If you called him a nice guy, Edward Burns wouldn't mind. While many young filmmakers try to make a splash using graphic violence and/or explicit sex, this 27-year-old made his first feature film about three Irish-Catholic brothers discussing the ups and downs of love and relationships.
''I'm writing about the people I know,'' says Burns in his broad Long Island accent. ''Not only do they not cut off people's ears, but no one's f---ing shooting anyone.'' That helps when you're filming in your parents' home in Valley Stream, L.I., while your mother is cooking corned beef and cabbage for your crew.
Shot for about $20,000, The Brothers McMullen features unpaid newcomers (including Burns and his girlfriend of five years, Maxine Bahns) and was filmed over eight months in between jobs for Entertainment Tonight, where Burns worked as a production assistant (many of his ET buddies helped out). Ignored by numerous film festivals and distributors, McMullen finally made it to Sundance last January and won the Grand Jury Prize. ''He got rejected by every movie company on earth,'' says Fox Searchlight president Tom Rothman, who signed Burns during Sundance. ''So we're feeling pretty good that we got him.''
Burns is working on his second film for Searchlight another romantic comedy that again teams him with Bahns and his trusty ET crew. Except this time they'll get paid.
''He's really been very thankful to the people who made it happen,'' says Mike Marson, an ET chum who worked on McMullen. In fact, it's bonhomie all round in Burns' world not only is he giving his workmates a break, he has no intention of forgetting his friends, who helped him through rough financial times: ''Now they're excited that I can actually buy a couple of rounds.''