Friday, October 23, 2009

Bye-Bye Bin Laden in the Mercury News

Bye-Bye Bin Laden got a nice feature write-up in yesterday's San Jose Mercury News. Check out the full article here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Why Osama Never Meets Norman Bates

A number of scenes that didn’t appear in the original stage musical were added to the film, mostly ones involving George Bush.

Conversely, certain scenes that had been in the stage musical were cut from the film script, usually because they didn’t fit into the structure – they seemed tangential.

One such a scene had Osama stopping at a motel that turns out to be suspiciously reminiscent of the Bates Motel from Hitchcock’s “Psycho.”

Osama gets to know Norman, finds a kindred spirit, and they do a number together. One should note that the number always played well with audiences of the stage show, and cutting it was a hard decision for Scott, the writer/director. However, it was felt that the number would not work on film as well as it had on stage, and that it was too much of a stretch in that the movie was supposed to be about satirizing TV while this parodied film.

Here are the original pages from an early draft of the screenplay:
Osama meets Norman

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Philadephia Inquirer on BBBL

Bye-Bye Bin Laden! got a nice little mention in the Philadelphia Inquirer as a DVD of note. Check it out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bye-Bye Bin Laden! Gets Rave Review on KGO Radio!

Sept. 22, on KGO Radio’s Ronn Owens show, film critic Tim Sika gave “Bye-Bye Bin Laden” a rave review in his weekly round-up of new DVD releases. To listen to the clip click here. Otherwise, here’s the transcript:

Ronn Owens: And then finally, ‘Bye-Bye Bin Laden”!?!

Tim Sika: Yes. This is the film with an all-talking, all-dancing, all-singing Taliban. It’s a clever, witty, funny animated musical comedy.

Ronn Owens [laughing]: All-singing Taliban?

Tim Sika: Yes. It’s a political satire that nails the stupidity and hubris behind the US involvement in the Iraq war, and like all great satire invariably does, it comically decimates the characters and politicians who are a part of that. Osama bin Laden, he sings and dances. Mullah Omar sings and dances. George W. Bush, his daughter Jenna, and others. The musical numbers alone will have you in stitches and my favorite is a duet between Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush called ‘We Bombed in Baghdad.’ I mean, Ron, who would not want to see an animated musical comedy called ‘Bye-Bye Bin Laden’? I was sold going into this DVD with that title!

Ronn Owens: I don’t understand how I never heard of it.

Tim Sika: Yeah, well, it’s an under the radar thing. I think if people could only check out one DVD this week, it should be ‘Bye-Bye Bin Laden.’ I think it’s on its way towards becoming a big cult hit on DVD.”

The Ronn Owens Program is the number one rated show on KGO, with over half a million viewers.

Bye-Bye Bin Laden! Released on DVD, September 22, 2009

Bye-Bye Bin Laden is now available for purchase on DVD!

You can also rent the DVD on Netflix.

For those who like to test the water before taking the leap, watch some clips from the movie, including the first five minutes, on the official Bye-Bye Bin Laden! website.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Describing and Designing the Characters

[These are the original notes, they weren’t intended for publication, and they sometimes contradict themselves.

At this point in the process the voices had already been recorded, so there are references to the actors’ performances.]

Character Descriptions for “We Bombed in Baghdad” [the original title of the script]

I have delayed creating these character descriptions mostly because I have been waiting to hear what the ACTORS will do with the characters. It is said, quite rightly, that, once a script has been produced, the actors know more about the characters than the writer does, so I guess I’ve been waiting to see what the actors know about the characters that I don’t! And I sure learned a lot listening to them record the dialogue over the past two weekends. I guess on an animated film one also discovers what the ANIMATORS know about the characters that I don’t. Therefore, these descriptions reflect what I know but they don’t yet reflect what YOU know. Do NOT assume these characters exist fully formed in my mind, waiting to somehow be exhumed from inside my skull. I am one among all of us in creating these characters. And the actors are important contributors.

