Jason M. Burns: Eighteen and UpA tv interview article by: Felicity Gustafson
After cutting his teeth on writing comics such as The Expendable One and A Dummy's Guide to Danger, Jason M. Burns now writes and directs the upcoming NSFW comedy web series Adults Only. Comics Bulletin's Felicity Gustafson recently caught up with Burns to get the skinny on that series, as well as the writer's take on making the transition from comics to TV and film.
Felicity Gustafson: Considering you've worked on everything from Child's Play to Fraggle Rock, with some of your own creations like A Dummy's Guide To Danger and Curse of the Were-Woman, it's probably safe to say you've got quite a history of writing under your belt so far. When did you first start writing? Was it something you've always wanted to do?
Jason M. Burns: Since I was old enough to read, I knew that I wanted to write. It was my only goal. From a kid, to a teenager, to an adult, there was no Plan B. In the beginning, I wanted to write for film/TV, and that eventually led to a career in comics, which, in turn, transitioned back into film/TV. It's funny how life works sometimes, but if you want something bad enough and work as hard as possible to achieve it, dreams can come true, which is how I perceive my career. I wrote my first film script in junior high -- a horrible horror concept from the mind of a preteen -- and just wrapped production on a web-series with actors/entertainers I've admired for years. Life's a journey. You just have to be willing to travel.
Gustafson: So it looks like you originally started with comics and then strayed a little into writing screenplays. Do you prefer one over the other? Are they wildly different from a writer's perspective?
Burns: Both are very dialogue driven, which, for me, is my favorite part of writing. I like writing a conversation between two people. I've always been fascinated with how people talk. Outside of that though, the main difference I find is that comics offer more creative freedom. You're not limited by a budget or any preconceived notions of what a producer or studio is looking for. You just write and tell a story and hope that it can be translated into sequentials. With a screenplay, I over think everything, which may not be the case for every writer, but for me, it's always "can that be achieved on camera?"
Gustafson: I heard your comic The Expendable One is being made into a movie with Intrepid Pictures dated for a tentative release date of 2012. Congratulations! Were you expecting something like that happen? Did you pitch it to Intrepid or did they approach you?
Burns: It's actually been with Intrepid since it was first released back in 2006. They've had various scripts in various stages and have been very passionate about it, which is great. It would be incredible to see something get shot and reach theaters, but a lot goes into a movie being made, so I try not to count my chickens before they hatch. That being said, I'm always prepared to count said chickens!
Gustafson: You've gone through a multitude of different roles -- writer, director, producer -- is it more difficult having more than one job on a project? Or do you find it easier because you know exactly what you're going for during a shot? Am I safe in assuming that some of the original intent is lost in translation between a multitude of people?
Burns: It is more difficult, but I actually prefer it. I have a bit of a compulsive personality, so it's hard for me to ask someone to do something when I can just do it myself. I have been working on that, but it's not easy for me to pass the buck, even when it's probably best for the project. A therapist would have a field day with me.
Gustafson: You're currently working on a project, specifically a web series called Adults Only. Can I talk you into summarizing that a bit for the people who haven't heard of it yet? I read somewhere that it was described as Clerks...in a porn shop.
Burns: [laughs] We like to call it an adult video/novelty store. [laughs] Basically, it's about a former Olympic gymnast who was once like the Michael Phelps of that world. He was America's sweetheart, and now nearly 30 years later, he's just a footnote. Down on his luck and in need of money, he accepts a job managing his brother-in-law's store and it ultimately is a story about second chances and reinvention of self. And of course, the strange people who work and visit the store as well.
Gustafson: Why did you choose a web series as your next project? Any particular reason?
Burns: Accessibility, for one. With the web, we could produce the content and release it to the masses without having to worry about distribution and outside assistance, be it a studio or network. It also allowed me to tell the story that I wanted to tell. Whether people love or hate it, I know that it's my vision. And on top of it all, the web is now a viable place for shows to live, breathe, and succeed. Five years ago, I don't think it would have worked, but now it's possible to create a series and hold an audience.
Gustafson: Adults Only boasts a pretty wide array of famous actors. Was it difficult finding the perfect people for the roles?
Burns: Casting is very stressful, but in the end, it comes together like a puzzle. I still pinch myself when I think about the cast. I am so amazed by the people who came onboard, and the work they did in Adults Only. It floors me. Everyone was amazingly gracious with their time and talents, and on top of it all, everyone was hilarious, which is great for a comedy! [laughs] Danny Nucci, Vincent Pastore, Brian Austin Green, Sebastian Bach, Brianna Brown, Ronnie Marmo, Adrienne LaValley, and Todd Poudrier… pinch pinch pinch. That's me pinching myself...three times...in a row...without regard for bruising myself!
Gustafson: What's the angle you're shooting for with Adults Only? What are you hoping to accomplish?
Burns: I want to build an audience for the show. I want people to laugh. And I want to take away the stigma that some people carry for "web-based" productions. In the end, I feel like we've made a television show. The fact that it's available on the internet doesn't take away from what anybody accomplished, whether it's the actors or the crew. We made a TV show and we want to establish an audience. If we can do that, then we can tell more stories from this world.
Gustafson: Do you guys have a lot of fun on set? Will there be any kind of bloopers included?
Burns: We had a blast. Honestly, it was like a party. Don't get me wrong, there were stressful times (like when our air conditioner died on a 95 degree day), but all in all, it was an adrenaline rush and I miss it. You live in a production bubble, and in a lot of ways, live with the people you're working with, so it becomes a family. After we wrapped, I woke up in the morning, stared at the ceiling, and thought to myself, "What the hell am I going to with myself today?"
Gustafson: How long is Adults Only supposed to last? How many episodes?
Burns: Each episode will be between seven and ten minutes in length, and it's a total of 8 episodes.
Gustafson: I'm seeing a lot of shifts from television shows to web shows lately. Web series seem to be becoming more popular as time goes on. People seem to be more inclined to watch something if it can be found on the internet. Do you think it's just a sign of the times? Are web series the way of the future in your opinion?
Burns: I believe it's the way of the future. Web-based content will become a viewer's choice landscape. No longer are you limited by a nightly schedule. If you want to watch Community on a Sunday, you can watch Community on a Sunday. If you want to wake up and catch the latest episode of True Blood, you can. Whether it's original content or reissued content by the networks, the web is the way of the future whether people like it or not. It may never take over the TV's job entirely, but they'll share the space, which, in turn, opens up opportunities for shows like Adults Only.