STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 05/25/2012

The Making of a Movie, Gordon-Style

By Jo Kadlecek

In February Toddy Burton, assistant professor of communication arts, attended the annual L’Abri conference in Rochester, Minnesota, to screen and discuss her new short film, The Miners. Burton participated with Denis Haack, codirector of Ransom Fellowship, in a discussion entitled, "Creativity in Film: From Genesis to Production." Then in March, she held the regional premiere of The Miners at CinemaSalem, to a standing-room-only crowd.

Burton plotted the screenplay for The Miners last summer. News of the trapped Chilean miners had gripped her attention, and, as is often the case with art, real life began shaping a story in the mind of Gordon’s award-winning filmmaker.

The result not only earned Burton a Faculty Development Grant from the College, but brought together a film crew of both alumni and current Gordon students. Burton cast an adjunct instructor as her lead actor, turned a fellow professor’s Beverly Farms home into a set, and in three 12-hour days (July 29–31, 2011), she shot what she calls "a short dramatic comedy."

"It’s about a guy who’s clinically depressed," she says, "but also obsessed with the miners while his teenage daughter is dealing with her own obsession with a boy. I wondered how the feeling of being trapped would play out in other ways—in other parts of our lives—so, like a lot of my movies, there’s both comedy and drama as the story explores that theme."

For almost 15 years Burton has been making short films that reflect that tension. Her last one, The Aviatrix—"an action-adventure intergalactic comedy romance about a super-heroine battling cancer"—played at over 30 international film festivals, aired on PBS and became the #1 featured film when it was premiered on the YouTube Screening Room. Her full-length screenplays have also won her awards, acclaim and a reputation for merging an artist’s eye with comedic stories.

What’s next for Burton? She plans to take The Miners to several prestigious film festivals. Stay tuned.

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