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Victoria Film Festival Interview – THAT BURNING FEELING director Jason James

That Burning Feeling - At Victoria Film Fest
by Jason Whyte

“Adam Murphy had it all: a great job, an endless parade of gorgeous women, and the charm to make it all look well-earned. One night, he went to bed with everything he ever wanted and woke up with something no-one ever wants... THAT BURNING FEELING is a modern day romantic comedy about the least romantic thing possible.” Director Jason James on THAT BURNING FEELING which screened at this year's Victoria Film Festival.

Is this your first movie in the Victoria Film Festival, and are you coming to Victoria for the screening?

I have produced a number of films that have screened at Victoria Film Festival but this is the first time that I am able to come. Like most people that grew up in Vancouver I have spent a lot of time in Victoria so I have a real fondness for the city.

Tell me a bit about your background and what led you into the motion picture business.

Since I was a kid I've always wanted to make films. Everything I have done has been to further that goal. I started out in acting and live theatre; I loved being a part of a collaborative team and deciding what the lighting and sets would look like, what costumes to wear, how the blocking would work. When it came to opening night, I had no interest in performing. I quickly realized I was much happier behind the scenes. I took some film courses at Vancouver Film School and then did both a film and communications degree at Simon Fraser University. When I graduated I was awarded a director's apprenticeship through The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television and have been working non-stop since then. I have made five feature films, worked on three TV Series, a documentary and a number of short film/music videos/and commercials.

How did this whole movie come together from your perspective?

It all starts with a really great script… that's what gets you in the door. That's what everyone is looking for. The script was one of five films from across Canada selected for the Telefilm/CFC/Just For Laughs Comedy Lab. This is where we met Kirsten 'Kiwi' Smith, writer of films like HOUSE BUNNY, LEGALLY BLONDE, THE UGLY TRUTH who came on board as our story editor. We also got the script to John Cho, actor from HAROLD & KUMAR who became attached to the project and developed it with us for a year. That's when our funders came onboard: Telefilm Canada, Creative BC, Search Engine Films, Joker Films, Productivity Media, eOne, The Movie Network, and Movie Central.

What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

Making a movie about a really painful (pun intended) subject was the trickiest part. STI's is not something people want to talk about, and it's not really what the film is about. So we needed to find a way to pitch the film that didn't turn people off right away. We use the STI as a jumping off point and a story engine, as great comedy comes from painful moments and situations. The title of the film, THAT BURNING FEELING refers to a few things. Love, that thing you’ve always wanted to do but were too afraid to try, and yes, a fire down below. But for me, the film is about so much more than this: It’s about discovering your authentic self no matter what the costs, it’s about what happens when you think you’ve done everything right and it still doesn’t work out, it’s also about picking up the pieces afterwards and fighting for something that resembles happiness.

What was your single favourite moment or rewarding experience out of the entire production?

There's a scene at a bar where the two leads meet and connect. There is a band playing in the bar called THE SHIMMERING STARS. I first saw the band play about a year earlier and knew they would be in the film. They just had a great retro sound that felt like the tone of the film to me. It was so great to see it all come together in a romantic rock and roll kind of way. I really love these moments in real life so it was very cool and rewarding to get to re-create it on film.

What keeps you going while making a movie? How much coffee?

Coffee in the morning and scotch in the evening. We also have great sandwiches on set.

I would love to know about the technical side of the film, your relationship to the director of photography, what the movie was shot on and why it was decided to be filmed this way.

James Liston, Director of Photography, and I have worked together many times. I like that we have a shorthand and can reference other moments/situations/projects when discussing our set-ups. We shot the film on the RED camera. I really love the ability to shoot longer takes and series of takes to keep the actors in the moment rather than having to call cut and reset everything each time. The affordability of the RED also allows us to shoot two cameras at all times, which helps in expediting the amount of time you need to shoot a scene but is also helpful in always covering a second angle on improvised material which is especially important with comedy. 

After the film screens in Victoria, what is the future release plan for the movie? Anywhere you WANT the movie to be shown but haven't done so yet?

The film is still doing the festival circuit. It has played the Vancouver International Film Festival where it won the Best First Canadian Feature; Calgary, Austin and will continue on to Kamloops, Cleveland, and more. The film has been sold to eOne in the US and will be theatrically released by Search Engine Films in Canada very soon. I'd love to see it play to international audiences; maybe the UK or Australia as they both have strange tastes in comedy.

What would you say or do to someone who is talking or texting during a screening of your film in a cinema?

Tell your mom I said hi? I don't know; probably just get up and move. 

There are a lot filmmakers, especially up-and-comers, reading our site. I was curious if you had any advice to aspiring filmmakers?

Make as many films as possible! You have to make a lot of bad ones before you make good ones. So get those out of the way. Fast!

And finally, what is the single, greatest movie that you have seen at a film festival?

I've been to the Cannes Film Festival a few times and can honestly say that seeing a film there is the greatest movie going experience of my life. Walking down the red carpet with music playing, the tuxedos and gowns and the huge Grand Théâtre Lumière with perfect projection and sound is truly magical. I saw Lars Von Trier's ANTI CHRIST, Julie Bertucelli's THE TREE, and Jacques Audiard's A PROPHET.

This is one of the many films playing at this year’s Victoria Film Festival. For showtimes and further information visit

Be sure to follow instant happenings of the festival and updates on my Twitter @jasonwhyte!

Jason Whyte,

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originally posted: 02/10/14 21:19:02
last updated: 02/10/14 21:19:28
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