Friday, July 13, 2018


Here is a new free chapter from my best-selling book GARAGE MOVIE: MY ADVENTURES MAKING WEIRD FILMS, now available on Amazon! Learn more about the book HERE and watch the trailer below.


Gutter was finished by January 2001 and, due to a busy school schedule, I didn’t get to make another movie until after the spring semester and when I say “after the spring semester” I literally started working on it the day after I was done with my finals. I was so happy that all the school bulls*** was behind me and I could get down to doing what was really important: making movies! Also, I didn’t have a job lined up for the summer so I wanted to work hard and squeeze out a movie before my mom got on my case about filling out applications.

The movie was another ten-minute short called British Dingo from Ireland. Where Gutter was a horror movie, British Dingo from Ireland was my attempt at making an action movie, even though the “action” was limited. The strange title of the movie was basically born out of my inability to speak in an Irish accent without it sounding either British or Australian, so I figured, well, why not create an ambiguous character who may be all three?!

And I did just that. I played a character named Mr. Dingo and he was a shady dude who wore a Scally Cap and a black trench coat (I was kind of ripping off the movie Boondock Saints, which was popular at the time). All Mr. Dingo cared about was money and he recently got himself involved in a big drug deal with some shadowy characters named Kado and Pristine. The scheming Kado and Pristine try to double-cross Dingo and screw him over. The drug deal goes sour and Mr. Dingo finds himself in a firefight.

The "firefight" involved toy guns and many gun sound effects that I believe I downloaded off Napster. The film also featured some pyrotechnics and when I say 'pyrotechnics' all we did was light a firecracker in a Miller Lite beer can to simulate the can being hit by a whizzing bullet.

Pristine (Mark Willis) and Kado (Jeremy Mitchell) scheming on how to screw over Mr. Dingo.

For British Dingo from Ireland, I again chose to shoot in Black and White for aesthetic reasons but I also determined that the digital video looked better in Black and White. It looked more like film whereas the colored video still looked too home-video-ish for my liking.

With Dingo, I also attempted using a car as a “dolly” so I could try and get some cool-looking tracking shots. I recruited one of my friends to film Mr. Dingo (me) out the car window and had another friend drive slowly. Surprisingly, the shots came out nice and smooth, especially with the help of my camera’s (aforementioned) image stabilizer.

I even found some cool shooting locations, the coolest of which was a creepy-looking warehouse in the middle of wonderful Walpole, MA. This warehouse was where the drug deal was to go down but, since I couldn’t shoot inside the actual building, I got all tricksy with the editing and cut from an exterior shot of Mr. Dingo (me) walking up to the warehouse…to an interior shot of me opening my garage door…then, I shot the rest of the scene inside my garage. In other words, I created the illusion that the inside of my garage was really the inside of the warehouse. It worked well. I mean, most people probably could tell what I did, but it still worked well enough and the illusion was all done through editing. Amazing!

And that wasn’t the only illusion I created through editing. Don’t tell anybody but I shot most of my scenes as Dingo on a completely different day and time from the shots of Pristine and Kado. In the film, it seems like we’re all together in one warehouse scene but all I did was edit the shots together and create the illusion that we were all acting together in one scene. Of course, I did have to throw in a wide shot or two showing all three of us together; otherwise, a keen eye would grow suspicious of my trickery. The film theorist AndrĂ© Bazin would’ve appreciated the wide shots. In the 1940s, Bazin wrote that Eisensteinian montage (i.e. piecing separate shots together to create an illusion) was a fascist-like manipulation of reality. He preferred a cinema with minimal editing. He wanted those wide shots! He wanted realism! So, I heeded the words of Bazin and gave him the wide shots, but—for the most part—montage was my very best friend in the whole wide world during the making of Dingo.

Indeed, the power of editing never ceased to amaze me and I really pushed iMovie's parameters with British Dingo from Ireland. I remember that the first version of iMovie only provided two soundtracks for you to work with. This meant that you could put music on one track and then sound effects or dialogue on the other track. The problem was when you wanted to use background music, dialogue AND multiple sound FX at the same time. In editing programs today, you basically have unlimited tracks to work with so, say, if you have a car accident sequence and you want multiple sound effects (the crash, the horn sounding, glass shattering, hubcaps rolling, not to mention musical score and maybe even some dialogue, e.g. "holy s*** we're crashing!") you have plenty of tracks to layer all the sound on top of each other. But when you only have two sound tracks? Well...your options are limited.

