FILMMAKERS

Grace A. Burns (Director)

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“Elle la le cerveau d’une rose.” (portrait by J. Culdesac)

Ms. Burns holds a B.S. degree in Communications from SUNY Oswego.  Upon graduating cum laude in 1995, Ms. Burns moved to Utica, NY, where she took a position at Sunbeam, Inc., Oneida County’s premiere marketing research firm.   Her early duties ran the gamut from data entry and analysis.  In time, Ms. Burns was recruited to Sunbeam’s crack team of focus group facilitators, on which she served for several years.  It was in early 2006, during a focus group for a pharmaceutical product targeting geriatric war veterans with long-standing debilities, that Ms. Burns met Captain (ret.) Timothy Winchell, who first told her of the forgotten Civil War heroes that would become her obsession and change the course of her life.  Remembering the video production seminar she had been forced to take as a requirement for graduation at Oswego, Ms. Burns decided that the best way to present the tale to the general public was in the form of a feature-length documentary.  Courageously acting against the counsel of her parents, friends, and colleagues, Ms. Burns resigned her post at Sunbeam and relocated to New York City, where she sought the assistance of a relative who was a successful documentarian.  Although he was not interested in co-directing the movie, nor even in providing introductions to potential financiers as she had hoped, this relative did offer Ms. Burns the helpful suggestion that she try “learning a thing or two” about filmmaking before jumping into her project.  After a frustrating week of interning at her relative’s production company, Ms. Burns decided to instead enroll in a film program at one of the City’s universities.  Upon considering her many options, Ms. Burns finally selected the prestigious 8-week intensive at NYU’s Department of Continuing Education.  While there, she completed two short motion pictures, Lighting Assignment and Continuity Exercise, and shot several of the interviews that would be later re-shot by a professional cinematographer to form the core of her ground-breaking documentary, The Battle of Pussy Willow Creek.

Since it’s completion, Pussy Willow has shaken the foundations of the academic establishment.  Excerpts have been featured on such history-oriented programs as This Is Our Story!, TimeLapse, and What The…? and Ms. Burns has been interviewed by such notables as PRI’s Helmut Delgado (Our Norte Americano Saga) and the CBC’s Richard Daisy (CanArts).

Ms. Burns is currently developing what she hopes to make her sophomore project, a documentary about the effect of focus groups on the lives of their facilitators.

Chad Saunders (Executive Producer)

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Chad in Cabo San Lucas

Chad caught the movie-making bug as early as age 21, when he officially gained access to the trust fund that his parents had established for him.  Although initially drawn to directing, he turned to executive producing when he realized he had a condition that prevented him from rising at the unhealthily early hours often required for shooting.   Settling into his new role, Chad teamed up with director (and Dartmouth buddy) Seth Durfree to make their first feature, Swamped Canoes; a hilarious comedy based on Seth’s experiences as a counselor at an all-girl summer camp.  Although photography was completed, a series of (frivolous) lawsuits prevented Canoes from being finished.  Chad and Seth next joined forces on a comedic horror film entitled The Buzzkillers.  Due to creative differences, however, the project never progressed past a first-draft screenplay.  Realizing he had matured beyond Seth’s level, Chad knew it was time to pursue more serious ventures, and soon settled on the idea of doing something in the non-fiction arena.  A stay at his parents’ Park City condo during the Sundance Film Festival provided opportunities not only to snowboard and party, but to network with potential new collaborators.  While Chad met numerous young documentarians who practically begged him to executive produce their projects, only Samantha Fleecer’s Endless Lay struck him as worthy of his consideration.  Unfortunately, after three months and $20,000, Chad realized that Samantha was not the girl he thought she was, and the two went their separate ways.  Totally bummed by the collapse of the partnership, Chad decided to take a much-needed break in Saint-Tropez.  While awaiting his connection at Nice, a happy accident found him sharing a spot at the bar with internationally renowned Director of Photography, Jean Culdesac, who was on his way to Cannes.  During the ensuing conversation, Culdesac happened to mention an important American documentary he had photographed the previous year.  Although in the final stages, an insufficiency of post-production funds had temporarily stalled the project.  While Culdesac was certain that some grant money would come through eventually, he expressed his opinion that Chad, by dint of what was clearly a singular expertise in the field of executive producing, could shepherd the picture to completion in a more timely manner.  Pleased to have at last found a person of merit who was appreciative of his talents, Chad immediately signed on.  By the time the Saint-Tropez ferry had arrived, he had arranged for monies to be made available for the finishing of The Battle of Pussy Willow Creek.
Having finally conquered the documentary genre, Chad was at last able to put the Samantha Fleecer debacle behind him, and is presently in development on his next motion picture, Swamped Canoes 2: Under The Canoe, with director Seth Durfree.

