Comic-Con: Roundtable with Ed Burns

While waiting to speak with director Zack Snyder during the series of Warner Bros. roundtables on Friday, my table was given a bonus: a brief chat with Ed Burns. Of course, unlike our incredibly limited time with Snyder, Mr. Burns was more than happy to answer our questions about, among other things, his return to acting in “One Missed Call” and the future of filmmaking.

Reporter: So is this your first Comic-Con?

Ed Burns: It is, yeah.

Reporter: And was it everything that it had been hyped up to be?

EB: I thought it was a lukewarm reaction, honestly. But I’m not really the guy who, you know, we just had a little clip reel, I’ve never done a horror film or sci-fi, so, I don’t know how many “[Brothers] McMullen” fans were in the audience. They really weren’t giving it up for the Irish guys from Queens.

Reporter: What do you think it is about Japanese horror that – because the torture porn thing has kind of come and gone – but for whatever reason Japanese horror has continued to hold a major interest internationally. Why do you think that is?

EB: Quite honestly, I don’t know. I think the reason the genre is popular in the States for so long is, you know, there are so many different options people have now in terms of their entertainment. You know, theatergoing has changed in a big way. You talk about “McMullen,” like, people use to go see small movies at small theaters, and that’s basically over, and I think the reason like comedies to such big business and power and, you know, big special effects movies is… you can watch a small drama on your flatscreen and it’s a similar experience. Sitting in a theater with 400 people and getting the shit scared out of you is a fun experience. That’s why I go, and it’s like, there are certain films that you wanna see in a theater to have the community type of experience with a certain genre of film.

Bullz-Eye: Is this the first horror movie that was pitched to you, or the first one that you’ve wanted to do?

EB: The first one that was pitched. It’s kinda weird. My career periodically, I go through these stages were I don’t wanna act anymore, I’m just gonna focus on making a few small movies, and then after I do two or three of those, like I did with this, I don’t wanna make another small movie, I wanna go act, so this was – I had just finished shooting something – and this was the first script that came up and I was like ‘You know, I like the genre, I’ve never done one, let me give it a shot and see. The director was an interesting guy. His whole thing was that he wanted to make it more suspenseful and atmospheric, more like a “Rosemary’s Baby” or – remember that Donald Sutherland film…

Reporter: “Don’t Look Now.”

EB: “Don’t Look Now,” okay. “Don’t Look Now” was the other film that he referenced a lot, so, and I think it is, it’s just a little bit more keeping with that style than it is sort of more traditional, sort of blood and guts horror movie.

Reporter: “Purple Violets” was very well received at Sundance. What’s going on with that film, when is it going to come out?

EB: “Purple Violets” is probably the best film that I’ve ever made. It’s a small, talky drama, dramedy, and there’s absolutely no audience for the film, theatrically, I’m sad to say. We got a couple of half-assed theatrical offers, but the last couple films I’ve done I’ve done that and, you know you do all this publicity and then the movie’s released in New York and LA, and maybe Chicago and San Francisco, and if you’re anywhere outside of those four major cities, your audience can’t find it. So, we’re gambling and we’re gonna be the first film that is released exclusively through iTunes. It’ll be available for four weeks exclusively, and the idea is we’ll promote it the same as you would a theatrical release and we’ll see what the numbers are. If the attendance, if the downloads, which we expect to be a much higher numbers than the attendance, I think it’ll be the way I would go in the future for small movies like this. You know, and then we’ll do more festivals than you might normally, so you can hit kinda smaller markets for the theatrical experience, but for everyone else it’s available, kinda like what people do…

Reporter: When did you say it would be available?

EB: Um, October 9th.

Reporter: Is iTunes promising you a huge amount of promotion for doing this?

EB: Huge is a relative term. We’ll have to see, but they’re promising promotion. I hope it’s huge.

Bullz-Eye: With the future of moviegoing moving closer and closer to a Pay-Per-View business model – where you’re paying a larger flat fee than you would in a movie theater, but in the comfort of your own home – how do you think this affects the industry?

EB: I think it’s changing so dramatically, I mean, just two years ago none of us were talking about YouTube – now it’s part of everybody’s daily life. Who knows what technology is going to come out in six months from now, or two years from now. That’s going to revolutionize the way we think about watching films. You know, the idea that people watch a movie on an iPod for someone my age, that’s insane, yet I recognize if you’ve grown up watching small images on your laptop or you’ve been downloading via friends to your phone, an iPod is a pretty good invention. So, I think it’s changing and you have to embrace it. You know, digital cinema is coming at us fast and furiously, film will die, day and dark releases are here already, and like I said, people go to movies for different things. And I mean, even a guy like me that always thought I wanted to make small, talky dramas, that business is a dead business. So the thing that I’m doing right now – that I just announced today – is developed a graphic novel with Virgin Comics called… I had an idea for a movie, a 1920s gangster story – again, New York City, Irish-Americans, kinda my milieu – but I thought, ‘Well, why not sort of look into giving these gangsters slightly hyper-human abilities and strengths. Pitched Virgin Comics on it, they loved it, and a guy named Jimmy Palmetti I think is how you pronounce it, he’s writing it based on my outline, comes out in November, and I’m writing the screenplay while he’s doing the books. And it’s a film we’ll make hopefully next year. So it’s like, I think you’ve got to look at how it’s changing and you’ve got to embrace it.

Reporter: So the way you approached directing… what you’re basically saying is that other than family movies and comedies, it’s going from a larger than life experience to get a smaller than life experience?

EB: Yeah, I think that’s what you have to do. I became an indie filmmaker more out of necessity than – and I certainly loved those films – but I’ve always been a fan of mainstream Hollywood moviemaking, whether it’s something like Scorsese or Spielberg, or “Star Wars.” But I think you have to recognize it’s changing… so one thing I’m looking forward to is how do you take what I do – and take these characters and voices – and put them on a bigger canvas.

Reporter: I just can’t imagine watching “The Godfather” on iTunes for the first time.

EB: But you know what? I think it’s analogous, in a way, to music. You know, you have to embrace the change because I know, like, our parents did not buy albums, they only listened to the radio. And then in the ’60s, albums came out and people were obsessed with the LP. And then when CDs came out, all the purists were like ‘What the fuck is this? I’m never going to listen to a CD,’ and CDs are over now, and nobody buys full length albums when they download it digitally anymore, so it’s almost like we come back to the way your guys’ grandparents listened to music where it was an individual song by an individual artists that was playing on the radio as opposed to the computer. So it’s that thing that happened in 70 years of music that I think is happening now for us in movies, and we’ll just have to see where it goes.


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