Doug Burr, left, and Jon Collins
If you ever have the opportunity to hang out with Doug Burr and Jon Collins at the Belmont Hotel in Oak Cliff, I highly recommend it. Jon, who lives in East Dallas, is a self-taught filmmaker with a penchant for the music video and a God-given gift for editing. Doug writes music and lyrics and then performs them both. His last album, On Promenade, is available online and at Good Records. Take a look at Jon’s video for Doug’s song “Should’ve Known”:
A&S: Jon: Your degree from the University of North Texas is in musical composition, so why are you a filmmaker?
Jon: I went to school to go into film scoring because I collected more film scores in high school than rock music. I would listen to a lot of movie music. Danny Elfman was one of my favorites. This is so nerdy, but I really liked the Edward Scissorhands soundtrack. UNT’s composition department is really more geared to modern composition. Film scoring is a marketable sort of music and it’s kind of like the pop of composition. It’s not really frowned upon, but they want to push you to create and find a voice and create new music as opposed to putting yourself in a marketing culture.
My junior year I just started making my own little films to do music to then kind of kept going from there. Then it turned out people were asking me to do more video stuff than music, so I kept going with the video.
A&S: With that background, is making music videos your primary interest then?
Jon: It’s a good combination of both things that I’m passionate about. I have a degree in music and I love to do video, so it seems like the perfect marriage of what I would like to be doing. In music training, you don’t just jump into something, you have to build up to it. So I’m in the process of building up to something larger. I consider myself pretty new to video; I’ve only been doing it five or six years. I’m trying to find a visual style.
I’m not big on musicals, though I would like to do something on the lines of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which was a great way to do a musical. One of the better ones I’ve seen, besides The Wall, which is the pinnacle. When I was doing my senior recital for composition, I was listening to and watching The Wall. I was composing and writing and it was always on in the background.
A&S: Which comes first, the visuals or the music?
Jon: In the case of a music video, the song is already there. With Doug’s stuff, the music was perfect as it was.
A&S: Did you come up with the visuals or did Doug give you some sort of concept?
Doug: Jon had seen pictures of the location because we had done a whole record in that place. Jon saw those and said let’s do a video of a song from your last record, and he picked out the song and said, “We need to do it there, in Texas Hall.” He was inspired after seeing those stills.
Jon: It seemed like a custom-fit song for that space, the look of the interior and how the song plays out. Productions will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a place like that. It’s in Tehuacana, Texas, which is like five miles from Mexia.
Doug: I think the population is like 300 in Tehuacana.
A&S: Anna Nicole Smith was from Mexia.
Jon: We found the little chicken place where she worked.
Doug: That’s why we did the record there. She’s a really big influence. Not really.
A&S: How did you two meet?
Doug: Jon and I know each other from church. I grew up in the Baptist church, and I’m a professing believer still. Jon is too. I never liked the parameters you have to work within to be considered a Christian artist. What do they sell? They sell sunshine. Well, if I want to write about things that are not always sunshine, then I need to write for the mainstream and not the Christian market. Not only that, but I don’t want to be heard by only a tiny subsection of the market. I want everybody to hear my music. Because I believe in it.
Jon: Christian music is more happy inspirational.
Doug: Life doesn’t read that way. The Bible itself doesn’t read that way. For my part, I’m not trying to judge. I’m not trying to preach, even though some of the records are overtly gospel. People appreciate if you’re just saying, “hey I had a hard day.” Music can connect people of all different beliefs and persuasions. That’s ultimately what I’m trying to do. Johnny Cash is a big inspiration to me in that he was a Christian and people knew where he stood in his faith, yet people don’t perceive him as the goody two shoes kind of guy. He was able to make music for everybody. I look to guys like him.
Jon: Who are you talking about? I tuned out.
A&S: Jon: How did you teach yourself filmmaking?
Jon: You just get a camera and editing software. It’s like picking up a guitar. The process of learning is extremely multi-faceted and keeps it interesting. Every project I do I learn something new to better myself.
A&S: I wonder if that has to do with the Denton mentality. I know more people from Denton who say “I’m just going to do this myself.”
Jon: A lot of people in Denton are the product of UNT. That college teaches you to produce or to create. You graduate, go create.