1) Osama – Osama is what I call “too cool to move.” He thinks so highly of himself that he needn’t bother trying. He has nothing to prove. He’s Osama and he knows it. He assumes people will flatter him, cater to him, obey him. He’s chilly, arrogant and a little contemptuous, with perhaps something dead about his eyes. He’s good-looking and charismatic, without having to do much or move much. It’s weird to say, but there’s something of Clint Eastwood (back in his spaghetti western days) about Osama.
2) Mullah Omar is head of the Taliban. He’s a ham. He’s a black forest ham with cheese and mustard – loud, bombastic, bullying, theatrical, and in love with the sound of his own voice. In America he’d be a thundering, fire and brimstone evangelical minister.
3) Manny the agent, played by 21-year-old student Todd Banhazl, isn’t really a show biz asshole so much as an operator. He’s very young, but he has the commercial instincts of an old Hollywood mogul. Like most smart agents, he’s looking for the low hanging fruit, so he’s not really pushy so much as nudge-y. An agent wants to make the deals that are easy to make and then move on. He’s not really about trying too hard. He’s a little detached, casual, and cool. Sure, he’d love to make the deal, but the minute he thinks it won’t work out he’ll be gone and never give it another thought. VERY SLOUCHY. Moves fast. Always trying to figure out how to sell. He’s a sales man. He cares as long as he’s saying what he says but then he can switch and care about something else. He has the short-lived but intense enthusiasms of a car salesman with a built in ability to switch gears.
4) George W. Bush is sort of an old cowboy star – charismatic, a bit grizzled and weathered, but definitely wrapped in a good suit. There’s a bit of John Wayne is his casually cocky assumption of power and moral authority. There’s also something of a bad little boy about him. And there’s something a little sad about him. And spoiled. And RELAXED in his movement – inappropriately relaxed. His range of emotion is childish – from exasperation to petulance to glee – he reacts childishly.
5) Jenna Bush, played by undergraduate actress Joey Sandin, is a good-old-gal Texas sorority girl. She’s the type who chugs beer with the frat boys then ends up in bed with two or three of them. The next day she feels slightly bad about it but she doesn’t know quite why. Like her father, there’s something a little sad, spoiled and impatient about her, but we like her a lot. She has a good heart, but she’s definitely a little lost. It’s not much that she’s stupid as that her point of view has been limited by her privileged life. She’s sexy, a sexpot, yet like a lot of young girls who try to act sexy she doesn’t really “own” it. She’s insecure but she isn’t insubstantial.
6) Reporter, as played by actress Chloe Bronzan, is class on wheels. She’s not a dame, a broad, a chick or even a lady – she’s a sophisticated, upper class, well educated, well put-together WOMAN who went to all the best schools, and whose journalism is guided by a firm sense of responsibility and decency. Her taste is excellent and always appropriate. Actresses like Charlotte Rampling, Meryl Streep, or Mary Beth Hurt, or newscasters like Judy Woodruff, come to mind.
7) Mark Bingham is like the most wonderful first grade teacher in the world. He’s patient, kind, and good – as someone who has died and learned the eternal verities would indeed be. But it’s a PRACTICED patience and kindness. A PROFESSIONAL patience and kindness. And like any first grade teacher, he sometimes gets a little impatient and even exasperated. He wouldn’t show that to the kids, but the audience might see it, and it’s never done unkindly. And like any smart adult who works with little children, he sometimes makes remarks that he knows are over their heads – remarks that are a little smart aleck. He’s impatient with the stupidity of living people, and he’s often faintly ironic and sarcastic, but so faint that he doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. Perhaps he’s not so much smart aleck as he is world-weary. The burden of understanding everything is a large one for so young a soul.
8) Josh the Roach Boy, played by SJSU undergrad Willy Romano-Pugh, is a good looking little boy, maybe 12 years old, who’s “all boy” – he’d probably been the star pitcher on his roach boy little league team (if only the roaches approved of competitive sports). He’s very likeable and “cute as a bug.” He’s not really disturbing looking.
9) Alison the Game Show Contestant is a nice, average liberal sorority girl who thought it would be nice to do a year abroad helping people and ended up a captive. She’s very American in that she’s very comfortable demanding her rights. The actress has a wonderful, cartoonish “kooky chick” voice that is reminiscent of a young Goldie hawn but without the dizziness.
10) Zareem, poor Afghan war widow Zareem (Regina Melzer) is a little scattered, what with having eight kids, no husband and no money. Starvation has made her a little woozy and desperate. I can imagine her sometimes weak and staggering, other times lunging desperately for opportunities, running on sheer adrenaline and mother-tiger fierceness. She’s a spectral victim who’s trying to fight her way out of a trap.
11) Prakhbar, voiced by New York actress Carolyn Beach, is NOT the zany, scatterbrain played by Lucille Ball on “I Love Lucy.” She’s a dark center of gravity. She’s a cello. Where Lucy was ‘out there,” Prakhbar is hooded, covert, private. You can feel in her low, modulated voice what it means to live inside a burqua. Where Lucy was carefree, Prakhbar is constrained, careful, and so used to living with fear that she has a sort of permanent wariness. What’s interesting about Prakhbar is what she’s THINKING. Her EYES, living inside the burqua, reveal what she’s thinking and plotting. This character is all about the eyes.
12) Fred Schmertz is a pot-bellied middle-aged grump. See “I Love Lucy.”
13) Ethel Schmertz (Tori Truss) is his slightly plump, middle-aged 1950s wife. See “I Love Lucy.”
14) Donald Rumsfeld, a real figure in the Bush administration – in BOTH Bush adminstrations come to think of it -- is a middle-aged politician who’s an arrogant frat boy at heart. He’s also a completely ruthless and rather Nixonian man.
15) TV Announcer (Luke Sharkey) is just a voice on the soundtrack.
16) Opie is a freckle-faced all American little boy, sort of a Howdy Doody type, but then again he might look like an Afghan boy. I’m open. See “The Andy Griffith Show.”
17) Gilligan (animator Januel Mercado) is a dweeby, goofy sidekick type. See “Gilligan’s Island.” Maybe he dresses like Gilligan, but maybe not.
18) Abdulaziz, the guard at the anthrax factory is an innocent young man of 17 or 18 who was recruited by Al Quaida when he was 13 and turned into a “true believer.” He’ll kill for the cause happily, yet there’s something about him that’s not a killer. I mean, he’s just a kid. There’s something oddly, touchingly vulnerable about young men with long necks and big Adam’s apples, and that’s sort of how I see Abdulaziz. But he senses his own vulnerability and his impulse is to compensate for it by having an itchier trigger finger than an older, more “manly” terrorist would have.
19) Ashjaal is wearing so much burqua that we have NO IDEA what she looks like. Underneath she’s probably a young woman.
20) The Hare Krishna looks like exactly that.
21) The Abstract Expressionist Artist looks like an artist. I suspect she has a snooty, Margaret Dumont-type voice – maybe she’s a middle aged woman and little operatic. I’m not sure, and would look at anything.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Regarding Titles

