Oklahoma City natives Jacob Leighton Burns, brother Zachary Burns and Vinnie Hogan have been serious filmmakers for years.
But they aren’t old guys. Their apparent youth may fool some about the depth of their experience in film and graphic arts.
Jacob remembers telling his third-grade teachers that he would make movies someday.
Zachary and Vinnie had similar fascinations with the graphic arts.
The three met as classmates at Oklahoma City University, discovered their common passion for visual arts and went on to make over 20 short films.
And that was just their college years.
Planet Thunder, their production company, is moving into full public view because of the recent successes brought on by creative writing, impressive production, and actors who have developed a comfort level with each other over several films.
In June 2016, they won the “Best Oklahoma Feature Film” award at the popular deadCENTER Film Festival in OKC for “Electric Nostalgia.”
That festival has grown to regional, if not national status in recent years regularly drawing around 30,000 participants and using 400 volunteers to make it all happen.
It gave Planet Thunder a sudden boost in recognition as the film was accepted into festivals in Austin, Texas, Orlando, Florida, Tulsa and Woodward, Oklahoma
Then, only a month later they pulled together the same “Electric Nostalgia” cast and crew to enter the 48-Hour Film Project, Oklahoma City.
It’s a demanding environment where film crews are given some required elements and then given only 48 hours to turn in a completed film.
Their finished product was a bloody horror/humor film, “Let the bodies hit the floor.”
“The process was really different,” said Jacob in an interview with Free Press. “From writing to the finished product on ‘Electric Nostalgia’ was about four years, where this was 48 hours.”
At the awards ceremony in the fall, “Let the bodies hit the floor” was named best film and so was eligible to go on to compete in the national 48-Hour Project “Filmapalooza.”
Even though they didn’t go to that contest because of prohibitive expenses, the award propelled them into even clearer public view.
At the end of March, “Let the bodies hit the floor” won the Best Medium Short award at the local Clean Shorts Film Festival.
The 48-hour win gave them an automatic berth in the 2017 deadCENTER in June where crowds were equally impressed with the horror/humor combo.
But this year marked a new foray into documentary film making for Zachary and Jacob that created its own buzz deadCENTER.
“Fleeting Light” follows Zachary’s project with NiewView Oklahoma , a nonprofit with services for the blind and vision impaired, where he taught photography to the blind and vision impaired.
The film shows the challenges and joys the participants experienced during the course.
An art show at a gallery concluded the course where the public could view students’ work and the students could celebrate their accomplishments.
We caught Jacob during the last deadCENTER film festival in June to talk (above the air conditioner noise) about some of Planet Thunder’s projects.
Jacob told Free Press in an email they are working on some new projects now.
One is “Werewolf Scouts,” a children’s adventure film about a group of scouts who go on a campout and find that their leader is a werewolf.
Another project film in the making is MONO. It will be in a local anthology of shorts.
The Burns brothers have teamed up with blogger/podcaster/actor Caleb Masters to turn out the film analysis website “Cinematropolis.”
Vinnie Hogan now lives with his family in Austin as he continues to collaborate with his partners at Planet Thunder.