Over the past six months, some quality online videos devoted to Barack Obama have come out, but how many of them featured the senator from Illinois in a “political horror rock musical”? Answer, none. Until, that is, the release last February of Barackula: The Musical. Written by and starring Justin Sherman (whose Obama impression is good enough to rival Freddy Lockhart’s), this 12-minute short depicts Barack Obama’s ascension as president of the Harvard Law Review — with a Thriller twist.
We had the chance to speak with director Mike Lawson, so we asked him a few questions about future plans for the Barackula franchise — and a lot of questions about vampires. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.
NewTeeVee: You initially present vampires in a negative light here, but the ending seems to indicate that Barack Obama is willing to “reach across the aisle,” so to speak. Do you feel that Barackula has a pro-vampire or anti-vampire message?
Lawson: That’s a good question. I don’t think it says either way. I think it’s pro in the sense that by the end [the vampires] are willing to work with Barack, or at least we think. If they’re able to compromise and have the first non-vampire president, maybe they can change some of their ways. But the bottom line is they still need to suck blood to survive. I think it’s anti-previous-vampire ways, but it’s pro-progressive-vampire.
NewTeeVee: Vampires aren’t typically portrayed as being open to this sort of change, though. Do you feel like this is a case of misrepresentation by the media?
Lawson: No. I think that many films or stories I’ve read about vampires include that element. They mostly deal with a person thrust into that lifestyle, a sort of fish-out-of-water story — do I suck blood and survive, or hold ground and suffer a painful exit? I like to imagine that the Barackula vampires spent as much time fretting over exams and studying and dating as they did trying to suck some poor bloke’s blood. I like that angle. They don’t only suck blood, they have a life (of sorts) to live too.
NewTeeVee: What do you feel it says about your representation of Barack Obama, that he’s willing to collaborate with vampires? Do you think the real Barack Obama would be as open?
Lawson: I think he would realize that he must deal with them to make the kind of change he wants to see. If they’re on his side, perhaps he can influence them. Most people would succumb to [the vampires'] pressure and convert, or they would simply die. I don’t see most people escaping that meeting alive. But Barack finds a way to stay alive and remain President [of the Harvard Law Review]. So I think it shows he’s resilient and able to adapt to his surroundings. It portrays him true to his beliefs. He doesn’t waver.
NewTeeVee: Do you think other candidates in the race would be so open to working with vampires?
Lawson: I think so. I could see many of [the candidates] giving in and becoming a vampire, or letting the vampires rule through pressure and intimidation. But I’m not sure they would be able to inspire the vampires. Barack does.
NewTeeVee: In future installments of Barackula, will young Barack ever struggle with the decision to become a vampire?
Lawson: We’re working that out. I don’t know. If he’s in love with his girlfriend, he’ll want to be with her forever – and that’s appealing. But I think his biggest struggle will be able to continue to deal with the vampires and not let them attack him and win. That’ll be the struggle.
NewTeeVee: What really impressed me initially about Barackula was its production value. Where did your budget come from?
Mike Lawson: From our pockets. We’re pretty broke so we asked anyone who wanted to donate if they could spare twenty bucks here or there. But we kept costs down: We hustled and got our locations for free, we begged our friends to help out as dancers and crew, the key members of the crew took a big pay cut… We spent about three grand on it.
NewTeeVee: When will we see the next part of the Barackula story?
Lawson: We’re working on getting Part Two out by mid-September.
NewTeeVee: What are your plans should Obama fail to get the nomination — or win the presidency?
Lawson: We are moving ahead to make a feature in the event that he wins. We’ll be all ready to go by then. But it could end with the short film and I would be fine — I just want him to win.