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Faith and Film: How Barrett Burgin’s ‘Cryo’ Explores Spirituality Amid Mystery

BYU Alum and Director Barrett Burgin’s Film Features a Cast and Crew of Fellow BYU Graduates

Barrett Burgin
Director Barrett Burgin (‘19) on the set of “Cryo.”
Photo by Weber Griffiths

Lights. Camera. Faith.

Just three years after graduating, BYU alum Barrett Burgin (‘19) has released his feature film “Cryo” with a runtime of nearly two hours. According to Burgin, the film was primarily shot underneath Center Street in Provo, Utah, with an “obscenely low budget” and a cast and crew of numerous BYU graduates.

The film, described as a science fiction psychological thriller, centers around five scientists in an underground facility who are woken from their cryosleep. They do not remember who they are or how long they’ve been in their cryogenic pods, but they do know that they need to survive the killer that is hunting them.

“I want to express my gratitude for the many BYU students and graduates who worked on the film,” said Burgin. “It’s amazing that most of us working on this film were students or recent students. It wouldn’t be what it was without their talents, their insights or their creativity.”

Although more than half of the crew was still attending BYU when they shot most of the principal photography, Burgin was able to sell his feature to Saban Films, a large distribution company most recently known for working with Jason Momoa on his upcoming project.

Burgin’s “Cryo” was also accepted into numerous film festivals, such as the Kanab Film Fest (where it won the Audience Choice Award), Desertscape Film Festival (where it won the Discovery Award) and the Chattanooga Film Festival (where it won a Special Jury Award). “Whether most audience members like ‘Cryo’ or not, I consider it a great success because it was at least good enough to get a distribution deal,” Burgin said. “It's good enough to open the right doors for finding investors for future films.”

For this project, Burgin believes a lot of doors were opened thanks to his time at BYU. “I think I have a pretty good sense for how to make a movie, but without my BYU education, it would have been formless and misdirected,” said Burgin. Classes on screenwriting, directing and producing enabled Burgin and his crew to be able to apply those concepts to this project and tell a more contained story. He expressed his gratitude for many faculty members of the Media Arts Department, especially producing professor Courtney Russell and screenwriting and directing professors Jeff Parkin and Tom Russell.

The film’s producer, Matthew Siemers (‘17), also believes that his BYU education has impacted a lot of the professional work he has done. “The biggest influence from my time in school has come from the network I built as a student,” Siemers said. “Most of the jobs I have done have come from connections I made while in school.”

Roman Alaivi, Blake Mower, Marcelle Leon and Luis Fernando Puente on the set of "Cryo"
Director of Photography Roman Alaivi with Assistant Director Blake Mower (‘22), Production Designer Marcelle Leon (‘19) and Set Dresser Luis Fernando Puente (‘19) on the set of “Cryo.”
Photo by Joey Ciccoline

Siemers advises BYU students to start building their network and skills while they are at school. Burgin seconds that advice, saying, “Get out there and make stuff immediately. Don’t wait for school to hand you opportunities, just make as many films as you can.” Before he had even begun his senior capstone project, Burgin had already finished the principal photography for “Cryo.”

While Burgin’s capstone “Father of Man'' has more apparent spiritual themes, “Cryo'' unmistakably incorporates certain aspects of Burgin’s faith, even as a murder mystery. Burgin acknowledged that the religious elements in “Cryo” are “explored in kind of a twisted, metaphorical way, but my faith tradition comes through in the film.”

Burgin’s faith is not only present in his work, but it also played a major part in helping the project come to life. “Prayer carried ‘Cryo’ the entire way, even though it’s a dark sci-fi thriller,” Burgin said. During production, he would pray for things as specific as getting good lighting, ending the day on time or for help finding a location to film.

When Burgin and co-writer Mason D. Davis (who also plays the Soldier in the film) were brainstorming ideas for the film’s setting, they first thought of a cabin. However, they decided to set the film underground since a cabin may not have stayed in good condition throughout the characters’ cryogenic sleep.

While searching online for underground bunkers, Burgin and Davis found a series of rooms and tunnels underneath downtown Provo, just a few blocks away from where they were writing. They walked over to that location and made a deal with the manager of the space, who had transformed parts of it into a vacation rental: if Burgin rented the space for two weeks, he could have access to any other room in the underground rental to film. “You could not ask for a better space as a filmmaker,” said Burgin. “It was kind of that fortuitous, low-budget scenario that we took full advantage of.”

Cast of "Cryo"
The cast of “Cryo” from left: Mason D. Davis, who plays the Soldier; Jyllian Petrie, who plays the Psychologist; Curt Dousett, who plays the Engineer; Emily Marie Palmer, who plays the Doctor; and Morgan Gunter, who plays the Biochemist.
Photo by Erik Robinson

Along with the location, some of the film’s props were answers to Burgin’s prayers. One day, while at church, Burgin prayed and asked for help finding someone to build one of the most important props of the film: the cryogenic chamber. After that Sunday’s lesson, the ward's High Councilor approached Burgin and offered to help him build anything he needed.

“I think that God is there to listen to us and answer our prayers and to have a relationship with us in all kinds of things, including our artistic pursuits,” said Burgin. “We just have to have the faith to actually consult God about the pursuits and passions we find meaningful.”

“Cryo” was released in select theaters across the country on June 24, and is currently still screening in three Megaplex Theaters in Utah. The film is also available for rent or download across multiple platforms such as Apple TV, Amazon Video, Google Play and Vudu.