Award winning filmmaker Keir Burrows is a writer and director whose movies have been showcased at more than fifty film festivals all over the world. His debut feature-film is called “Anti Matter, ” and it has achieved incredible reviews at established venues including the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

“Anti Matter” is a science-fiction thriller that stylishly taps into the psychological horror vein that so many esteemed science fiction films have played on in the past. The movie centers on a Ph.D. student named Anna who is studying at Oxford. After creating a wormhole and traveling through it, she is no longer able to build new memories nor is she able to recall precisely what occurred during her trip into the unknown.

Keir Burrows recently discussed this film and his experiences as a filmmaker via an exclusive interview:

Movies and science fiction

Meagan Meehan (MM): What provoked and/or inspired you to become a professional filmmaker?

Keir Burrows (KB): The honest truth is it wasn’t even on my radar until I was twenty-five. My dream had always been to be a novelist. The next Stephen King, my future was set. I wrote two books in my early twenties – one awful, one decent but not decent enough – and they didn’t get published, and I thought the world was ending, and after that, I was flailing around for a life plan. Also, I realized I like collaborating, and being a writer is lonely work. I was like ‘how can I tell stories and work with people, what is the secret to this riddle!?’ – and making Movies was the answer.

I went to film school, met my future wife there, and the rest is history. Also, what’s great about the film is there are many, many routes into the industry!

MM: Do you feel like you have stumbled upon your “big break” yet?

KB: Wow, I don’t think I’ve had it yet, to be honest. I still have the day job – day jobs, ha, you need several these days!

“Anti Matter” I’m hoping will do well and will lead to bigger things. Off the back of it I got an amazing agent and got my next script optioned, so things are ticking along, I feel good about the future. I think when the next film gets greenlit with a proper budget, that will, I hope, feel like the “made it” moment.

Still, I’m working day and night to get there though!

MM: How did you hatch the script for “Anti Matter”?

KB: It started off as a short film script – the whole opening section, the ‘discovery’ process, I thought I wanted to make a short film where I could bring the audience along on a thrill-ride of innovation, where they were as excited as the scientists. So that was a short film script I wrote in 2011, though I never made it as I had other short scripts that came together better. Then sometime later I had the idea for a movie where a person who at first is chasing themselves, meets themselves and likes that person, laughing, cracking the same joke. Then after getting that as a strong and entertaining idea for the end-point of a feature film, a sudden brainwave was to marry the two concepts into a sci-fi feature.

MM: So, are you obviously a major fan of the science fiction genre?

KB: Of course, aren’t we all? Everything we do these days is thanks to science. I love science fiction even though I don’t read every journal, it’s a lay interest, but I love the accessible science shows, the Bill Nyes, in the UK we have Brian Cox. I think it’s great, though I’d be lying if I said it was a great passion of mine. But we’re living through a weird, anti-science patch at the moment, aren’t we? There’s a deliberate “pro-ignorance” movement going on. Hopefully, it’s just a passing madness.

Inspirations, advice, and the future

MM: Do any particular writers or movie-makers inspire you, especially from the arena of sci-fi?

KB: I devoured sci-fi when I was younger, the old Philip K Dick, Asimov, Wyndham stuff. I grew up on that and was inspired by it. Now, it’s not necessarily sci-fi that I study so much as other writer/directors. David Lynch and Tarantino, their actual writing is probably the writing I study the most, analyzing and interrogating what they do and why, and so on. Dialogue, and especially the ebb and flow of their dialogue to create tension, is utterly masterful. Nolan’s plotting is godly, and that’s perhaps the trickiest, for me anyway. I feel more at ease trying to put together dialogue with rhythm. The plot is so hard because it’s too big to step back from, to hold it all in your head at once and get a sense of it working or not.

There were a lot of script mistakes in Anti Matter, plot points, that I had to fix with reshoots, with ADR or other elements. For someone who aspires to tell complex stories, I know it’s my bugbear.

MM: Can you tell us about the cast from “Anti Matter”?

KB: They’re great, one of my happiest things with all the positive press we’ve had is how kind people have been about my actors. For a group of unknown, unseasoned actors, they did incredible work. On one of my day jobs, I lecture screen acting, and filmmaking, at various London universities. It’s great for me, I get to practice what I do and pay the bills doing it. But also, it’s given me the chance to meet so many talented young actors. Yaiza Figueroa, the lead, she’d been in two of my most successful short films, and I actually rewrote the entire script, swapping genders of the three leads so I could give it to her.

Originally the main character was a guy called Tim. Glad I did!

MM: Where do you see your career being in a decade from now?

KB: All conquering, my armies of darkness finally taking Gondor! Seriously? I don’t know, anything feels like jinxing things. Ten years is far into the future so a reasonable dream would be to have made at least two movies that have had a wide(ish) release, which people enjoyed and are well received. I mean fingers crossed for more than two but let’s not be greedy. That’s the goal, anyway.

MM: What advice would you give to a person who is aspiring to enter the industry as a filmmaker?

KB: Unless you come from a wealthy background, life is going to be hard. Don’t bank on a sudden breakout movie; it won’t happen.

BUT it is a big enough industry, so that hard work and persistence and a modicum of skill mean you stand a good chance of getting into it. Maybe not in the role which first hoped, but it’s all about finding your place anyway.

Try to find day job work in the industry. Make your wage in the film, even if it’s as someone’s assistant’s assistant. Then get a second job. Save every penny you can. Save like mad. Live like a pauper. You need money to make a movie. Help your friends make their films, and they’ll help on yours. And if your friends aren’t filmmakers, find new friends. And every second you get, write, write and write and if you’re not a writer, find one, fall in love, and marry him or her.

Partner up. You can’t do it alone.

Go out and get to filming. I know every director advises this, but it’s a simple truth. You need to practice. You’ll make 300 awful things before you make something good. Write and shoot simple dialogue scenes. Shoot silly action sequences. Make dumb horror moments--practice. Then make short films and tell whole stories. Then, after you’ve done a lot of those, and you think they’re getting good, make one that you’ll send to festivals. After you feel confident in your skill and you know you can hold an audience, make a feature.

Above all – remember it’s a long game. If you’re twenty-one and you think you’ll be a paid feature film director in five years, you won’t.

But if you’re willing to slog away for twenty years or more, you never know when your break will happen. Lightning might strike, and you’re winning Oscars like Damien Chazelle. Who knows, crazier things have happened. That's my advice!

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