HFF 2015 Interview: Finding Beauty in the Rubble Director Matthew T. Burns

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Finding Beauty in the Rubble is a 2015 Heartland Film Festival Official Selection, Documentary Short about a tsunami survivor who turns beach debris into jewelry.


We spoke with Director Matthew T. Burns about his film:

HF: What is your film about, and how did the project come to be?

MB: Our film is about a tsunami survivor in Japan who makes jewelry out of beach debris.  The opportunity to create this project stemmed from disaster relief video production work that producer Paul Nethercott and I were a part of, beginning in 2011.  It was at times devastating to witness the destruction that the Japanese people endured, yet we had the fortunate job of seeking out stories of hope and healing.

HF: What was your role in the production?

MB: I was the director and editor, plus I ran one of the cameras during the shoot.  It doesn’t work well to travel with a large crew when you are filming personal stories in Japan, so Paul and I have learned to be quick, compact and discreet.

HF: Why did you submit to the Heartland Film Festival? Have you been to the Festival before?

MB: Paul Nethercott was a producer on a short film called Jitensha (Bicycle) that played at the 2009 Heartland Film Festival.  Paul had such a good experience with Heartland the first time around that he sought the opportunity to participate once again.  Thank you for having us!

HF: This year’s tagline is “Movies That Stay with You” – what lasting effect will your film have on moviegoers?

MB: Our film focuses on Mrs. Fukuoka, who has remarkably found the strength to remain positive and hopeful in the face of unthinkable tragedy.  Her spirit and determination tend to have a humbling, inspiring and quieting effect on those who hear her story.  We hope that’s the case with the moviegoers and festival attendees who see Finding Beauty in the Rubble.

HF: What has inspired you to become a filmmaker?

MB: Movies are like bedtime stories for adults.  We never really tire of sitting quietly in the dark, absorbing the stories of heroes whose journeys teach us how to navigate the complicated world we live in.  I love storytelling.  I always will.  And what better way to be a part of them than to make movies?

HF: What is something that you know about filmmaking now, but you weren’t told when you started your career?

MB: Developing character is more important than having natural talent.  No doubt about it.  In a business that’s so enormously collaborative, character is everything.

HF: What are some of your favorite movies? What’s your favorite worst movie (you know it’s bad, but still love it)?

MB: Blade Runner, Fight Club, Love in the Afternoon, Lost in Translation, and Alien area all favorites.  My favorite worst movie is The Replacement Killers.  Or maybe Bloodsport.

HF: How many film festivals has your film been a part of? What do you like the most about the festival experience?

MB: We’ve been a part of 8 festivals so far.  Showing your film in a festival is like sharing pictures of your new baby!  Everybody says, “ooohh, how nice!”  Who doesn’t love that?

HF: Heartland Film Festival moviegoers love filmmaker Q&As. Let’s say a Festival attendee wants to earn some brownie points—what is a question that you’d love to answer, but haven’t yet been asked?

MB: I probably can’t make it to the festival (I live in Tokyo), but it would be good to ask Paul Nethercott, “what do you say to people who struggle with the “why” questions that naturally surface, following tragedy?” 


 See Finding Beauty in the Rubble in Shorts Program 7: Art Appreciation

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