Burt ended up going to art school in Arizona, where an experimental degree in fine art taught him the value of lateral thinking and creative collaboration. “It was during the whole conceptual area, when it was more about the way you think and being inventive and breaking the rules than it was about sitting down and drawing a vase,” he says.
After graduating, Burt took a job as a night janitor, which he cites as one of the best experiences of his life. The 12 months that he spent cleaning stores by himself at night gave him plenty of time for soul searching, before an opportunity came up in the form of some of his university friends setting up a small scenery shop in Arizona.
Despite his impressive CV of critically acclaimed films, the production designer’s place in the movie business wasn’t always so certain. “I never intended to be a production designer,” he tells CR. “In fact, I didn’t even know what it was growing up. I grew up in the Midwest in a small town, and I wasn’t really exposed to that many movies.”