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

“This is Thelma & Louise plus Casper the Friendly Ghost,” describes a dead man, and he’s pretty spot on. Burn Burn Burn is a comedy that sees two best friends, Alex (Chloe Pirrie) and Seph (Laura Carmichael), hit the road on a journey to scatter the ashes of their other best friend, Dan (Jack Farthing). Dan guides them along the trip through video messages, making it clear this journey is just as much about their need to deal with their own issues. Both aren’t happy at their jobs, and both aren’t getting what they need out of their relationships–Seph with her boyfriend, James, and Alex with her girlfriend, Pandora.


We recently spoke with the movie’s director, Chanya Button. She told us about how close to home the film is for her, the importance of Seph and Alex’s friendship, the inner workings of Alex as a character and more.

Warning: Spoilers ahead Charlie Covell wrote the script for Burn Burn Burn. What attracted you to the film as a director?

Chanya Button: It was a project that Charlie and I conceived of together. It came from our friendship, really. We were seeing a lot of really fantastic work coming out of Canada and the States that was really female-centric and really was very articulate about our generation. And it was of a certain size and scale as well, and a lot of emerging talent was able to make really excellent work.

There was nothing incredible coming out of the UK that was kind of in dialogue with that sort of work. So Burn Burn Burn is a bit of a message in a bottle to that kind of call of fantastic filmmakers.


AE: With this film playing at LGBT film festivals, some people are going to wonder just by looking at the promotional material if Alex and Seph get together. Having watched the film, I know why that wouldn’t be a good move without making a lot of changes. But were you at all tempted to have them be more than friends?

CB: No. Not at all. I feel very lucky actually to have a hugely diverse group of friends in terms of backgrounds, gender, sexuality, race. I think it was sort of important to us that you can have a close friendship like that between two women where one’s heterosexual and one’s not and it never has to come to anything. That’s not a given. It was never part of the story and also kind of as a byproduct we just felt like–I think it’s a bit of a stereotype that we need to shake off.


AE: You’re playing at Inside Out in Toronto, which is great. But were you concerned about having some difficulties getting the movie into LGBT film festivals because it’s not “super gay”?

CB: We weren’t really thinking about festivals when we made the film. We were just trying to make a story that felt representative of us and our interests and our friendship. The film is very reflective of our own lives and it felt true to us in that way. So if there are LGBT film festivals who get something from the work and enjoy that there’s one gay character and one straight character and they don’t get together, then fantastic. The other lead character, Dan, played by Jack Farthing, also isn’t heterosexual.


AE: Now although Seph gets some action while they’re on the road, Alex doesn’t. Especially because she just got out of a relationship that wasn’t good for her, why didn’t you throw her a bone in terms of some lady loving?

CB: Because she’s a very traumatized person. And her trauma isn’t to do with her sexuality. I think that was something that was very important to me as well. She’s got a lot of stuff that she’s not been dealing with. That has to do with her relationship with her mother. That has to do with the fact that her sister passed away when she was young. It’s developed into this horrible guilt complex she has about everything and everyone around her. She feels responsible for everyone. If anything bad happens, she thinks it’s because of her. She’s a private person. She’s not the sort of person who would have causal sex. Ever. She’s just not that sort of person.