Bob Byington Sees the World, Writes Home About It

Harmony and Me's adventures in Australia

Bob's cat / Bob's glasses
Bob's cat / Bob's glasses

When Bob Byington took his comedy Harmony and Me to Australia, we asked him to keep a journal for us of his travels. Back home now, Bob starts production on his next film, Somebody Up There Likes Me, starring Nick Offerman, this July in Austin.

Journaling begins after the jump...

Feb. 18

One thing of note: Was stopped by customs in Australia, they thought it odd that I was routed through Hong Kong, and asked me a lot of questions. They did not ask me if I had a condom stuffed with heroin in my ass, but the clear subtext for the questions was, 'get one of these wrong, and we're checking up there.' It was helpful, it helped me pay attention to the questions. I had been on planes for 30 hours, and wanted to comment on the hilarity and surreal nature of the interrogation, but that's discouraged... But then also, oddly, it made me sort of want to try it, the smuggling part... but I am too afraid of what happens when you get caught.

Now in Sydney they're showing Harmony to some kids at the University of Technology here this evening. It's for a seminar on what's called micro-budget filmmaking, I'm meant to encourage people that money needn't be an obstacle... I think it's the same for having kids. If you want kids you don't really care about the money part of it, or so I hear. I don't have any kids...

On from here to the Adelaide Film Festival, which they have every two years, Adelaide is considered some kind of sister city to Austin, they apparently relate to no one having jobs, but seeming like they're doing OK.

So it will have been a nearly two year festival run for the film, plus then it's going on a tour in Texas this summer. One thing I want to say, and something I intend to apply to the next film we do: It's a long haul. You forget this a lot, and need reminders when you want the film to be finished... but I think it's supposed to take a long time if you're going to make a film, something to kind of hang in there against the ravages of time, and the more you take this position the more you potentially make something that holds up. I'm not sure and most of the time I don't know what i'm talking about..."

Feb. 19

I was concerned the humor in Harmony wouldn't translate, but it went fine – it seemed to land with the Aussies' generally jovial sensibility. I was told that movies about people getting fired at the beginning aren't that big of a deal, because Aussies aren't really afraid of getting fired, just as a culture...

The highlight of the evening was certainly discussing Australian slang terms –"drone" means you're dumb, and apparently it's also in vogue to say of someone in passing "oh, he's all right... cunt." It's got something to do with the timing, if you trail off correctly. The Australians will says things like "fuck off outside" if they want you to go outside, and I told them that "fuck off" is different for us...

Speaking of, met a director, Alex Munt, who has a 65 min. film called LBF that's going to be at SXSW. It's an acronym for "life between fucking." SXSW is mos def on the map in Sydney, and it came up at the conference more than a couple times, as having helped films launch, including a film called The Horseman that was at SXSW a couple years ago.

The day after tomorrow I go to Adelaide, which people keep telling me is the best film festival in the country. It's held every two years, it's in a relatively small town (one million people), and they apparently really roll it out... The lineup is pretty astounding – they seem to have every film I've heard about that's been on the festival circuit for the last little while.

Feb. 24

They had nearly 2,000 people for the opening night film, called Mrs. Carey's Concert, a documentary about a girls' music school that looked like it was going to be uplifting in clichéd ways, but turned out to be quite good.

Before the movie they honored Judy Davis with an award and surprised her (and the audience) with a funny, warm greeting from Woody Allen, in which he said he'd always been terribly intimidated by her, and even too shy to talk to her during the four movies they've worked on together.

Harmony and Me shows this evening... Feb. 25

We screened Harmony last night to an enthusiastic crowd. The first question was, "this movie seemed more like it was made in Canada, are you Canadian?" I guess because it didn't resemble Miss Congeniality 2 it couldn't have been made in the USA. I have done a fair number of Q and A's with this film – tomorrow really feels like the last one I'll do – and without fail someone asks how much of the film was scripted and how much improvised. We nearly escaped last night but then that ended up being the last question.. Everyone is extremely gracious and the festival has spent at least 5K to get me here and lodge me, and even gave me per diem (that looks a lot like Monopoly Money), so it's not difficult to be polite and courteous in turn. But I am tired of talking about the movie, and I feel stupid that I still am...

Feb. 26

Went to see Douglas Trumbull talk about running the visual effects departments on some big jobs – 2001, Blade Runner, Close Encounters. The project that seemed nearest and dearest to his heart was the Back to the Future ride he'd designed for Universal more than 20 years ago. Now at 70+ he has an effervescence that'd be enviable in an 18 year old. Truly an innovator, and very inspiring – he crammed more material in a two hour lecture than most college classes contain in a week. He's also working with Terrence Malick on a documentary, and contributed to Mr. Malick's Tree of Life. There was a funny moment in which he said he wanted to talk about Tree of Life, but he'd "promised Terry I wouldn't" – the audience emitted a sad collective gasp...

Also watched a movie about Chilean women (literally) wandering around in the desert, looking for their kids' remains. Probably the bleakest movie I've ever seen, very confusing, uplifting I'm sure for people who like(d) it, not for me. I think I suffer from some fatal disconnect when it comes to trying to understand the connection between moms and their offspring... Pinochet apparently sent more than a few folks packing when he took over and, like Joe Pesci in Casino, he had a penchant for having people buried in the desert...

Back Home

The odd thing about Adelaide was that when Harmony was accepted into New Directors/New Films in February of 2009, the head of that series, Laurence Kardish, had mentioned to me that he was going down to Australia to head up a jury at a festival that happened every two years in the middle of nowhere.  He had mentioned, when he got back, that there was a good chance that Harmony (tho' still not completely finished, we were working furiously to prep for April premiere), would be playing at a festival two years into the future... So there I was, in February 2011, wandering around this version of a forecastable future for the film, something like deja vu? I'm still unpacking it, and unpacking, and I'm jet lagged, and not to be jingoistic or anything, but there's no place like Austin...

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Bob Byington, Harmony and Me, Somebody Up There Likes Me, Nick Offerman, Adelaide Film Festival, LBF, Alex Munt, Douglas Trumbull, Laurence Kardish, Mrs. Carey's Concert

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