Filmmaker Scott Burns: “People are more receptive to changing their attitudes if they’re laughing, or if there’s music involved.”

Scott Burns and Annette Bening.

From a story, “A Filmmaker Who Finds His Muse in the Headlines,” by Don Steinberg in the Wall Street Journal:

Some screenwriters find their source material in comic books. Scott Z. Burns found his in the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture—and turned it into a movie.

“The Report,” which Mr. Burns wrote and directed, is his latest project that converts current events into popcorn dramas. The film, which opens Nov. 15, stars Adam Driver as Daniel Jones, a real-life former Senate investigator, and Annette Bening as Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Mr. Jones spent five years assembling the report on abuses in the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation program, including torturing detainees in Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison.

Mr. Burns also wrote the new Steven Soderbergh-directed film “The Laundromat,” featuring Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas. It is about the Panama Papers—11.5 million files from a Panamanian law firm that set up offshore shell corporations for wealthy clients, sometimes at the expense of little guys. . . .

Mr. Burns has always been drawn toward telling true stories. As a student at the University of Minnesota, he took a crack at writing for the college newspaper, “but I was intimidated by the inverted pyramid”—the facts-on-top structure of news articles. “It wasn’t how I wrote.” he said. . . .

In 2006, Mr. Burns directed his first film, “Pu-239,” a drama about a Russian nuclear-plant worker dying from radiation poisoning. Oscar Isaac adds comic relief as a bumbling gangster.

“A number of years ago, Soderbergh and I had a long conversation with a neuroscientist who told us that people are more receptive to changing their attitudes if they’re laughing, or if there’s music involved,” Mr. Burns said. . . .

“I was really happy to understand that there is a way to confront people’s confirmation bias and maybe get them to open up their minds,” Mr. Burns said.

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