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The Influence

Edward Burns has all the makings of a movie star. And while he's still an actor who's married to a supermodel, his value to the independent film community stems from his willingness to be an entrepreneurial director who not only sought new solutions when the old ones didn't work but also became an accessible champion of those methods.

"The Brothers McMullen" won Burns his Sundance Grand Jury Prize back in 1995 and a Fox Searchlight pickup. Since then he's made many films -- but as time went by and the market changed, it became an increasing struggle to find the traditional support for his small-scale romantic dramadies. So Burns changed tack and became the first filmmaker to release a film exclusively on iTunes with 2007's "Purple Violets."

By taking a chance, Burns helped lend credibility to a then-untested release strategy that's become a norm for so many indies today. Since then, each of his films has found its own unique way into the marketplace -- and at the same time, engaged his fan based while creating new ones.

Biggest Success

Bringing "The Fitzgerald Family Christmas" to the Toronto International Film Festival last fall. For Burns, it marked his first time back at the festival since "Sidewalks of New York," which played there in 2001. "Sometimes you miss all of the perks that go along with being in the movie business," he said. "That was our moment to pat ourselves on the back."

Biggest Disappointment

Failing to get an ambitious crime drama off the ground following "Purple Violets." Said Burns, "It came down to one last desperate meeting with an equity partner that I really didn’t want to be in business with. I remember leaving that meeting going, 'How has it come to this?'"

Biggest Challenge

Convincing people that VOD was not a dirty word. "Every journalist said I was out of my mind," he recalled. "They all said, 'No one is going to watch a film on their computer.'"

What's Next

Burns has just completed a script that he's been working on and off for about 15 years, a film he describes as a "big Irish, American NYPD epic," that will need $25 million to get made. In the interim, he's started to play around with the idea of a half-hour TV show for cable in the vein of "Sidewalks of New York."