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Jon Burleson, 19, of Hartselle wrote, directed and acted in the film “Never Trust a Vampire.” Most of the full-length horror/comedy is being shot at his uncle’s house in Hartselle.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Jon Burleson, 19, of Hartselle wrote, directed and acted in the film “Never Trust a Vampire.” Most of the full-length horror/comedy is being shot at his uncle’s house in Hartselle.

Interview with a VAMPIRE
(well, not really, but 19-year-old Hartselle filmmaker wrote and directed a full-length movie about the bloodsuckers)

By Danielle Komis
dkomis@decaturdaily.com · 340-2447

A group of young men meet after nightfall on a dirt road in Hartselle — one wearing headphones around his neck, the next holding a microphone, another clutching a slick camcorder.

Sipping energy drinks and munching candy, the group, led by 19-year-old writer/director Jon Burleson, is ready to wrap filming of “Never Trust A Vampire,” a homegrown movie they’ve been shooting since January.

Kevin Wright, who plays Duke Wolfgang Moonlight in “Never Trust a Vampire,” a film written and directed by Jon Burleson of Hartselle.
Courtesy photo
Kevin Wright, who plays Duke Wolfgang Moonlight in “Never Trust a Vampire,” a film written and directed by Jon Burleson of Hartselle.
With their shaggy, spiky and curly heads of hair, jeans, T-shirts and Etnies, you’d expect to see Burleson and the rest of the crew behind the counter of the local video rental store rather than making films for it.

But this dedicated group has worked late nights on the film, on top of their other jobs and schoolwork. The young filmmakers put up some of their own money for the project and have already earned the respect of many of their elders who have taken notice of their hard work and talent.

Professional, focused

Anyone with doubts will quickly shed them when he sees the film, said Brentice Hardin of Decatur, who made her acting debut in the movie.

She agreed to be in the film initially as a favor to Burleson, who is a friend of her younger brother.

“They were very professional and focused on what they were doing,” the 24-year-old UAH student said. “I was very surprised at how mature they all were and actually took it seriously.”

The perfect horror setting

Burleson started filming “Never Trust a Vampire” in January. Most of it has been shot at his uncle’s house, which happens to be Hartselle’s historic Westview plantation — the perfect setting for a horror movie. While many of the actors in the film are local, first-time actors, Burleson and 19-year-old unit production manager Andrew Wasserburger also cast several out-of-town professional actors.

Actor Jeff S. Anderson, who played the caretaker in the film, was a stunt warrior in 1992’s “The Last of the Mohicans.” Actress Nikki Corinne, who played Julie Jones in “Vampire,” recently appeared on an episode of Court TV’s “Forensic Files.”

Fan from the start

Andrew Wasserburger, left, Jon Burleson, Michael Klooster and Barton Hyatt have collaborated on the vampire horror/comedy movie called “Never Trust a Vampire.” Burleson wrote and directed the film, most of which was shot in Hartselle.
Daily photos by Gary Cosby Jr.
Andrew Wasserburger, left, Jon Burleson, Michael Klooster and Barton Hyatt have collaborated on the vampire horror/comedy movie called “Never Trust a Vampire.” Burleson wrote and directed the film, most of which was shot in Hartselle.
“Vampire” is Burleson’s first feature-length film, though he already has several short films under his belt. He wrote his first script for “a basic slasher movie” in fourth grade, and has been obsessed with horror/comedy movies since he was even younger and used to watch them with his mother.

His father, Bill Burleson, a farmer in Hartselle, said he was a little concerned about him watching those movies at such a young age.

“Sometimes I’d say he didn’t need to be watching that,” he said. “But it was just like it was in him from the very start.”

As early as age 5, Jon could even recite all the lines to his favorite movies. At age 8, his grandmother gave him his first video camera.

Burleson is largely a self-taught filmmaker, and he reads up on Ron Howard and Roman Polanksi, his favorite director. “Vampire” is modeled after Polanski’s 1967 horror/comedy “The Fearless Vampire Killers.”

Burleson’s drive is inspiring, cast members said.

“He’s been doing this his whole life, which is odd to me because I can’t imagine that,” Hardin said. “My main concern in junior high was who was my boyfriend and what were my friends doing this weekend — not writing a movie.”

How they did it

Armed with a Panasonic PV-GS500 camcorder and a $4,000 budget Burleson’s family provided, he and his friends built coffins, shopped for wardrobe at Goodwill, traveled across the state to audition actors, and learned about high-tech movie software and lighting.

They wrote contracts for the actors and made their travel and sleeping arrangements. They slept or worked during the day and filmed from nightfall until the early morning hours.

Michael Klooster shoots the opening scene of Jon Burleson’s movie “Never Trust a Vampire” on location near Hartselle.
Michael Klooster shoots the opening scene of Jon Burleson’s movie “Never Trust a Vampire” on location near Hartselle.
Crew members also learned through trial and error how to create special effects. “Mr. Bubble,” for example, works much better for a bubble bath scene than Dial soap, Hyatt said.

That hands-on learning reflects Burleson’s approach to filmmaking.“The best film school is a good movie,” Burleson said.

The support they had from Jon’s father also was key to their success. Bill often moved his horses for the crew, loaned them his work trucks and stored their props in his garage.

“I tell him, ‘Just remember your dad when you make it big,’ ” he joked.

Future of the film

Once “Vampire” is edited and completed, Burleson will send it off to film festivals across the country. He hopes to land a DVD distribution deal — a step up from his junior high days when he sold copies of his short films at school for $5 each.

For the next month or so, he’ll go through nearly 12 hours of film, editing it and making it into the movie he envisioned. He also already has an idea for his next movie.

“This is my life,” he said. “It’s the only thing I’m ever going to do. I’m either going to make movies or be a bum.”

Watch the trailer

To view a trailer of “Never Trust A Vampire,” written and directed by 19-year-old Jon Burleson of Hartselle, visit www.myspace.com/nevertrustavampire.

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