Ed Burns Rewrites The Rules For Indie Film

Matt Bush and Edward Burns, right, in Mr. Burns’ film “Nice Guy Johnny.”

On this week's Moviola, WGBH's inside look at movies in and around the Hub, Jared Bowen talks to filmmaker and actor Ed Burns. Burns' latest release Nice Guy Johnny is definitely not coming to a theater near you, but will soon be available to everyone in Boston, and beyond.

Ed Burns is a filmmaker and an actor, often most recoginized as a co-star to the likes of Robert DeNiro and Tom Hanks in major Hollywood pictures like Saving Private Ryan. But like his hero Woody Allen, what sustains Burns is making his own small, personal films that have built up a dedicated following among indie film fans. In 1995, he attracted major buzz when his first feature, The Brothers McMullen, won at the Sundance Film Festival and went on to win over audiences hungry to watch Burns' kind of personal storytelling in their local theaters.

View the trailer for The Brothers McMullen

The success of The Brothers McMullen was both a professional and personal triumph for Burns, especially given that he financed the $25,000 production budget on his own. After 15 years of making movies, Burns finds himself in an industry landscape much less friendly to independent films. Which left Burns to ask himself, 'where do I want to go next?'

I wanted to go back to what I was doing, and where my head was, pre-McMullen. I had no money. I didn’t know anybody in the film business. I didn’t know how to make a film. So, I thought, let’s set some parameters and go back and do that thing again.

“That thing,” now has a name.  It’s called, Nice Guy Johnny, and it’s Burns’s latest film. The parameters were simple: Don’t spend more than $25,000.  Don’t shoot more than 12 days. Don’t shoot with any more than a 3-man crew. Don’t hire any stars. Oh, and most importantly, don’t give it to the theaters—any of them.

“We’re trying a new way to get these smaller, specialized films out to the audiences—because the biggest complaint I’ve always heard from fans of my movies is that they don’t live anywhere near an art-house theater, and the films never get to them.”

So, when Nice Guy Johnny debuts on Tuesday, Oct 26th, you can enjoy it in the privacy of your own living room. Or, say, on your iPhone wherever you like. That’s because Nice Guy Johnny will only be available on-demand, online and on DVD.

“The fact that we can stream movies on Netflix, Comcast, and iTunes or even YouTube or Facebook—all these things didn’t exist when I got into the business.  So we’ve been trying to figure out how do we fight for attention?”

Burns’s answer: Tell a good story. “The movie’s about Johnny, a sports radio talkshow host out in Oakland.  It’s his dream job, it’s all he really wants to do.”

Burns explained he wrote the film in response to a crossroads he faced in his own career, when his agents were pressuring him to stop with the smaller, personal films. Many in the industry were urging Burn to finally direct a big-budget romantic comedy,

What did Ed learn? That following your dream doesn’t mean a life without compromise -- it means a life where you choose which comprises to make.

Nice Guy Johnny, premieres on-demand, online, and on DVD on Tuesday, Oct 26th.

Watch the trailer for Nice Guy Johnny.



Is Nice Guy Johnny Worth Seeing?

Hear what the Moviola crew had to say, then let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

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