To create a new franchise about a superhero whistleblower, who has to fight his own government, writer/filmmakers Jim Cirile and Aaron Pope brought in big muscle.
By Tanya Klein
The writing team of Jim Cirile & Aaron Pope knew they were on to something when they sketched out their original short screenplay for Liberator – a character study of an aging ex-superhero with political undertones. “Liberator was one of ‘America’s goodwill ambassadors’ – leader of a government-created team of supers,” says Cirile. “But that was just their cover. What they were really up to was something else entirely.” When a black op went south, the Liberator was forced to take the fall. Decades later, after a long stint in prison, Liberator is disgraced, reviled — a traitor. “His own family, his daughter, won’t even talk to him any more. And that is just killing him.” So at great personal risk, after all this time – Liberator decides to blow the whistle and tell the truth.
“We knew that trying to launch an original superhero franchise without source material would be next to impossible,” says Pope. “But if we had something with the right combination of grit and heart, we might just be able to speak to people with it. That was worth the risk for us so we gambled on getting the closest thing to a real life superhero we could find and sent the script to Lou (Ferrigno).”
Ferrigno sparked to the role immediately. “It really spoke to him,” says Pope. “Once we had Lou on board, the cast came together quickly – Ed Asner (Up), the amazing Peta Wilson (La Femme Nikita) and Mr. Worf himself, Michael Dorn, and we were off and running.” Well, except for a little matter of money.
Cirile and Pope decided the best strategy was to shoot as much as they could with the funds they had. “We had enough dough to shoot five days,” says Cirile. “That was enough to get us a lot of great footage to put together a sizzle reel for Kickstarter.” With the reel showing off genre faves Wilson and Dorn, and featuring Ferrigno himself asking for finishing funds, the team set out to raise $18,000. “It was down to the wire,” says Pope. “We were sweating it out there as the deadline got closer and closer. But then with literally seconds to spare, three big donors all came in and put us over the top. We wound up raising almost $25,000.”
Turns out Cirile and Pope had their fingers on the pulse of time. Liberator landed right in the midst of the current whistleblower debate. Huffington Post, USA Today, Fox & Friends, Yahoo! News, and soon CNN all picking up the story.
Liberator premiered last year at Holly Shorts Film Festival and since then has been playing at film festivals and comic-cons. To date it has won Best Dramatic Short from CalShorts and the Award of Excellence from IndieFest. The project’s building momentum has resulted in a comic book deal from Bluewater Comics, with Lou Ferrigno: Liberator hitting stands this summer. “This is a dream come true and in fact, it’s almost like we’ve come full-circle,” says Pope. “We not only get to expand the world of our characters, but we’re creating our own source material, which was the issue we faced in trying to start a new superhero franchise in the first place.”
Now that Liberator is both an award-winning short and a comic book series, can a feature film be far behind? “Franchise was our goal from the beginning,” says Cirile. “The project already has fans in the biz. We’ll see what shakes out. In the meantime, this is my geek dream cast, geek dream project, and we’re really stoked that people are feeling it. Truth is worth fighting for.”
More at liberatormovie.com.
Tanya Klein is a writer/director currently living in Los Angeles.