Unlike my other films, Break, Blow, Burn was shot over an extended period of time instead of in consecutive days; mostly on weekends for a little over two months. It also marks the first time I’ve done the photography myself instead of hiring a DP. But the most unique aspect of the film is the fact that it was entirely improvised by the cast, with me providing notes for them to work from.
Since first starting to prepare the film over a year before we started shooting it, I always intended it as an experiment. I wanted it to have a life of its own and to evolve as we went along. This process was frightening, frustrating and often painful, but I’m glad the shoot maintained its improvisational spirit in the face of many opportunities to play it safe by forcing it into a more conventional shape. I’m not 100% sure what the finished film is about, or if it says what I originally thought I wanted it to say, but it does give off a unique feeling, and that’s my primary goal whenever I make a film. It’s about ideas and impressions more than story, which of course - depending on your taste - can be either annoying or stimulating.
The protagonist, Dean, is a budding philosopher who doesn’t know his own power yet; not unlike the main characters in my films Julian and Floreana. He knows he has a book in him that could change the world and even save lives, but he can’t quite make reality live up to his dreams. In all of these films, the heroes essentially fail and must take solace in personal enlightenment; forced to realize that either the world isn’t ready for their message or that they aren’t ready to deliver it.
Starring as Dean is Siegfried Peters, who also co-produced the film. Occasionally I’m lucky enough to know that an actor is perfect the instant I see his head-shot, and this was one of those times. I never even thought to audition him. Out of about 700 submissions for the role, he was the only one I seriously wanted to pursue it with. Though an experienced professional, he was willing to tackle the experimental style and guerrilla shooting conditions that I proposed, and I’ll always be grateful to him for taking that risk.