Born in China, Mike Gan moved to the U.S. at the age of five. He developed a passion for storytelling and filmmaking since watching films at an early age. A graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Gan began making short films. The hard work has paid off as he makes his feature film directorial debut with Burn, starring Josh Hutcherson and Tilda Cobham-Harvey, which debuts on August 23 in select theaters, On Demand, and Digital from Momentum Pictures.
World Film Geek had the opportunity to speak with Gan about his feature film debut.
Thank you, Mike, for talking about Burn. I saw the film and it was really good. It had some really tense moments and a great cast.
Thank you so much. I really appreciate that.
This is your feature film debut. Who were your influences in becoming a filmmaker?
There were many influences but for this particular film, I would go with two in particular. The first would be The Coen Brothers’ Fargo. I remember watching it as a kid and thinking, how strange the plot and situations were but how interesting the characters were. And also Bong Joon-Ho’s Mother, the Korean film that came out a few years ago. Similar concepts. Just explaining characters in dark situations, both the horror and humor in it.
So, were they also your inspiration to write the film as well?
Well, yeah, but there was also an article I read about a robbery in a different country that went wrong, and the tables were turned on the robbers themselves. And I always found that to be an interesting fling as to psychologically feeling how it would be to go from innocent to aggressor and that same person reacts once those dynamics. When I was writing the script, that was the inspiration. And it was pretty much determining what characters to bring in to the situation.
You have an excellent cast from Josh Hutcherson and Suki Waterhouse to Tilda Cobham-Harvey and Harry Shum Jr. What was it like working with the cast?
Everyone was great! They had this great chemistry and camaraderie. We had a really tight schedule. We shot for 15 days. And this was my first feature, and everyone had more experience than me (laughs). There was some dark stuff in the film, but everyone did a great job and they really supported each other and me. They were wonderful to work with.
Were there any difficulties you had to face during shooting?
The biggest thing was the weather. We shot the film in upstate New York in February. And we had 12 overnights. That was the biggest challenge, the weather. We would do exterior shots and our cameras would freeze up. It was even harder for the actors. If you see in the movie, Melinda isn’t wearing a parka at all in the film. She was pretty incredible to just have her outfit on in like 5-degree weather.
Is there a scene that for you stood out in terms of either shooting or how it came out in the final film? For me, it was that moment Melinda sits across from a tied-up Bobby and engages in conversation with him. It was just somewhat unexpected and yet it also felt like she had been looking for attention and this was her way to get it.
Wow, that’s a good question. Actually, you said it for me (laughs). That was the scene for me as well. And there were the scenes that feel like Melinda has her Prince Charming in Officer Liu. I think overall, watching Melinda towards the end of the film and her actions made sense of things. It changed the dynamics and the scenes with Bobby because Josh did such an amazing job on the film.
This was a really good film for your feature film debut. Are you planning any more feature films down the road?
Yes. I’m currently writing my first horror ghost story. It is set in the Chinese-American community. It will revolve around an ancient Chinese folklore demon and I’m doing it to explore some of my own identity.
That sounds awesome and I will want to see that when it comes out.
Burn comes out on August 23. This is a really good feature debut for Mike Gan and has great performances from the ensemble cast. Thank you again Mike for talking about the film.
Thank you for having me. It’s been great talking to you.
A special Thank You goes to Katrina Wan PR and Mike Gan for making this interview possible.