.
Only attempt to get into this business if you have a burning passion that cannot be focused upon anything else. You have to love it and believe in yourself and just keep going and fighting your corner. And the sad truth is, real life is of course nothing like the movies. I’ve seen so many people who genuinely deserve their break, who have the talent and who have worked harder than I can adequately describe, but it’s just never happened for them. It’s a horrible reality. So, don’t try and get into the game if you’re even the slightest bit unsure.
Equally, when you hit a high moment in this business it’s better than I can put into words. If you’re a part of creating something you’re sincerely proud of, there’s no feeling like it.
Through all this madness we’ve experienced this year, so many people have turned to films and television as a source of escapism - it’s brought them comfort, offered distraction, made them laugh. The idea that you’ve been a part of creating something that other people have enjoyed all over the world is mind blowing and the idea that you may have offered even the briefest moment of relief from the reality of 2020 makes all the bullshit and hard work worth it.
You can follow Dominic on Instagram: Dominic Burns