As a child, Julian Jay Burton traveled with Batman through Gotham City, flew with Superman over Metropolis and went on adventures with Spider-Man, the Green Lantern and Black Panther.
Now, the north Alabama man, armed with a video camera, a pen and his imagination, creates adventures for others. Two of Burton’s creations — the feature film “Dormant” and the mini-series “Bermuda City,” based on a graphic novel by Burton — recently appeared on Amazon Prime’s streaming service.
“Of course, I’ve watched them on Amazon Prime. I sit back just cheesing. It’s a good feeling. I’ve been doing this for 15 years and we’re starting to make some noise. It’s getting exciting,” said Burton, who oversees Red Crow Comics and Bermuda Image.
For Burton, the path to producing films and writing comics started in Massachusetts while living with his grandmother, a former school teacher, who introduced him to the world of reading.
“My grandmother used to always put books in my hand. That’s how she disciplined me. Every time I got in trouble, she made me read books because I used to absolutely hate it. Now, I can’t put a book or a pen down. She helped me learn to love books,” Burton said.
After graduating from Danville High School, Burton enrolled at Calhoun Community College with plans of pursuing a degree in business. A lost bet, however, deterred his plans.
“As the loser of the bet, I had to join the theater department,” Burton said.
In Calhoun’s old black box theater, he found his passion for the performing arts thanks to Bill Provin. The theater and English instructor at Calhoun saw potential in Burton. Provin cast the novice actor as the Duke of Ephesus in “Comedy of Errors” for his stage debut and the lead role of Othello in “Othello” for his second performance.
“A lot of what we do is dictated by the students we have and this role is an incredible challenge,” Provin said in 2006. “Jay Burton, as Othello, is doing every bit and more than I thought he could — and he’s getting better every day.”
Along with introducing him to theater, Provin encouraged Burton’s creativity and taught him how to develop stories and characters. Inspired to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, Burton, after graduating from college, toyed with the idea of moving to California — the epicenter of films and movies.
“I had that rat race mentality and thought I needed to go to California to have chance. Then I thought, why not create something here. Why not help grow north Alabama’s entertainment industry,” Burton said.
To learn the ins-and-outs of producing films, Burton volunteered for projects and got an in-depth look at casting, lighting, filming and editing. In 2010, he started directing and producing his own stories.
Filming for the Amazon Prime projects began with “Bermuda City” in 2013. The miniseries serves as a sequel to “Dormant.” The suspense-thriller creations with a Hitchcockian influence center on Jordan Long, a detective played by Burton, who investigates murders tied to a CIA agent.
Both the film and the miniseries feature scenes at Rhodes Ferry Park in Decatur, Red Bank Road at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge and parks in Huntsville.
“It was important for me to shoot this 100 percent in Alabama with mostly people from Alabama. When you think of movies, you think of Los Angeles and New York. Well, there is a lot of talent here that deserves to be noticed,” said Burton, who highlighted cameraman James Ryan Sims, actors Bernadette Chapman and Tom Hagale and assistant director Marcus Ferrell.
Film festivals are beginning to notice the talent in North Alabama. In the past two years, “Dormant” has been selected for 13 festivals and named as a finalist for awards in five.
“I’m really proud of Jay,” Provin said. “It means a lot when my students decide to pursue a career in entertainment. It means what they did at Calhoun was important to them. It means they gained enough confidence in themselves and enough skills to know they can be professionals in this field.”
To extend the reach of “Bermuda City” and “Dormant,” Burton used self-distribution to place the projects on Amazon Prime.
“It is a really good platform for independent filmmakers. It's a great way to get your projects seen and to spotlight what we are doing here in north Alabama,” said Burton, who lives in Madison County. "The film industry here is improving. We have a lot of serious filmmakers and the artistry is improving. It's an exciting time here."