Chump Change

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South Bend Tribune
February 1, 2004
By Kate Dooley
Tribune Correspondent

Chump Change Going from a familiar Midwestern lifestyle to the alien entertainment world of Los Angeles was a challenge for Stephen and Margo Burrows.

But, as they say in the acting business, "Use it."

And that is just what the Burrowses did. They used their experience to make the movie "Chump Change," a comedic satire about adjusting to Hollywood and surviving the fluctuations of the movie industry. Steve Burrows wrote, directed and starred in "Chump Change," and Margo Burrows helped write and edit, as well as produce, the movie.

But before her producing days, Margo Burrows was known as Margo Towe, and she lived with her family in Dowagiac. They moved there in 1974, where her father, Arthur, was the superintendent of Lewis Cass Intermediate School District and her mother was a teacher until her retirement.

Margo and her younger brother, Steven Towe, attended Dowagiac Union High School. She says she was just a regular small-town kid who played for Dowagiac's basketball team.

She went on to Western Michigan University, getting her bachelor's degree in communications and German.

She met her husband shortly after graduation. Steve, originally from Milwaukee, was living in Chicago at the time, studying under Second City director Del Close. After a fast courtship, they married a year later.

Steve was doing well in Chicago and decided he wanted to try something bigger. So the Burrowses moved to Los Angeles with a goal in mind: to make a movie. Margo says that it was an overwhelming experience at first, as they knew no one in Los Angeles.

Chump Change "It is a whole other world out here, so different from back home. But I knew Steve was talented, and I put faith in that," she says.

Margo worked various jobs in Los Angeles in order to bring in a steady income. Her husband worked in production, made commercials and worked on writing scripts. Oftentimes, Margo would come home from work and her husband would read her what he had written that day, and they would work on it together.

The couple faced many difficulties in their first years in Los Angeles, including a lawsuit by Merv Griffin. Steve had made a film, "Soldier of Fortune," detailing his embarrassing appearance on the show "Wheel of Fortune," and Griffin sued him for talking about the show in the movie. After going through the lawsuit fiasco (the couple reached an agreement with Griffin to not profit from the film, Margo says), Steve decided the couple's own life was rich enough for a movie script, and so "Chump Change" was born.

The movie follows the character Milwaukee Steve, played by Steve Burrows, as he tries to make it in Hollywood. At one point, his character moves back to the Midwest to regroup, and this is where he meets Sam, whose character is based on Margo Burrows. The couple shot some of the movie in Wisconsin and the rest in California. Margo says the movie reflects their love of the Midwest.

Besides being a character in the movie, Margo Burrows became the movie's producer after the original producer stepped aside. It was not something she knew much about but learned quickly as they made the movie.

"I do a little bit of everything: I contact the press, deal with the executives at Miramax, secure locations to film scenes at and decide on artwork for the cover box. Basically, everything that is not creative, I'm in charge of," she says.

Chump Change The couple put all of their time, energy and money into making the movie. She and her husband stuck with it, Margo says, because they believe it is a movie that has heart and will make people laugh. She compares the whole process of making the movie to raising a child.

"We could have a 5-year-old child in the time it has taken to get the movie to where it is now," Margo says. "At this point, it's like we raised her, and now we have to let her go."

Their hard work paid off. The movie has won many awards, including the Audience Award for best feature and best actress at the HBO/U.S Comedy Arts Festival in 2001.

The film was bought by Miramax and released as a DVD on Jan. 20.

"Chump Change" has received critical acclaim from L.A Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter and National Public Radio.

Currently, Steve Burrows is working on three new scripts, which Margo plans to produce.

"It is fulfilling when you can see your vision come to life on the screen. It's hard work, but the rewards are just so great," she says.

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