Due on DVD April 5 from Indie Rights, How to Beat A Bully is the hilarious and warmhearted tale of a young boy, new in town, who decides to make up a story to fit in. As funny as it is, the story might just hit home with a few of you - - as writers Marilyn Anderson and Richard Rossner told us in this exclusive interview.
For those who haven’t seen the film how would you describe it?
MARILYN: “How to Beat a Bully is a “Home Alone” kind of comedy with an anti-bullying theme.
RICHARD: It revolves around a 12-year-old boy who moves to a new town and gets picked on by school bullies. In order to protect himself, he fibs to the bullies that his dad is a hit man for the mob! When the rumor spreads to real mobsters, they think the dad is horning in on their territory. They capture the dad, and the boy and his friends have to save the day and his dad! The kids end up becoming town heroes and ultimately learn, “It’s better to be friends than bullies.
You obviously have the perfect title for the movie – play with any others though?
RICHARD: We've gone through a number of titles. The original script was titled, “Son of a Gun.” We also had a brief period where it was called, “Kidfellas.” It won 2nd place in two different big screenwriting contests under these titles.
MARILYN: We’re really proud of this, since usually more serious dramas win these contests, and ours is a broad comedy. Ultimately, we decided on “How to Beat a Bully” because we thought the anti-bullying theme was so important and also because we thought it was playful and fun, like the movie itself.
How much say did you, as the writers, have in casting?
RICHARD: We had a lot of input for casting, especially since Marilyn was one of the Executive Producers. We had a lot of people behind the desk in that casting room; besides the two of us, we had the director, two producers and three other Executive Producers. It might seem difficult for so many people to agree, but it wasn’t. We mostly all liked the same actors! A few times, there was a choice between a couple of actors, and we made our strong opinions known. Guess what? – Our choices got the part.
MARILYN: Several times, when actors came in, we knew immediately that we loved them. That’s how we felt when 12-year-old Grant McLellan auditioned for the lead of Cory. He was super strong. We were also blown away by young Bryan Yoshi Brown’s first audition and liked the fact that he was a different ethnicity than the other kids. It’s especially heartening when an actor not only reads your lines, but when they bring something special of their own to the part. Everyone in the casting room agreed when Vince DonVito auditioned that he would be the comic gangster Marco because he nailed it right away. He ended up reading with lots of other actors for the other comical bad guys, Nick and Freddy. Then when Micah Lyons read with Vince, there was a great chemistry between them, plus he was hilarious.
RICHARD: For the parents, we had to find a couple that not only looked good together, but that looked like the boy we cast for their son. In all the parts, it’s not only the one role you are looking for, but how the characters look together and work together that’s important. And for us, we want to see and hear that they say our lines right – and get the jokes!
Anyone you especially championed?
MARILYN: In a few instances, near the end of the casting process, it was between two different actors for a role. That’s when your opinion and “gut” feeling becomes most important. There were two older men up for the part of Uncle Don. As the writers, we really liked what Robert Weiner brought to the part. He was not only an excellent actor and great at comedy, but we thought he had the physical embodiment of Uncle Don. The other finalist was good, but we thought he was a bit too over-the-top in his portrayal and didn’t seem as authentic. So we pushed hard for Robert. Also, on the day we shot at the stables, I saw two horses that weren’t supposed to be in the film, that were behaving really funny. When people would go over to them, they would each nod their head up and down, like saying “Yes, yes, yes.” I became very forceful and insisted that we film the horses for a funny beat in the film. So you could say I got these two horses into show biz!
RICHARD: We all had favorites, but it was truly a collaborative process. The only person I directly championed, was my son, Chase Rossner, who had just graduated college as a music major. I told him he should write a song for the movie, because I could get it listened to by the Executive Producers. (That wouldn't be such an easy task on a studio film.) He grabbed the opportunity, wrote a terrific song, and I handed it in. I didn't have a say in the ultimate decision, but fortunately, they liked the song and it made it into the film. It plays during the end credits.
MARILYN: I also brought in the composer who scored the film, Misha Segal – who is an Emmy-Award winner. And I found the band, Reverse Order, that contributed three songs to the sound track. The group was a semi-finalist on “America’s Got Talent” and they are currently doing a national tour of 250 schools with an anti-bullying concert.
What type of audience have you been targeting? I imagine it appeals quite broad!
RICHARD: We see this as a family film for kids from 8-years-old to about 14. But we wrote it with enough smart humor that adults stay interested and want to watch with their children...which is happening! Our hope is that an entertaining comedy can possibly open an important dialogue for parents and kids on the topic of bullying – and that is happening, too.
MARILYN: The film is recommended family-friendly viewing from the Dove Foundation for ages 12 and up, but it definitely appeals to younger kids and adults as well. We’ve also found that Baby Boomers like it, particularly as a film to watch with their grandkids. Interestingly, there are characters in the film from 8 to 80-years-old, so we think it can appeal to them all. So many stories of bullying are sad or distressing, we wanted to create a film that could provide fun and laughs for all ages, yet still promote the message to stop bullying. Plus, the film delves into other issues that families may face, like the father losing his job and moving to a new town, the mom having to set up a new house and take care of her family, and the young son having to go to a new school, make new friends and face bullies. We feel it reflects lots of positive family values, but does it in a fun and funny way.
How’s the feedback been? Has anyone from the anti-bullying committees seen it? We have shown it to several anti-bullying organizations who
RICHARD: The feedback has been terrific. One of our most promising reviews came from a State Trooper in New Jersey who runs an Anti-bullying Program. He said he’d like to use our movie to open his program as an icebreaker.
MARILYN: We also did a screening at the Veteran’s Home in Los Angeles for Veterans and their families. The film got an excellent reception. We did a Q & A afterwards and there was a lot of discussion. We learned that military families have a lot of challenges with regard to bullying. Many of them move often because they are stationed in different cities, and their kids have to adjust to new neighborhoods, new schools and new friends. So, of course, we were thrilled to hear their comments and their excitement about the film.
Where can we see the film?
RICHARD: The movie is available for digital streaming or download on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu... and other platforms. Our big news is that DVDs of our film we will be available at Walmart stores starting April 5, 2016.
MARILYN: The trailer and links to the film are also at our website at: