A chess champion in his youth, Brandon Burrows, principal and founder of shingle Firebrand, approaches producing like a chess game. His love for film sparked at an early age when his father owned a video store. His producing credits include “Gallowwalkers” with Wesley Snipes, “The Perfect Weapon” starring Steven Seagal and “Altitude” with Dolph Lundgren. He created, wrote and produced “Pups Alone” starring Jennifer Love Hewitt and Rob Schneider, and executive-produced Western “The Last Son” with a cast led by Sam Worthington, Machine Gun Kelly, Thomas Jane and Heather Graham. He’s written the next two action thrillers he’ll be producing.
How has your world class chess-playing skills informed your producing endeavors? Do you find it useful when it comes to negotiating deals with agents, talent, sales and other areas?
There’s an old saying: Not all artists are chess players, but all chess players are artists. Chess is not just a creative game, but also a meditative art. It helped prepare me incredibly well for producing. In chess, you learn to trust your instincts and make snap decisions on the fly. Chess utilizes and develops one’s intuition, which is key in producing. In production, like chess, you constantly face multiple shifting variables and have to calculate the variations of outcomes very quickly. When you don’t have the time to calculate to the endpoint, you have to make a snap decision, and to trust the choice you’re making. Chess has been invaluable in that regard. It appears time and again in producing, whether it’s making a creative choice, a casting decision, a sales/distribution strategy, on-set choices or deciding on a script.
How did chess pave the way for a friendship with Ron Howard and other people in the film industry?
Chess crosses all barriers and is a shared language that brings people together, no matter their background. I knew the Howards’ chess coach very well and he thought it would be good for Ron’s son to meet me, hopefully inspire him in his chess pursuits. Ron was very generous, creatively. It’s always wonderful to connect with others in the industry who love the game, it bonds people in a unique and beautiful way.
What do you think of the wildly popular series “The Queen’s Gambit” on Netflix. Do you think it got the details right? What would you have done differently?
I think the show did a wonderful job of showing that chess can be a wonderful refuge for minds that seek it. The audience is introduced to chess the same way Beth is. As she discovers and learns, an audience member unfamiliar with the game discovers and learns as well. The framing of the narrative was fantastic and really pulls you into Beth’s world and ultimately, her troubled yet beautiful mind. The attention to detail was intentional and unique. For example, in Beth’s first tournament, she plays against Townes, and she ends up winning by trapping his rook on a seemingly wide-open board. It’s a real-world chess example of the beautiful geometry between the rook, king and knight. Advanced chess players definitely appreciate the attention to detail that was taken. I certainly did. One thing film and TV in the past have always gotten wrong is how experienced/pro chess players move the pieces. It’s kind of like having an actor playing a police officer but has no idea how to hold a gun. For pro players, the pieces are just an extension of the body. Scott Frank did an incredible job, along with Anya [Joy-Taylor] and the rest of the brilliant cast.
How was the experience in shooting Western “The Last Son” during the pandemic?
It was amazing. Montana is such a beautiful place and this was the perfect film for a pandemic, if such a thing exists… outdoors, on horses with these beautiful backdrops. We were all isolated on a ranch, with the closest town 45 minutes away. It was its own self-contained bubble, and it was just an unforgettable and special experience. The cast and crew were amazing. Sam Worthington and Thomas Jane are brilliant in their roles, and I think Machine Gun Kelly will surprise a lot of people with his defining performance.
Tell us about the upcoming action thrillers that you’re writing and producing.
I’m finishing my talking dog Christmas comedy “Pups Alone” so the next logical direction is “Bounty,” an aging bounty hunter with no purpose who finds himself on the run and protecting a young woman who is the sole witness to a horrific crime as all sorts of unsavory characters hunt them down. I’m also working on “Cry Justice,” an action thriller that deals with drug dealing, corruption, revenge, and the quest for justice.