Bryan Burton: The name, the face, the place
Actor/filmmaker Bryan Burton, alumnus of Greensboro Academy, Weaver Academy for the Performing and Visual Arts, and graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, is coming home to Greensboro this weekend – but he’s not coming alone.
He’s bringing A Name Without a Place, an offbeat comedy/drama from writer/executive producer/director Kenny Riches, which opens Friday at RED Cinema in Greensboro. Burton is scheduled to attend Friday, Saturday and Sunday to participate in post-screening Q&A sessions with audience members.
The film shot entirely on location in Florida, stars Burton as Gordon Grafton, an ambivalent, unmotivated young man who has never expressed so much as a single desire to leave his hometown of Miami Beach. That is until his twin brother unexpectedly dies.
When he discovers his brother’s journal, Gordon becomes obsessed with retracing his brother’s steps and embarks on both a journey of self-discovery and the journey of a lifetime.
The film also stars Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous), also an executive producer; Charlotte Best (T.V.’s Home and Away), Christine Elise (Body Snatchers), Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey and Oscar nominee for Ragtime), and long-time Saturday Night Live cast member and UNCSA School of Drama graduate Chris Parnell. But it’s Burton who’s front and center throughout.
Riches had seen Burton’s performance in a Columbia MFA thesis short film called Black and Blue, for You and was impressed enough to reach out to him, asking if Burton would submit a taped audition.
“I read the screenplay, really loved the genre-bending tonality to his script, and happily put myself on tape,” Burton said. “A few great meetings later, the rest was history, and we went off to make this new feature film that I’m extremely proud of, as well as making many amazing new friends along the way. Working with Chris and Elizabeth and Patrick was one of the easiest, most fun experiences ever. Whenever you get to work alongside talents of that caliber, especially when the chemistry between the performances is really ‘vibing’ – comedically, romantically, or otherwise – the job is always the easiest. I’m just so excited to share this personal milestone moment with the people and community that I love, who have supported me throughout my life and truly make Greensboro my home at heart forever.”
Burton is quick to credit his collaborators, “and I truly want as many people to see it as we can get,” he said. “It’s definitely a harder film to simply define by one clear-cut genre category or classifiable film stereotype.”
Burton describes the tone as “fresh and weird and fun and quirkily comedic” yet dark.
“It’s something different, and not your normal Hollywood fare, but still has a very human story at the heart of it,” Burton explained. “That’s certainly one of the many things that attracted me in the first place.”
On the big screen, Burton has been seen in Money Monster (2016) with George Clooney and Julia Roberts and The Post (2017) with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. On the small screen, he’s appeared in Adult Swim’s Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter, HBO’s Emmy-winning drama series Succession, and opposite John Turturro in the hard-hitting 2016 HBO mini-series The Night Of, which earned 13 Emmy nominations (including Outstanding Limited Series), and won five, including Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for Riz Ahmed.
“Probably to nobody’s surprise, it was one of the best experiences I’ve had as an actor,” Burton said. “John Turturro is one of the most genuine and generous actors I’ve ever worked with … and, of course, working with show creator/writer Steven Zaillian was beyond the coolest thing! I mean, this dude is truly one of the greatest screenwriters who ever lived, and one helluva good director – let alone a very fun one to work with. I truly love how that whole series turned out, am so proud that I got to be a part of it, and am forever grateful to Steven and (casting director) Avy Kaufman for that opportunity.”
Burton has also appeared in a slew of short films and several high-profile commercials, including American Express (with Tina Fey), T-Mobile (with Philadelphia Phillies slugger Bryce Harper), and a well-remembered Liberty Mutual campaign involving two teenagers trying to repair their car on the side of the road in the dead of night.
Further exercising his creative muscles, Burton completed the musical short film Push the Point, on which he served as director, producer, co-writer, production designer, set designer, sound editor and, just for good measure, lead actor.
The film premiered at the 50th annual San Diego Comic-Con International (“the Big Mac Daddy con,” as Burton called it), and will have its North Carolina premiere at the 25th annual Cucalorus Film Festival in Wilmington next month.
“I couldn’t be more pumped!”
Actually, Burton has directed before: Plays, sketch-comedy digital shorts, and a short film for his senior thesis at Weaver Academy – which was shot in his family’s old living room.
“But Push the Point came with many years of professional experience on huge film and T.V. sets under my belt,” he said. “It was a legit production with a real crew, intense production design, a supremely talented cast of Broadway talents, and the wittiest, best group of co-writers/producers/friends to collaborate and create with throughout the pre-production and production phases – including fellow Greensboro native and Weaver alumnus Alex Koceja as the musical’s lyricist. It’s my own directorial debut, and I couldn’t be more proud of it as well. Directing has always been something I wanted to do,” he added. “It was always a part of the plan and will continue to be a part of it. I’ve always worked from more of a technical, musically-minded directorial method of performance, and without a doubt, it made my transition on this project much smoother and a lot more fun.”
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