When a disgraced superhero has nothing left to lose, he fights to regain everything he has lost. That is the premise of ‘Liberator,’ a new short film written by Aaron Pope and Jim Cirile. The story focuses on Al Migliocetti, A.K.A. The Liberator, a superhero who once worked for the government. After a black ops mission gone wrong, Al takes the fall and his reputation as a warrior for justice is ruined. After spending a decade in federal prison, Al returns to a world that no longer needs him. Attempting to save his own reputation by writing a tell-all book about his experiences, Al must don his Liberator suit once again when an old foe returns. Lou Ferrigno plays Al. With a cast that includes Peta Wilson, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Michael Dorn and Ed Asner, ‘Liberator’ promises to be a unique superhero experience.
Last month, I was given the privilege to visit the set of ‘Liberator.’ After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the cast and crew had reassembled to shoot some new and extended sequences that would help to punch up the action of the movie. Shooting at Central City Studios in downtown Los Angeles, the scene for the day was Ferrigno performing a dramatic prison breakout. The scene involved a gassing, an explosion, and even Lou bursting through a wall. I was also recruited to play one of the extra guards who are ultimately taken out in his explosive escape, but we’ll get into that later.
Central City Studios is a very nondescript place in the heart of downtown. Looking like an abandoned warehouse in the middle of a long-defunct industrial park, one would never guess that movies get shot there – lots of movies. In fact, ‘Liberator’ wasn’t the only superhero movie being shot at that location that day. In an alley outside the warehouse, a shoot for another movie about some weirdo dressed up as a bat was being set up. To get to the studio, one must drive over a dirt road. To see a dirt road in the middle of a major metropolitan downtown area is not something you think you’ll ever see. Lined with old, unused warehouses, the approach to the studio looks like something out of a post-apocalyptic thriller. The studio itself has been converted from its old warehouse origins into a fully functioning studio with a wide variety of sets already constructed and ready for use. Originally built for low budget independent movies, the recent use for that bat movie and another by Oliver Stone earlier in the year has transformed it into a more in-demand location for big-budget Hollywood productions.
I met with Cirile, who is executive producing the project along with Pope who is directing. Both were very excited and eager to get back into shooting ‘Liberator.’ It was clear from the energy of the cast and crew that this was more than just a simple job to most of them. This was a project that they were truly excited to be a part of. Cirile explained to me the intention of this project. It is designed to be more than just a short film. It is also a pilot for a potential TV series or can be broken down as a web series. This is a multi-purpose project that can be sold a number of different ways.
After chatting with Pope and Cirile for a bit, it was off to wardrobe to get ready for what would be a full day’s worth of work. For those of you who are not in the industry, working on a film shoot – especially as an extra – involves a lot of waiting around followed by very quick and very intense work once everything is ready. Sitting in a room that was a combination of a hospital room, living room, bedroom and executive office, those of us who would be playing the doomed guards waited for our time to come. Ferrigno would come by and chat with us every now and then. Most of the guys in the room had their iPads and smart phones to keep themselves occupied, and Ferrigno joked about how all he had was books back in the days of ‘The Incredible Hulk.’
When our time finally did come, we were given a quick briefing on the different types of weapons we could carry – none of them were loaded since there was no live fire happening that day – and instructed to run up and down a set of stairs. It was going to be used as cut-aways to guards answering the alarm that Al was in the process of breaking out. After that, we all gathered around to watch Ferrigno burst through a break-away wall, a move he is well known for thanks to ‘The Incredible Hulk.’ I am pleased to report that the man has still got it. It’s a good thing too, since they only had the one break-away wall, so there would be no reshoots of it. Once he had dusted himself off, the guards were called back in to react to an explosion that would be added in post production. Guys were flying every which way, and I’m actually quite anxious to see how it all looks in the end.
That was the end of the need for the guards, so Ferrigno went off to don his Liberator suit for another scene that would be shot later on. There was one last shot that was needed, however. They wanted a shot of Al’s legs running off over the dead guards’ bodies. Since Ferrigno was in wardrobe, I was recruited to be his “leg double,” putting on his pants and doing my best to mimic his gait as I ran over the bodies.
This was a fun and terribly exhausting day. I have been on shoots before where the cast and crew are so disinterested in what they are doing that the entire experience just feels like a chore. The set of ‘Liberator’ was anything but that. This is a unique project that many people are thrilled to be a part of, and that came across in everything that I experienced on set. Even Pope and Cirile, who were being pulled in hundreds of different directions all day, were still in high spirits by the end of it. That is the mark of a good project, and it was a true joy to be a part of it even for just a day.
‘Liberator’ will be coming to film festivals in early 2012. I would definitely recommend checking it out when and if it comes to your town. You can also follow ‘Liberator’ on Twitter and Facebook or visit their website for more information.