Burchfield on Reggio

Photo by: René Bjorheim

Bonnie Burchfield is associate research manager/assistant for director Godfrey Reggio. Photo by: René Bjorheim

Jackalope Magazine recently sat down with Film School alum Bonnie Burchfield, who landed a job working for acclaimed director Godfrey Reggio.

How did you get the job?

So, Godfrey and his assistant come to The Screen a lot and they came sometimes specifically to show his latest movie, which is Visitors. You know, when they show up it’s usually for an event and so I kind of got to know them very very minimally through event stuff; just kind of being there to assist [Screen General Manager] Peter [Grendle].

Apparently, one day Ray—who is Godfrey’s assistant—came up to Peter after a show and said, ‘I’m looking to hire a tech-savvy college graduate; fresh, college graduate, someone who wants to work hard, you know someone who is versatile, whatever’ and he said, ‘do you know anyone? And Peter [mentioned] me. And it kind of just unfurled from there.

Ray got in touch with me, but my phone was not working. So, two weeks later I finally get the message and I get back to him and he was still looking for me. He was patient and I’m very very blessed that he was patient because otherwise it could’ve slipped me by! [laughs]


What’s your official title?

Associate research manager/associate research assistant as well. They’re still deciding how it’s going to look.


What do you do?

I do a lot of search for imagery. It’s a lot of organization of the image like, if he wanted icebergs I would have to go through many different venues to find as many icebergs as possible, show them to him, then he makes a selection or rejects. There’s a lot of that. There’s a lot of emailing imagery to other people in a digestable format so they can figure out what Godfrey is trying to say to them.

I get to make an ocean in the bottle for him today. I think it’s really cool! So, you know, just the visual idea of an ocean in a bottle. He’s really excited about that.


Reggio sounds a lot like Kubrick in his archival process. Have you found this to be true?

OK, so Godfrey doesn’t use a computer…at all. He’s strictly analog. He has archives, but it’s this room full of paper and, like, boxes. And he knows where everything is. He knows exactly where everything is. He has National Geographics stacked up five feet high and he knows them like it’s his computer. He actually said that the first time I came into that room. He was like ‘Welcome to my computer.’ It’s just amazing. Yeah, he has archives. The funny thing is, though, I’ve never seen any of what’s in there, really, cause it’s all paper.


Photo by: René Bjorheim

Burchfield does a lot of searching for imagery as part of her job. Photo by René Bjorheim


Do you have any advice for film students looking to get a similar job?

Don’t get too down on yourself if you’re not making what you think everyone wants to see because someone wants to see the thing you’re making. Someone wants to see the art you’re creating. It will speak to them on a very intimate level. You know.

Don’t be too concerned with the linear thought process because not every film should be linear and not every thought process is linear and it would do the world good to have more interesting, experimental…new films.


What’s your favorite film of his?

Anima Mundi. It has a lot to do with animals and our perception of animals and how climate change is kind of destroying life as we know it; bringing it back to nature, as he does a lot.


Were you drawn to his work before?

I think his brain is beautiful. He revolutionized filmmaking. Without Godfrey we wouldn’t have Samsara and Baraka.


What’s your favorite kind of film?

I want to feel stirred after a film. I want to feel like something in my life just changed because of what I just saw. I’m going to use an example of Spring Breakers. It was beautifully shot and so strange and so different from anything I’d ever seen that it blew my mind and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks after seeing it, you know. It was MTV generation, but it was like Meta MTV generation, like post modern, and just so so interesting.