Independent Spotlight: Gen Z’s Guide to Edward Burns Movies!

Edward Burns is notorious for making high-quality, low-budget independent films. Here is a list of his must-watch films for aspiring Gen Z filmmakers!

Edward Burns is an American independent filmmaker with a career that spans 28 years. He has acted in award-winning films and made several award-winning independent films. Born and raised on Long Island, New York, he creates indie romance dramedies with the backdrop of his hometown or the Sidewalks of New York. Burns is a unique filmmaker who writes, directs, and stars in all his films. Many were made with micro-budgets, changing the game for independent filmmakers. Here are just a few of his noteworthy films from his extensive filmography. 

The Brothers McMullen (1995)

For his first film, he drew inspiration from his life and centered it around three Irish-Catholic brothers from Long Island forced to return home and reconcile their lives and loves.

Before The Brother’s McMullen won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival, it was a script Burns was writing while working as a production assistant at Entertainment Tonight.

He cut costs by filming in his parent’s house in Valley Stream, Long Island, and starring in the film as one of the brothers. He shot the film on weekends for only $25,000 and continued to work during the week.

Burns lived out every filmmaker’s dream when he executed the perfect elevator pitch by handing Robert Redford a copy of his film as he got into the Entertainment Tonight elevator. Months later, Redford offered Burns a spot at Sundance, and the rest is history. The film got picked up for distribution by 20th Century Fox after a bidding war and grossed over $35 million worldwide, kickstarting his inspiring and remarkable career.

She’s the One (1996)

This film follows two Irish brothers, Mickey Fitzpatrick (Edward Burns) and Francis Fitzpatrick (Mike McGlone), working through their relationship issues. Francis cheats on his wife with Mickey’s ex-girlfriend, and Mickey impulsively marries a virtual stranger, causing his family much angst.

With his second film, Burns proves he is a great casting director with the film’s strong cast featuring Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz, John Mahoney, and Leslie Mann. Unbeknownst to Burns, his whole cast would soon become sensations and household names.

Burns created a fresh take on the 90s romantic comedy and produced it for just $3.5 million, even with a soundtrack from legendary rocker Tom Petty. The film became the biggest box office hit of 1996 for Fox Searchlight.

Purple Violets (2007)

After 12 years, promising writer Patti Petalson (Selma Blair) runs into her college boyfriend and successful crime novelist Brian Callahan (Patrick Wilson). Brian’s lawyer, Michael Murphy (Edward Burns), admits he has a crush on Patti’s best friend, Kate (Debra Messing), and these college friends reconnect in yet another fresh romantic comedy from Burns.

After acting in a few big-budget films, Saving Private Ryan (1998) and The Holiday (2006), and making more low-budget films, Burns makes history again. Purple Violets was made for $4 million and became the first feature film released exclusively on iTunes.

Nice Guy Johnny (2010)

One weekend can change your life. Johnny (Matt Bush) is grappling with the decision to trade his dream job in sports talk radio for a high-paying finance job. When he visits his uncle Terry (Edward Burns) at his Hampton house, he meets a woman named Brooke (Kerry Bishé), who changes his perspective for the better.

Burns returns to the micro-budget film scene by producing Nice Guy Johnny for just $25,000. It also embraced the new form of distribution for independent films by primarily releasing the movie through Video on Demand. It was the official selection for multiple festivals, and Burns won Best Director at the Boston Film Festival.

Newlyweds (2011)

Shot over 12 days, the film follows newlyweds Kate (Kerry Bishé) and Buzzy (Edward Burns) as their new life together gets interrupted by Buzzy’s chaotic sister’s arrival and Kate’s critical sister’s decaying marriage.

Burns took a new approach with this film by shooting it in a pseudo-documentary style. The film was featured at the closing night of the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and was made for just $9,000. He saved money by having the actors do their own hair and makeup, using his friend’s Tribeca apartment, and only using the exteriors of restaurants.

Summer Days, Summer Nights (2021)

His most recent film follows a group of high school and college graduates over the summer of 1982 as they fall in and out of love in a beach community. It premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival and was released in 2021. The cast features Edward Burns, Anthony Ramos (In the Heights), Caitlin Stasey (Neighbours), Lindsey Morgan (The 100), and Pico Alexander (Home Again), among many others.

For more on how Edward Burns makes his independent films, get a copy of his book Independent Ed, detailing his extensive career. 

About the Author

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Jessica McCrorie

Jessica McCrorie is a junior at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, studying screenwriting and broadcast journalism. When she’s not writing for AfterBuzz TV or Heal Squad x Maria Menounos, she enjoys exploring her other creative outlets and interests, including filmmaking, reading romance novels, playing guitar, and listening to Taylor Swift.