The Art of Writing the $9000 Micro-Budget Indie Film with Edward Burns
Today’s guest is a writer, director, producer, actor, and indie filmmaking legend, Edward Burns. Many of you might have heard of the Sundance Film Festival-winning film called The Brothers McMullen, his iconic first film that tells the story of three Irish Catholic brothers from Long Island who struggle to deal with love, marriage, and infidelity. His Cinderella story of making the film, getting into Sundance, and launching his career is the stuff of legend.
The Brothers McMullen was sold to Fox Searchlight and went on to make over $10 million at the box office on a $27,000 budget, making it one of the most successful indie films of the decade.
Ed went off to star in huge films like Saving Private Ryan for Steven Spielberg and direct studio films like the box office hit She’s The One. The films about the love life of two brothers, Mickey and Francis, interconnect as Francis cheats on his wife with Mickey’s ex-girlfriend, while Mickey impulsively marries a stranger.
Even after his mainstream success as an actor, writer, and director he still never forgot his indie roots. He continued to quietly produce completely independent feature films on really low budgets. How low, how about $9000. As with any smart filmmaker, Ed has continued to not only produce films but to consider new methods of getting his projects to the world.
In 2007, he teamed up with Apple iTunes to release an exclusive film Purple Violets. It was a sign of the times that the director was branching out to new methods of release for his projects.
In addition, he also continued to release works with his signature tried-and-true method of filmmaking. Using a very small $25,000 budget and a lot of resourcefulness, Burns created Nice Guy Johnny in 2010.
Johnny Rizzo is about to trade his dream job in talk radio for some snooze-Ville gig that’ll pay enough to please his fiancée. Enter Uncle Terry, a rascally womanizer set on turning a weekend in the Hamptons into an eye-opening fling for his nephew. Nice Guy Johnny’s not interested, of course, but then he meets the lovely Brooke, who challenges Johnny to make the toughest decision of his life.
The film debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival. While he was releasing that film, Burns wrote, starred, and directed Newlyweds. He filmed this on a small Canon 5D camera in only 12 days and on a budget of only $9,000.
Newlyweds Buzzy and Katie find their blissful life disrupted by the arrival of his half-sister and news of her sister’s marriage troubles.
In his book, Independent Ed: Inside a Career of Big Dreams, Little Movies, and the Twelve Best Days of My Life (which I recommend ALL filmmakers read), Ed mentions some rules he dubbed “McMullen 2.0” which were basically a set of rules for independent filmmakers to shoot by.
- Actors would have to work for virtually nothing.
- The film should take no longer than 12 days to film and get into the can
- Don’t shoot with any more than a three-man crew
- Actor’s use their own clothes
- Actors do their own hair and make-up
- Ask and beg for any locations
- Use the resources you have at your disposal
I used similar rules when I shot my feature films This is Meg, which I shot that in 8 days, and On the Corner of Ego and Desire which I shot in 4 days. To be honest, Ed was one of my main inspirations when I decided to make my first micro-budget feature film, along with Mark and Jay Duplass, Joe Swanberg, and Michael and Mark Polish.
Ed has continued to have an amazing career directing films like The Fitzgerald Family Christmas, The Groomsmen, Looking for Kitty, Ash Wednesday, Sidewalks of New York, No Looking Back, and many more.
Ed jumped into television with the Spielberg-produced TNT drama Public Morals, where he wrote, directed, and starred in every episode.
Set in the early 1960s in New York City’s Public Morals Division, where cops walk the line between morality and criminality as the temptations that come from dealing with all kinds of vice can get the better of them.
His latest project is EPIX’s Bridge and Tunnel is a dramedy series set in 1980 that revolves around a group of recent college grads setting out to pursue their dreams in Manhattan while still clinging to the familiarity of their working-class Long Island hometown. He also pulls writing, producing, and directing duties for all the episodes.
Ed has continued to give back to the indie film community with his amazing book, lectures and his knowledge bomb packed director commentaries. Trust me to go out and buy the DVD versions of all his films. His commentaries are worth the price of admission.
When I first spoke to Ed he told me that he had been a fan of the podcast for a while. As you can imagine I was floored and humbled at the same time. Getting to sit down and speak to a filmmaker that had such an impact on my own directing career was a dream come true. Ed is an inspiration to so many indie filmmakers around the world and I’m honored to bring this epic conversation to the tribe.
Enjoy this conversation with Edward Burns.
Learn screenwriting from legendary screenwriter James V. Hart (Hook, Contact, Bram Stroker’s Dracula)
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- Edward Burns – Official website
- Edward Burns – IMDB
- Three Screenplays by Edward Burns
- Independent Ed: Inside a Career of Big Dreams, Little Movies, and the Twelve Best Days of My Life
- The Brothers McMullen
- She’s The One
- Purple Violets
- Nice Guy Johnny
- Bridge and Tunnel – Watch Here
- Bulletproof Screenplay Script Coverage Service – Get Your Screenplay Covered by Industry Pros
- Arc Studio Pro – #1 Distraction-Free Screenwriting Software
- BPS Presents: Writing for Emotional Impact (FREE AUDIOBOOK)
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- Indie Film Hustle TV (On-Demand Real-World Screenwriting Education)
- Storytelling Blueprint: Hero’s Two Journeys
- The Dialogue Series: 38 hours of Lessons from Top Hollywood Screenwriters
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Alex Ferrari 0:24
Now, Episode 450 was a pretty monumental episodes, I wanted to have a monumental guest. And today I have on the show, indie film legend Edward burns. Now Ed blasted onto the scene with his lottery tickets story, that lottery ticket story I talk so much about that filmmakers are always looking for and they're gonna make their film and get picked up and it goes off to make a million dollars in their career launches.
Well, that's exactly what happened to Edward burns with his film his 1995 film, The brothers macmullan which he made for about $27,000 on on weekends and and he was working as a as a PA on Entertainment Tonight while he was doing it. And he was Oh, there's just so much so many stories about how this movie got made. But it got bought by Fox Searchlight, and then went on to make $10 million at the box office, which catapulted Ed into into stardom, like overnight. And he followed up with she's the one with Jennifer Aniston and Cameron Diaz. And he continued to make film after film.
And he kept getting bigger and bigger budgets. But what he realized is that he wanted to have more freedom with his art and what he did. So he went back to the brothers macmullan model, which was low budget micro budget films. So he made a movie called newlyweds for $9,000. And he continued to make these low budget 10,000 $20,000 independent films because it allowed him to be more free as a filmmaker, and I really admired that about Ed because and not only became a very popular director and writer But he became a very popular actor starring movies like Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg's masterpiece, the holiday, the Christmas classic, and many, many more The list goes on and on how many films and TV shows he's been in over the years. And many filmmakers, and many guys who get thrown into that kind of world could easily just cash out and Coast for the rest of his life in his career, taking acting roles and directing, you know, big things when they came along, and so on and so forth.
But not Ed man, he wanted to go back to his indie roots, and continues up to this day, in his indie roots. And I, I just so honored to talk to Ed, and have him on the show. We just went, I mean, this interview is epic. The first 30 minutes is how he was able to get brothers macmullan off the ground. There's been so many myths about brothers McMullan and how he got made and how it got sold. And we actually get the truth straight from the horse's mouth, as they say. And we talk about independent filmmaking about the micro budget model, his remarkable book, independent Ed, which chronicles his whole career from brothers McMullan all the way to his latest films, talking about how he broke them down how he's how he made them, he really wanted to give back as much as possible.
And I got to tell you, that book was an amazing inspiration to me to make my first film, this is Meg, and understanding that I could go out and make a micro budget film that could go out and make money and can get sold and to get licensed to Hulu, and so on. It was his book that really ignited that in me. And if you ever get a chance to get his DVDs of all of these micro budget films that he makes, his director commentaries are gold, absolute gold, and I'm gonna put links to all of those films in the show notes. This was an epic conversation, to say the least. And if you're an independent filmmaker trying to make micro budget films, this is the episode for you. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Edward burns.
I like to welcome to the show, Edward Burns. How are you doing Ed?
Edward Burns 7:27
It's great to speak to you. As I was telling you earlier, I've been a fan of the podcast for a long time. It's cool to be on.
Alex Ferrari 7:34
That's that's humbling and remarkable when I heard that from from your producing partner, Aaron, I was floored that you'd been listening to me, like I told him like sometimes you just sit in a room with a mic and you have no idea who's listening. So that's very humbling. And I I've been a fan of yours, man since since brothers macmullan days, you are one of those lottery ticket stories, those kind of Cinderella stories that you hear about from the 90s you know a lot with Robert and Kevin and and Richard Linklater and all those guys that came around and you came in that crop man of like, I always tell people, the 90s was just like such a glorious time to be a filmmaker, because it felt like almost every month, or every week, almost It was one of these stories that came out. Is that fair? To say?
Edward Burns 8:20
No. Probably it probably wasn't mean, I know. For me, it certainly was, you know, Sundance was the launching pad every year, you know, you would see those articles coming out of there. Um, for me, it was there was a couple of movies. You know, obviously, Rodriguez is El Mariachi. But I think before that, Nick Gomez had a movie called laws of gravity was made for 23,000. And that was really a huge influence on me. When I could see like, Oh, wait, you can make a feature film, or 20 grand all in. And they can then get picked up for distribution. Because really prior to that, what you would hear when you were in film school, and I'm in film school, and like 89 9091 Is that the way in is to make a short film.
Remember, there was there used to be something called the ISP used to run something called the independent feature film market down at the Angelika theater in the village. And that's where you know, you could get your short film in there, you know, all of the buyers and managers and agents, the whole like New York indie film scene would be there. And that was the launching pad. And I remember I went there with my first short film, and then we short films that had like, big budgets that were really high end production value. And I knew I would never be able to raise enough money to compete with that. Well, then when laws of gravity comes out. The living in your Greg rocky movie came out.
Alex Ferrari 9:55
Yes, right. And the one movie that always gets Doesn't get the credit that he deserves Robert Townsend Hollywood shuffle
Edward Burns 10:03
Oh, without a doubt that one was a little bit late.
Alex Ferrari 10:06
That was but that was he was still but it was still like he put it on his credit cards though. And yeah, right. It was Robert It was 8687. And he was in LA and he made it for like it was in the 20 to 75 range.
