Filmmaker Chanya Button on the lesbian character in “Burn Burn Burn”

AE: What is it about Alex as a person that allows her to open up her heart and life to a shitty person like Pandora?

CB: What makes any of us open our hearts to rubbish people? We all fall for the terrible people all the time. That’s a real universal that, God, certainly I relate to. You find yourself opening up to the wrong people. I think that’s something that people learn, unfortunately, throughout their whole life, especially when you’re in your sort of chaotic–don’t know what you’re doing with yourself–twenties. You end up in an intoxicating situation with somebody who isn’t right for you. I think she’s the sort of person who takes responsibility for loads of the crap stuff that happens. So if ever her girlfriend was being rubbish, if ever Pandora was being rubbish, she’d just probably presume it was something that she’d done and something that she could fix.


AE: Is it fair to say Alex runs away from her problems? If it is, why is that, especially considering she otherwise has a pretty controlled nature.

CB: Because her best friend just died. When something like that happens, if something really colossal happens in your life, you react to things in ways that you never–the tectonic plate shifts underneath you, and you react in ways you never thought you would.

To be losing their best friend pushes them both over the edge. They react differently, and they make huge changes, and he sticks around and helps them via his video messages.


AE: But it seems to be something specific to Alex in that she’s also not really facing the issues with her mother. So it kind of seems like it’s something intrinsic about Alex to shy away from problems rather than face them head on.

CB: She doesn’t really shy away, she just internalizes a lot. She just internalizes a huge amount. It’s the way she’s managed to cope with things.

There were times when her mom told her explicitly that her sister’s death was her fault. In order to forgive her mother and have any sort of relationship with her, she has to not address all that stuff. So in a way she avoids stuff, but it’s like she avoids the problem in order to stay in the room.


AE: Alex not being open with her mom about her sexuality–is that because her mom is religious, or just because of what happened with her sister and their resulting lack of communication? Or is it a combination of the two?

CB: We didn’t ever want it to imply that it was about her religion or her socioeconomic background. It’s more to do with the fact that after growing up in a way where her mom sort of blamed her for sister’s death and her problems with alcohol herself, she just has become intensely private. I don’t think she didn’t tell her because she wouldn’t approve, she just–it’s all easier and cleaner and better if her mom knows very little about her life.


AE: The film leaves things pretty open-ended in terms of what Alex will do next. Is it your impression that she’s going to choose more wisely in terms of romantic partners and that she might even talk about her relationships with her mom?

CB: Yeah, 100 percent. I think that’s the sort of final gift that Dan gives them is he opens his own heart via those video messages and shows them if he can do that right before he passes away, in the face of a huge amount of pain and a great amount of fear, if he can do that, then they have no excuse not to.

I tried to make a film that’s realistic about people, and we’re all flawed. It’s really hard being a grownup, so I don’t want to imply that life is going to be perfect from the moment the film finishes, but they’re certainly going to try and use better tools to make decisions, even if they still mess things up somewhere along the way.


AE: Finally, I wanted to ask if you had any plans to work on LGBT-themed projects in the future? If not in the immediate future, are you open to exploring this theme again?

CB: Absolutely! I’m drawn to diverse worlds and different characters, just because I think that’s really interesting storytelling because the complex female character particularly and LGBT characters, there’s this huge wealth of interesting people to explore. In the end, a lot of my work I think will have characters who aren’t heterosexual, but not because I’ve got any agenda. I think it’s partly because my own life is filled with all sorts of different people. It doesn’t make sense for me to make a film that also isn’t filled with all sorts of different people.

Burn Burn Burn plays in Toronto at the Inside Out LGBT Film Festival on May 29. The film is being released theatrically in the UK this summer and coming to the U.S. sometime this year. Visit the movie’s Facebook page to keep up with news of future screenings.