Well, Andrew hasn’t really worked with Morrissey, you know – the mopey guy from The Smiths, but he has worked with Spongebob. He spent time at Nickelodeon as an animation director on “Spongebob Squarepants” before deciding to take the plunge into feature film directing. And that’s where Morrissey comes in. His film, My Life With Morrissey, follows the downward spiral of one woman’s life as her chance encounter with the pop star drives her insane.
Just released on DVD, we got a chance to speak with Andrew about My Life With Morrissey.
What inspired the story for the film? Do you have an unhealthy obsession with Morrissey?
Truthfully, I didn’t know what a Morrissey was until I started writing the script for this film. I had heard of The Smiths before, of course, but hadn’t heard any of their music. I’m an old man and had grown up with the likes of Patti Smith, Wire, Television, The Buzzcocks, The Pistols and early Clash, and of course, The Stranglers.
Anyway, I arrived at work one morning during my stint as an Animation Director on “Spongebob Squarepants” and the PA (Jackie Buscarino) who sits outside my office had her cubicle covered with banners that said “JACKIE MET MORRISSEY!!!”. So I was like “Who’s Morrissey?”. And then she told me he’s the singer for the Smiths and she used to stalk him in her teen years, but never had met him, blah, blah, blah. To make a long story short, she was hanging out the night before at the Cat and Fiddle bar/pub here in Los Angeles ( a known Morrissey haunt) and lo and behold Morrissey happens to be there too with some friends. So Jackie goes to his table, tells him she loves him, she’s his biggest fan, etc. Everything’s fine up until this point, right? Well, Jackie then asks if she can give him a hug and Morrissey politely says yes, so Jackie leans in and hugs him, spilling his drink in the process. This really happened. So I listened to Jackie telling this story over and over and over to anyone who will listen because her desk is right outside my office, and by the end of the day she actually had kind of an attitude about it, like “I’m better than you because I know Morrissey” — I could hear it in her voice. So I started thinking wouldn’t it be funny if someone had a totally meaningless encounter with someone famous, and they got totally big-headed about it and consequently lost everything — friends, job, apartment — because of their own misplaced ego. I had been working on cartoons for five years at this point and I was ready to make something REALLY dark and twisted as my first live action project. So this fit the bill.
How did you make the transition from directing cartoons to directing a live action feature?
Well, I was inspired to do a live action feature after seeing Tom DiCillo’s “Box of Moonlight”, which I think is just an amazing film in so many ways. I’d already done some music videos and had been working directing cartoons for a few years, so I took the plunge and bought a Bolex EBM on ebay. I got a little depressed after the camera came and I realized I needed to get lights and hire a crew etc., etc., etc.! I said to myself, “There’s no way I’ll be able to do this”! But luckily I had been a photography freak for years when I was a little kid, so the cinematography aspect came really easily to me. And I learned a lot of really valuable story stuff from Derek Drymon and Steve Hillenberg, the two top creatives of “Spongebob,” because they would work out their story problems while I was in the room turning their storyboards into rough animated sequences
called “animatics”. And I’ve been writing for longer than I care to remember, so the script part was a challenge, but fun and familiar. So I guess although it was a giant step to take, I was lucky to have acquired a lot of the tools I needed to help me from previous life adventures.
Who has more fans, Spongebob or Morrissey?
Well, that’s an interesting question, because they both have a hell of a lot of them, and I get a lot of email from the movie website from both Spongebob AND Morrissey fans. Women love them both, but not in the same way. If the two of them went to a singles bar together, I fear Spongebob would get the old “Let’s be friends” routine while Morrissey would be fighting them off with a stick. They’re both very popular with the ladies, though.
What were some major problems in getting My Life With Morrissey made?
Locations are always a problem. I somehow got Nickelodeon to agree to let us shoot there, so that helped immensely. We were able to use the studio at night and on weekends, and have all our production meetings and casting calls there too. For locations that we couldn’t use the studio for, I just recruited people from my daily life. The bar down the street became the bar, my apartment became Jackie’s apartment — I even got the lady who runs the storage place where I keep the film gear to lend us her dumpster for the lesbian schoolgirl scene! As far as major problems go, I guess the biggest was that Jackie tore the ligaments in her knee during filming and couldn’t walk for a month. It happened when she wrestles with the big security guard at the end of the film. The scene when he pulls her off the soda machine and drags her away is when it happened. Apparently she has a bad knee and shouldn’t really wrestle, so the last take of the last shot of the day of this wrestling sequence she collapsed onto the floor in tears and we just all stood there, helpless. There was nothing anyone could do to help her and that was a really awful feeling. Anyway, Nickelodeon almost closed the shoot down after that because their lawyers freaked out. Then about four weeks later, 9/11 happened and they were afraid to let us shoot there because of “security concerns”. But in the end they produced a long document for me to sign and we were allowed to finish the shoot. I don’t know what the document said, but I wouldn’t doubt that they own my film now.
Get the rest of the interview in part two of FROM SPONGEBOB TO MORRISSEY – ANDREW OVERTOOM WORKS WITH THE BEST>>>