Firebrand’s Brandon Burrows approaches production like a game of chess
Chess champion in his youth, Brandon Burrows, director and founder of shingle Firebrand, approaches production as a game of chess. His love for cinema began at an early age when his father owned a video store. His production credits include “Gallowwalkers” with Wesley Snipes, “The Perfect Weapon” with Steven Seagal and “Altitude” with Dolph Lundgren. He created, wrote and produced “Pups Alone” with Jennifer Love Hewitt and Rob Schneider, and produced Western “The Last Son” with a cast directed by Sam Worthington, Machine Gun Kelly, Thomas Jane and Heather Graham. He wrote the next two action thrillers he will produce.
How have your world-class chess playing skills influenced your production efforts? Do you find it useful when it comes to negotiating deals with agents, talents, sales and other areas?
There is an old adage: not all artists are chess players, but all chess players are artists. Chess is not only a creative game, but also a meditative art. It helped me prepare incredibly well for production. In chess, you learn to trust your instincts and make quick decisions on the fly. Chess uses and develops intuition, which is the key to production. In production, like in chess, you are constantly faced with multiple changing variables and need to calculate variations in results very quickly. When you don’t have time to calculate to the end point, you need to make a quick decision and trust the choice you make. The failures have been invaluable in this regard. It pops up time and time again in production, whether it’s making a creative choice, a casting decision, a sales / distribution strategy, set choices, or deciding on a screenplay.
How did chess set the stage for a friendship with Ron Howard and others in the film industry?
Chess crosses all barriers and is a shared language that brings people together, no matter where they come from. I knew the Howards chess coach very well and he thought it would be nice if Ron’s son met me, hopefully inspiring him in his chess activities. Ron was very generous, creative. It’s always wonderful to connect with others in the industry who love the game, it connects people in a unique and beautiful way.
What do you think of the hugely popular “The Queen’s Gambit” series on Netflix. Do you think he understood the details correctly? What would you have done differently?
I think the show has done a tremendous job of showing that chess can be a wonderful haven for minds looking for it. Audiences are introduced to chess the same way Beth was. As she discovers and learns, an audience member unfamiliar with the game discovers and learns as well. The framing of the narrative was fantastic and really pulls you into Beth’s world and ultimately her troubled but beautiful mind. The attention to detail was intentional and unique. For example, in Beth’s first tournament, she plays against Townes, and she ends up winning by trapping her tower on a seemingly wide open chessboard. It is a real world chess example of the beautiful geometry between the rook, the king and the knight. Advanced chess players certainly appreciate the attention to detail. I certainly did. In the past, movies and TV have always been wrong about the way experienced / pro chess players move the pieces. It’s a bit like having an actor in the role of a policeman who has no idea how to hold a gun. For professional players, the pieces are just an extension of the body. Scott Frank did an amazing job, with Anya [Joy-Taylor] and the rest of the brilliant cast.
How was the experience of filming Western “The Last Son” during the pandemic?
It was unbelievable. Montana is such a beautiful place and it was the perfect movie for a pandemic, if such a thing exists… outdoors, on horseback with these beautiful backdrops. We were all isolated on a ranch, the nearest town being 45 minutes away. It was his own self-contained bubble, and it was just an unforgettable and special experience. The cast and crew were amazing. Sam Worthington and Thomas Jane are brilliant in their roles, and I think Machine Gun Kelly will surprise a lot of people with his defining performance.
Tell us about the upcoming action thrillers you’re writing and producing.
I’m finishing my talking dog Christmas comedy “Pups Alone”, so the next logical direction is “Bounty,” an aging aimless bounty hunter who finds himself on the run and protects a young woman who is the only witness to a crime. horrible because all kinds of disreputable characters stalk them. I’m also working on “Cry Justice”, an action thriller about drug trafficking, corruption, revenge and the search for justice.