We all are, to some extent, the amalgam of the expectations those around us in our lives have had for us. We act this way to please our parents, that way to please someone we’re dating or married to and another way to please the people we’re friends with or work with. The best that can be hoped is that what we feel most passionate about matches up with at least some of those expectations and that we’re able to go through life doing what we love with the approval of those most important to us.

The story of living up to someone else’s expectations is at the core of Nice Guy Johnny, the new movie from writer/director Edward Burns. The movie tells the story of Johnny (Matt Bush), who is giving up his dream of continuing to host a sports talk radio show to meet the desires of his fiance. On a trip that’s supposed to be about him interviewing for a boring day job he spends time with his Uncle Terry (Burns), who’s still a roustabout bachelor who thinks Johnny’s getting married is ridiculous. So he takes Johnny to The Hamptons for a few days and into Johnny’s life comes Brooke (Kerry Bishé), who proves a disruptive influence on his decision making process.

The Posters

The poster is pretty simple, just showing a shot of the two main characters walking along with a minor lens flare in the corner. There’s no tagline, no description and no overdoing it. it makes the clear statement that what you’ll be getting with this movie is the story of these two people and almost nothing else. So it works on that level.

The Trailers

The movie’s trailer is just fantastic as a piece of work in and of itself. The trailer starts with a guy and a girl sitting on the hood of a car, she telling him that he needs to tell some other girl how he really feels, something he’s not sure of himself.

That’s as much of the plot as you’re going to get, though, as the rest of the spot is all about showing how these two are not dating but are obviously enjoying each other’s company. they hang out on the beach, they go for drives together and otherwise hanging out. It’s also obvious, even without the one shot of them almost kissing, that these two have feelings for each other that they’re not quite ready to admit or deal with.

While, as I mentioned above, the trailer shows almost nothing of the movie’s story it does show that the film will live or die on the performances of the two leads, both of them unknowns. The performances seem raw and emotional and promises that the audience is going to live and die based on what these characters do and the choices they make.

It doesn’t hurt as well that the music playing over the visuals is perfect and the cuts to the scenes are often timed to the beats, adding to the overall enjoyment of the trailer.

A second trailer was much more traditionally structured. We meet Johnny as he’s about to go off on a trip for an interview for a “real” job as opposed to the sports talk radio host gig he currently has. It’s on that trip that he spends time with his Uncle Terry, who’s an aging man-boy who still runs around and is perplexed why Johnny is both getting married and taking a job he has no passion for. So Terry takes Johnny to the Hamptons, where he sets him up with Brooke, who he starts hanging out with and is just as confused about Johnny’s choices. Eventually we see he has to make a decision between what’s expected of him by those around him and and what he really wants to do, a decision that the combined influences of Terry and Brooke push him to make.


There’s unfortunately not very much information about the movie at all on its official website. The trailer is there but most of the emphasis is, rightly in the case of this movie and how it’s being distributed, on selling things. There are many packages that are available that give you everything from just a digital download of the movie and its soundtrack to one that includes a t-shirt and the physical media in addition to digital downloads.

There are also plenty of links to Burns’ personal website, Twitter account, Facebook page and YouTube channel, showing that he understands that selling himself is just as important – if not moreso – than selling this particular movie. Fans of his who connect with him on multiple platforms are likely to be repeat buyers, interested in this and his future movies, so playing up that connection has long term benefits.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Not much that I’ve seen.

Media and Publicity

Most of the movie’s publicity, as exemplified by this profile (Chicago Tribune, 10/6/10) around its appearance at the Chicago International Film Festival, focused on the film’s low budget and non-theatrical distribution, which Burns is quick to emphasize are all by design and attempts by him to maintain his artistic freedom and bring movies more directly to the audience.

Burns’ do-it-alone thinking continued to the focal point of much of the movie’s buzz as he discussed why, creatively, this approach works well for him and his movies.

It all amounted to what was probably the largest amount of buzz for a Burns film in quite a while. Like one of his other recent movies, Purple Violets, much of that is about distribution (Violets debuted on iTunes at the same time it got a limited theatrical run) and has positioned the writer/director as one of the biggest names to do truly innovative things in terms of distribution.

I also have to mention that Burns co-hosted a recent episode of Filmspotting, a movie podcast that originates from Chicago and he absolutely killed it. Not only did he do a good job talking movies with Adam Kempenar but he also did a good job of selling his new film.


It’s a good campaign with engaging and interesting trailers and a clear, uncluttered poster. The website is obviously a sparse affair even as measured against some other independent movies, but the fact that so many people were talking about the movie and it’s innovative distribution model makes the case that Burns is still able to get people buzzing about his movies. That buzz really comes off as the strongest part of the campaign. And considering the movie will be available to just about anyone immediately, that word-of-mouth is going to be crucial to the movie’s success in a way that other limited-release movies can’t capitalize on because their distribution patterns don’t match the spread of the audience’s recommendations.