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Daddies Rule! Screenwriter Rick Burns on his Webseries 'The Disappointments'

by Steve Duffy
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Saturday Nov 10, 2018
On the set of "The Disappontments."
On the set of "The Disappontments."  

Is there life after 50 for gay men?

That's the question raised by "The Disappointments," a webseries created and written by Rick Burns that looks at the way a group of gay men navigate their 50s. According to the series Indiegogo fundraising page, it is "a comedy web series about a group of close friends in their 50s who realize that the life they're living today falls far short of what they had imagined for themselves when they were 25. Careers, living situations, family dynamics, romantic relationships: It's all a bust. This is a show about recognizable people taking desperate and funny actions in an attempt to turn their disappointing lives around."

The idea for "The Disappointments" came to writer Rick Burns from a very dark place: the suicide of a friend, a producer with money and career problems. It jolted Burns and his friends into looking at their lives. "I know, not a happy story," Burns wrote on the Indigogo page. "We realized as the night went on that several other acquaintances had done the same thing within the past few years. What was happening? All of these people were in their late 40's and early 50's. All of them were feeling hopeless about how their lives had turned out."

In short, what do you do when your life has not turned out at all the way you had hoped and planned when you were young?

From questions like this, "The Disappointments" was born. "A comedy series with an edge about people in their 40s and 50s forced to deal with their circumstances, facing what they see as their failures and misfortunes, and taking action. Most of it ill-advised. Some of it straight-up disastrous. All in the hopes of turning their disappointing lives around."

Born and raised in Connecticut, Burns attended NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, attaining a degree in screenwriting. He's worked as a writer in both live-action and animation, with TV Movies like "Snow" and "Snow 2" to his credit, along with movies "Brother Bear 2" and "Fox and The Hound 2" for Disney, among others.

His Outfest Award-winning live-action screenplay, "The Dunes of Overveen" is set for a Spring 2019 start date. In the meantime, Rich is hard at work producing the first season of "The Disappointments."


The challenge
A scene from "The Disappointments."  

The challenge

EDGE: Can you introduce yourself as an artist and tell us a little about what you do?

Rick Burns: I am a screen writer and tv writer. I have done some series work for DreamWorks and Netflix. I do have a feature that is being shot next spring, "The Dunes of Overveen." It's based on a true story, about a gay artist who became a resistance leader, during Nazi occupied Amsterdam.

EDGE: Why are you crowdfunding this series?

Rick Burns: I think part of it is because it is challenging to get any true LGBTQ projects made. The entire cast is all gay. Over the last few years, I have been discovering web series and for the most part they have all been great. I love how each of these storytellers are nailing their visions. I also did it because I wanted to involve people that I knew both in front of and behind the camera. What I like about our show is that there are no shows about gay guys in their 50s. I think we have some great storytelling.

EDGE: Now that you are going through the crowdfunding process, what advice can you offer to people setting up their own crowdfunding campaign?

Rick Burns: It is hard to get people to do anything beyond a "like" on social media. Go after everyone you know and let them know what you are doing. Broadcast your message beyond your circle and spread it near and far.


Turning it around
A scene from "The Disappointments.  

Turning it around

EDGE: Could you tell us a little bit about how this project got started?

Rick Burns: The idea came from a dinner I was having with a few friends. A good friend of ours had just committed suicide after his business dried up and he had a few career setbacks. He was about 51, at the time he died. Over the course of the night, we realized that a lot of friends were facing all kinds of life setbacks and disappointments. Then the conversation turned to what was causing this and why they couldn't turn it around. We all get to a point in our life where we either must make a change or double-down and stay focused on chasing our dream. Never give up!

EDGE: Is this an autobiographical series of your life?

Rick Burns: A little, but all topics and situations in the show are based on things that are so relatable. There is a great level of reality in the show. This show goes even far beyond a gay audience, I believe this show can reach all different groups of people. The show is about, how did this become my life?

EDGE: Besides yourself, also starring in "The Disappointments" is Emmy Winner actor, Michael Corbett, singer James Campbell, and Broadway actor, Tom Berklund.

Rick Burns: James was part of the project from the beginning. He was sitting at the table with me the night we began the conversation. James is a funny and talented guy. I wrote his character to his strengths. Tom was a recommendation. He read for the part as my character's younger boyfriend. His performance moved me to tears. Michael hosted the initial table read and I still did not have an actor for the character he plays, so I asked him to do it and he gladly accepted.


Dark sense of humor
A scene from "The Disappointments.  

Dark sense of humor

EDGE: How do you see comedy as it relates to dealing with disappointments in life?

Rick Burns: I have a dark sense of humor. My initial reaction to disappointment is "fuck," then I start laughing and shake my head. I have learned over the years to shake the bad stuff off and then reflect on it and then work on setting things back on course.

EDGE: Your thoughts on gay men over 50 who are single will never find love?

Rick Burns: My attitude has been to live your life and chase your passions. Be true to yourself and you will meet someone when the time is right. A lot of men make mistakes in their hour of desperation. Just relax and your time will come. The show is about how I make my life work and move forward.

EDGE: What have you found to be most challenging for gay men over 50?

Rick Burns: For me, it's been employment. As a writer over 50, there is the idea of aging out. It is certainly true if you are a writer working in television. The studios think that if you are not 28 years old, you don't have any way of connecting with the audience.

EDGE: What do you hope to accomplish through your vision with "The Disappointments?"

Rick Burns: I suggest start engaging with family, friends and the people on your social media list. Make them all aware of what you are doing. I want to shine a light back on the forgotten generation. As a group, we really don't get that much attention unless someone younger is into Daddies. Also, I would love the show to do well and I can see the cast getting other work because of their acting skills on this show.

Currently, we have only shot the teaser video for the show. All the episodes are completed, and I hope to begin shooting in January. Once that is complete, hopefully someone will buy us or let us stream the show on their platform.

For more information about Rich Burns and "The Disappointments," visit the webseries' Indigogo page.


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