Jean Culdesac (Director of Photography)

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“Chiaroscuro” (self portrait by Jean Culdesac)

Jean Culdesac: a Personal Voyage

Jean Culdesac came into this world bathed in the bright lights of cinema – lights belonging to his Uncle Claude who, with his home movie equipment, filmed the young cinematographer’s birth. Jean showed an instant affinity for cinematography, borrowing cameras from Uncle Claude to make small movies around the house. Four years of rigorous University study were the natural course for the young man, and he graduated first in his (cinematography) class from the University Champs de Élysées. Culdesac then moved to Paris where he secured an assistant’s position for famed cinematographer Henri Dalmat. His hard work paid off and soon he was shooting his own films including: Damsel of the Water (1990), The Shadow of Passion (1992), The Story of Y (1994) and Two Fingers of Bourbon (1995).  In 1996 Culdesac journeyed to America to seek his fortune. Unfortunately the highly constrained and commercially oriented American system was no place for a visionary of his scale, and he returned to France in 1997 to film his masterpiece: With Loving Intent (1999).  Hospitalized for exhaustion following the completion of Loving Intent, with cable TV his only company, he became immersed in the world of television and the new phenomenon of documentary television. Upon his release, he threw himself into this exciting field where his latent talents could finally blossom.  The Urchins of Leville (2001) was followed by Becalmed (2003) and On a Sunday Morning (2004).  But his greatest challenge was yet to come. A chance meeting with American filmmaker Gracie A. Burns after a festival screening of a Urchins brought the offer to helm The Battle of Pussy Willow Creek.  Culdesac was at first reluctant to return to the America that had not properly lauded his abilities, but something in the story touched him: “I saw in Jonathan, Elijah, Rowena and Li a part of myself, the self that while more talented and capable than his superiors, is still rejected, only to triumph in the end. That realization realized, I knew I must shoot this film.” Culdesac put every ounce of his considerable energy into the movie, transforming himself in the process: “ I became each character as I filmed their points of view; I became the Union and Confederate Armies at Gettysburg; I heard those lost souls calling to me as we worked, their cry plaintive yet innervating: please, tell the world our story. “

Culdesac is currently working on his next film: Letters to my Houseboy, for an early 2011 release.

J. Winston Barrymore (Narrator)

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Barrymore from “Say, Uncle Sam”

Scion of an illustrious family of thesbians, at the age of 15 J. Winston Barrymore struck out on his own, changing his name and hitchhiking from Hollywood to New York in an effort to make a theatrical career for himself on his own terms and merits.  After several bleak years as a dishwasher, bellhop and newsy, he realized that the world is a corrupt, filthy, nepotistic place where industry and talent count for nothing and in 1952 changed his name back.  Shortly thereafter he landed the role of Elum in Solitary Pleasures on Broadway.  He subsequently appeared on and off Broadway in The World’s My Stewpot, Granny Come Home, Bootblack Revue, Waking Uncle Paddy, One On A Teeter-Totter, Oyster Po’ Boy, Failed Ambitions, and Ho-Ho Hum, and guest starred on such radio dramas as The Tinkerer, Spielgelstein: Private Eye, and Crippled Jimmie and Slag Heap (as Father Flynn.)   In 1959 he joined the cast of The Knickknacks at the venerable Varick Street Playhouse, replacing Bernard Weiner in the role of Stumpie.  Barrymore would appear in The Knickknacks on and off for the remainder of its record-breaking 43 year run.  Over this time, he had the honor of portraying every one of the show’s characters (with the exception of Suzie.)  On New Year’s Eve 2000 the Varick Street Playhouse was tragically destroyed by the Y2K bug.   Unable to find a new home, The Knickknacks was forced to close, and Mr. Barrymore found himself unemployed for the first time since setting foot on the boards.  Although initially devastated, Mr. Barrymore transformed the forced hiatus into an opportunity to complete his college degree – an enterprise he had initiated as early as 1957, but which had continually taken a backseat to the Theater.  Long a lover of American History, he graduated from City College with a degree in that subject in 2002, and immediately began post-graduate work at Columbia University, from which he earned his Ph.D. in 2006.  Later that year he brought his doctoral thesis to the stage in the form of a one-man show, Say, Uncle Sam (aka Say Uncle, Sam).  Exhausted from nearly 170 consecutive performances, Mr. Barrymore collapsed midway through the matinée on February 18, 2007.  At the urging of his physician, Barrymore has since limited his dramatic performances to voice rôles and the occasional guest appearance as a corpse or near-corpse on various of the Law and Order and CSI franchises.

Mr. Barrymore remains an avid scholar of history, and was pleased to lend not only his vocal instrument but his profoundly needed expertise on the subject to The Battle of Pussy Willow Creek.

Mr. Barrymore can next be seen as John Doe #2 on the pilot for the upcoming series, CSI:TBD.

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Barrymore as John Doe #2

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