Edward Burns 10:19
It wasn't Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 10:20
it wasn't, it wasn't crazy. He put it on credit cards. He was the first filmmaker that I heard of that put it on his credit cards because I was working in a video store back in the late 80s, early 90s. So I remember Hollywood shuffle and it was just
Edward Burns 10:32
I'm waiting here is that I feel like that kind of 8787 Okay, yeah, so that's a little earlier
Alex Ferrari 10:37
it's right before it's before sex lies hits, you know, which was a million dollar but before he launched the Sundance and and before laws of gravity and mariachi and clerics and all that run, but he was one of the first to do it. But he doesn't get the the in the he's never in the same conversations and I always make it a point to point out how instrumental Robert Robert Townsend.
Edward Burns 10:57
Yes. Interesting. Yeah, I like so when would Metropolitan events that Metropolitan is probably but that's what you that's what right. What's that? What's what's once Metropolitan Stillman movie, that was another one.
Alex Ferrari 11:10
That's right. That's right. That was around. Oh, god, that was that was around that time. But also like, I mean, the ones that got the most attention. I mean, obviously Robert got the biggest. I mean, Robert Rodriguez got the biggest thing with mariachi like he that was that's still a mythical in the halls of independent film. People still talk about El Mariachi as this mythical thing. And in the same breath with clerks and brothers McMullan slacker, as well
Edward Burns 11:44
as probably two years before me, that was another big one. Because I think Rick made that for maybe in that 25 to 50 range,
Alex Ferrari 11:52
right and I was just had Scott Moser on the show. And and Scott was telling me I'm like Scott, what was the who was the things like oh, is slack or slack was the blueprint. cuz I'm like, you guys didn't have a blueprint? Really? It was like
Edward Burns 12:00
But before that though? You know, Long Island zone. Hal Hartley
Alex Ferrari 12:06
Edward Burns 12:07
The guy who? Who I feel like because he did three in the early 90s, you know he did was the unbelievable truth, simple men, and I forget the third. But those were all done, you know, in that under $100,000 budget range. And the thing that was interesting, back to sort of the whole, you know, short film versus a feature was seeing that every year, all of a sudden, you know, you had Hal Hartley then you mentioned Rodriguez, you had
Alex Ferrari 12:42
Don't forget Jim Jarmusch. Jim Jarmusch.
Edward Burns 12:44
But that's prior Yeah. He's more in the Spike Lee,
Alex Ferrari 12:49
she's got to have it. Yeah, she's got to have a time, right,
Edward Burns 12:51
you know, those guys came up mid 80s. This is more that early 90s micro budget, that then got distribution. And that was real, I think the thing that changed things, because it wasn't just make a short as a calling card to get an agent to hopefully make a Hollywood feature,
Alex Ferrari 13:06
Edward Burns 13:07
more like, more like an indie rock band, who was like, you know, hey, we're gonna just put out our own thing. And this thing has its own value. We're not trying to parlay this into a gig to work with the studio, we're going to create something new here that then we can build upon. So that is really what changed, I think, in the early 90s. You know, if you look at Kevin Smith, you know, credit, you know, clerks is a is a micro budget movie, but he basically stays within that mill you, you know, I know I did as well. Um, how Hartley is another guy who did some guys or gals chose to sort of take that and turn it into sort of a bigger sort of more studio type of filmmaking career. And that's awesome. I think that's what folks were trying to do, like, treat it more like you're in a band. And it's like, are we make gritty sort of punk rock albums. And that's what we want to continue to do.
Alex Ferrari 14:05
So when you you know, when you were coming up, I mean, I mean, that's your story also is also quite mythical about the whole being a PA and, and working at et. Can you tell everybody because a lot of people listening might not know the story of actually how you got? Well, before we get how you got into Sundance. How did you get brothers Macmillan off the ground? We're like, what made you think that like, you can make it? I mean, I mean, it was It's nuts. It's that now you look at it, you're like, Oh, well, everyone could do that. But back then there was just no internet. There was no knowledge about this. Really. So how did you do it, man?
Edward Burns 14:41
Um, I mean, it's a crazy long story. And you just tell me to switch gears for Sears? really remember because it's like I make the film 28 years ago when I am. Basically I start when I'm 24 I think so. I'm coming out of films. Like you said, I'm a production assistant at a television show in New York, which basically my job was driving the band and setting up the lights. That's the extent of what I do. So I had plenty of time, it was a job that required no mental focus at all. So I spent all my time writing screenplays. I at the time, you know, one of the guys forgot to mention is Tarantino reservoir.
Alex Ferrari 15:23
Well, there's that guy.
Edward Burns 15:25
So I see Reservoir Dogs, and I'm like, okay, that is what I need to write. So I probably write in my four years, or three and a half years out of film school, by bgl, and scripts. Three of them are reservoir dog ripoffs. I am poring through the trades every day, trying to find or identify the agents or managers who sign first time screenwriters. So that's who I'm sending all of my trips, smile. And every day, my dad told me somebody is like, Look, there's absolutely another filmmaker out there who is out working you. So you need to make sure every day you do one little thing to chip away at the brick wall that separates you from the dream. So that meant, you know, I'm going to write a scene in my script, or I'm going to write another letter to an agent, or I'm going to send my short film into another film festival every day, I made sure I did one little thing. So I write all these scripts, I send them out, I get nothing but rejection letters back. And I'm, I come to the conclusion. And this has happened to me a couple times in my career, where I kind of recognize Well, maybe I'm just not that good. You maybe it isn't that they don't, they can't recognize what a talent I am. Maybe I'm just actually not. Right. Yeah, do go back to school and learn a little bit, right? And at the time, I see an ad for the Robert McKee story structure class. So a lot of people might poopoo that Nah, you know, traditional Hollywood structure is Bs, you know, free acts don't pay any attention to that. For me it was it was incredible. I go there and and you know, you learn a lot of this stuff in your you know, screenwriting one on one stuff in film school, but again, you know, a lot of it you forget or, you know, if you want to be like a cool already, kind of kid, you're dismissive of that stuff. This point after five rejected screenplays, I am no longer thinking I'm hot shit, I'm not dismissive of anything. I recognize, I need to learn. Right? So I take the class and you know, a couple of things that he said, that really struck a chord with me one was dope, what is your favorite genre of film? What do you like love to watch? That is the next screenplay that you should be writing. We like our write our script, like, you know, action do that. And at the time, I was like, a massive trypho and Woody Allen. Like, that's all I was doing. I was always watching. So I was like, okay, that's what I'm gonna do, basically, relationship, comedy drama, a little bit of an ensemble. You know, I'd look at those Woody Allen films, I'd be like, okay, that's a wonder, you know, for people on everyone listening to you, I think those are the words but one shot without a cut, that lasts almost two minutes of two people walking down the street in Manhattan, talking about their relationships. Okay, I know from my, my film school days, that's about as easy as you can do with no money. That says, as easy as seen as you can pull off compared to shooting, let's say, an interior scene in a crowded restaurant where I'm going to need to hire extras and whatever. So as I sit down as I want to leave Mickey, I'm like, that's what I'm going to do. I know, that's the genre that I want to play.
I decided to make an ensemble because I knew from my, my student films, and when you know, paying your actors, there's no guarantee that any of them are ever going to show up. You know, especially in New York, everybody's got other jobs and waiting tables and working in a gym. You know, you would have people just bail on you in the middle of issue. So I said, if I have an ensemble, and I cast myself and my girlfriend opposite me, I know that even if this thing blows up, I have a short film. And that's why and it's crazy way to write a screenplay. But I wrote it as for sort of different movies. The person who was the three, and then I listed all the locations that I knew I could get for free. So I knew I could get my parents house. So that was location number one. Then I knew every street corner and sidewalk and public park in New York City. I knew from my working in news days. You did not personally there was no cost to shoot there. And you would never be bothered. No cop would ever asked him certainly in the early 90s in New York, if you had a permit to shoot Now when New York was still hungry, then they could care less about three students out with a camera. Right? I was like, so that's what the movie will be. I'll have these three brothers. And the one movie is the movie that takes place in their house. And then they'll each have a girlfriend in Manhattan. And those will be my other three short films. So I kept thinking, if it didn't work, I could have a 25 minute movie 15 minute movie, 75 minute movie or
Alex Ferrari 20:26
so you've actually backed into, like, you backed into this film with Zastrow in mind,
Edward Burns 20:31
like, reverse engineer the whole thing.
Alex Ferrari 20:34
It's amazing. That's remark I'd never heard that part of the of the of the myth, if you will.
Edward Burns 20:39
It's kind of how I laid out the script. And, um, you know, so then, there was an article in the IPS old magazine independent, and they did an article on living in laws of gravity. And I forget the maybe one of the Harley movies, and they basically broke down those budgets. And they were like I said earlier, one was 23. One was 28. One was like 35. And I looked at that, and I said, based on my experiences with my student films, I was like, I think I can pull this McMillan's grip off for about 25,000, I think I get it in the can for 20 bucks. So my own when you don't get my dad was a company you are, I am working class kid grew up with no money, no connections in the business. We knew a lawyer and convinced this guy to put together a limited partnership. And we were gonna sell five $5,000 shares to get the 25 grand. He knew a guy who works on Wall Street. That guy gave him five grand. And that's all we raised. Yeah, so basically, we raised $5,000, I convinced my dad to give me about another four. And I basically tell him in this guy, with the nine, let me just go and shoot together, sort of a sizzle reel a trailer, and we'll use that to raise more money. But I knew that I was going to try and shoot the entire film for $9,000. That was my goal. So I set out I put an ad in backstage magazine that basically says, you know, no budget, indie non union, no pay, but we'll feed you is New York City. So I probably got 2500 headshots, through all the headshots. And then there's some, you know, great stories about you know, how I was able to get some of these actors, but you know, the part of Molly the older brother's wife, probably addition, 1520 actresses, and I'm thinking to myself, the script is terrible, because the scenes that these young actresses really just weren't playing. And I'm sitting by the camera, shooting her audition. I'm like, Oh, my God, this is good. Wow, maybe these scenes aren't some terrible. So Connie ends up being cast in the movie. And throughout the production, Connie was kind of like our, um, you know, she was our rig, we just knew like, okay, she's like, really the super talented one here. Um, you know, when you're acting opposite her, you better bring your A game. And so so we get Connie in the movie, the other actors are all unlike Connie, nobody had ever been on a set before. Nobody had ever been in front of a camera before. And I set out to go make this film. We probably shot about six days, over the course of maybe three weeks. And then I kind of run out of money. But I don't let the cast know that. And what we ended up shooting 12 days over the course of eight months. And what I would do is I would save up some money from work and hit my dad up for a little bit of money, or camera guy was working with Dick Fisher would say hey, look, I'm not working to Saturday and Sunday. I have the camera. buddy of mine is available to do Sam, who can you get from the cast that's available? And you know, I would then go all right, Jack and Mike are available. Let me see what scenes are still notch. And then the other crazy thing I did was it was we shot 16 millimeter,
Alex Ferrari 24:26
Edward Burns 24:27
We couldn't afford to buy any new cans of films
Alex Ferrari 24:30
or short ends,
Edward Burns 24:31
Alex Ferrari 24:33
And 16 not even Super 16 but 16 short ends.
