In the streaming series Bazzooka, which premiered last night on YouTube, a Seattle police state imposes a curfew at 6pm, courtesy a mayor who’s married to a local tech CEO (“the zillionaire who invented hands-free, auto, online shopping”). So a contingent of Black-led punks is taking to the streets and resisting. But everything here is a cognate: The mayor, played by Andrea Hays (Heidi from Twin Peaks), is not Jenny Durkan. The corporation is Tundra, not Amazon or Microsoft. And the year—if we still want to annually demarcate this temporal slurry—is 2022.
There are a couple reasons for this alternate world, says Danny Denial, who wrote and directed the show (you may know Denial as the musician behind last year’s album Fuck Danny Denial as well a member of the band Dark Smith). Because other people are also affiliated—Eva Walker from the Black Tones plays the lead, a musician who’s just returned to Seattle after losing touch with its scene—Denial didn’t want to go directly after local institutions and have it potentially hurt anyone's career. But Bazzooka's mirror city also effects a contemplative distance, letting viewers remove some of their associations and inviting empathy. He figures it “may help people who are kind of on the fence or not always understanding, you know, why do people target organizations like this?”
Denial thinks the web series, and the TV medium in general, is a great way to reach a range of people. The show is created by and is about artists who are LGBTQ, Black, and people of color. “You look at something like middle America even understanding and empathizing with the queer community…and how much television was a big proponent of that,” Denial says. And because the show is on YouTube for free, that communication can be immediate, direct, and accessible.
Bazzooka is a sequel of sorts to a feature film, Kill Me to Death, that Denial made back in 2017. But the movie spent nearly two years in post-production before premiering in 2019. Then: the festival screenings, the search for distribution. “The only lifeblood I really felt like it had was in the local screenings… But in 2020, those are gone.” With a web series, they could work fast and control how and when the episodes get released.
After dreaming up the series last summer amid “this very surreal kind of nightmare hellscape we found ourselves in,” Denial says, they got about 60 percent of the small budget through a GoFundMe and filmed five of the first seven episodes before November’s lockdown halted production. (Though a pandemic isn’t a part of the show, they integrated masks into the story and came up with work arounds to film the rest safely, including a composite of three different takes.) The plan right now is releasing at least the first three episodes monthly, which in part gives time for the current Covid wave to subside.
In many ways, the immediacy of the web approach is something Denial and many of the cast and crew are familiar with since they’ve self-released music via platforms like Bandcamp and Soundcloud. “The idea is just to get it out as far and wide so you get people who resonate with it, and then maybe they’ll put that dollar back in.” They’ll sell merch like T-shirts, face masks, and the show’s all-Black soundtrack.
And what a soundtrack it will be. Along with original music for the show from Denial, Walker, and Cozell Wilson (of Beverly Crusher), there are songs from King Youngblood, Shaina Shepherd (of Bearaxe), Black Ends, DoNormaal, and others. Each episode ends with a performance (a la Twin Peaks); the first features the perpetual excellence of Ex-Florist (previously Guayaba), on the stage of the Central Saloon.