We spoke to director Chanya Button about Burn Burn Burn, her first feature length film.
Much of Burn Burn Burn is comprised of a road trip – if you could pick three people to share the road with who you do not know, who would you pick?
My next film is about Virginia Woolf and her relationship with the poet Vita Sackville-West. They had an intense friendship, they creatively inspired each other, and they had a passionate romance for a time. I’d like to take a road trip with them and bear witness to the fireworks! They sounded like a riot. That’s only two companions, but from what I know of them they’d provide quite enough entertainment.
When you are showing one of your films to someone, do you typically have a certain scene or minute mark in mind where you consciously think “I need/want a laugh or a cry here.”
After months developing the script, shooting the film, and then crafting it in the cutting room, you do find the rhythm of a film embeds itself into your subconscious! It becomes part of you, and you part of it – often reflecting the cadence of your own thoughts – and the way you see the world. So, when I watch with an audience, I definitely have a sense of the shape of the emotional journey I hope they’ll go on.
It’s been fascinating to watch with audiences internationally; the audiences at BFI London Film Festival where we had our World Premiere responded to different moments to the US, Italy, Serbia, the Ukraine. It’s a fascinating way to explore what moves different cultures; what we share, where we have disparate expectations and experiences.
Why do you personally feel that ‘road trip’ stories are so prevalent in film? What makes them so effective?
As an art form, film is an escape. A means of totally immersing yourself into another world. The act of going to the cinema itself I find so releasing and relieving from the strains of the outside world. So in many ways this tradition of the ‘road trip’ narrative is a perfect metaphor for that sense of escape that film offers. Seph and Alex are breaking free from their lives in order to grapple with grief for their best friend, for many of the same reasons as we choose to scurry into the comforting darkness of the cinema.
What is your favourite road-trip film? (That you haven’t worked on)
Thelma & Louise was a guiding light for this film; as was Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road. The sense of fighting through the thorny knots that life challenges you to unpick with a dry wit, a chaotic irreverence – both of those pieces of work share something with Burn Burn Burn I hope.
How much did your preconceived vision for the film compare or contrast with the final product? What surprised you the most about the film, either over the course of production or how it ultimately turned out?
The greatest creative evolutions the film underwent were provoked by our wonderful cast. Jack Farthing, Laura Carmichael, Chloe Pirrie and Joe Dempsie are such thoughtful, detailed actors – they brought the script to life in new and exciting ways. I think this often about putting a cast and crew together; fill the room with people who are bringing things you aren’t. If you think you’re the cleverest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room!
Burn Burn Burn can be seen in cinemas now (UK) and on Netflix globally.
As told to Paul Vaughan for TPJ
Photographer: Jessie Craig