Edward Burns 24:37
Yeah. Leftover stuff from industrials. So, so it was cheaper for me to re enroll in Hunter College for one class, which I think was probably I don't know at the time, probably 300 bucks. So I can get a student ID because for the short ends with your student ID was Like 25% off or something like that. So I reroll in school are in order to get the cheaper price on the short ends. But then of course when we can't afford to develop anything until we're done shooting, so eight months after we get these 12 days done, we develop stuff. And then you know, from short ends, a lot of times some of that for that film has already been exposed. So, we've made the editing a little bit easier when you do like, Okay, well, we're cutting that scene because we just don't have that scene.
Alex Ferrari 25:27
So anyway, so you had eight months, that you had a bunch of film reels in your, in your in your apartment.
Edward Burns 25:34
After those first six days, we're just, you know, Dick says, Hey, I'm free on this day. I say great. I go buy some film stock, right? I call the actors, I come up with the scenes, we go shoot those two days. And then it's like, Alright, what are we gonna shoot again? I have no idea. But
Alex Ferrari 25:51
so how long were you with the movie in the can before you got to developed?
Edward Burns 25:55
Alright, so after we once we finished shooting, we had everything at that point. Then I go to the do art film labs. And it was a great guy random place named dick young, Bob Smith. Those are the two guys who rent. And to their credit. They were real supportive supporters of indie film and young folks in New York trying to make it happen. So you know, my dad went down with me there and explain to them Hey, I'll vouch for Eddie. But, you know, he's got this film, here's all the film. We'd love to get a process can pay for it all now. But if you can defer those costs will slowly paid off over time. And they were generous, generous half.
Alex Ferrari 26:35
So like, almost like layaway. Payment Plan for for development,
that that world does not exist. Now you have to find some very special people.
Edward Burns 26:45
I mean, could you imagine though, trying to shoot an indie film on 16 millimeter today on short ends like that is why for me and I've heard you talk about it as well. It is so exciting right now if you're a young filmmaker that you can pick up this friggin thing your phone and go and make a feature that's gonna look 100 times better than brothers McMullan locked up.
Alex Ferrari 27:08
What the lenses you can get the cameras you get, I mean, I shot I shot a whole feature on a little pocket camera and just got vintage lenses and just went out and shot a movie in four days. And when I got it, it looks stunning projected at the Chinese Theatre on a 2k abrez stunning, most beautiful thing I've ever shot. And I've shot things with much bigger budgets. And it was just this little 1080 p camera it was just gorgeous. So and now there's like four and 6k cameras in like the pockets. And it's just it's ridiculous. It's ridiculous. So you edit. So you got to get everything developed on layaway, fuck a great start. Lay away, then you're editing it, I'm assuming what this is
Edward Burns 27:49
even crazier. So we have to beta because I work in entertainment tonight, of course. And they cut the show on beta. So what me and Dick would do is the end of the night. Like if we had a movie premiere, let's say because we covered those. We were the last people in the office, we'd leave the side door of the office open, you'll be left. Well next door to the Mayflower Hotel, have a drink, come back into the building at midnight, and then edit till five in the morning using their editing bays. And
Alex Ferrari 28:24
without without permission. So always ask for forgiveness, never for permission. Sorry, so you transfer everything to beta. Because I used to cut on tape as well on beta SB. Is there a film print of this? That's not a transfer from video? Did you ever go back to the neg? on anything? Yeah, eventually did okay. But first, you just cut together a video edit of that. Yeah, did you call it great.You did call it gray. But now there's no color gray, whatever it was, it was whatever it was
Edward Burns 29:04
whatever it was, It was no sound mix. Nothing. Other than, you know, we basically at the time, we just borrowed all of this traditional Irish folk music from this musician named Seamus Egan. And I'll tell you the story of like the great ending that happened for Seamus but at the time, you know, I couldn't afford a composer. And I thought I will just use needle drops from this guy. And he was a friend of a friend of a friend. So I knew that I could get to him eventually. But at the time, I was like, I need music for the film. I have no idea what's going to happen with this movie. I'm really when I make the film. Certainly you have the dream that maybe it'll get picked up for distribution. But as I said earlier, you know for five years, I'm sending out my scripts. I can't get even a phone call back from it. I'm hoping the film will be something of a calling card and then Maybe nothing else would go too fast or someone will see it. And I'll get an agent. So we got the film transferred to VHS at the time, it's two hours long. We're both exhausted. I mean, I know it's still a rough cut. But you know, it's your first film, it's your baby. I don't know what seems to cut. So I knock off a bunch of, you know, VHS copies of it. And then I start the process of doing the same thing. I'm poring through the trades, who are the agents who are signing first time filmmakers? What are the film festivals? What are the production companies and the distribution companies? Send it out everywhere film festivals, a year's worth of rejections. And then the you know, the the famous story is the Redford Sundance story, right. Oh, no, I'm working in Entertainment Tonight. Redford is there to do press for I believe it was quiz show. I, I know that you know, obviously, Redford, Sundance, I take one of these rough cuts with me. And I have my little, you know, 32nd feel rehearsed, so that when he gets up with his PR person, and usually you shoot these junkets in a, in a big hotel, so I know he's gonna go out the main room, I'll go out the second bedroom, cut them off as he's getting into the elevator, give him the spiel, hand him the tape, and we'll see what happens. So that's exactly what I do. And he listens to me. And he says, oh, okay, great. Well, we'll have someone take a look at it. And he hands it to his PR person and the elevators door, the elevator doors close. And that's it. And I think, well, I guess, you know, I was kind of hoping he would want me to jump in the elevator and hear more about it.
Alex Ferrari 31:45
And just take the take the private plane to his house. And then you know, all that stuff, of course, of course.
Edward Burns 31:52
doesn't work that way. But two months later, I'm at work. And I get a phone call from Jeff Gilmore, who was the programmer at Sundance at the time. And Jeff says, Hey, Eddie, so we got this movie here. It says it's a rough cut. Just want to know if you've finished it. I lie I say yes, of course I didn't. So it says a rough cut two hours. What's the running time now? I say 95 minutes? Because you know, that you both bills, Woody Allen films are world wealth. Lee, you know? And what scenes did you cut, and by this point, now in the movies a year old, so I've kind of seen it, and I'm less in love with it. So there's a handful of scenes I know, I want to cut. And then I just riff and name some other scenes. And he says, You know what, actually, that sounds pretty good art. We'll be in touch. Two weeks later, they call up and they say you're in. So now that's probably September.
Alex Ferrari 32:47
So hold on a second, when you get that call?What is that?
Edward Burns 32:50
I mean, like, the office and all of the guys that I work with, you know, the crew guys, they will work on the movie, you know, like they will done sound for you know, like they know, you know what we're doing with the editing machines. So definitely high fives and everybody's cheering like, I can't believe that holy shit.
Alex Ferrari 33:10
Our little Eddie our little ladies, he made good. He's, he's gonna get. He's gonna go to the show.
Edward Burns 33:14
That's exactly exactly what it was. No, I'm so now though. I have to raise another 25 grand at a minimum to finish the film. You know, because it's not on beta. So I gotta go back to the negative recut it right. Because Yeah, and blow it up to 35. And, you know, I've never done that before. I don't know how to do that, you know, my student films that that I made. I caught myself on a little like movie Ola. slicer. You know, we've had to sync up your your your your bag, sound to your picture and tape it together. I was like, I can't do that for 95 minute long movie. So um, I can't remember exactly how but I'm put in touch with Ted hope and James Seamus a good machine. And those are the guys who really, you know, quite honestly, at that time, took me under their wing. They came on his producers, and they helped me. You know, not only they taught me how to finish a film, but Ted was really invaluable in the editing room with me. You know, I knew I knew 20 minutes I could cut out of the movie like that. But that last 10 was tough. And he gave me two great bits of advice. Because look, I'm telling you, you don't need to see that the scene is so great. Use it in another one of your films. Because needless to say, the scene is never so good that you end up revisiting it wasn't the only thing he said is how many times we walked out a movie and said that was pretty good movie. But that was that 20 minutes in the middle of a kind of drag there was nobody ever walks out of the theater and says God there was a movie was really good movies too short. He's like I'm telling you, let's get this thing down to 95 you got a nice proof. comedy here puts a smile on your face, like, get people in and out. And I'm telling you, they get to enjoy. And it was, I mean, it was great, great advice. And that's what we did. So then the interesting thing was because we were up against the deadline for Sundance, and America dates exactly where I'm at. But I had to fly to Sundance for the start of the festival. And I don't know if they still do it, but they would have like a filmmaker orientation and what you did with all the filmmakers his first couple of days. And our first screening is until four days after that 10 hours to stay in New York, because like, he has to wait for the blow up to happen. So do our little blow up, Ted grabs it that day goes to the airport gets on the plane flies to Sundance we screened the next morning at the Egyptian so I never even get to see the film projected in Sundance
Alex Ferrari 35:57
Jesus Christ and then and then as the legend goes, then there's there's was there a bidding war for it?
Edward Burns 36:05
How many more um, we Tom Rothman at Fox Searchlight, you know, which was a brand new company with mold was the first movie they ever released. He, he was at the first screening. And again, the funny thing is, so they tell us like, and they lose because of the Redford thing. Like, there were 18 movies in we were the 19. So even on my flight to Park City, it was like an article listing all the movies and competition we weren't even mentioned. So we wrote a little bit of thing also ran. So you can imagine that, that
Alex Ferrari 36:40
that feeling just like I'm I'm it's are we are we here is because you just can't pick up Bob and call Bob, at this point.
Edward Burns 36:48
Beginning pick up a phone or do anything like that. Um, anyhow, you know, so we had a good crowd at the festival, we're, again, to my memory, we did not have many buyers there other than search, like, and at that screening. You know, it's pretty great. It's like, the reaction is great. I got to meet a lot of people and a bunch of agents, managers, and afterwards, they given you their business cards, and get a good lunch and all that. But you know, Rockman was there and that night, over dinner before even our second screening, we sold the movie to ....
Alex Ferrari 37:25
And what if you might be asking what was the final sales for we sold it?
Edward Burns 37:30
Alex Ferrari 37:31
Jesus you must have been ecstatic.
