November 27th, 2005

Happy Birthday, Mr. Burman

This week marks the 65th birthday of one of my favoritest people, Thomas R. Burman. For those of you who may not know (and you should!), Tom is a legendary Oscar-nommed and Emmy-collecting special makeup effects wizard (you can check his credits at or The Burman Studio website), and Tom also co-wrote and directed my first film, Meet the Hollowheads. For his birthday shindig (which was held at his stunning new Santa Barbara cliffside house), his wife Bari asked his friends and family to write something about Tom. Here's my little tribute:

So, Bari wants me to write a few words about what Tom has meant to me. Sure,
that's easy…and after that, I'll summarize the entire history of the cosmos in
100 words or less. Yeah, you betcha, no problem.

Because Tom's been a part of my life for a quarter of a century now, and in lots
of ways. When I first met him, I was barely out of my teens and somewhat in awe
of him (well, okay…I still am). Here I was, this geeky kid with bushy hair and
a couple of modelmaking jobs on her resume, and yet Tom took a big chance and
hired me to work for him. (Tom's like that, y'know…) So maybe I wasn't the
world's greatest sculptor, but Tom (and, soon, Bari) didn't stop giving me big
chances. Tom read my scripts, and amazingly enough liked them. We became
friends. We'd spend long days throwing ideas around for movies; Tom wanted to
direct, and I knew he'd be great. We finally hit on something we called Life on
the Edge, which we thought would be a great directorial debut for Tom. Somehow
we sold the damn thing, and y'know what? It WAS a great directorial debut for
Tom. Now, nearly twenty years and half-a-dozen feature films later, it remains
the only one of the produced movies I've written or co-written that I still
like. In a perfect world Tom would have made lots more movies and be known as a genius director, as well as a genius make-up effects guy. David Lynch would've
had to share his pedestal.

So, there's one thing Tom gave me - it's called a writing career.

Oh, and there are a few other things, too. How about a second family? Because
that's how I think of the Burmans. There's the Mortons on one hand, and the
Burmans on the other. When my real family wasn't geographically close to me, I
always had the Burmans. I could always count on Tom and Bari for encouragement, advice, and some damn fine meals. When I moved to my North Hollywood apartment back in the 80s, I chose it for its proximity to the Burman Studios, and the Burmans were the first people to see it.

I know Tom well enough to know that he still doesn't believe this himself, but
I'll say it anyways: He's the smartest guy I've ever met, and I really value
his thoughts. Sure, we've had our occasional disagreements over scripts (and,
well, okay - politics!), but most of the time Tom and I can complete each
others' sentences.

I've sometimes puzzled over the notion that I could find a kindred soul in a man
who was old enough to be my dad, but I just chalk it up to one of those little
pranks fate likes to play from time to time. Very few people are lucky enough
to ever find a friend like Tom, so who am I to question fate's little gags?