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Coldwater: An Interview with James C. Burns

Available now on select digital outlets is the new film Coldwater, a story about a troubled teenage boy who is sent to a camp for healing. The movie follows not only the teens struggling to survive, but also a retired war colonel,  Col. Frank Reichert  (James C. Burns), pushing these kids to their limits, searching for ways to change them. These elements come together to create an intense drama, powered by strong, deep characters.

Burns is well-known amongst gamers because of his role as Sgt. Woods in Call of Duty: Black Ops and its sequel. In many ways Col. Reichert and Sgt. Woods are the same, but their driving force is subtly different. While Woods merely needs to kill his enemies before they kill him, Reichert is given the complex task of rehabilitation, while facing some problems of his own.

Giga was given a chance to talk with Burns himself over Skype for some additional insight.

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As a fan favorite in Black Ops, what is it like to go from being an actor to voice actor and vice versa? How different is the mind set to play these roles?

“Woods was actually entirely a live-action performance. There’s less of a difference than one would think. I was testing the technology for them and they loved me so much they kept me around. Activision is constantly pushing the technology to make a richer experience. Lucky for me, I get to play with these new techniques, often before most.”

Sgt. Woods was in every sense of the word a badass. Col. Reichert seems to be an iron father figure with no room for disrespect. How do you make that transition from the defiant warrior to the rehabilitator as an actor?

“Woods and Reichert are all about getting the job done. Woods has a very simple mission. Kill the enemy. Reichert has to transform individuals. It takes anger and having good intentions.”

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While some trailers show Coldwater as a movie about change for the better, others portray it almost like a horror. What genre, or combination of genres, would you put the film into?

“It is not a horror film, it’s a dark drama. There are some hearty and funny moments, but it comes from a very serious and horrific subject. Conflict is inevitable from these strong personalities, so it has its scary moments.”

Getting away from the film for just a second, is there any word on a Black Ops 3? Being that Sgt. Woods is so old in Black Ops 2, would the new game visit crucial moments in the past or find a way to put him back into the fight? What would you like to see happen to the character?

“Unfortunately, I can’t answer that. As for what I would like to see done with the character, there are so many options.”

Why do you think people become attached to military characters? What is the core of these characters that makes them interesting? What makes them special to you?

“It’s not really just a military connection, but more of a level of trust and confidence in his ability. Woods is a resolutionist. He resolves problems. He is all about being supportive and being the best you can be. Reichert is an evolution to that character. Reichert is trying to bring out the absolute best in people.”

“What makes them so special? Integrity. I was once a pro hockey coach. I enjoy being around teamwork and love working with other people. That permeates the entire process of making a game or movie. Everyone is striving to bring these stories and experiences to life and that bond is what teamwork so special and powerful.”

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Coldwater is a film about transformation. Could you explain not only the internal changes in the film’s characters, but also the sort of changes you hope to bring to the audience?

“Kids make bad choices. These choices get harder as you grow older. The consequences to actions become more complex and potentially devastating as time goes on. It starts to affect the other folks involved in that person’s life as well. I think Coldwater may make people be more aware of how their choices affect themselves and each other. One of the main questions of the film is how do we expand one’s vision into a broader spectrum? Most the characters realize this perspective as the film progresses.”

Coldwater will just get people thinking, not change them outright. People have to want to change. We’re just exposing a real event.”

Burns went on to compare this type of movie to the common summer blockbuster. “There’s no real villain. These kids belong there. Change would do them good. There are no good and evil characters in Coldwater.”

I also asked Burns to leave us with a closing comment about Coldwater. He responded with, “It’s a very powerful film. Well-acted and expertly filmed, but at its core it’s about a true subject and something people should be aware of and think about.”

One final question for fun. Are you a gamer?

“I’m a backseat gamer, because I’m terrible at them. I do have all these insights about what to do though. For instance in Black Ops, if the game gives you a crossbow, use the damn crossbow.”

Coldwater is available on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, and Vimeo. Check it out! After that, go back and play Black Ops. As far as the next Black Ops, maybe the next one will take America’s toughest soldiers to Africa to hunt giraffes, but that’s just hearsay.