Nice Guy Johnny is the story of a 25-year-old (named Johnny) already struggling with the baggage of adulthood: a demanding fiancée, an emasculating father-in-law-to-be, and the prospect of a boring grown-up job to replace his beloved radio gig in San Francisco. When Johnny (Matt Bush) goes to New York for the new-job interview (set up by his fiancée’s father), he spends the weekend with his rakish uncle (Edward Burns, also directing). In a generational reversal, Johnny is appalled by his uncle’s behavior, until he meets a young tennis player named Brooke (Kerry Bishé).
Director Edward Burns was recently interviewed by the Tribeca Film Festival staff:
Tell us a little about the story of Nice Guy Johnny. How did it come about?
Edward Burns: I’ve always been intrigued by the stories of people who pursue their dreams and what it costs them. Nice Guy Johnny is about a young sports radio talk show host who has a problem; he’s nice to a fault. Therefore, he’s allowed his fiancée and his parents to convince him to give up his dream of becoming a sports broadcaster. After he arrives in New York City for his corporate job interview, he’s quickly persuaded by his uncle to spend a weekend partying in the Hamptons. Over the course of that weekend, Johnny meets Brooke, the woman who convinces him not to give up his dream, even if it will cost him his fiancée.
What makes Nice Guy Johnny a Tribeca must-see?
EB: This is a movie about the cost of being asked to give up your dream. Two years ago, I walked out of a meeting with my agents who strongly encouraged me to put myself up as a director for hire. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I didn’t spend my entire adult life fighting to become a filmmaker with a personal voice to abandon that for what might be higher paying but less rewarding work. I walked out of the meeting and thought, “I need to write a script about how tough it is to make that choice.” When, if ever, should you abandon your dreams? Nice Guy Johnny is a look at that struggle.
The city is always such a character in your films. What’s your favorite thing about filming on the streets of New York?
EB: New York City is the greatest co-star an actor could ever have. Depending on your story and what you’re looking for, New York has it. In addition to great locations and a pool of great actors, they also have the best crews a filmmaker could ask for.
Nice Guy Johnny will kick off the Tribeca Film Festival Virtual (TFFV) on April 23, as well as screen as part of the Encounters program at the festival in New York. TFFV, a new venture from Tribeca Enterprises offers worldwide audiences an opportunity to experience the Tribeca Film Festival via the internet . The film will actually have it’s world premiere as part of the virtual festival, which will play simultaneously with the film’s NY premiere at TFF.
Ed Burns seems very interested in alternative methods of distribution, both with Nice Guy Johnny in TFFV, as well as the release Purple Violets (1997) via itunes rather than in theaters. What do you think of these distribution tactics as a way of reaching a wider audience?