Sylvania filmmaker debuts short film on FunnyOrDie.comWritten by Jason Mack | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The short film “Marriage Drama,” which was co-written by Sylvania natives Joe Burke and Oliver Cooper, debuted May 16 as the premier exclusive video on FunnyOrDie.com. Burke directed the movie while Cooper starred alongside Oscar-nominated actress Virginia Madsen.
“We both had some time between projects in the fall and were thinking about what would be a good character for him,” Burke said. “Oliver is very funny, and one thing he’s great at capturing is the older energy. We thought it would be fun to see him play that husband role, even though he’s clearly too young.”
“Marriage Drama” is a film inside a film. Cooper and Madsen play a husband and wife arguing in their kitchen. The age difference between the actors causes lots of tension, lots of cuts and lots of comedy.
“I’ve always had a desire to make a film that takes place on a film set,” Burke said. “We wrote several drafts throughout the process. We had a different actress attached at one point. We were going to shoot it before Christmas, but she had to bail. In January, Virginia Madsen got the script through her agent. We talked about it and she loved it, so we got the project going again.”
Madsen earned Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the 2004 hit “Sideways.”
“It was awesome to act with someone as good as her,” Cooper said.
“Virginia and Oliver’s chemistry is perfect together,” Burke said. “Oliver’s character is like a young Jack Nicholson schmoozing around. Virginia’s character isn’t happy with the casting choice and tells the director he’s too young for the role. It’s this corky on-set experience. They are trying to make a very serious film when clearly the casting is way off and too comedic.”
There was also plenty of chemistry between Madsen and Burke.
“When I heard she wanted to do it, it was a thrill,” Burke said. “She is the star of ‘Sideways’ which is one of my favorite movies. She is super cool. She still loves acting just for the sake of acting and wanted to make something that was great. She had no ego or attitude about the fact that it was a short comedy. It was easier for me to be comfortable with her because she was so excited about the piece. We had a great time together and laughed a lot on set.”
Before teaming up with Funny Or Die, the set was going to be a little too authentic.
“When we wrote the script, we were going to make it on our own and shoot it in one of our kitchens,” Burke said. “After Oliver’s agents read the script, they suggested taking it to Funny Or Die. I’d done some freelance editing with them and have a roommate who works there. They loved the script and let us make the project we wanted to make. The fake kitchen makes it feel more phony, which really adds to the comedy of the piece.”
Burke said he is excited to be featured on FunnyOrDie.com for the opportunity to reach and affect an audience.
“One of the biggest satisfactions in making films is to make people laugh, touch them or scare them with a horror,” Burke said. “You want people to be able to be emotionally affected by your work. Having a venue like Funny Or Die, it will be seen. That’s a very satisfying part of this process for us. In the past, we’ve put a lot of time and energy into something. You enter it into a few festivals, your family and friends see it and it is on YouTube. It doesn’t get the platform to be seen by a lot of people.”
Last year, Burke wrote and produced a nine-minute indie comedy called “No Deal” with Michael Stahl-David, the lead actor from “Cloverfield.” Stahl-David starred in the short film along with Ari Graynor from “Fringe” and Keir O’Donnell from “Wedding Crashers.”
Burke is a 2002 graduate of Sylvania Southview High School and graduated from Columbia College Chicago in 2006 with a major in film and a minor in theater. However, his interest in film came long before his college days.
“I started making films in Toledo when I was 8 years old,” Burke said. “It wasn’t until I went to Columbia College that I started really writing. I’d find things I found funny, touching, scary or whatever I wanted to write about. I explored drama, comedy and horror. I really found a rhythm in writing.”
In 2007, he moved to Los Angeles to attend the American Film Institute for a two-year masters program in filmmaking. He was accepted into the program for directing, and while attending he wrote and directed four short films.
Burke has been best friends with Cooper’s older brother Jason since before Cooper could walk. Cooper graduated from Sylvania Northview High School in 2008 and moved to Los Angeles shortly thereafter. He reconnected with Burke and they began collaborating. They teamed up with Jason for a web series on YouTube called “The Lois Levine Show” where Cooper played a 67-year-old Jewish woman hosting a talk show out of her living room.
Cooper also collaborated with Burke during their days in Toledo.
“When Oliver was 13, his parents hired me to shoot and direct a humorous video for his bat mitzvah,” Burke said. “Oliver acted in it. That was our first time working together.”
Cooper will make his feature film debut in the 2012 release “Project X” directed by Nima Nourizadeh.
Burke said he hopes “Marriage Drama” will lead to his big break.
“People in Los Angeles will respond well to this piece, with it taking place on a film set,” Burke said. “People across the country will find it funny because it’s a funny scenario. I’m hoping it allows people who make decisions in Hollywood to see I exist and like what I do.”