Having starred in big-budget studio films like Saving Private Ryan and 15 Minutes, why would actor/writer/director Ed Burns want to nickel and dime his way through his own indie flick? As he puts it: "I'm sticking to lower budgets so I can maintain [creative] control."

In Sidewalks of New York, Burns takes a documentary-style look at six strangers looking for love (and sex) in all the wrong places. And by using a little directorial ingenuity, he pulled it off for under a million bucks. Recalls Burns: "The idea came out of working on Private Ryan, which was all done with handheld cameras and available light. I was sitting there in one of the foxholes one day, and we were banging out scenes and getting so much work done. I thought, 'If I use nothing but [these methods], I could make my films for nothing!"

Ever thrifty, Burns seriously skimped on Sidewalks. "That's actually my car in the movie," he grins, "and we used my office for my character's office. It's a sort of down-home production."

As a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker, he hopes his latest project captures the city's essence. "If you think about it, the sidewalks connect the city itself, but it's also where the people of the city connect," Burns muses. "New York is so pedestrian that you have no choice but to interact with all different types of people every day."

As a matter of fact, it was while walking Manhattan's sidewalks that Burns struck on the film's basic premise. "I was walking down the street with a friend of mine," he recalls, "and we walked by a guy that he knew had had sex with his girlfriend. He was like, 'Oh God, that's kind of sick. I wonder who else we're walking past that we're kind of connected to.'"

The interrelatedness of his characters' sex lives makes for a different twist on modern love, Burns notes: "It's like six degrees of separation — only it's more like six degrees of ejaculation."