CROSSOVER: The Art of the $9000 Micro Budget Indie Film with Edward Burns
We have made it to 450 episodes of the Indie Film Hustle Podcast. The IFH Tribe has given me 450 opportunities to serve them and for that I am humbled. Thank you all for allowing me to do what I love to do so much. With that said I wanted to bring you a massive guest for this remarkable milestone. 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 lives 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 canDon’t shoot with any more than a three-man crewActor’s use their own clothesActors do their own hair and make-upAsk and beg for any locationsUse the resources you have at your disposalI 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 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 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 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 my conversation with Edward Burns.