LIBERATOR - THE TRUTH IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR

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Lou Ferrigno's Liberator - Cover
I've often wondered what life would be like if everybody spoke the truth all of the time. I mean, would it be too overt? Would it be too bodacious? Or better yet, would it be too liberating? You know. As in the new Lou Ferrigno film. The one I spoke about with its writer, Jim Cirile, only the other day, whilst telling it like it is. Peace-Out!





1) What are your own origins, Jim? Plus what path did you take in life prior to getting to where you are today?   Straight out of college, where I'd majored in art and animation, I was hired by an ultra-low-budget horror film production company in New York City. I spent three years working on some terrible movies but learned a ton and fell in love with screenwriting.

The Beverly Hillbillies
When I finally realized there was no real future to be had for a screenwriter in New York, I loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly -- Hills, that is. Actually, an area called Van Nuys, much more affordable. And hot. Incredibly, within three days of arriving in Los Angeles, I lucked onto a production assistant job on a big studio movie. That began many years of PA'ing on movies and television shows, all the while writing on the side.

Before long I had an agent and got my first rewrite job, all in under a year. Who said breaking into Hollywood was hard? Huh? Of course, that train was sure to come to a crashing halt, as it did. By 2000, my career basically imploded. So I went back to ground. Enrolled in UCLA and finally learned the proper way to write screenplays. Also, I founded a script development service called Coverage Ink, which allows other writers access to the excellent team of readers I'd built up over the years.

Suddenly a new door opened and I found myself writing for magazines and tabloids, including Weekly World News, which I viewed as a comedy writing job since I made up all the stories out of whole cloth. I wound up writing the Agent's Hot Sheet column for Creative Screenwriting magazine for over a decade, where I became the agent / manager guru. And amazingly, somehow, I actually have representation again and some new screenplays circulating about the town. Everyone loves a good comeback story. I just wished mine was a bit better...

2) How did ‘Liberator’ come about?   Lou Ferrigno is a family friend, and I've known him for years. He's this world-famous actor who's perennially underutilized. This is in part because of his speech impediment, because he's about 80% deaf, and partly because of typecasting, I think. Some folks assume he's a big dumb lug like his Hulk character. So I came up with an idea for a character like Superman or Captain America -- one closely associated with American values.

Lou Ferrigno's LiberatorNow what would happen if that was a real person who lived through the Bush / Obama years? That person would likely be used, exploited, and then thrown under the bus, much like we did with the late great Pat Tillman, whose sad death was turned into propaganda. And then it all coalesced in my head -- the world's first superhero whistleblower. Here's a guy who was a true patriot, standing for the ideals of America. He's drafted into a manufactured superhero team whose ostensible purpose is to be the USA's goodwill ambassadors. But that was just their cover. In reality they were up to decidedly darker things like black ops, coups, kidnapping, and basically laying the groundwork for our current neoconservative regime.

At first, Liberator participates willingly -- he's drank the Kool-Aid. But over time the reality of the terrible things they're doing overwhelms him. But like a good soldier, he keeps his mouth shut, even taking the fall for a black op gone FUBAR and serving a decade in federal prison. Now, at long last, he's reached his breaking point. The time has come to speak out. And that's where our story begins.

So I wrote up a little 10-page script that really was mostly a slice of life, showing Liberator's shitty life as of now, as this pariah, struggling to have a relationship with his estranged daughter. I sent it along to my writing partner, Aaron Pope, and said, I came up with this idea for Lou. What do you think? Aaron really sparked to it, an that began about a year of rewrites, as we tried to find the best and most affordable version of the script.

We wound up having to eliminate a lot of things, but some of it made its way into the upcoming comic book version of the story. Anyway, we sent it to Lou, and thankfully, he loved the role and was willing to open a vein, so to speak, to play a difficult character like this. Over and over I hear how blown away people are by Lou's performance. That's a combination of: (A) Lou did indeed do an amazing job, but also (B), those preconceived notions some folks have which have hurt Lou's career.



3) In your own words how would you describe this film?   LIBERATOR is many things to me, each equally important. Firstly it is a story of a father and daughter. As a dad myself, I wanted to tell a story about how communication with your child can sometimes be difficult, and even all the love in the world might not be enough to bridge a terrible gap. In this case, it's a redemption story, but a very focused one. This man doesn't give a damn what anyone else thinks of him. There's only one opinion that counts -- his daughter's. And he is willing to literally risk everything for that. 

The other issue is the whistleblower aspect. This movie has a political undercurrent. We don't pull any punches. Infotainment news seldom tells you the truth, and this is why people like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are so crucial. It takes a lot for someone to stand up, to speak the truth. They are not only putting their own lives on the line, they're risking their family as well. I can't recall ever seeing a story about a superhero whistleblower, and what being so closely associated with America would actually mean in the real world. So here it is.

