Lessons for writers,actors and producers from BURN NOTICE


Burn Notice is an action series on the USA network, created by Matt Nix, it happens to be one of my favourite shows of all time. It it’s like a melting pot of the 80’s with elements from The A Team, MacGuyver and The Equalizer of made into a perfect mix of TV entertainment. Aside from being a great show there are some things I have taken  away from it that I think film makers can learn

Akira Kurosawa said, “With a good script a good director can produce a master piece. But with a bad script, one can’t possibly make a good film”. The writing of Burn Notice is just amazing; the creators of the show came up with amazing characters, and further went on to set great character dynamics. One of the things that did to make it so unique was to have the lead character’s mother as a major player. How often do you hear about a Spy’s mother, a hard-core spy that can take down entire governments, is feared by agents of other countries, but fears a phone call from his mother?  His relationship with his mom and his loser younger brother is one of the things that makes it such a loved show.

Similar to the A Team, although it’s an action show , it has a great amount of humour, each character with his unique blend, but the tone never shifts into comedy. For me that is one of the things I love about it. Writers that can blend different genres into one and create a show with unique characters will create shows that stand out from everything else in the same genre.

They also did great in the creation of the female characters; Mike’s mom and on/off trigger happy ex. Both women are tough and capable of handling themselves, in Mike’s dangerous world they are collaborators and not damsels in need of saving. Fiona (the girlfriend) is the demolition expert of the team , a hybrid of Lois Lane ,Sara Connor and Ripley inside a Cheryl Cole sized body . So , not only can female viewers drool over Mike ,but can vicariously live through and root for Fiona.
a woman that can roll with the boys while still rocking her manolos.

The first person narrative also give it a very unique feel, a neo noir style reminiscent of Raymond Chandler detectives. Each week Michael takes us through spycraft 101 and we feel (at least I do) that I know a little more about that world.

The editing is very stylized and fits in very well to give the show it’s own look.From the color palette,to the cuts to transitions and how characters and the clients are introduced;it’s all awesome. You have to watch the show to appreciate how it aids the narrative.

Jeffery Donovan the actor that plays Burned spy Michael Westen. In the show he is a master spy, one of the best in the world, with a reputation that precedes him .  Naturally he is an expert in hand to hand combat techniques (30 years of karate as the character once put it). Every episode we see these skills on display and Jeffery looks very adept at performing these moves. That’s cos because in real life he really is that good.  Actor Jeffery Donavan studied martial arts for over 20 years , has a black belt in karate and six years of experience in Brazilian jujitsu. Im sure this helped him in getting the role. An actor with multiple skills will stand out from the others that can only act.  So learn a few new skills; a martial arts, an instrument, a professional dance(s), how to do various accents, maybe even learn how to juggle. You never know if that additional skill may be the deal breaker to getting that breakout role.

Let’s face it, the producers are the ones that run the show on TV not the directors. They decide the style ,look and feel of the show, and it’s pretty much a set template for any director to come and fit. The producers of the show did a great job coming up with a timely show. Burn Notice came out in 2007, the same year The Bourne Ultimatum came out, and preceding Quantum of Solace. The producers must have noticed the resurgence of interest in the spy genre which had pretty much gone cold till” The Bourne Identity” was released.

Unlike those movies, Burn Notice was injected with humour and elements like the mother were introduced, which made sure that it was not seen as a rip off of any other previous spy. Producers have to notice trends and the audience appetites, Burn Notice came out when the appetite for Spy movies were on and then made a name for itself,  building it’s own audience with its unique spin on the genre.

Burn Notice is its last season and in this geeks opinion is BRILLIANT tv; with its unique blend of humour,action,suspense and mystery, I’m sure it would be one of the most memorable shows of this decade.


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