Colette Burson Tells “Coming of Age” Stories at All Times of Life

Today, FF2 revists the career of gifted writer and director Colette Burson on this, the seventh anniversary of the release date of her film, Permanent. In her review of the comedy, FF2 contributor Brigid Presecky writes, “Both bizarre and charming, the sincerity of Permanent is refreshingly sweet and a timeless take on coming-of-age.” 

Colette Burson was born on June 22, 1970 in Abingdon (VA). After graduating from the University of Virginia, Colette moved to New York to earn her MFA in writing from NYU’s Tisch. Deeply interested in both writing and theater, Colette also founded the theater troupe The Playwrights Collective, on which she worked for eight years in the 90s.

In the 2000s, Colette moved into the television industry. She has written numerous pilots for a myriad of television networks. Colette wrote for shows such as Los Espookys, The Riches, and Retired. In 2004, she directed Little Black Boot, a modern, queer retelling of the Cinderella story. The short premiered at Sundance, and won awards internationally.

In 2009, Colette’s true breakout came with her co-creation of the television series Hung. The dramedy follows a high-school coach who must resort to sex work to make ends meet. The writing of Hung perfectly balances devastation, comedy, and even feminist advocacy. This is due to those behind the camera as much as in front of it; Hung’s episodes were largely directed by women, including Colette herself. The women’s view of this male character brought a depth and complexity to the content of the show, which paid off with audiences in the end. Hung was nominated for four Golden Globes, and brought Colette a Writers Guild of America nomination.

Colette uses both discomfort and relatability to endear her audience to “Permanent.”

2017’s Permanent, both written and directed by Colette, sets a tender coming of age story in the 1980s American South. The comedy, starring Patricia Arquette, Kira McLean, and Rainn Wilson, follows a family of three all experiencing growing pains together in various stages of life. The film is both hilarious and sweet; its deep sincerity stemming from its autobiographical nature. In an interview with FF2 contributor Lesley Coffin, Colette revealed, “A lot of [the film] is based on my childhood. I grew up in a small town in the mountains of Virginia, I did get a permanent that ended up being disastrous, I had a family hurtling through space trying to figure themselves out at the time. I think of the movie as a southern family searching for their identity through the metaphor of hair.” The personal and intimate nature of the story paid off, as the film is a charming triumph. Colette uses both discomfort and relatability to endear her audience to Permanent.

In 2019, Colette wrote and directed BURP, a feminist short which explores gaslighting through the lens of horror. Colette has continued her career as a television writer, writing most recently the series The Growing Season and Love Canal, both yet to be released. 

As Colette’s writing and directing career carries on, she continues to center her work around innovative and women-focused stories, which we here at FF2 love. Thank you for your inspiring content, Colette. We can’t wait to see what you do next.

© Reese Alexander (12/15/23) – Special for FF2 Media


Read Brigid’s review of Permanent here.

Read Lesley’s interview with Colette here.

Visit Colette’s Wikipedia page here.


Featured Photo: Actor Kira McClean as Aurelie Dickson in the film PERMANENT (2017), directed by Colette Burson. Photo Credit: © Magnolia Pictures / Entertainment Pictures / Alamy Stock Photo. Image ID: M90HHP

Bottom Photo: Director Colette Burson on set for the film PERMANENT (2017). Photo Credit: © Magnolia Pictures / Entertainment Pictures / Alamy Stock Photo. Image ID: M90HHX

Tags: BURP, Colette Burson, Golden Globe Nominee, Hung, Kira McLean, Lesley Coffin, Little Black Boot, Los Espookys, Love Canal, Patricia Arquette, Permanent, Reese Alexander, Retired, The Growing Season, The Riches, WGA Nominee

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Reese Alexander is currently a student at Barnard College, where she studies English literature, creative writing, and French. Reese enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction, and her work has been published in multiple campus publications, including Quarto, Echoes, The Barnard Bulletin, and The Columbia Federalist. Reese is most passionate about medieval literature, as she believes it illustrates the contributions of women artists throughout the centuries.
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