IFH 160: Ed Burns - How to Make a $9000 Feature Film (The Brothers McMullen)

June 5, 2017
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How to Make a $9000 Feature Film with Ed Burns

Many of you might have heard of the Sundance Film Festival winning film called The Brothers McMullen written and directed by Edward Burns. Burns went off to star in huge films like Saving Private Ryan and direct studio films like She's the One but what you might not know is he has been quietly making completely independent films on really low budgets. How low, how about $9000. 

As with any smart filmmaker, Ed Burns 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. Again- he was the writer and director. This is a formula that may intimidate a lesser performer, but he has proven that it works perfectly for his abilities.

The film “Nice Guy Johnny” was released at the Tribeca Film Festival. While he was releasing that film, Burns wrote “Newlyweds”, another film he directed and starred in. He filmed this on a small Canon 5D camera in only 12 days and on a budget of only $9,000.

In his book Independent Ed (which I recommend ALL filmmakers read), Ed Burns 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
  • Don’t shoot with any more than a three man crew
  • Actor's use their own clothes
  • Actor's 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 film "This is Meg". I shot that in 8 days. Take a listen to this episode and prepare to get inspired. After you listen take a read of the making of The Brothers McMullen and read Independent Ed. You won't regret it.

Also, Ed Burns' DVD director's commentaries are indie filmmaking gold. He really shares his methods and all of his secret sauce. The DVD are direct cheap and well work getting. I'll put a list of them below. You won't regret it.

 

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