The beginning of November marks the time when some 8,000 movie industry leaders from over 70 countries converge in Santa Monica. It's the American Film Market, (AFM) an 8-day event where participants come to network and to sell, finance and acquire films for distribution all over the world. The Loew’s Santa Monica Hotel is the headquarters for this premiere global marketplace where Hollywood’s decision-makers and trendsetters gather to make and close movie deals, be they big studios or small independent filmmakers.
We found out about a little movie, “How to Beat a Bully,” that will be ready just in time for the event. Bullying is a hot topic these days. In fact, October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Whether it’s bullying in schools or cyber-bullying, this ever-increasing problem makes news over and over – which is why we wanted to highlight this new Indie family comedy that is debuting at AFM.
“How to Beat a Bully” has no big names in it. The theme and story are the stars of this little gem. It’s a “Home Alone” kind of comedy with an anti-bullying theme. The story revolves around a 12-year old boy who moves to a new town and gets picked on by school bullies. I related to that because it happened to me. And truthfully, what new kid in town hasn’t had that kind of trepidation?
In the film, after the boy’s dad gives him lame fatherly advice, he has to come up with his own solution instead. After watching a show on TV, he decides to tell the bullies his father is a hit man for the mob! At first no one believes him, but through a series of misunderstandings – his father is an insurance salesman who keeps telling people they need “protection” and he can give them a “contract” – the whole town is convinced it’s true. After that, the bullies become the boy’s BFF’s. They treat him with respect and he doles out favors like a little Godfather. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go as well for his dad. The rumor spreads to real mobsters, who think he’s horning in on their territory. Ultimately, they capture the dad and the kid and his friends have to save his dad from the mob.
This is a cheerful comedy, but it can open up a discussion on the serious topic of bullying. The filmmakers have already been speaking with anti-bullying organizations about possible screenings and fundraisers. What better way to begin a conversation on bullying than with something that can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike, and get them in a mood to feel good and embrace each other's individuality and differences. This approach has often been used by well-known entertainers and celebrities as they try to spread the word to stop bullying.
The script for “How to Beat a Bully” has won several contests and was optioned numerous times by Hollywood producers, but never made. Finally, Screenwriters Marilyn Anderson & Richard Rossner decided “no more options.” That's when things started to happen. A film financier approached Anderson about the project, and she teamed up with Dream Factory Entertainment, a production company that had done several other family features. When partners Robert Dudelson and Stephen Langford read the script, they were captivated by its humor and originality. So many stories of bullies are sad or upsetting, Dream Factory realized it would be good to reach out to children and families in a more lighthearted way.
Even before it was completed, word of this smart little film began to get out. REVERSE ORDER, a popular boy band that was a semi-finalist on America's Got Talent, contributed songs to the movie.
The band is currently doing a national tour, providing an Anti-Bullying Concert and Assembly for 150 schools around the country. Along with sharing their own stories of being bullied, the boys sing their original songs, and they also hope to show clips from “How to Beat a Bully.” Having talked to thousands of students, the boys have seen, firsthand, how music and humor can help spread this vital message.
Although “How to Beat a Bully” has no big stars, it’s got a talented group of tweens and teens, some of whom will undoubtedly become stars. Grant McLellan plays the boy, with Bryan Yoshi Brown, Kade Pait, Ian Tucker, Pearce Joza and Griffen Beebe as the bullies-turned-buddies. Eric Lauritzen and Elise Angell are the mom and dad, with Vince Donvito and Micah Lyons co-starring as comic bad guys.
Some of the young actors have made short videos for the organization Beyond Bullies to help publicize a contest where entrants can win $500 for submitting a video describing how they were bullied and offering ideas to help stop bullying.
"How to Beat a Bully" was directed by Doug Bilitch, written by Marilyn Anderson & Richard Rossner, and produced by Sofia L. Monroe and Paul Rocha. Executive Producers are Robert Dudelson, Stephen Langford, Marilyn Anderson, Jackeline Olivier and Wes Underwood. The film has a musical score by Emmy-Award winning composer, Misha Segal.
Blairwood Entertainment is handling Worldwide Sales & Distribution. The company will be at AFM.
The movie “How to Beat a Bully” may not solve the bullying problem, but it should provide lots of laughs and entertainment for kids and families – as well as deliver a lighthearted, but important message: “It’s more fun being friends than bullies.”