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Meet Linda Burns of Plexus Pictures in Downtown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Linda Burns.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
That is a really long good story, but I doubt anyone wants to read that dissertation. Long story short, I moved to ATL in ’92 after living in Key West where I worked as an on-air DJ at a few different radio stations there. I had some experience working in television, but mostly at community access stations, although part of my degree from U of Michigan was in film and television production. While in Atlanta to create a new radio demo reel, I met the station manager of WRFG, and we became friends. My plan was to get a job in radio until I realized all the cool station in Atlanta were college ones, so I quickly started looking at a plan B.

During that plan B search, I ran into the station manager and his friend, who happened to be a grip in the film industry. Since I had a little experience, he suggested volunteering on a community access show at People TV, and I jumped at the chance. After working on that show a bit, that same grip called with another volunteer gig, a short film trailer.

What was supposed to be a 12-hour gig, turned into a 24-hour long one, but I stuck with it. I fell in love with the film industry that night. Every crazy thing they asked me to find at 4 am in downtown Atlanta I managed to find or create. Oh, you need a baton you can beat someone in a martial arts fight without hurting them? How about a Creative Loafing magazine rolled up and covered in black electrical tape? Things just clicked.

The 1st AD on that job was impressed and started hiring me for commercials… and I met more people… and they like me and hired me, and so on and so on. I worked my way up from production assistant to 2nd AD to production manager to producer, but I’ve worked a little in almost every department – as a grip, wardrobe, locations, cast driver, boom op, and anything else I felt capable of doing to make the rent, add to my connections, or grow in my career. I think working my way up and working in other departments have helped round out my education in this business.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The film business is never a smooth road. It’s hanging off the side of a cliff by one broken fingernail with gators waiting for you below and birds dive bombing you hoping you fall as they hunger for a piece of your carcass. But that’s what makes it challenging and fun, and why it’s not right for everyone. We call it a lifestyle because it really is like joining the circus.

It’s high stress and big money, and some folks have out of control egos, while others can be screamers. You have to grow a thick skin and know that it’s not personal. It’s often feast or famine. You definitely have to know how to manage your money and your time. You need to be comfortable cold calling people for work, and you certainly must adapt well to change, because everything about our jobs and the lifestyle changes with the wind. You must be open to learning new things and understand that your job is a lifelong journey of solving puzzles.

To me, if you don’t like change or uncertainty or learning new things… if you’re not intellectually curious, this probably isn’t the business for you. If this sounds like fun, then you’re in the right place. Our business is a constant obstacle course challenge, but that’s what life should be… a constant challenge with new experiences every day. I love that about it. And I love the cast, crew, and vendors that I’ve been lucky enough to work with. It’s the people that really make this business interesting and help you to laugh through the pain as you go to battle together to get a story told.

Plexus Pictures – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
As a freelance producer, I work in all mediums – from narratives to documentaries and national commercials to broadcast TV series and feature films, and in all genres – from horror to comedy and live sports to re-enactments, and in all budget – from no to low to high. I love it all and that diversity keeps the job interesting. I’m very proud to have taken short and feature films to festivals around the world, but taking two narrative films to Sundance, that then received a domestic and foreign distribution, was a highlight. I’ve taught monks and film directors in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan how to be better producers. That was a blast!

As a company, I’m most proud of the work I’ve started to do in the last year. I’m documenting the lost history and culture of the commercial fishing industry in North Florida, as well as its’ destruction. It’s a fascinating story, and I hope I can do it justice. What sets me apart as a producer? I think it’s a combination of my no-nonsense approach to filmmaking – my ability to do a lot with very little – coupled with my fascination, curiosity, drive and passion for authentic storytelling. I hate bad movies, and won’t let something out of development if it’s not ready.

In this business, you must strive for perfection, because the market doesn’t allow for 2nd place. You only get one chance to grab someone’s attention and tell them your story. First impressions are everything, even when it’s a screenplay.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I’m not sure I have one “proudest moment”. I have amazing career highlights I could rattle off, but I think in terms of my legacy, I’m most proud of all the careers I’ve helped jump start. While I have always trained new folks on film sets and in the office, I run a boot camp called, which is a two-day hands-on job-ready training program.

It’s a fund-raiser for Georgia Production Partnership and Atlanta Film Society, and hearing from former students about their career highlights warms my cold dark producer heart! I’ve trained thousands and thousands of people over my 25-year career, and I love that they share the same passion for filmmaking that I found working on my first set.

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