My name is Larry. This is the story of how I began to grow into the film industry and began to promote my entire given birth name of Larry A Burns Jr.
I intended to make it my Coca-Cola; my Kleenex if you will. To build my name into a brand. My goal was to begin by making my birth name searchable on Google or on as many search engines as I could. I began this about the time that AOL was popular as an email company. About the same time frame as Google and Yahoo were launched. It was 1995. At the time I was working in the computer industry. But let me take you back and share the main highlights of this ride that I was on that brought me literally from Hollywood to the San Francisco Bay Area to Suisun City, California, more specifically. I was asked to share this story. Not just to share my personal story, because I would have to include a lot of other details. This is the history of our movie and film production company, Epic Flight Films and the humble beginnings of our origin.
Nearly four years after serving a military tour of duty in the United States Air Force during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm from 1990 to 1994, I owned and operated three live music venues in the Beach Cities of Los Angeles during the late 90’s. This opened so many doors, and introduced me to many industry executives and artists and firmly connected me to both, the Hollywood music and film industry. I soon joined the largest casting agency in the U.S. and began to take on acting parts, working to eventually became Screen Actors Guild union-qualified and joined the union. Also within this same time frame I began taking production staff parts as a Production Assistant, Office Production Assistant and Key Production Assistant and background coordinator on many big-budget studio Hollywood TV shows and movies.
I can actually say that I had a plan and I wasn’t doing this just for money. The money wasn’t that great anyway. It was to learn the ins-and-outs of film production and I was pretty much in a “road school” per say, for production. I turned down an opportunity to pursue being a DGA (Director’s Guild of America) trainee. This program allowed the trainee to be a paid intern for twenty-four months, earning a salary of $2000.00 per month. Most work days are sixteen hours and at the end of the training period graduates to a union-eligible Second Assistant Director. That’s pretty huge in this industry to be unionized. If you’re going to play in the big leagues in movie and film, you have to cooperate with the unions. As a DGA training, there’s absolutely no time to take on a second job to make ends meet. I realized that with my personal bills of more than $2000.00, I’d never be able to make ends meet on that amount of money. So, I continued doing things the long and slow way.
As I worked on various shows and movies, when possible, I would spend my time staying as close as I could to the set or location shoot where the camera was, paying attention to every department on the set. I would watch as the assistant camera operators and the camera operators did their job; lighting department and gaffers did their jobs; directors, assistant directors, second assistant directors, second-second assistant directors, background coordinators, Steadicam operators, camera boom and jib operators, stunt coordinators, script supervisors, grips, transportation department, set builders and construction department, set dressers, wardrobe, hair and makeup, and of course, most importantly, craft services(food providers). This was truly my OJT film school. One of my most interesting production jobs on a big budget Hollywood studio movie, was when I worked as the Police Technical advisor and background coordinator for the movie Bandits with Billy Bob Thornton, Bruce Willis and Kate Blanchet, training over 300 background members how to hold, brace and run with an M-16 rifle and Beretta M9 Pistol. After all, it has to look real right? My time and training in the U.S. Military and as an expert marksman on both an M9 Beretta and M-16 gave me the credibility to do this.
One thing you have to realized when starting out in this industry is that you have to be a real go-getter. If you refuse to be bold and simply work to make things happen, you will definitely not make it in this industry. The stories are true. It really is a cut throat/dog-eat-dog business. Everyone that is hungry to make it is working to promote themselves whether it is as an actor, singer or band or in film production work. I however do not promote dishonesty. There is a different in being a go-getter and being dishonest and downright unrighteous as a person. All it takes is extremely hard work, never taking no for an answer. When you do get a no, work harder and promote from a different direction. There is not simply one way to promote your work. They say it’s who you know, and truly that does help, but I believe that anyone can do anything if they truly put their mind to it and spend enough time in practice and thought.
Continuing on; O.k., maybe I can confess that I do believe that I did had a bit of an advantage in the beginning to help propel me into this industry. It did help to own three music venues in Los Angeles, the heart of the entertainment not only in the United States but in the entire world. Don’t get me wrong. It was no easy task. You try opening and building one music venue. It was extremely hard work. And I built three of them. Only by the grace of God, literally.
In the first of 2001, I found myself in a situation where I needed work. The production world was in a bit of turmoil with writer’s strikes and wage and work condition disputes and between that and TV show hiatuses, work had slowed down tremendously for everyone. Not to mention several shows that were being shot in Los Angeles had relocated to Canada to take advantage of better tax incentives. I once again needed to innovate.