Edward Burns 37:33
We were through the roof. I mean, we could not believe that cheese. And we had some box office bumps built into that would have gotten those two a half million. If the movie basically doubled clerks is domestic box office. And I think courts at the time did 1.2 or something like that. here that the movie would do 2 million, they thought was an absurd notion. Like you'll never get.
Alex Ferrari 38:04
I mean, there's no stars in it. It still is a $27,000.
Edward Burns 38:10
None of those little ones that we talked about, you know, they would do 400 506
Alex Ferrari 38:15
mariachi I think mariachi with Columbia Pictures pushing it in to put a million dollars in remastering it still only pulled in like a couple mil like two or 3 million theatrically if I remember correctly, so it wasn't like it was a blockbuster. Yeah, but yours was
Edward Burns 38:31
Yeah. So it ended up making, you know, it ends up doing $10 million. Which was just, you know, just nuts. But the the the, you know, it's talking about the guy's a good machine. And the other great bit of advice was from James Seamus. And he was like, look at when you're at the festival, who knows if we're gonna sell the movie, but I'm telling you like those 10 days, you will never be hired. Like there's a feeding frenzy that happens at the festival. And you know, when we see it every year, you know, these movies that sell for a ton of money at the festival that you know whether they warrant or not, who cares? Like filmmakers are getting paid, that's a good thing. But he's like, you better have another screenplay in your hand because they will ask you, what do you want to do next? And if you can hand them a script and say I'm doing this Next, you'll get that thing greenlit in a hurry. So I quickly wrote basically what I thought was a funnier version of brothers mcmullin because we didn't really think we would tell brothers we know that movie was she's the one and you know, grew up and basically said, What Seamus said he was gonna say, what do you want to do next? I said I want to do this. Here's the script, but she's the one and within a week that was greenlit so you know, I go out to LA for the first time in my life as the guy who sold the movie to boxer it's like and now I've got my second film greenlit with a $3 million budget.
Alex Ferrari 39:55
And that is the again, the lottery ticket. That is absolutely Lately the lottery ticket, and I constantly if you've heard the podcast, you know, I've talked about it so many times that filmmakers think that that is that's the that's the plan like no dude, that is not the plan. Eddie, he did not plan you didn't plan any of this it just you were just like Dude, if I get an agent out of this I'll be ecstatic.
Edward Burns 40:21
You know, my my producing partner Aaron Lumina view who you got to, you know, he talks about it as the bullseye. You know, when we're making our micro budget movies, you know, we always talk about like, the bullseye is not a business plan. You know what I mean? God jealous, because, you know, the big sick, for example, a more recent movie that went on to do really great businesses, then detailed work, doesn't need, you know, your film, my film, anyone who was going to do that business like that is the bullseye, you've got to come up with that's why like, I love your book, when you talk about identifying the niche audience that you've got to find and really thinking about back then, you did not need to think about the audience in the same way, because there were so few indie movies being made. I mean, there's still hundreds, but it's not like today.
Alex Ferrari 41:15
Now that's 100 a day.
Edward Burns 41:16
Alex Ferrari 41:18
No, it's insane. I trust me. I know, I talked to these guys, every day. I talk to filmmakers all the time. And I'm seeing it because it's the best in the world the best. The good news is, anyone can make a feature film. The bad news is anyone can make a feature films. It's It's It's there's a gluttony of product. And but yeah, and that's,
Edward Burns 41:34
and you know, I mean, I've spoken at film schools and film classes over the years, and people bring that up, and why should you? I do too many films, and is it you know, now that there's no barrier to entry? You know, I'm like, Hey, what's the difference? Now, it's the it's the equivalent of a kid who can pick up an acoustic guitar, and just start writing songs, right? And he can throw them on to his, you know, however you would read, you know, on your GarageBand on your laptop, what's the harm in that? Like, you know, you can make a movie for a couple of 1000 bucks now. Why discourage anybody from doing that? Because what may end up happening is someone is going to create that movie. That is the equivalent to you know, Bob Dylan kind of reinventing sort of, you know, folk music or rock and roll in the mid 60s, you know, there will be a version of the Ramones that come from the indie film scene, and someone who kind of just was like, Hey, I only got five grand, I'm gonna make this little movie.
Alex Ferrari 42:33
And I think the best the best advice I've ever heard about that, because you know, you're right, you're absolutely right. But it's about finding that voice that thing that makes you special like brothers with Bolin was spawned from you to like, that's just such your that's that's definitely something in your wheelhouse from your personal experience and meant something to you. Like, I can't write brothers Macmillan, I would write it based on stuff I've seen. It's not something I experience. But like my last movie, I shot ego and desire, which is about filmmakers trying to sell their movie at Sundance, I can talk about that very clearly. And I can talk about the pain and the suffering of filmmakers, because that is something that's really in my purse, but that's my voice. And that's what filmmakers think today. They're like, Oh, I'm going to make a brother's McMullan or I'm going to make a mariachi or I'm going to make a Reservoir Dogs. like Nah, man, you failed from the moment you started, you got to do something that is really true to your own voice. Because that's the only kind of secret sauce we've gotright to stand out.
Edward Burns 43:35
Now, that's absolutely true. I mean, I've been I've told people like this, you know, I mean, as you said, I am one of the lucky ones right? I got the the lottery ticket, and it is still after 25 years and it was hard after three years. You know, what's my third movie tanked at the box office. You know, it's back to pushing that giant boulder up the hill, it is never gotten easier. And the only reason to stick with it is because you don't have a choice is because you love this thing so much. You have to do it. Like if you want to do it for all the other reasons you think it's cool gig you want to be famous one. know whatever those other reasons are? Forget about. It is too hard. It is too filled with disappointment and constant rejection that you know it if you're not in it, because you have no choice. You know, the movie gods have called you and they said Hey, man, this is what you're doing like it. Are you ready? That's the deal. No, dude, Listen,
Alex Ferrari 44:39
I've tried to I've tried to quit. I've tried to quit this crazy a bunch of times and I can't man I can't. I've tried. I've stepped out a bit for maybe a few years, but my foot was always back in it. I've literally tried to quit. It's like a bad drug man. Like you can't. You can't quit it because it's just something that is inside of you. It's like you can't not be An artist. It's so hard
Edward Burns 45:02
I look at all the films I've made. And I've made a couple that, you know, really just like they didn't work in any way, right? Yeah, critics didn't like or couldn't sell them. When we finally sold them. It was one of those terrible deals you speak about in your book, you know, the no advanced partnership with the shady distribution company that doesn't that
Alex Ferrari 45:21
you have a cigar and is like, Hey, kid, just give me a poster.
Edward Burns 45:25
Here's the thing. While making every one of those films, I had a blast, but you're on set working with these actors watching them. Bring your words to life. And on every single film I've done, I've met someone or worked with someone who is becoming their lifelong friend or a lifelong filmmaking partner. You know, my director of photography guiding Will Rexer he and I are I mean, absolute best friends. person we did together as a movie probably never even heard of looking for kitty. No we did on a lark because we wanted to shoot on that new Panasonic with the the oscillating glass filter.
Alex Ferrari 46:06
Which one did not the Panasonic TX did you shoot it?
Edward Burns 46:08
yeah yeah yeah
Alex Ferrari 46:09
No, you shot it on the DVR. So you got the adapter. So you got it. You got the adapter to put it? Oh, yeah, I've shot my first shot on the DVS. I edited on Final Cut pro 4
Edward Burns 46:18
And John Sloss had a company. What the hell do they call that they would do it a bunch of movies with that camera, I think was it. It was a movie with Katie Holmes. Yeah, that the pieces of April, pieces were but that was sort of the biggest success of us. But that was shot on that camera. And they would do these movies for $250,000. They got a special agreement with the unions. So you can make a union film for 250 with that camera as long as you abide by certain things. So I heard that I was like, I'm all in let's do it. And we quickly wrote a script. And we thought we'll just hire our friends. We'll kind of improvise it. And the movie, just I mean, it really just didn't work. But the great thing is, that's how I met well. So you know, even though it's tough, and it's brutal, and filled with disappointment, it's always kind of fun.
Alex Ferrari 47:11
No, that's that's what this whole journey is about, man. It's about those relationships. It's about those experiences. And I think a lot of filmmakers make that big mistake of the end game like the the the what is the end game? Is it when the movie is finished? Is it when it gets sold? Is it when it gets to a festival? Like what is the moment where the end happens? And if you're only looking for the end, you're going to be disappointed constantly. But if you're enjoying the ride, then that's a career. That's a life because you get I mean, and that's something that I so admire about you and your career is that you seem to be just having a good time.
Edward Burns 47:47
connected to that. And that thing, you're speaking about the journey, you know, Aaron and I, we made this movie in 2012. Fitzgerald's family Christmas. Yeah. And what we did with that was the idea. I mean, it's kind of a long story, but I acted in this movie with Tyler Perry, who obviously very successful,
Alex Ferrari 48:09
he's doing okay, he's okay. He's
Edward Burns 48:12
a man. He's like, you know, those first two movies you made that were so successful. And then you never go back and do anything about Irish families. Again, what because there's going to Super serve your niche. So even to your point, he's like, I guarantee you the people that love those two movies would love another's, that Irish family movie for me. And then you know, we can talk forever, like, you know, think about an evergreen title, Christmas movie, that's something that every year you can kind of hopefully resell. So I gotta had this idea. And I just made two other micro budget movies, I made a movie called nice guy Johnny for, you know, in the camper. 25 grand. That's a good story about why I made that movie that we made a movie on the cat and five D newlyweds got in the camp and 9000 so through those two films, speaking of like, you know, movies, were kind of successful in the in the micro budget world. But my casts were great. And I thought all these great young new actors in New York, so I was like, Alright, so Fitzgerald, I'm going to do is I'm going to bring my my new family of cast members and marry them to my old family of cast members that I worked with Connie Britton, Mike McGlone, will replace the mom and new to Gillette. And so it was sort of like, bring the whole family of our all of our actors together and make this movie. So we make a movie for $250,000 all in and I can get what festival we're trying to get into. Don't get in Aaron and I are devastated. And now we're waiting for Toronto. Everything is hanging on. If we get into Toronto, it's a whole new world for us, like you know, to get back to that level of a prestigious festival. We get into Toronto, we're high fiving you know, we think it's going to be great. We go to Toronto. Our screenings are great. But what doesn't happen is, you know, we don't sell the movie for millions of dollars. You know, we are not the McMullan story of Toronto, we're another one of the movies that played at a big festival. And as we're getting on the plane to fly home to New York, I was like, you remember the like the the endless, like weeks of anticipation, leading up to the we hear from Toronto did we get in? As like anything different today? Then, on that last day, when we were asked, not, not a single thing is different. So why do we get obsessed with the idea of, you know, getting into these festivals, it's great, and it's fun. But really, at the end of the day, the filmmaking experience was a blast. We worked with all of our friends, the outcome, really, I know, people say that's bullshit. And I don't believe that you don't, you know, you don't look at your thing, you know, your reviews or care about the box office. I'm telling you, and after 26 years, it's nice when the good stuff comes. But we really don't. It's like, we just know it, whatever happens, good or bad. Another 18 months from now, we'll have another script done. And we'll figure out how to make you know, we'll try and get 6 million to do it. If we can't do that and figure out the you know, $200,000 version of the movie.
