By Eli Ruiz
LIBERTY The Town of Liberty will host location shooting for a full-length feature film later this year.
Executive Producers Martin Katz, Arthur Katz, Howard Alter and Thomme Retter, along with Director/
Writer Anthony Giunta were introduced on Sunday at Piccolo Paese in Liberty by Heinrich Strauch of the Liberty Community Development Corporation and Roberta Byron-Lockwood of the Sullivan County Visitors Association.
The CDC and SCVA will work with the four producers to bring the project to Liberty. Executive Producer Howard Alter who is a Managing Member of Percolate Productions, LLC was unable to attend the morning event.
Retter was a cast member of the Broadway show, “Billy Elliot,” for its entire 31⁄2-year run, and will appear in the film.
The four producers outlined their vision for the movie, to be called “The Contest,” to a local crowd that included Town of Liberty Supervisor Charlie Barbuti, and Town Councilman Maurice Gerry, among others. They also explained how the town of Liberty came to be chosen the locale for the film, which tackles the subject of bullying.
Barbuti said, when asked how he felt about the prospect of the film taking place in his hometown, “I think it’s wonderful that it’s gonna be here, and it looks like they’ve got all their ducks in a row.”
Barbuti also stated that after talking to some of the film’s investors, “they were very excited about the prospects and especially about the topic, the bullying. It sounds like a home run to me.”
He also mentioned having attended school with one of the film’s producers, Arthur Katz.
“I graduated in 1969, he graduated in 1970… we were in school together. He played saxophone in the band and I played trumpet,” Barbuti said.
Strauch introduced Arthur Katz as “an old friend of Liberty.”
Katz said he had been involved in the restoration of theaters throughout the country because “I’ve got a passion for it.”
Katz continued, “I have a passion for this town and I have a passion for this county.”
Indeed, Katz has been the main man involved with saving the Liberty Theater because he says, “Its worth saving,”
The film, said Katz, “was dreamed up as a means to pay for the Theater’s restoration.” He further explained, that his cousin Martin and his crew, had come up to Liberty to ”see what was there.”
It was Martin Katz who originally pushed for Liberty as the setting for the imaginary town the project is based around.
Before he handed the microphone over to Martin, Arthur promised the crowd that they the producers were going to “light up your town.”
Martin Katz spoke about the times he and Giunta would come up to Liberty to scout locations and as he put it, “his [Giunta’s] eyes would light up and the wheels would start turning.”
He continued, “I don”t think I’ve seen him as excited as when we were scouting locations here in Liberty.”
Retter compared the film’s subject matter with his experiences growing up, saying, “growing up in high school, junior high and high school was torture for me.… these kids put me through the ringer.… I was a strong one so I made it out. A lot of kids, they’re not making it out. The bullying just has to come to an end.”
He said that once he read the films script, he knew the film “had to be made.”
According to Giunta, “The Contest” follows a 16-year-old boy named Tommy, who is being bullied in high school. The film’s main character is also a gourmet chef who has entered a “Food Network” style TV contest.
When reached for comment via e-mail Giunta said, “It [the film] holds up a mirror to the “contest” that takes place when bullies throw their weight around to gain and/or maintain a status advantage over their victims.”
He added, “Once I saw the various spots in Liberty that could serve as film locations, I knew that Marty was right. The fictitious town in the movie that I saw in my head WAS Liberty.”
The actual filming will begin, according to Giunta, “in mid-June.” Local actors interested in auditioning for the film are asked to send all of their materials to the films Casting Director Michael Cassara, at submissions@
A breakdown of the project’s available roles can be found under the casting section of Percolate Productions’ website: www.percolateproductions.com