If there’s one thing that I learned while spending time working with hundreds of bands that had come through and played in concert at my music venues, it’s that bands require much attention. They require baby-sitting so-to-speak. The bigger the artists the worse they are. They require pampering, a bit of worshipping, and bowing to their needs. Silly, yes, however that creates this awesome little job title called “Artist Relations”. Anyone that has worked in artist relations will understand. Can be a frustrating job, but there’s never a dull moment. Where there are artists, there is drama. However, the people that work in Artist Relations have to be able to work at same respect level as these bands’ and yet not actually be the worshipper yourself nor take too much of their crap, but that still balances making them feel special and pampered, getting a little creative yourself and still actually getting things done for your company. I’m not saying all bands are this way. But there is definitely a DNA of “The Band” and of each member.
So, I knew that the company Guitar Center, which had 99 stores nation-wide at the time, had only two artist relations departments which were in their Sherman Oaks and Hollywood, California stores, to catered to the needs of the bigger named bands. This gave me an idea. I wrote up a proposal and pitched this idea to the management of the Los Angeles, South Bay Guitar Center store. This proposal was for them to create a budget for me to start an artist relations department and build an artist relations lounge in their store. I knew from my time with my music venues in the Beach Cities of Los Angeles, that there were countless numbers of older, famous 60’s 70, 80’s and even 90’s artists and bands that lived in and around the entire South Bay, Beach Cities, Palos Verdes, San Pedro, and Long Beach. Well, low and behold, when I met the manager of the South Bay Guitar Center store, he was one of my regular customers from my music venues and we recognized each other. Let’s just say, after two lunch meetings and hearing the entire pitch, they met my salary requests and created a budget to build the A&R lounge.
I was extremely excited. The vision began coming together. The lounge was built. The artists began to make appointments to special order their gear. Buzz began growing about the A&R department at Guitar Center. I had access to a large database of artists in their system. I proved that I was right about the vast number of large artists within a 10-mile radius of that store.
One day, I received a call from a music producer who knew about my path over the last three years. We set up a meeting and met there at the A&R lounge. He told me that a group of businessmen were starting a record label and that he’d told them about me and that they wanted to meet me. After four meetings and keeping the name of the record label hush hush, they told me the name of the record label. It was famed Rap Record Label, Ruff Ryders. They were starting a West Coast branch. They offered me a job. I was scouted at my place of work and offered the job of Vice President of Artist Relations. Of course, I accepted. This is where I continued to be immersed into the entertainment industry, gaining more contact, knowledge and experience which would eventually lead to the birth of Epic Flight Films. In the Summer of 2002, after the crash of the music industry with Napster, the record industry was in a mess. Just after I married my wife Dorothy, I officially left Ruff Ryders. Now that I totally had you guys side barred with this long piece of our history in the music industry, let’s get back to talking about film work.
Here’s one that’ll get you. In 2003 I literally traded a motor yacht for my first production camera. That is another story for another time. Write and ask, and I’ll tell you that one, or you can read it in my autobiography some day when it’s finished. I continued to take on both acting and production parts as I undertook small film projects with unskilled crew members. In 2006, my wife and I began to invest all that we could into production equipment; cameras, tripods, camera jibs, stand, weights, video lighting, camera stabilization systems, editing systems, etc. If there’s one thing that any film maker knows, it’s that equipment will always need to be updated if you want to excel in the film industry.
Also in 2006 my wife and I moved to Europe where he began building our film production company, European-American Motion Picture Group, working with European filmmakers, directors and actors. At this time my huge promotional push behind the name Larry A Burns Jr shifted to promote the name European-American Motion Picture Group. Everything that we produced still had my name on it, but the priority now was building the company name and using the Google status of Larry A Burns Jr to now build EAMPG. In 2009, I was asked to join Director David Scott Burns to co-produce what became our first independently-funded feature-length film, Guardians, which we shot in and around San Antonio, TX. Over the last two years I had been training an apprentice named Christopher Dearborn on Camera. Chris signed on and worked on this film with our crew. In 2010, Chris and I went into partnership in our company European-American Motion Picture Group and co-produced our company’s first two fully funded feature-length documentary movies, shot in Le Cinque Terre, Italy over an 18-month period, which were picked up and licensed by National Geographic Channel International for a seven-years world-wide distribution deal. This literally marked the first bit of big success within my film-making career. To land a company like National Geographic really said something about the quality of our work.
