The Burton of Thought

I haven’t seen all of his films.  Some of them I have seen I didn’t really like.  When Tim Burton does strike a chord, however, he does so hard.  Burton on Burton is one of a series of books of interviews with directors.  This one covers all of Burton’s films up to Corpse Bride with free-ranging answers to what are really more remarks than questions.  (The book is edited by Mark Salisbury.)  Although I’ve not experienced his entire oeuvre, it’s pretty clear that I share quite a few sensibilities with Burton.  He expresses that what he’s looking for in movies is feeling.  A good plot helps, but it’s the emotion he’s after.  And he knows that the dark isn’t bad.  At many points I had to shake my head and say, “I thought I was the only one who thought like that.”

This memoir is also full of information on the way movies get made—not the technical side, but from the studio or creative side.  Someone has an idea.  It may be original or it may be an adaptation of a well-known tale.  Sometimes, especially in Burton originals, they begin as a series of sketches.  Anybody who’s watched DVD extras knows about storyboarding.  A movie is sometimes laid out in a series of cards that show, step-by-step, the action.  Before that, or maybe during, a script is written.  In order to get funded—for all this costs money—a studio or production company has to pick up the concept.  The person pitching it might be a screenwriter or a potential director.  And, as in every avenue of life, money talks.  Once you’ve had a breakout success they start to pay attention to you.

Although Burton and I grew up with similar outlooks, he notes that he never did like to read.  Being a visual artist (he got his start at Disney), that’s perhaps no surprise.  You start to realize, once you get a sense of the number of people involved, why film credits go on and on.  It takes a village to make a movie.  Not only that, directors may be involved with several projects simultaneously.  That’s not so different from being an (unofficial) writer, I suppose.  At any one time, from my experience, I’ve got at least a half-dozen projects going.  Some will never be finished, most will never be published.  And who knows?  Maybe someday one of my fiction stories might catch a sympathetic (or perhaps simply pathetic) director’s eye?  In the meantime, we go on creating.

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