What I ended up doing is putting sound effects on the same track as music, literally piling them atop each other, which iMovie allowed me to do and the sounds would end up playing simultaneously. But you weren't supposed to do this, so it significantly slowed down the computer. In fact, in many cases, it slowed down the computer to such an extent that my poor PowerBook laptop froze on me several times. I began to realize that iMovie was only useful for extremely simple editing. My movies were already becoming too complex what with their multiple sound FX, music and dialogue tracks etc.

Surprisingly, I didn't quite see all this as writing on the wall telling me I should make the switch to Final Cut Pro. Well, maybe I did see the writing on the wall but I ignored it, mainly because I liked and knew how to use iMovie. So, short story long, I kept using iMovie. But it was with my next movie that I pushed it too far. I’ll get to that next movie in a few moments.

I had a final cut of British Dingo from Ireland in my hands about a week after I finished shooting. I was addicted to editing it and often worked late into the night. I had this strange OCD-like thing going on where I would edit up to a certain point and then watch what I had so far and I would watch it over and over and over again. I still do that with every project I work on up to this day. It’s like I’m so impressed with what I created that I need to watch it repeatedly. Maybe it’s like being God where He creates the world and on the 7th day He sits back and enjoys what He created, only my “7th day” is repeated over and over again. Yes, it’s something like that, more or less, probably less.

A rare photo of me editing British Dingo from Ireland. You can see my camera bag nearby, as well as my trusty FireWire cable. Photo by Brian Burns.

Like with Gutter, I exported the final cut out to a MiniDV tape and then to a VHS tape. My friends watched this movie repeatedly but, this time, I was proud of what I created and, well, the movie kind of made sense, at least a tad more sense than Gutter. So I wanted to do something more with the movie than just show it to my friends. But what could I do with it?

Well, it was around this time that I had stumbled upon a website called This was a website that featured videos and films made by amateur filmmakers. You could pay around 50 bucks, send your movie to iFilm, and they would upload it onto their website for the entire world to see. Again, these were the days before YouTube, Vimeo or anything like that. The idea of my short film being available on the worldwide web for the world to see…well, I thought it would be awesome! I wanted the entire world to see British Dingo from Ireland. So why not send it to iFilm?

Well, send it to iFilm I did, in the form of a MiniDV for optimal quality. I waited a few weeks and then they sent me an email about a release date. The big premiere would be July something-or-other so I got really excited. I thought this would be my big break. British Dingo from Ireland would take the world by storm.

I made a poor-man’s version of a movie poster and Xeroxed dozens of copies. Then, I went door-to-door to local businesses in the small suburb of Walpole and asked if I could hang them up on their windows or somewhere inside. I was surprised that several of these people were cool with it. They had no idea what the movie was about but I had them convinced I was going to be the next Ben Affleck and Matt Damon…combined! These days were all pre-social media, of course, so this was my only option for marketing. I literally had to print out real, physical movie posters, walk into the real, three-dimensional world and ask real, small-business owners if I could hang these posters on their windows. Today, you would start a Facebook page and Twitter handle and Instagram and all that s***. Not in 2001, though. Nope, you had to get your boots on the ground and hang fliers up in well-traveled areas.

 My poor man’s version of a movie poster for British Dingo from Ireland.

Well, the day of the big premiere came and I thought British Dingo from Ireland would become an overnight phenomenon. Not quite the case. The movie ran for two months, I believe, and I only garnered a total of 50 views. Granted, I was rather impressed by 50 views but, of course, today, getting 50 YouTube views is easy, even if you’re videotaping yourself picking your nose. Actually, bad example—that video would probably go viral in this day and age.

So, no, I didn’t quite blow up to the bigtime, but I was still impressed that I had attracted an audience of 50 people to a film I made with my own bare hands. The fact that I created a movie from scratch and that an audience of 50 people saw that movie was an incredible feeling.

Actual screenshot from the iFilm website.

Watch the British Dingo from Ireland trailer on YouTube:

Watch the full British Dingo from Ireland film here (note: this is a link to one of my blogs where the film is posted, not YouTube, so don’t be alarmed):

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