In 2011 our company European-American Motion Picture Group filmed part of a World War II epic in Perle’, Luxembourg called “Remember the Fallen”, about U.S. B-17 bombers that crashed in and around Perle’, Luxembourg during bombing runs to Western and Southern Germany. It was truly an honor to be a part of the production of this movie and even though to this day, September, 2016 it has not been finished last we heard, it still remains an awesome highlight of our film career. They say there is no greater generation of men in our country than those who served in WWII. I’d have to agree. I remember speaking to the curator of this museum where we shot a scene. I told him that I believed that my grandfather, who died in 2004 and was in WWII had marched across this land on the way to the Battle of the Bulge. He said, “Just a second.” and walked into what looked like a storage room. He walked out and handed me an M1 Garand bullet and said, “Here, maybe your grandfather dropped this.” and he let me keep it. Wow, what an amazing experience. I don’t mean to get sided tracked with these stories, but I have to seriously emphasize that one thing that you have to possess if you work in this industry is passion. Passion is what fuels creativity. And believe me, I’m an extremely passionate person. I’m so thankful for the experiences that I have had in my life and the paths that have brought me to doing exactly what I am doing now. If I had to put a label on the main focus of our company, it would have to be that we are a company that believes in “Heritage”.
We have found that a good number of the films and projects that we’ve had the honor of producing, have been about and enraptured in heritage. It is sad to see this thing that we, in our country are slowly losing; our heritage. As a film company, I want us to continue to be one source that preserves heritage. The slogan of our first part of the two-part Land of Sciacchetra’ movie is: Passion, Culture, Legacy & Life. Because it’s passion that preserves culture which leaves the legacy of our life. Film makers out there; latch onto heritage. These four words are equally part of heritage. Help us to not let our country’s memories and heritage slip away.
Now we get to the part that lead us to the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s simple. Tragic, but simple. Well, the process wasn’t simple, but what brought us here one instance. My wife was about to have our identical twin baby boys in 10 days. A doctor made some bad decisions and one of them died and the other twin’s kidneys were destroyed. So, we had to find a suitable specialist that could care for his needs in the U.S. that would be paid for by our medical insurance. So, we found UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco. What an amazing hospital. It’s not been without issue, however, it is truly amazing. We brought our son here and moved our lives here so he could continue to get the care he needed and had to move our film company here to the Bay Area. Of course, we couldn’t use a name like European-American Motion Picture Group, after all, we weren’t going to be working with any more European companies for a while.
We changed the name to Epic Flight Films and my business partner and his family moved to the Bay Area to join us and we have been building Epic Flight Films here. During the time since we’ve been here, we’ve produced a lot of commercials, highlight films and company promotional films. As a U.S. Veteran myself, our company worked for the better part of a year to become a Veteran Owned Small Business (VETBIZ), registered with the Department of Veterans Affairs and began bidding on government contracts.
As a filmmaker and director, I want to say that this has not been an easy road. It’s been over 19 years of extremely hard work. But, if you pursue your passion and pay attention to detail, you can reach your dreams. Never give up. Not even in the face of financial hardship or loss or tragedy. You can do it. We might get knocked down, but until you’re actually dead yourself, you can still get back up. Also, emulate other filmmakers that have seen success and take on techniques that take you beyond your current skill level. I cannot stress, attention to detail enough. Maybe it’s the military in me, but I know that we can all pay attention to the small things.
Camera control and stability is extremely important to take yourself above and beyond where ever we are as filmmakers. Mounts, gimbals, rail systems, dollies, sliders, jibs, fluid tripod head, are absolutely key in taking your work to the Hollywood level. Hand-held camera is my biggest pet peeve. Even hand-held camera in big budget Hollywood films is still at least usually on some sort of rail system with a matte box and often with pistol grips. The bigger and bulkier your camera the better chance of getting a somewhat stable handheld shot. Not to say that you can’t make it and get your film to the theaters with just an unmounted camera, lights and amazing audio. Sure. Blair Witch Project is a prime example.
Even Cloverfield to some extent on parts of their first film. Thank you for reading the history of our company. Believe me, there were many more occurrences during this time, but we look forward to expounding upon this story at some time in the future.
We look forward to hearing your comments and being able to answer your questions. God bless and good day. ~ Larry A Burns Jr