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Eddie Burns Learns To Love Doing It DIY
By Ted Hope
Michael Tully of HammerToNail has a really great interview with Edward Burns on his path from small to medium to sorta big and then back again. It’s filled with the kind of insights that can only be offered by those that have been there — and are willing to be truly honest, with both themselves and us.
I remember when we were at Tribeca, and John Sloss, who I’m sure you know, has this new venture called FilmBuff, who is our distribution partner with this film. And he gave me an argument, but not so much for VOD. Maybe five years ago, I had this movie called Looking For Kitty. And the movie got one tiny, tiny distribution offer from THINKFilm. It was one of those no advance partnerships, and we had made the movie for a quarter of a million dollars. John said, “Look, you’re gonna sell the movie for nothing and they’re gonna own it, just so you can satisfy that part of your ego that wants the film to be released theatrically.” He goes, “If you were to just go straight to DVD, you could make your money back. And maybe make some more money.” At the time—this was maybe ’04 or ’05—my ego wouldn’t allow me to do it. So, we sell the film to THINKFilm, get no money, we’re supposed to have a partnership, and we’ve never seen a red cent from it. Years later, when we’re presented with the same kind of offer for Purple Violets, now iTunes is up and the iTunes movie site is in their infancy. And we thought, “Look at how bands are delivering their music directly to their fans. Maybe there’s a way for us to try and do that with the film.” And we did. I don’t have the numbers exactly right but I think it was like a nine-month exclusive window for iTunes. And we did surprisingly good business there.
Flash forward three years later to Nice Guy Johnny. Two different things happened. We knew what we could make at iTunes even if we didn’t have the kind of “stars” and well-known faces that we had in Purple Violets, which certainly helped. So we said, “Let’s just think the lowest possible number we can do on iTunes. If we’re even gonna entertain theatrical, someone needs to beat that number.” But we never even got there, because John then said to me, “Remember back to Looking For Kitty. This is the moment. We can sell your film for theatrical distribution, and you’re gonna open up on four screens in New York and LA, like you did with Looking For Kitty, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that if this company has enough money to market the thing, we might make an impression, and you can expand to the next level of a platform release. If we do well there, maybe, maybe you can go on and expand fully.” He said, “Or, you can release your film onto VOD and be in 46 million living rooms, in that moment when you’re doing all of your press.” I heard that, and I was like, maybe if I was a young guy and this was my first film, I don’t know that I would be willing to forego theatrical, because you do fantasize about having your movie play in theaters. I don’t want to say “I’ve been there, done that,” but most times I’ve ended up disappointed with how the films were handled theatrically. As my producing partner says, “There’s nothing special about a specialized film release.” We just thought, we’ll take our film and we’ll do the most aggressive film festival tour we’ve ever done. And that’ll satisfy the need to see it in theaters, sit in the back row with an audience, hear the laughter, and get the thrill of theatrical out of that. But financially, it just made absolutely no sense to try and sell the film to an audience theatrically. And those were all of the things that played into embracing this model.