While our animated film was in production it was called “We Bombed in Baghdad.” Obviously, that’s not the title now.

When we got our distribution deal with Cinequest, Scott, the director, suddenly got cold feet about the title and wanted to change it to something “more fun.” However, members of the production team were very attached to the old title and for the most part disliked all suggestions of new ones. A couple of the producers were especially adamant on the subject and quite unabashedly held that all of the ideas Scott had for new titles were terrible.

Those ideas are included below, so you can judge for yourself.

In any case, in the end, we went back to the title of the original stage musical on which the film was based: “Bye-Bye Bin Laden!”

SCOTT’S TERRIBLE TITLE IDEAS (obviously, some of these were just brainstorming):

A Bad Batch of Anthrax (based on one of Mrs. Bin Laden’s lines)
A Bite of my Feces Sandwich (based on something the Roachboy says)
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the War
A Most Amusing War
A Musical about the War
A Very Entertaining War
A War is Born (a play on “A Star is Born”)
American Propaganda
Bye-Bye Bush
Everything’s Taboo (this title actually has some support among various people)
God Loves War (a line spoken by Bush, and Scott liked it but people thought it was a downer)
God Said I Should Kill You (a reference to the film’s skepticism toward religious extremism as a justification for war – on both sides, by the way)
How Bush Licked Us
How the Roach People Ate Jenna’s Children (Scott’s favorite)
How the War Began
How to End the War
How to Lick Bush
I Hate Bush: The Musical
In This Heavy Burqua (one of Zareems line’s, and to highlight the film’s pervasive feminism; Lesbians love us)
It’s a Wonderful World
It’s OK to Laugh
Jenna’s Nightmare
Just Be Cheerful
Let’s Have a Wonderful War
Let’s Watch the War
Logical Conclusions
Mr. Bush Goes to Washington
Much Sexy War Show (to make it sound like a cool Japanese T-shirt)
No Woman Could Make a Bomb (one of Osama’s lines)
Nobody Licks Bush
Osama, Mullah and George
Osama’s Wonderful TV Show
Our Holy War
Our Important Anti-War Movie (OK, a bit on the nose)
Roachboy’s History Lesson (Scott liked this a lot and pushed for it)
So Much Nicer to Starve (based on one of Zareem’s lines)
Somebody Should Have Aborted You (Ethel Schmertz says this to Osama)
The Devil of TV
The George Bush Comedy Hour
The Great and Powerful Bush
The Taliban Don’t Allow
The Wonderful, Wacky World of War
Then You Ate Jenna’s Children (Mark Bingham says this to Josh the Roachboy)
Theocracy: A Cartoon Musical
They Were Delicious! (which is Roachboy’s reply when Mark Bingham accuses him of eating Jenna’s children)
War Crazy
War is a Funny Thing
What a Happy Ending!
What Closes Saturday Night (a reference to George S. Kauffmann’s definition of satire as “what closes Saturday night”)
World War III
Your War