Alex Ferrari 51:21
That and that's and that's only someone who's, who's got a couple of Gray's in their whiskey and in their, in their in their beard that can say things like that. Trust me, I've got a couple of myself. So yeah, exactly the gray beards. But the thing is that but when you're 20, you can't you don't you don't grasp that yet, when you're when you're young, you just don't grasp it, because you just haven't been down the road yet. So I hope people who are in their 20s are listening to these two old farts talk. I don't mean to speak for you, sir. But this old fart? Yes, you know, these two old farts talking about the olden days. But there's a reason why. What is it? There's a saying in my wife's Colombian, and she has a saying a Spanish saying that says the devil is more of the devil not because he's the devil, but just because he's just been around for a long time. And it's something like that translates into that. And it's a it's so true. It's like you just know because this has been around long. Now I have to ask you, though, when you jumped from Macmullan to She's The One. That's a slight budget difference. And also slight cast difference as far as the prestige of the actors you were dealing with, cuz I know Cameron, Cameron Diaz was in it. And obviously Jenn and Jennifer Aniston was in it was Jen was just starting, was friends, friends was still a thing at that point, right or not yet.
Edward Burns 52:40
It's funny, like nobody was a star yet. So Jennifer had I think it was it was after the first season of friends. Yeah. So you know, she's an actress on a sitcom. I read it the sitcoms very successful, but it isn't like, friends, you know, whoever would have been the big, you know, female movie star at that time. Right? Um, you know, and she came in and auditioned and was great. And you know, I mean, like, and just crushed apart. Cameron was in the mask, right? You know, so again, no one, you know, Cameron Diaz wasn't a household name by by any stretch that she was
Alex Ferrari 53:16
Oh she's, she is the girl from the Basque.
Edward Burns 53:17
Right? This is the girl from the mask, you know, a couple of years later, Something About Mary different deal. But you know, it's interesting, like two actors who, you know, an actress who kind of was the runner up to Jennifer's part, and the actress who was sort of my second choice for cameras part. We ended up casting in the movie and that was, Leslie Mann and Amanda Peet. Were also in that movie. So the real the heavy hitter that we had at the time, like the actor to be intimidated by as a really, really first time director. It was John Sloss. You know, and I knew John Mahoney from eight men out and Moonstruck,
Alex Ferrari 53:55
he says legend, legend, legend. So how do you do so as a as a quote unquote, first time filmmaker like in a professional environment? How do you handle dealing with the I mean, the I mean, obviously, you didn't have any giant movie stars you were dealing with? You had professional actors, like seasoned professional actors. How was that adjustment from no money? over 12 months was shorter, to now on a $3 million budget and a little bit more breathing room?
Edward Burns 54:21
That's it two things. One, the adjustment to working with the actors, I would say really wasn't much of an adjustment because nobody had a ton of experience. We were all the same age. You know, we're all just kids in our 20s doing it. You know what I mean? It wasn't like I was working with like, McNulty and you know, like a bunch of CS that's a bunch of kids making an indie movie in New York. So it was like we just hanging out and became friends. So there was no real intimidation factor. on set with the actors. Where I was truly intimidated was like walking on the set. Day one, we had a scene at the airport, JFK, you're going to have the terminal closed. Well, you know, there's 150 people there that are my crew. Now granted, I've met my department heads, we've been through pre production together, you know, I have good relationships with them. But when you you know, step onto the set and 150 people look at you and you're 27 years old, and they'll I got what's First up, Neil like, Okay,
Alex Ferrari 55:21
here we go, here we go. When that when the doll when the dolly grip has has shot, probably 70 or 80 features, and they're looking at I had to believe when you walked in a 27 you know that some of these cool guys were like this son of a bitch. How did this guy get this? And did you get that vibe on some of this stuff?
Edward Burns 55:40
Probably some of that, but it's funny. You mentioned the dolly grip was it was a taco guy named Hoff.
Alex Ferrari 55:46
Of course, his name was Hoff.
Edward Burns 55:49
We mean, say two words to me for about the first two weeks, but eventually, you know, I think I want them over.
Alex Ferrari 55:56
You broke, you broke them down and you broke them down I've had when I was when I was that young directing on big sets, doing my commercials and stuff. I would the same thing that you'd walk in the skies, you're just like, who's this? Like, they have to smell you for the first like half day before like, Oh, this this guy even know what he's doing.
Edward Burns 56:14
But the fun thing from that is, uh, there was a PA on that film, her name, Stuart, Nikolai. And I'm so I'm 27 at the time, he's probably 23. It's his first gig in the film business out of college. And he works in the location department. But now he's been my location, a main location scout on, you know, I did a public did a TV show a couple years ago called public morals. Now Bridge and Tunnel. So you know, again, back to the relationships thing. You know, he's a PA, who's my age, we become friends. You know, I ended up you know, he worked on sidewalks of New York. So over time, you know, as he kind of moved up the room, he then became sort of my locations guy, so
Alex Ferrari 57:00
and you never know who you're gonna meet along the way. Look at that, like the PA guy. I was talking to somebody the other days like the PA on Nova Scott. Scott was Scott Mosier was saying the PA on Mallrats ended up getting him the job or introducing him to the job. That got him The Grinch when he just directed the grants the animated feature. And it was because of that relationship. He was just cool. And they stuck. But if he would have been a dick him back, then that's it. There's no there's no game. Now, the one thing I out of all of our all those contemporaries that you had in that time period in the 90s, I think and remind me if I'm wrong, you're the only one that became also a full fledged actor, as well was there, I know, Tintina pops in and out. But like, you know, you go off and act alone. And you'll direct everything you act in. So you were one of those guys, you have a unique perspective on this. Because after she's the one, you worked on another little independent film called Saving Private Ryan, with an unknown director, Mr. Spielberg at the time, dude, what was that like, man? Like, just being on that show? And watching? I mean, the masterwork.
Edward Burns 58:14
Yeah. So I mean, as you can imagine, as a, so I, well, first up, it was like, for me, it was graduate film school, then I was very lucky, you know, when we were sort of, probably two days before shooting, when we're doing sort of our, our show and tell and showing you what we look like in our uniforms, and how we had all the weapons and all that. I said, You know, I hope you don't mind, if it was shooting, if I could just, you know, kind of hang out, look over your shoulder, if I get whatever you want. I just, you know, you're in this movie, you're welcome to, you know, stay on set all day long, if you want. So I took advantage of that, and, you know, used it as an opportunity to go to graduate film school. And it's funny, you know, you mentioned before, like, showing up on the set of she's the one and and, you know, the the intimidation, and also working with actors. And I will say on that film, and, and probably I didn't know Mike Mullen, I'm sure as well. I thought the role of the director was to be directing the actors all the time. So after a take, I'd say cut, and I thought I had to have some notes. And I thought maybe try doing it this way. I tried doing it that way. Or could you give me some of this and give me some of that, um, which feel we're, you know, we got a gang of us on that sample for this. For this, you know, five of us and for almost two weeks, equals action and cut. And that's it. And we do three takes and moving on. We start thinking he hates us and thinks we're terrible. We're waiting for the new pages of the script to show up to discover that we're all gonna die long before we find you know, Matt Damon, right. And then finally, we have a day where is I can't cut, cut cut any Come on over here. I need to try and do this and you know, Adam, you know, to Adam Goldberg, you know, I just kind of feel like you're rushing through this, maybe slow it down. And so it gives us all these notes. And you know, at lunch that day, you know, of course, I'll tell you give us the notes today. So much we go over we talked to resist, yeah, we asked him, he said, we'll tell you to know what the hell you were doing. And he's like, Look, I hire professionals, I assume that you've done your homework, and then you show up in the morning, prepare. So I'm not going to jump on you after your first take and sort of hurt your competence. By suddenly giving you a note, I assume it's going to take you three or four takes to find your way into it. Now some actors can get it on the first day can slowly fall apart is like I got an ensemble here with some scenes. I got five guys, you know, all talk. I sit back and I let you do and don't let you figure it out. And you know, for two weeks you did until today. So today I stepped in. And that absolutely changed my approach with working. next movie, I made sidewalks in New York. And at a grant that I was doing I work with Stanley Tucci, and Dennis Frieda, and you know, Rosario Dawson, which is, you know, probably a second movie. Um, but on that bill, that's what I did. I was just like, I'm gonna sit back and let them show me what they prepare. You know, and I, you know, you work with someone like Stanley, you know, first take, he does it the way that it's scripted, the second take, he kind of plays with it a little bit, and then he sees the you're giving him room to play. And then he kind of really does his thing. And you're like, thank God, I did not step in early and give them adult is now he feels so comfortable. And he's just giving me all of this great material. And that's the way I works. I very rarely give any direction. Now, unless an actor is sort of taking it off into a direction that's completely Well, you don't mean, the big one I do. Because, you know, I kind of do these talking New York movies is speed up the pace, you know, my New York actors kind of get the, the cadence of our eyes, I want the characters to speak. Sometimes other actors need to just speed it up a little bit.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:27
Was that the biggest lesson that you is that the biggest lesson you learned watching him direct?
Edward Burns 1:02:43
Then, and I guess the second one was, um, if something that he has pre planned, doesn't work, he doesn't beat the dead horse. You know, like, we had a pretty complicated steady cam shot where he's trying to link a bunch of us together. And he probably did it about four or five times. And I could tell him, and he honestly, dp, they just weren't happy with it. And, you know, I mean, like, it's a big, it's a big thing. You know, there's squibs going off and stuff. And he's like, yeah, just give me a minute. Just give me a minute. And he kind of goes off, and he takes, you know, five or 10 minutes, is looking at the scene and he goes, Okay, scratch what we did, I got a new way to shoot. And we took a totally different approach into the scene. We did a scene with the dog tags, where we shot it as scripted before lunch. And it was another one of those scenes where it just seems like yeah, I don't like it. Just I'm not happy with it. Pull this all together to lunch. He goes, guys, do me a favor, just improvise something here. I just want you to rip for 20 minutes go through the dog tags. And the funny story is in doing that, I read off a bunch of dog tags. And I gave a bunch of guys that I went to Grammar School with and they had you know, the I forget what writer was on set that day. But they recorded the the improv and then from that they rewrote the screen the that scene and we shot sort of a new version of it after lunch. So a The good thing was I got to plug all my buddies names in the movie. It's still there, Mike's his area or area and go Vinny repeat. So they love that right to be
Alex Ferrari 1:04:21
can you imagine, like you're sitting in the room and you're sitting there going?
