News Column

Filmmaker Uses Tech to Cut Costs

Dec 19, 2012

By Jefferson Graham

Actor/director Edward Burns (Saving Private Ryan, She's the One) specializes in making personal, low-budget movies that at one time would have played in art theaters. Times have changed. Now, the director, whose newest film is The Fitzgerald Family Christmas, premieres them online -- on Apple's iTunes, Amazon and cable video-on-demand services, as he told us in a recent interview at a neighborhood bar adjoining the Tribeca cinema.

Bleak future for theaters

"Audiences will still go to theaters to see big action movies and spectaculars, but for the small, more personal films I make, there's no reason to go to the theater in this day and age. I go straight to them ... in the living room. I think the theatrical experience will live on, but not for small movies."

Digital profits

Burns produced his last film, 2011's Newlyweds, on a super-low budget of $9,000. He used a consumer SLR camera -- the Canon 5D Mark II. He says that even with the smaller digital audience, his backers did extremely well. "We have not made millions but hundreds of thousands of dollars. Everybody who worked on the film got checks that blew their minds."

Gear for 'Fitzgerald'

For The Fitzgerald Family Christmas, he ditched the 5D (which sells for $3,500) for a $35,000 Red One camera, "because we wanted a more polished look."

Twitter for marketing

"Marketing for films has changed forever because you don't need to spend money." Tips: "You have to be tireless and engage with (followers) in a real way."

Pros and cons of 5D

"The pro is the cost ($3,500 for the latest model) and the size -- my director of photography could shoot with a (small) still camera in his hand. The con is the shallow depth of field, which looks great, but it's very hard to keep actors in focus when you make a movie."

His gear

He uses the same Canon 5D SLR he bought for Newlyweds for his kids' sports activities -- "Everything else is on the iPhone." For video, he shoots only on the iPhone and occasionally edits them in iMovie on the Mac.

Favorite apps

Grantland, a sports and entertainment app from ESPN's Bill Simmons; Flicklist ("Twitter for movie buffs, where you can compile lists of your favorite films"); and RedRover "for organizing play dates for the kids."



Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2012


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