Lou Ferrigno's Prince HulkLastly, we wanted to tell a great story with lots of action and geek appeal. You can't put Big Lou in a movie and not have him kick some ass. And ass is kicked! Add in geek icons like Michael Dorn (WORF!) and Peta Wilson (NIKITA!) and heck, LOU GRANT! and this is a movie I would kill to see, as a geek, way more than most Hollywood fare.

4) Apart from the medium, what’s the biggest difference between the ‘Liberator’ movie and comic book?   There are a couple of important changes. The short is only 18 minutes, so there's only so much you can do in that time. As well, our budget was microscopic (we raised about $25,000 on Kickstarter), so we were not able to do our huge Act 3 live action battle. Instead, we ended the film just as it was about to begin. "To Be Continued...".

This is now restored and in 'Lou Ferrigno: Liberator #2', and we're stoked. The art looks amazing. Other important changes included bringing the character of Volt back; we killed him off in the short, but he's still alive in the comic for reasons you'll have to wait and see. And since it's a 2-shot comic, we had to cut the story in half and change the emphasis in a few key areas. Ideally, we're really hoping to do the story as a feature, where we will have much more room the expand the characters. We're looking for ways to raise money for that now. Hopefully we'll find some folks with a few bucks who are as stoked about this material as we are.

In any event, we won Best Digital Comic from New Media Film Festival a few weeks back, even before publication, so hopefully we're doing something right. 

5) If ‘Liberator’ was a song, what song would it be and why?   Ha! For some reason, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" just popped into my head. Which may seem an odd choice, but the lyrics are actually quite dark, and it's all masked in this silly, happy ditty.

Perhaps that's analogous to LIBERATOR as well, in that our film may seem like a fluffy trifle, a little superhero movie with the original Hulk. But if you actually pay attention what we're saying is in fact deeper and darker and hopefully there's a statement there. That's why our tagline is, "truth is worth fighting for".




6) How much input has Lou Ferrigno had on this project? Plus what was it like meeting him?   You know, I was just at Lou's house recently doing some interviews with him, and as I walked out, utter nerdvana overwhelmed me. I was just hanging out with LOU FERRIGNO! You have to understand how staggeringly cool that is to me. I grew up watching this man on television. And now he's in our movie. Once in a while you have to just allow yourself these moments. You know, on set with Peta Wilson and Michael Dorn and Don "The Dragon" Wilson and Lou, you have to be all cool and professional and pretend they are regular people and not these icons you love from movies and TV shows. What I really wanted to do was just drink some bloodwine and bring in my bat'leth and geek out with all of them! 

Lou Ferrigno's LiberatorThat said, Lou's input was mostly regarding his performance. He and the director, Aaron Pope, worked a lot on the character and who this man is. Lou had a great handle on how this character has been used, abused and thrown away, and his actor instincts were strong. Lou's wife Carla had some great ideas as well.

7) If your movie omitted a smell, what odour would it be and why?   Bloody hell! That's a corker of a question, mate! Alright, I'm game. A smell... alright then, the smell of cordite. Because there is an incredible amount of gunfire and explosions for a short film, especially one that is character-driven.

8) What were the main obstacles you had to contend with?   I honestly could spend several weeks detailing these. Mostly the obstacles had to do with people who made representations to us and then did not deliver and left us holding the bag. This happened to us over and over again with several department heads. A short film with a year in post-production? Believe it. And on and on, but this stuff may be boring to most folks I would imagine, and frankly par for the course with low-budget filmmaking.

9) If ‘Liberator’ had a motto, what do you think it would be?   I stated it above: 'Truth is worth fighting for'. This speaks to whistleblowers and would-be whistleblowers and others who will never be a whistleblower because of fear. There are many blackout issues that no one can talk about. It would be literally falling on their swords for anyone in Congress or the corporate media to speak out.

Lou Ferrigno's Liberator Comic
The US Government sued radio host Randi Rhodes because she had the temerity to speak truth on-air--that Abu Ghraib and our torture policy had nothing to do with protecting us from terrorism. Its true purpose is to foment terrorism, to create enemies and give us an excuse to fight these damn perpetual wars. They had no problem with anything else she said, but when she hit on that piece of truth, she crossed a line and they sued her into silence. She was off the air for six months and when she returned after settling out of court, the gag order was in place. And that was the end of her advocacy. 

And so it becomes even more paramount for brave individuals to step forward. When it's isolated cases like Bradley Manning and the World Trade Center whistleblower, William Rodriguez, it's easy to marginalize/arrest/confine/prosecute these people. But suppose a whole bunch of people started coming forward? We all have to look in our hearts and find the bravery to stand up against injustice, not turn away. Engage in the real world and be a force for justice. We can ALL be liberators. Truth IS worth fighting for.

Wow! Powerful stuff, Jim. Don't you agree, dear readers? When you've got the time please check out the Liberator Movie Website, plus the twitter, facebook, and youtube channels. Go on. Click-Click. The truth is at your fingertips.