Edward Burns 1:04:25
I didn't tell you so they're sitting in the theater, I walked off. So, but anyhow, like that was a very valuable lesson to like, you know, in your gut, I'm sure you can speak to this as a filmmaker. You have to trust your gut, like know when it doesn't work and when it's not funny or adjust, you know, it feels whatever your gut is telling you that and a lot of times you just you know you're afraid to make that kind of change on set because you know what's at stake right money. It's time and seeing Steven with with a movie that big make most out of change. We did not have you know, we shot that movie, it was scheduled to shoot 66 days we wrapped in 58 that's how efficient the filmmaker is, man. So, you know the other thing was you know, we shot all handheld and elbow light sometimes two or three cameras go into it for a dialogue See? So you know the movie I think after that sidewalks in New York, not only did I feel the directing style, but that's how I came up with the pseudo doc style. I was like, shooting this like an independent woman would bang in through seeds here. Because the cameras on you know, the the operator shoulder was shooting available light. People are overlapping dialogue. I was like, Alright, that's my next indie movie. I'm doing a pseudo doc for that very reason.
Alex Ferrari 1:05:52
Yeah, and I shot my last one minute, Little Duck Duck. And honestly, watching all of your DVDs, because you are so generous with your commentaries, reading your book, which by the way, if anyone has not read, independent Ed, you got I read this thing front the cover to cover before I made my first features. And I live I literally went out bought every available DVD. If I had a commentary, I got I got the special edition Marlin and she's the one I got. And you know, that whole style, like just getting out and going to do it like newlyweds. I was just like, you know what? That's that I could do. I can go out and do that. Because as filmmakers you get like, especially if you, you know, especially if you are a professional filmmaker who's maybe done commercials maybe work in bigger budgets, or worked in post and there's a there's kind of you get up your own ass in a way because you're like, Oh, I need a read, I need an Alexa I need. I can't make this movie for less than 7 million. Like, these are the kinds of things that you tell yourself. And then when you bust out like newlyweds, you know, and you're like, wait a minute, I got that here.I can go do this to like,screw it, let's
let's go on build something. It was extremely inspirational man. And that's and that's one of the big, big things about your career that I followed over the years, man is that you have no need to go back and make a $9,000 movie, you have no need to go make a quarter million dollar movie, you don't need to do that you, you could have very comfortably kept acting, maybe get one one movie every four or five years, that's four or 5 million or 6 million or something like that. Do some TV show you there's no need for you to go back and do Indies. But you keep going back. And that's that respect for the for the indie, that indie. You never left the indie roots, you go and play in the big budget stuff. No question. But you come back. And that's like, there's no other. I can't think of many other filmmakers of your, of your generation that does that. So man, thank you for keep doing that and inspiring us?
Edward Burns 1:07:51
Well I mean, it goes back to the age fun, right? I just like, you know, and you've done some bigger budget stuff. So you know, what it can be like sometimes to deal with, you know, and I have plenty of friends who work in the studio business, and they're great people, they're easy to work with. But it's a different process. You know, like I talked about sort of the times when Aaron and I will sit down and be like, Okay, we got to make a movie this year, we will talk about our two lists of compromises. And the two lists of compromises, we work off of our sort of, Okay, we're going to have to go ask someone for money, whether it's 1,000,002 million, 10 million, there are certain compromises that are going to come with that money, as they will fully expect to have the same in a lot of the decisions. You know, starting with title of the movie, some notes on the script, who you're going to get, if you're going to ask someone for $5 million, or $10 million, whether it's a studio or some indie financing, they are absolutely going to give you a list of names that you need to cast from in order to get that money. The other thing is, when you do get one of those actors, and you've got your $10 million, the good news is, you're gonna have a much easier time selling that movie. You've got a big boldface name on your on your poster, which is going to excite the folks at Netflix or wherever, right? So that's one set of compromises. The other set of compromises are the ones where it's like, okay, we're gonna make a movie for $25,000. And, you know, here are the compromises, we know we're going to have to make, we're not going to get a star, we're good. We're not going to get all the locations we want. We're going to have to be down and dirty odds are we're not going to make any money, you know, our fees are going to be sort of coming on the back end if the movies successful, and we know it's going to be almost impossible to sell. So Do we want to do this? Like, do we actually want to go make a movie, which is the $25,000 version? Or do we want to spend the next two to three years, trying to get that big name, the Trump age is trying to get the money, then trying to get the actor and then trying to get that movie up and running. And that is never a six month process. That is never a 12 month long process. That is several years of your life.
Alex Ferrari 1:10:26
And that's the one thing I want people to understand. Because a lot of people look at you and you're like, Oh, it's Ed burns, he could just call up a buddy of his that he's worked with and just like, Hey, can you Tom, Tom Hanks, can you come by and do my 25,000. And they just think that you can because you're in the system and you've been in the system, you've had success, that you can just make things happen. And the more I talk to filmmakers in this space, Oscar winners, and so it's the same story for all of them, other than Mr. Spielberg. And even then he had to go to India to get money for Lincoln. Like it still was a challenge for him. Everyone, filmmakers still have trouble still have all the same problems, different levels, but still the same thing.
Edward Burns 1:11:07
It's I mean, it just is never easy. And then look, if you're making a certain type of film. I don't want to say that that's easier. But you know, there are certain films that you know, that I'd say are more obviously commercial. You know, I was a kid when I'm in film school, you know, I'm full. I am not the guy who was falling in love with Star Wars and wanting to go make those kind of films. I did not love action films. You know, I mean, I loved Last Picture Show and tender mercies in the holidays. And I wanted to make, you know, small little dramas or I loved you know, films like The Graduate the World According to Garp. And like I said, to follow Woody Allen, or to make you know, talking comedy dramas, murders, you know, that, that the marketplace for those films has all but disappear. So, you know, I, you know, I if I wanted to call Tom Hanks, you know, it would probably I'd have a much easier time getting him if I had a sort of big budget idea movie, as opposed to what am I talking about? Right.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:16
So packaging together, a bigger movie would probably be a little easier for you, but yet, there's still hurdles and things you're gonna have to
Edward Burns 1:12:22
deal with scheduling years, and you know, a lot of your good friends, you know, people you've worked with, or you've got a relationship with, it still takes, you know, we're big movie stars, and they still don't get back to you for six months, you know, especially like you because you're trying to get them attached to raise your money, right? You're never gonna go near a $6 million offer here, like a script, right? Go to work.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:46
Right, exactly. Then you still got to jump through those hoops and their scheduling issues. And those agents is like, Look, I know, Eddie, it's doing his thing. But there's 6 million bonds right here. Let's go. Let's go. He's He's still trying to find his money. And that's the thing. I want filmmakers to understand that there is no magic key, there's no, there's no end of the rainbow that we all still have to deal with that even at the level that you're dealing with. And the kind of success that you've had in your life and your career. You're like when you just said that? You're like, yeah, that screws, Burt Chris burns his script, I got $6 million. Right here go with this. I seen those conversations. I've been part of those conversations and agents, like, yes. Like, it's so hard. I mean, unless they're like your wife, or your brother. And even then they're like, Look, man, I love you and all but I got $10 million to go do this other. right?
Edward Burns 1:13:35
Yeah. And look, you know, I mean, plenty of actors will do it. But typically, it is, you know, their passion project. Right? When they're going to go cut their fee to go do something a lot of times and you know, as well, they should, you know, it's like, they don't necessarily want to help you make your passion project. They've got that script they've been sitting on for years, and they're slowly putting it together and trying to get the financing to yourself.
Alex Ferrari 1:14:02
So it's something that you talk about in your book, which is brothers, but Marlin 2.0. Can you break down what brothers meant bond 2.0? Because it's something that I used extensively in my last two features. Okay.
Edward Burns 1:14:14
So yeah, so, you know, I back up a little bit, because it's kind of interesting how my career kind of is panned out, right. So I for my first four films, you know, it's we've volunteers, the one movie called no looking back, which really didn't do on sidewalks of New York, they will get, you know, pretty well. And I credit that to the fact that I'm still a kid, a screenwriter, who believed in outlining before he wrote his scripts. I still am a student of the game. I am not so arrogant to think that I don't need to go back and kind of you know, play with it a three act structure, and really kind of have a Outline that's, that's airtight before I sit down to write right after that, I decide for whatever reason, you know whether it's laziness or arrogance, I stop outlining. And then I make four movies I make these the point probably never will maybe you have most people Wednesday looking for getting the groomsmen and purple violets, right? All four movies get terrible reviews, all four movies don't work at the box office. And then after that, I am in directors jail, like I really I have my next script. And for about two years, I can't get it financed. And I'm in a very tough time getting ACARS attacks. You know, at first we were looking for 8,000,006 and four then two that were down to like 1.2. And Aaron and I have a meeting in the Hollywood Hills, some guy's house. And again, you know, you joke about the guy because you guys to get out of the side. Those deals. And still, they're kind of telling me how I need to make this movie. And I go back to the hotel, I'm staying in LA and we have a drink at the bar. And I'm like, it's over man. Like, how did this happen? Like, you know, it wasn't that long ago, I was the guy who made those big wallet. And now we're up here and this guy's telling us we got to rewrite the script based on his notes for a million dollars. I said it's over man, we are in directors jail. And over those beers were kind of joke around like how is it that when I was 24, I was able to write the brothers McMullan and with no connections and no money. And I didn't know how to make movies, I was able to make a movie that was you know, still to this day, my most financially successful film. I was like our then he was like, why don't we just do that again. So there on the napkin at the bar, we came up with Nick Mullen 2.0, which was basically the rules were how we made Macmillan and we wouldn't divert from that so $25,000 to get into the can 12 days of shooting, three man crew, all unknown actors, all actors had to bring their own wardrobe, how to do their own hair and makeup. And every location we had to get for free. Alright, so that was basically those were the rules. And the next day, we sat down, and we started and we said, we have to do an outline.
Alex Ferrari 1:17:31
So you learned a lot, you learned a little bit those last four movies.
