All good movies, indeed great stories, have the “What If” factor. Audiences identify with a protagonist and insert themselves into their situations. What if I were her? What if I were in his situation? In Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Sheriff Brody is a nice family man in a small island community. But Brody is afraid of the water. People ask him, “Why do you live on an island then?” He famously replies, “It’s only an island if you look at it from the water.” Everyone loves a character that and can immediately relate to them. Brody then, like every great protagonist, must venture into the ocean, conquer his greatest fear, navigate through an impossible situation, save his family and community and finally slay antagonist, Jaws!
This is the world Hollywood Director, Writer and Producer Robert Meyer Burnett works in every day. This is the world he helps create and brand.
A USC Film Student and a 23 year film industry veteran, Burnett recently began directing and editing episodes of the HBO/Cinemax anthology series FEMME FATALES, which debuted in May, 2011. Cinemax (a subsidiary of HBO) is often known more for late night “soft core” entertainment resulting in the nickname “Skinemax.” “Recently HBO has shifted focus, rebranding Cinemax away from its soft core image,” says Burnett. “Sure, much of their late night, soft core programming will remain intact, but they are picking up action oriented programming content that will appeal to male viewers, such as the upcoming STRIKE BACK. That is where I believe Femme Fatales fits in, as a sort of bridge show.”
Burnett describes FEMME FATALES as a cross between Twilight Zone, Tales from the Crypt and Red Shoe Diaries with a healthy dose of Film Noir from the 1940s. The mysterious hostess Lilith, the show’s version of a modern day Rod Serling, not only acts as the series hostess but also appears in cameo roles. “Our show does have very erotic content but the strength of the series is the storytelling. It is not a soft core show in the traditional sense like most people would think,” says Burnett. “The erotic scenes in the episodes have their place in the story, hopefully accentuate the plot. We even had a pretty hilarious comedy take on LA FEMME NIKITA where sex really remained a background element. “
FEMME FATALES episodes are usually 30 minutes and strive to bring viewers solid storytelling, great acting and great production values. So far HBO has been happy with the high level of quality the show has brought the Cinemax brand both in front of and behind the camera. “Our target male audience is growing as expected but a pleasant surprise is women love the show too because many of the storylines have strong female characters triumphing over evil men,” says Burnett.
Burnett marked his feature writing/directing debut with Regent Entertainment’s multiple-award winning 1999 theatrical release FREE ENTERPRISE, starring Emmy-winners William Shatner and Eric McCormack. The film is generally considered the flashpoint of Shatner’s recent career resurgence. He also recently produced the horror feature THE HILLS RUN RED for Warner Premiere and Joel Silver’s Dark Castle Entertainment.
In the film industry you have to choose your path and then do it over and over again to brand yourself. Burnett points out that while social networking is used to promote new material, it is also vital to build his brand by getting the word out about projects in progress. “People in the entertainment business might not know how or where they heard about you, but they do remember if they hear your name somewhere, whether in the industry trades or your Facebook and Twitter updates,“ says Burnett. He prefers Twitter and Facebook as his primary social media outlets but also uses Foursquare when on location or visiting a studio lot. “You can use social networks to share the excitement of this industry. Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare are great for those of us managing a tight production schedule and multiple projects,” says Burnett. “Smartphones, such as Apple’s iPhone and the Android phones make it easy for me to share with my network the experience of being on set. Not many of my Facebook friends have ever seen the inside of the Paramount Studio lot, so when I go there, I’ll post a photo on Facebook or Twitter and check in at Foursquare, just to make everyone who doesn’t live in Los Angeles think I’m WAY more important than I actually am. Hopefully, when looking for independent financing, I can convince potential investment sources I am as well!”
Burnett feels a key strength of social networks is that everyone, no matter their age, race, sexual preference or nationality are getting their thoughts out in the form of the written word and are able to immediately reach a global audience. “We lost that for about 20 years. People are again writing their essential thoughts and individuals are creating fascinating, compelling, must read content that helps grow their personal and professional brands. It makes me more impassioned about what I do and sharing it with my growing network and I think the social media technology brings our audiences closer to our work.”
Season two of FEMME FATALES begins January 2012 and will continue to air on Cinemax. Burnett directed three of the upcoming second season episodes thus far.