Burning Annie is a new independent film that is currently lighting up the festival circuit. The film, which explores the ideas of love, loss, relationships, and obsession, tells the story of Max, a college student who’s modelled his life after “Annie Hall,” which he considers the Bible of break-up movies, proving conclusively why relationships are futile.
It also happens to feature one of the best soundtracks in recent memory, blending established acts like Magnetic Fields and Nick Cave with up and coming local indie rockers. It’s rare that a film can make you laugh, think, and introduce you to new music all at the same time, so we decided to interview the film’s writer/producer, Randy Mack.
USOUNDS: Burning Annie is, essentially, a relationship movie. How is it
different from the parade of empty ‘romantic comedies’ that the major
studies keep churning out?
RANDY MACK: I suppose the short answer is, our film is good! I mean
seriously, how many bad love stories does the public have to sit through
before they riot?
The whole problem is, most relationship stories have contrived dilemmas
with over-the-top silliness and basically result is a pale, escapist
version of reality. And certainly there have been attempts to make films
about the reality of relationships… Well, our film *IS* the reality of
relationships! The ambiguity, the mixed signals, the self-loating, the
self-delusion– we didn’t leave anything out!
BURNING ANNIE is also unique in that it throws down the gauntlet and demands
the audience think for itself when posed with a near-existential paradox:
are you any happier than those that have embraced their abject misery? In
other words, are you happy, or are you merely as happy as you think you can
be, and if so, how do you know that that isn’t really actually being
miserable? The film doesn’t answer questions, it poses them– and the
characters’ attempts to navigate the minefield of those questions is what
hints at the way to salvation.
USOUNDS: It’s amazing that a film can pose such heavy questions, and still
be so much fun. Something that keeps the mood working throughout the film is
the excellent soundtrack. Was it difficult to put together? What was the
RM: Music is about space– you can’t listen to to Record X alone in your
room and at the beach! Because spaces have moods, feelings. Certain people
meticulously build themselves a universe of music that is ‘representative’
of them– or to be precise, representative of how they want to be perceived.
If BURNING ANNIE was a person, it would be that kind of person– the
‘lifestyle’ music shopper, who buys the White Stripes as much for what they
represent as for the music.
There is a good reason for this, though– I wanted BURNING ANNIE to be
the kind of film that a certain kind of sensitive, deadpan type could use
a litmus test when meeting new friends– if you ‘get’ BA, you’re probably
gonna be cool. Face it, it’s the kind of film some people just don’t get.
But for others, it’s the kind of movie that a certain kind of person can
use to build a community around themselves.
The soundtrack consists of the best local bands the main creative team had
access to. Fortunately, that included LA, NY, Boston, Nashville, and
Chicago. Songs were chosen for their quality, and their appropriateness to
the movie. All of them have a certain attitude, and are lyric-driven– the
music equivalent of our film, which is dialogue-driven.
Nick Cave and Frank Black have acted in several indie films, so getting
their songs wasn’t hard; likewise for Ani Difranco, who owns her own music
and runs her own label.
The Magnetic Fields song hit a bizarre stumbling block when Stephin Merritt
tried to talk us out of using it, claiming the song had ‘racist overtones’;
we told him to shut his honkey mouth and got the song anyway. At the end of the day, the high quality of the soundtrack is owed to the fact that the writer, director, and producer are all major music snobs, so it was a high
bar that had to be met.
USOUNDS: Is there a particular scene in the film that you couldn’t now
imagine without the song you chose?
RM: Oh yeah, there are quite a few, actually. The Ani Difranco song that
accompanies Max’s ill-fated foray into his love interest’s dorm is a
The scene never flowed right, and the tone never quite made sense, until I
dropped that song over it. Suddenly- POW. Perfection. The opening tunes, one
by Self and the other by LA’s Get Set Go, are also perfect examples.
Most people think those songs were composed for the film, that’s how perfect
they fit. The Nick Cave song in the middle of the film was actually written
into the script, that’s how confident I was that song would work there. The
others were happy discoveries… but I spent a year in post-production,
working on the music continuously. It’s hard to imagine anything working
better than the current line-up, because so much care and consideration went
USOUNDS: Burning Annie is currently doing the festival circuit, what’s up
next and when can people see the film?
RM: BURNING ANNIE is playing Saturday, July 26 at 9:30pm at the Laemmle
4plex in Santa Monica, as part of the Dances With Films festival. We are
throwing an after-party directly following, at 14 Below, which will feature
every LA band in the soundtrack, including Get Set Go, the Mormons, Pillow
of Wrongness, the Randies, New Maximumdonkey, and the Dollyrots.
The show is FREE with a ticket stub (a $10 value) so get your tickets today
before they sell out! Available exclusively through www.BurningAnnie.com.
After we recover from the party, our next stop is the Hamptons Int’l Film
Festival in NY, scheduled for October. Some surprises might pop up in the
meantime, however, so everybody is encouraged to sign up for the BA
Newsletter at the website. You never know when another screening might