Edward Burns 1:17:35
Um, and, you know, um, we, we both loved the graduate. And, you know, I remember we're talking about the movie sideways. We both loved we're like, Alright, let's just, it'll be two guys, let's just start with two guys. And we just started riffing and over time and turned into a kid and his uncle instead of two best friends. But, you know, and that's why I think for people, like if they don't know what to write, or they kinda have an idea, but they need, you know, sometimes it's okay to go look at one of your favorite films, and almost start to tell your story within the framework of their story. Right? Like you could look at, you know, I know, let's say I'm brothers Macmillan, I, at a certain point, when I was hitting the wall, I looked at head earner sisters, and I was like, oh, okay, I see what he's doing here. He's kind of weaving those three stories together, and then they come together, it seems to be every 15 pages in the script. Alright, so let me I gotta cut and paste this scene and move it there. So that's a very valuable tool, I think, if you're a young screenwriter, because, you know, even if you rip off the structure of your favorite film, for your first draft, you're going to do you should do you know, 2025 drafts of your script, by the time you do those 25 drafts, you know, it would be unrecognizable, if you're if you're playing with some structure stuff. So anyhow, um, what was it? Oh, so that's what we did. We just started outlining and, you know,grip maybe in six months, and then so let's go do it.
Alex Ferrari 1:19:16
And then use it was the first one on 2.0 was that nice guy, Johnny?
Edward Burns 1:19:20
That was nice guy job. yep yep
Alex Ferrari 1:19:21
And that was 25 grand. And then that did
Edward Burns 1:19:24
well, right. That actually, well, well, we do. You know, the other thing that happened was the movie that I spoke about, it didn't do well, purple violence, right? Um, that was a movie was actually Okay. That will be we couldn't get we were offered a couple of distribution offers. But again, like your book talks about it was really bad deals. You know, there was no chance that our investor was going to get any of our money back if we weren't with that, and it would be your typical New York la one screen. If we do decent, maybe they'll give us a few other markets, but we get to the writing's on the wall at that time. iTunes and just launched. They had the music for a couple years, but they just launched the movie sort of page of it. And I was starting to watch a lot of movies on iTunes. So I was like, Alright, why don't we go to iTunes? And most maybe they'll release us as their first all exclusive feature film. And because it was a new, basically a new bit of business of them. There's this idea. So profiles was the first movie ever released exclusively on iTunes,
Alex Ferrari 1:20:34
for transactional for transactional
Edward Burns 1:20:36
for a transaction. Yeah. And it did great. You know, I mean, it didn't do it didn't make its money back. But like we saw with those numbers, where we're like, okay, so we make a movie for $25,000. All in 125 posts, based on what purple violence? Did. We know we're going to you No worries, make some real money here. Well, that was the plan. And it did.
Alex Ferrari 1:21:00
So for everyone listening, though, what year was this?
Edward Burns 1:21:03
This is 2009 to 2010 is when it comes out.
Alex Ferrari 1:21:07
Okay. So that's why it is does not exist anymore. So everyone listening like I'm gonna do what Ed burns did like, nope, no T VOD, for independent films is essentially dead. Unless you can drive traffic. The the finding you on iTunes thing is gone.
Edward Burns 1:21:24
Even at that time, we think about we're basically, you know, we have an aggregator aggregator distributing that title, but because, you know, we're really the first one sort of embracing iTunes. We're getting a banner on the landing page. And when you go to iTunes, it was like, nice guy, john. You know, we were we ended up being the number fourth most rented title for one of the months that was out Who's heard of so
Alex Ferrari 1:21:47
nice guy Johnny did very well,
Edward Burns 1:21:48
that nice guy did very well. Yeah. Right. And then
Alex Ferrari 1:21:52
it as well. And right. And then and then you did you did you did a movie called newlyweds, which was 9000, which was, you know, when I saw that, I was just like, wow, this is it's an apartment. It's on the street. He's stealing all the locations. You know, it's just like, yes. Yes, yes. And it just and that one did extremely well, as well. Right, you know, so
Edward Burns 1:22:14
that we knew we finished Johnny, we had a blast doing it. And then we, you know, we turned it around real quickly. And we saw that it was it was working. Um, I had just read an article about people who are shooting commercials on the five date. So, literally that day, I jump on the train. I go up to b&h on 34th Street. I the five day I call my dp will I say, look, I just want this five day I saw this thing. Why don't we shoot a scene tomorrow to see if this thing works?
Alex Ferrari 1:22:49
Edward Burns 1:22:50
Oh, I had kind of an idea of something I wanted to do. I quickly wrote a scene I called my buddy who owns a gym. I was like, we need to come over to your gym. I'll be there for an hour. And we basically I said I'll play this personal trainer. And we'll shoot one half of the phone conversation as just a camera test. And that scene is in the movie. Of course.
Alex Ferrari 1:23:11
You never would never waste not what not?
Edward Burns 1:23:15
When we dumped it into you know my desktop computer after we shot like that. We crap that looks good. Okay, let's do it. So I just started writing them.
Alex Ferrari 1:23:26
And with them, you know you when you reach when you pick up my book and you kind of found me you were looking for distribution help and self distribution help. What has stopped you have you have you gone down the self distribution route just yet. Cuz there's a couple movies that I've summertime and beneath the blue suburban skies that are To my knowledge, I look, I can't find them. They're there. They haven't been released yet. What are you doing with self distribution? Have you tried self distribution? Because I think you would be an amazing candidate for it.
Edward Burns 1:23:55
Yeah, sounds nice. It's summertime. We actually did finally sell. And we're in the process of closing that deal. So I don't want to talk about it just yet. Fair enough. But, you know, buddy, the blue Suburbans guys, is one of my favorite films that I've made. Jeb really plays the lead. I mean, she is so terrific. We shot you know, we shot on the red. We shot in color, but we knew we were going to turn it into black and white. So we'll lit it according for that. So it's in black and white. A couple of years ago, I became obsessed with Ozu, Japanese filmmaker from the 50s and 60s. So you know, we had another time we'll talk about that film because we shot the entire film on on a 40 is one lens. The camera never moves to the entire film until the very last shot of the movie, but every shot is a still photograph. They'll be a real interesting action. exercise in sort of discipline. You know, again, I fell in love with this style and did all this research. I was like, kind of like with the five D. I was like, I want to try this. This is kind of an interesting way to make an indie movie. So that when we went to Toronto, we got one of the best reviews I've ever got COVID hit and so it's just been sitting on the shelf, but that is the movie that we were thinking, hmm, do I, you know, do we try some form of self distribution? But
Alex Ferrari 1:25:29
Edward Burns 1:25:32
I don't want to talk about the budget? I'll tell you.
Alex Ferrari 1:25:34
No, no, I want to tell you what the budget is. But isn't. I'm assuming it's not. It's under $10 million. Let's just call it that. It's an undertaking. I always tell people it's under 10 million bucks. It's under
Edward Burns 1:25:45
$35 million. Black and White sad drama with the cameras.
Alex Ferrari 1:25:51
Right? That's that sounds very, really happy with me. I think I think financially, that's a smart move. I'm just saying.
It's true. It's true. It's true. I'm just saying. Okay. We'll talk later about that. Now, you also do do you work on a great show called maad. City for another master Frank Darabont. Minh? Is there anything you learned from him? As far as storytelling? Because I'm, everybody knows on the show. I'm obsessed with Shawshank Redemption and Green Mile for that matter. I just, it's, it's just one. It's my remote throwaway movie. If it's on done, just keep going down that road. Did you mean you worked with him obviously closely in the film? On the show? What did you did you learn lessons that you can share?
Edward Burns 1:26:36
That's interesting. You know, I mean, I love frank, I love working with him. He's a great guy. His style is so different from what I do, and how I learned how to make movies. You know, like, we were talking before, like, I only know, from not having enough money, and having to compromise, right? Figure learning how to pivot and they like, oh, give me We can't have that location. Okay, well shoot on the street corner hurt, that act is not available. Let's quickly rewrite. You know, Frank does not work that way. I mean, like, so I think what I learned from it is, you know, he fights for his vision. Um, you know, if I, let's say, if I have a weakness, you know, I'm sure a number of weaknesses as a filmmaker, but one of the big ones is, I'm not willing to fight for certain things, because I know, there's an alternate way to do it. And there are times where I look back and think like, you know, what, I should have actually fought for that one, maybe that's why that turned out so good. Maybe you don't always have to pivot. Pregnant depends, you know, he like he has in his head and come hell or high water, he is going to make that happen. So so you know, and again, I then from that experience, you know, getting Michael right. Ran TNT at the time. I meet Michael on the set of that. And that's how I ended up making my show for TNT, Public Morals. And then Michael now runs epics, which is how I ended up making Britain tunnel for ethics.
Alex Ferrari 1:28:09
Yeah, so public morals was your first introduction, basically, to us being the creator of a show and you wrote the show, you act in the show you direct? Did you drop out? You didn't talk to all the episodes
Edward Burns 1:28:19
right or micro directing?
Alex Ferrari 1:28:20
So you wrote into Jesus Christ. That's a hell of a schedule to do as a TV. Like you're writing. He said, there is no writers room. You're the writer, you're the director, and you're the actor in television. That's obscene. It's an obscene amount.
Edward Burns 1:28:32
I wrote everything before him. Like I didn't.
Alex Ferrari 1:28:35
Yeah, you're not writing as you're shooting, obviously. But still, it's still a tremendous amount of work. And it's gorgeous. I mean, I saw parts of that show when it came out. And it was gorgeous, man, beautifully shot. It was so
Edward Burns 1:28:46
much fun. We we suddenly had money. You know, we're used to making things on the on these lower budgets
Alex Ferrari 1:28:52
Edward Burns 1:28:53
Budgets are significant. And you know, we'll and I were just in all of our glory was like, oh, what we finally get to play with the camera, because it's always capturing an image, you know, all the time. I was a blast.
Alex Ferrari 1:29:06
And then and now your new your new show, bridge and tunnel. How did that come to be? And I know you shot did you shoot this during? COVID? Right.
Edward Burns 1:29:15
Correct. Yeah, so yeah.
Alex Ferrari 1:29:15
So how'd that come to me?
