Mike Gan’s Tiny Spark to His Feature Directorial Debut with Burn Image

The concept for Burn began as feature debut writer/director Mike Gan stumbled upon an article about a robbery gone wrong with the tables being turned. The film follows a lonely, awkward gas station attendant Melinda (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) and her self-assured co-worker Sheila (Suki Waterhouse) as they tend the night shift. Police Officer Liu (Harry Shum Jr.) conducts routine check-ins, only to be oblivious with the obsession Melinda has with him. Suddenly, a distressed man Billy (Josh Hutcherson) walks in and confronts the two girls at gunpoint demanding all the cash available. Melinda, being desperate for love, attempts to find an opportunity to make a connection with the robber.

Every character had this objective, wanted different things, and everyone was going to be an obstacle…”

During the writing process, one of the components is creating each character with a distinct voice. The filmmaker shared, “In the process, after the initial plot concept, just figuring out what each character wanted, and once that was defined, their voices became very clear to me. Every character had this objective, wanted different things, and everyone was going to be an obstacle for each person. It was fun writing for each character as if they were the hero of the movie with that entitlement and sincerity. It just became a lot of conflict that seemed natural.” 

Obviously casting the right people is vital, especially for the four people that must have chemistry and conflict with one another. “We cast Melinda and Sheila pretty early on, who were a big part. They both understood the characters, and they complimented each other well in terms of their energies for the dynamic of the movie. Josh Hutcherson came in at the last second; his schedule freed up; he was somebody that we were really hoping for. Harry Shum Jr. was in the middle of shooting Shadowhunters in Toronto, and we shot this in upstate New York. Luckily things worked out, and he was able to fly down to New York to shoot this film in the middle of that. I talked to all the characters and actors individually about who their character was. On and off set, it was such a great vibe. Everyone got along and were supportive of each other. There’s a lot of uncomfortable situations in this movie, but there was natural chemistry on set. We only had 15 days to shoot. We had to bring our A-game, and there was this camaraderie because of that,” Gan expanded.

“Just people reacting to absurd situations…It flows and blends back and forth pretty naturally.” 

The entire film was shot in one location as that deals with its own struggles. The director continued, “As long as we knew that the characters went through so many different internal things, I always thought of it as the locations are actually on the characters faces. When we put them in the right locations, it complements those feelings. We were able to make all the different parts of the gas station look and feel very different.”

Burn is a thriller that explores unexpected situations and reactions through the lives of four distinct people. The film is the first feature from writer/director Mike Gan. Burn is in theaters, VOD, and Digital HD now. 

Gan stated, “Just people reacting to absurd situations, whether it’s through horror or comedy. It flows and blends back and forth pretty naturally.” 

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