Award-winning Producer Linda Burns on Her Unconventional Path to the Film Industry

LindaSlate1

LindaSlate1

Award-winning film producer Linda Burns  did not mean to get into the film industry — it just worked out that way. 
Atlanta-based producer Linda Burns (www.plexuspictures.com) has produced and worked on award winning films, shows, commercials, and music videos for over 2 decades. She produced a pre-show for the Academy Awards for 10 years, she’s done music videos with the likes of Snoop Dog, Ludacris, and Outkast, and she’s been a part of films such as V/H/S and Petunia, and TV shows like Adult Swim’s Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell, to name a few. She also runs the PA Academy in Atlanta, GA.
Your-Pretty-Face-Is-Going-to-Hell-TV-show-on-Adult-Swim-season-3-renewal
Here she tells her story and discusses her career.
This is part of a three-part interview series with Burns on her career, getting into the film industry, and finding fulfillment and success. 

“The short version of my story is not interesting. The long version is.”

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“I had no interest in working in this industry whatsoever. If you had asked 16, 18, or even 25 year old Linda, never in a million years would she have said she was going to be a film producer, or have anything to do with this world.
“I went to University of Michigan. I was interested in psychology. Deviant behavior and abnormal psychology were things I was fascinated with; by how the brain works and how you kind of manipulate people, like advertising. It was fun and it’s cool, but I didn’t want to be a psychologist and sit in a room and listen to people bitch about their problems. And after meeting advertising people, I wasn’t really interested in that world and those people – no offense to advertising people, but that’s not who I wanted to be.
“I had taken film and radio classes basically because they were fun and easy. They were kind of just tossaway bullshit electives for me. I got an internship with a community access TV station. It was just fun, I never considered it [a potential career]. It was cool, exciting, new, and I was a ham for the camera.
“I graduated college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I wanted to live someplace warm – probably North or South Carolina.

“No job, no place to stay, no plan” — x3

no plan
After going to Hawaii for a friend’s wedding, she decided she wanted to live there. She saved up at home for a couple months, then hopped a plane to Hawaii – “no job, no place to live, no plan,” where she hitchhiked to a campground and lived in a tent for three months. She got a job pulling weeds at a resort. Soon after, she fell in with some commercial fishermen, “setting net, casting net, diving for lobster and squid, pulling seaweed.” When the weather was bad, or the fishing was bad, she would pick up a camera and shoot wedding and birthdays and things, for barter or cash, “just because it was something I knew how to do.”
After some time back at home in Michigan, she headed off for Key West—“in a dead relative’s car—no job, no place to stay, no plan.” There, she made a radio reporting demo tape and used it to land a job at a local radio station.
When she got bored of that, it was off to Atlanta, because she wanted “a southern town that had culture,” and that would have options. Again, with “no place to stay, no job, no plans,” she took off again in another dead relative’s car to Atlanta. She’s lived there ever since.

wagon

Starting in film

From another small radio gig, she met a key grip in film, who asked her to help out on something.
“I came out, I did the job. They sent me out to find all these crazy things in the middle of the night in downtown Atlanta. And everything clicked. They said ‘go find this,’ and I’d find it, and it was better than what they expected. I was like, hmm, I’m really good at this. It was the first time–other than fishing–where I felt like I’d found my thing. I said, ‘Hey, there’s something to this. I’m good at this. I’m a self starter. I can figure it out;  take charge even when I don’t know what I’m doing. I can problem solve.
“That’s the origin story. It went from there.  That one job I did a good job, that guy hired me on something else, so I met more people, got another credit for my resume, got another experience based on the job well done, met more people. It just kept going from there. That first year I said yes to every job, every freebie offer.
yes please
“I had saved enough money to live for awhile, so I was able to do all these independent films and not necessarily get paid right away. I quit my restaurant job I’d been working on the side–burnt that bridge to the ground to make sure I’d never go back, and from then on, I have been gainfully employed in the film industry.

On achievements and what she’s most proud of

“I did a pre-show for the Academy Awards for 10 years, I’ve done music videos for Snoop Dog, Jermaine Dupree, Ludacris, Outkast, Lil Bow Wow. I’ve worked with big budget stars. But none of those things feel like ‘accomplishments’ to me, that just part of your career.
“What I’m most proud of, though, are two films that went to Sundance, that we made for next to nothing—micro budgets. It was with a group of friends who were all just starting their careers–talented independent filmmakers who hadn’t really done anything yet. It launched–from the actors to the crew to the directors and the producers—it really launched all of their careers. That’s the stuff I’m most proud of.
“Seeing the people I gave their first job to, or who I taught in a class, succeed, [is what I’m most proud of].

so beautiful

Read the other two parts here:

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Matt Gwin
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