Edward Burns 1:29:28
Um, so I had dinner with Michael, Michael Wright. A couple of years ago, he had probably just taken over epics and he was looking for, you know, a half hour escape from the toxic news cycle. And from you know, a lot of the great shows that are on television can be, you know, pretty dark and depressing. So he's like, Look, we need something half hour, put a smile on your face something nostalgic Something period, you know, could you give me something that sort of totally like brothers mcmullin only about a group of guys like a diner. And I said, Okay, I like that idea. But maybe instead of six guys, one of them make it three guys and three girls. And then I kind of, you know, I've mentioned before the graduates, one of my favorite films, and always had an idea for a film, I didn't think it would be a TV show about, you know, a bunch of kids, the day after college graduation, or you come home, you're back in your parents house, you have to get reactivated to living at home after being gone for four years, reactivated to you know, all of your friends who are also home. And, you know, how does that pecking order reestablish itself, you know, a lot of times people talk about, like, that night at the bar before Thanksgiving, you know, everyone comes together, it's like, the old order kind of reestablishes itself. But I was also very interested, like the time period in New York, that I've always been obsessed with. And of course, you'd never obsessed with, you know, your era. Why was the late 70s, early 80s. In New York, you know, you got the birth of punk and hip hop and new wave and the art scene, and the fashion scene at the papa. So I was thinking like, that would have been the time to live in so and we like, I, that's another one where I got to reengineer the story to think about where these kids would be in three years, as they were in that world, and then kind of took the back three years, like, so Season One is sort of establishing the kid Jimmy, I'm gonna have end up as a photographer, the fashion world, he's a kid who's, you know, just returned from school, and he's a photographer, Jill, his girlfriend is gonna end up in the fashion world, and she's just graduated from fit, studying design. So that's kind of that was sort of where the ideas came from. And we're supposed to be eight episodes, I wrote eight scripts, and then COVID hits are writing kind of leading up to COVID. And it comes to the point where it's like, you're gonna pull the plug on the show. If we, if you know, it, production doesn't open up, again, production opens up, and we have all the COVID protocols, and we lose basically a fifth of our budget, to the COVID protocols, test week, you know, additional, you know, sort of nurses on set, you know, shorter days, trying to pull as many of your interior scenes to the exterior scenes, and then we find out that the city is not issuing film permits, and half the show takes place in Manhattan. So then I have to go back and say that I got to turn eight episodes into six, and cut out probably a fifth of the cast, and make all these stories work in these characters. backyards and front stoops and in the local bar. And in an art, you know, talking about pivoting to being able to do that, in an odd way. Um, you know, it turned it into a different challenge. I think, you know, for season one, it's a better show, because I didn't have all the, let's say, the bigger incident that Manhattan in their lives, Manhattan would have given me. So I really go into like, Okay, this has to be a character study. Now, let's go slower. But I got to be able to make these scenes work if you got like, you know, three guys sitting on their front stoop, talking about their love lives. kind of sounds like plasma.
Alex Ferrari 1:33:41
But it seems like you, but it seems like you have been, like you, your entire career has been building up to that moment. Because you are so used to not doing things and pivoting and, and doing things with money and pivoting and having to shift things around. You know, someone who might have only been able to play in 100 million dollar budgets will Wouldn't that was about that's the end of that. But you were able to adjust and pivot and move. So you all the all those tools you've put in your toolbox over your career helped you on a show a network show still.
Edward Burns 1:34:16
Nothing was like, you know, I mean, I'm talking to all my friends who are my department heads. And we're, you know, everyone was feeling like I was like, we want to go back to work. You know, I was like if Epic's is willing to do this, then I will figure out a way to do it. Because we all just needed to get out of the house.
Alex Ferrari 1:34:34
Set and change jobs and jobs for people to how to people
Edward Burns 1:34:37
So it really was it was just a blessing and my cast, you know, these great young kids who would total an anatomy class together, but they were so responsible. We got through the whole thing. We're getting six.
Alex Ferrari 1:34:51
That's amazing. That's amazing. So what's up next for you, man? What do you do next?
Edward Burns 1:34:56
I think we're looking good for season two. So I think that's it. I'm gonna start writing. And now you know, it looks like hopefully, we'll be able to take these characters into Manhattan, pick it up a year later, it'll be July of 1981. So, you know, the band will be at cbgbs. And the kids will be dancing in the nightclubs. And it'll be fun. Dude,
Alex Ferrari 1:35:19
I was I was I was raised in New York. So I'm a New Yorker originally. So queens, Jamaica, Queens. Okay, so I was I was, I was raised. I was raised in New York, and then finished off in Florida, and then out here, but, but I was from New York until 8485. So from 77, to something like, let's say, 76 to 85. And I was born in Florida, but that time here, I remember in New York, my dad was a cabbie. But he when he took me in, I do different days, he would take me I was sitting the front end that stuff I saw as running through Manhattan, and I remember breakdancing with hit and all of that kind of stuff. It was, it's hard for people to understand what it was like late 70s, early 80s. To it to be in New York, man. I'm looking forward to I'm looking forward to seeing that show. Now, I really want to,
Edward Burns 1:36:13
you'll dig, and the soundtrack is incredible.
Alex Ferrari 1:36:15
Edward Burns 1:36:17
You'll really have a good time.
Alex Ferrari 1:36:20
Now, I'm going to ask you a few questions asked all of my guests. What if you could go back in time? And tell yourself your younger self? One thing? What would that be?
Edward Burns 1:36:33
All right. You know what? The advice I give myself is, no one is keeping score. Don't let your failures so much. Don't be overly precious. Yeah. Every little decision, you know, there were some opportunities maybe I could have had, that I just I was overthinking it and thinking, Oh, you know, this isn't the right movie for this time, even though I kind of love the script and what I was doing and wanted to do it. So you know, again, looking back on 26 years later, who cares? Nobody cares. If you had successes in these failures. Like it really, it's so doesn't matter. So I've been able to, you know, pretty much make a lot of movies over that time. But I kind of look at those chunks in my career where I didn't. And it's so hung up on it's got to be the right next
Alex Ferrari 1:37:32
isn't it? Isn't it? Just like filmmakers to think that everyone's watching us and everything that we do is so important. And it's just the thing that I mean, we I do it? Every filmmaker does it? And you're right. It'll stop you they'll paralyze you. They'll paralyze great advice. Now, what advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break in today?
Edward Burns 1:37:51
Hmm. Well, look, I mean, we kind of talked about it earlier, I would say like, Don't listen to the naysayers. You know, you you, you absolutely should pick up the camera and go make that movie. You can do it now. at such a low budget, that if it's terrible, kind of like all the terrible screenplays I wrote, you don't need to share with anyone, like the songwriter who's got you know, tapes filled with all of the half finished terrible songs. You don't have to let anyone listen to so go make the movie, learn from your mistakes. And that's the great advantage I think filmmakers have now is they can have a process where you're learning, you know, in the way that and poet novelist, a painter or songwriter can that was never a freedom afforded to filmmakers before the last five years. So filmmakers can go out and make short films, they can make low budget features that don't sort of bankrupt. So that's what I would say.
Alex Ferrari 1:38:57
And what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Edward Burns 1:39:03
I think it's sort of like, you know, don't be so arrogant to think you can't continually learn. Like I now. You know what it looked when I say not to blow smoke up your ass, but that's how I discovered your podcast. I'm trying to figure out what Don't I know about the indie film biz as far as like, how to self distribute a film. And that's how I discovered you. I'm constantly picking up new books on screenwriting. You know, this, someone has written the book and now I become obsessed with those masterclasses. So, you know, and, and the other thing is, you know, I've listened to all of them. And, you know, I would say for every, you know, I mean, there's certain filmmakers and screenwriters, we tell you Oh, no, no, it's got to be done this way. Don't do that. You have to show don't jump. You know, you, you take from those things that you know, that thing that That might work for you. But there is no one set of rules. Do this fortunately, otherwise, you know, you and I are both not here. Right? You know, so but that's what that would be the the thing I'd say just just, you should always remain a student of the game. You know, you can watch that first timers film and see something in that you never would have thought over. You're like, Oh, you know what? I never would have thought to attack that scene from that angle. It's something interesting. I like I mean, I bring up ozone, you know, I never, I hadn't even heard of him. We didn't study him in film school for whatever reason. I was listening to another podcast and Brian De Palma was on and he had written a book about transcend the depth trends, send them to men's meditation. Yeah. But to make storytime I forget the name of the book. But he made that movie last year, two years ago with Ethan Hawke, about the priests, right? Yeah. Doing press for that film. So I bought the book. I read that that turns me on to Ozu. I go deep on Ozu. I watch everything he's got. And then I'm like, oh, there's a new style of filmmaking. I've just discovered and you know, this will make it was making movies and you know, in the 50s, so close to two,
Alex Ferrari 1:41:22
And three of your favorite films of all time.
Edward Burns 1:41:25
I, you know, I mentioned my Texas trilogy, hands down. I mean, I go to them all the time, you know, tender mercies with Robert, the role of data, which is Picture Show, although it's hard. You know, two of them were written by Larry McMurtry is one of my favorite novelists. So those are my my three big ones. And then you know, I mean, I'm a New York guy, and I you know, I love gangster film. So godfather wanted to Goodfellas, you know, that's my, my holy trinity of, you know, just badass. You know, the best there is the gangster genre.
Alex Ferrari 1:41:57
Brother, man. I really do appreciate you coming on the show, man. It has been an absolute pleasure and honor talking to you, man. And thank you for the years of inspiration to us. All us indie filmmakers out here trying to hustle it out and trying to make it happen. Man, you have been a great inspiration since you came out with brothers with Marlon. And you've continued to feed the community with your books and your commentaries and everything else. So thank you again, man. I really appreciate it, brother.
Edward Burns 1:42:20
Awesome. Thank you, man. And I do mean it. Anyone else there anyone out there listening? Go to the backlog of these podcasts, they are filled with great information to help you on your way.
Alex Ferrari 1:42:31
Thank you, my friend. I appreciate that.
I want to thank Ed for coming on the show and dropping his knowledge bombs on the tribe. I also want to thank Ed for his inspiration over the years for independent filmmakers around the world. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, including links to all those amazing DVDs with director commentary, as well as his amazing book, independent Ed, head over to any film also.com forward slash 450. And guys, the hits will continue to come on the indie film hustle podcast next week,
we have an Oscar nominated filmmaker coming on the show, whose films have grossed hundreds of millions of dollars to say the least. And the following week, we have another indie film legend from the 90s. I will not give you any more hints about it. But it's a very amazing episode as well. And if you haven't already, please head over to filmmaking podcast.com and subscribe and leave a good review for the show. It really helps us out a lot. Thank you not only for listening, guys, but for 450 opportunities to help serve you and help you on your filmmaking and screenwriting paths. Thank you so so much. This is just the beginning. There is some big big stuff cooking over at indie film hustle, and you will be hearing about it in the coming weeks and months. Thank you again. As always, keep that also going. Keep that dream alive. Stay safe out there. And I'll talk to you soon.
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