To a packed house at the 92Y Tribeca last week, Ed Burns sat down with moderator, friend, and accomplished author, Bill Flanagan (A&R, New Bedlam, Evening’s Empire) to share his story from a entry level job at Entertainment Tonight, to one of the most important voices in the indie film world.
Burns’ latest, Nice Guy Johnny, features an unknown cast that bring to life real life challenges that Burns himself worked through. Matt Bush is brilliant along with Kerry Bishe and Anna Wood. Bush’s character struggles with a decision to pursue that which will really make him happy, and that which will really make his fiancee and bank account happy. After a Sundance win in 1995, Ed Burns went from a long island guy with a dream to Hollywood’s new crush. He spoke about being at Tom Petty’s house hearing “Angel Dream” for the first time. “What do you think?”, asked Petty. Burns laughed as he told his fans his response. “What do you think I think? You’re Tom Petty!” His humility and hard work brought bigger success.
Cast as a wise ass from Brooklyn in Saving Private Ryan, Burns spoke about being a bundle of nerves in his first scene with Tom Hanks. “Get a hold of yourself.”, Hanks told him when the first few takes couldn’t be used. But, like most of Burns’ projects past and present, there was a way to keep on keeping on. Ed told those in attendance how the generosity of both Hanks and Spielberg got him through the film and a fresh outlook on how to attack future projects.
Hollywood kept calling, as did the streets of New York that only Burns can capture in his special way on film. “I try never to shoot in the same location, or a location a major movie has been shot.” Continuing on with his acting, it rang through in his talk that making his movies, his way was what really brings him satisfaction. With his continued accomplishments his agent was soon asking if he would want to direct a big budget Hollywood romantic comedy.
Just like Nice Guy Johnny, Ed Burns had a decision to make. Ultimately, he made the right one for himself, and the indie world.
Having to turn people away at the premiere and add another screening in the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, Nice Guy Johnny has been yet another success for Burns and his producing partner, Aaron Lubin. Challenges arose on the distribution of the film, and just like the pile of rejection letters, something better came about as a result.
After releasing his 2007 film, Purple Violets on Itunes, Burns turned to the platform again. Quickly climbing to #6 ahead of big budget films Iron Man 2, and Prince of Persia, Nice Guy Johnny is also featured on most major cable provider’s On Demand channels.
“Are we really going to get people off their couches to go to the Angelika on a Tuesday night?” Burns asked himself that question and how to reach the audience craving for indie gems that don’t have small theaters featuring indie films. His research on twitter and other social media sites rang true to what he expected. The audience is there, and the on demand platform was the way to reach them.
$39 million. That’s the number Ed Burns told the crowd at the 92Y is the average marketing budget on a Hollywood film. Nice Guy Johnny’s marketing budget comes in at $0. Word of mouth, twitter, facebook, screenings, and appearances are what is driving this film. That, along with, a huge fan base Burns has built over the years.
Have all of us searching for that indie diamond in the rough, or desire to see an established player’s passion project seen the day we don’t have to try to silence the subway sounds at Angelika, or squeeze into tiny seats at tiny theaters?
The answer could be a loud yes. Accessibility. In the new age of shooting on the Red One camera, affordable editing options, generous filmmakers mentoring and championing aspiring screenwriters and filmmakers, and now proving Itunes and OnDemand work we may have alot more small films with big messages to enjoy.
Nice Guy Johnny is available on Itunes, Time Warner OnDemand Channel 1000, and most major cable providers.