29, VP, Dan Klores Communications
In 2000, a film with an acclaimed director and cast about the nuances and logistics of the war on drugs was set to open strong in the US. While the industry expected the movie, Traffic, to get extensive write-ups in celebrity and entertainment press, not many expected the movie to explode on the nation's op-ed and news pages, dissecting the nation's war on drugs and its ramifications.
For an agency that was better known for its work on the corporate side of entertainment, this media blitz for a movie was a coup.
Since spearheading such an out-of-the-box media push, DKC VP Liza Burnett, 29, has been made director of the agency's film division and is spearheading promotional efforts for controversial movies, such as Vincent Gallo's Brown Bunny, and critically acclaimed ones, such as DIG!
The group also does promotional work for film festivals like Gen Art and Woodstock.
"When we worked on Traffic, it called upon all of our resources," Burnett says. "We had tremendous success because we have people here versed in politics and government."
"We made a name for ourselves there," says DKC president Sean Cassidy.
After the success of Traffic, the agency noticed more interest coming from production companies and Burnett expressed an interest in developing the discipline, Cassidy says. "She thinks outside the paradigm," he continues. "She's always thinking beyond how to get [movies] reviewed and getting standard red-carpet coverage."
Burnett says DKC's resources allowed the firm to think outside the entertainment scope. "We pride ourselves on being strategic and think about every possible, non-obvious way out there."
Burnett majored in art history at Union College in Schenectady, NY, but had always eyed a career in entertainment. She began her career as a marketing intern at ABC Television, then moving to a job at the Tavern on the Green and the Russian Tea Room as manager of marketing and PR.
On first arriving at DKC, she worked on some corporate accounts to get a feel for the different arenas. She then had an opportunity to work on a successful television movie campaign. DKC had worked on campaigns for movies like Rudy and The Fan before, but the specialty began to accelerate when she took over leadership.
"Dan [Klores] brought me into his office, and said, 'You're doing great, what do you want to do here?'" Burnett says. "He gave me the opportunity to go out and seek business."
"For years, we had a good reputation corporately for television and films networks," Cassidy says. "But Liza took it in a more artistic direction towards [direct promotion of] the films."
Burnett went to Sundance in 2000, which lead to a unit publicity gig for a film. Then, in 2001, the agency decided to make it a specific group. There are now six people who work in the film division and others that help out on a project basis.
"It's rare you have a boss so supportive, but he wanted to grow in this area," Burnett says. "It was the right place at the right time."
"We encourage people to develop their interests and put resources behind it if it makes sense to the company," Cassidy says.
Regarding Brown Bunny, which opens on August 27 in New York and Los Angeles and features a graphic sexual act between the director/actor and lead actress, Burnett says the filmmaker, distributor, and she are very much on the same page.
"We've set out to embrace the controversy and view it as opportunity and not a drawback," Burnett says. "Everything we've done with the billboard and cross-country tour that mirrors the trip in the movie reflects that."
She loves going to the movies recreationally, but the reality is that her job rarely allows that opportunity. "I see so many screeners on tape; I don't remember the last time I went to the movies," she sighs. To return to the list, click here.