Upon the release of a Hollywood film, the director typically gets the bulk of the media attention while the producer keeps a lower profile. In the case of the infamous Muslims Innocence viral video, which has sparked a wave of violent protests in the Middle East, this has been reversed: The film's producer has been exposed in the media as a liar and a fraud. But we still know next to nothing about the director, a man who goes by the name Alan Roberts.
Who is Alan Roberts?
It was revealed today that the producer of Muslim Innocence (also known as Innocence of Muslims) is a Coptic Christian ex-con named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. Nakoula used the pseudonym "Sam Bacile" in producing the film, which offers a profane take on Muhammed. After protests erupted over a 14-minute YouTube trailer for the film, "Bacile" gave interviews to reporters claiming to be an Israeli real estate mogul and calling Islam a "cancer." But last night the Associated Press outed Bacile as Nakoula, a 55-year-old California resident who has a history of financial fraud and an impressive trail of more than a dozen pseudonyms. (Nakoula is currently in hiding and under police protection.)
Some reports say that in addition to writing and producing the film, Nakoula, as Sam Bacile, directed it as well. (I will refer to Nakoula from here on as Sam Bacile for clarity's sake.) But the original July 2011 casting call for the film lists someone named Alan Roberts as the director and Sam Bacile as the producer. Many have assumed that Alan Roberts was just another one of Nakoula's pseudonyms.
But Alan Roberts is a different man, according to two members of the cast and crew I've spoken to. Sam Bacile oversaw the logistics of the production, while Alan Roberts directed the actors and set up shots.
"Alan was working under Sam, sort of," said Eric Moers, who was hired as a grip and electrician on the production. "But Alan was directing the movie, there was no question about it. Sam would just say [things like] 'Move faster, we have things to do.'"
So who is the director Alan Roberts? He's a white man in his late 50s or early 60s, according to Dax and Moer. A director named Alan Roberts in IMDB could possibly be him: This Alan Roberts has directed nine obscure films, including including the 1977 soft core porn Young Lady Chatterly. His last film a 1994 thriller called Save Me, starring L.A. Law's Harry Hamiln. (The phone number on his IMDB page is wrong, according to Fox News.)
But it's hard to believe that someone who has even directed one film would produce something as amateurish as Muslim Innocence. Moer said Roberts didn't seem to know what he was doing on set. 90% of the film was shot on a green screen, but Moer had to explain the most basic concepts of special effects to Roberts.
"He was a directorial hack, he didn't know basic things. It was very unprofessional," said Moer. Moer recalls one instance where Bacile told him he and Roberts were going to take a trip to Egypt to shoot photos to use as the green screen backdrop. Moer told him that was a huge waste of time and money because they could easily make an Egypt-like scene here in California.
"But Sam kept telling me that Alan really wants to go to Egypt. I told him, 'I think Alan just wants a free trip to Egypt.'"
Robert's directing style was also lacking: "He was going for real camp, really amping up the acting," Moer said.
But Moer said Roberts was far from the only thing odd about the production of Muslim Innocence. This was a film where white actors in brownface were cast overwhelmingly for Middle Eastern roles. Where scripts showed up just minutes before shooting and Bacile, the producer, would talk during shots. The entire thing was a farce.
"I don't think anyone was taking the movie seriously," Moer said. "Everyone took it as a joke; Sam seemed to be the only one serious about it."
It's possible that Alan Roberts, like the rest of the cast and crew, was deceived by Sam Bacile about the anti-Islam nature of the final product. The film was originally called Desert Warrior, and instead of an offensive spoof of Muhammed it was presented as a generic tale of life in ancient Egypt. The offensive material about Muhammed and Islam was dubbed over in post-production. This would likely be the first time in movie history that a director was unaware of what film he was directing. But stranger things have happened just in the past week.