Professor, novelist, and filmmaker Robert Lieberman recently sat down with daze to discuss his film Green Lights, which is being brought back to Ithaca this week for screenings at Fall Creek Movie Theater in downtown Ithaca. The film has been receiving national attention lately with enthusiastic nods coming from Variety, the Providence Journal and even gained a mention in The New York Times.
daze: Where have you been shopping the film around?
Robert Lieberman: It played at Dances with Films in LA and in Rhode Island at the International Film Festival where a reviewer called it the best of the lot … My mother couldn’t have written a better review [laughs].
daze: Two years ago, I remember seeing a little publicity about the film. Can you tell me a little bit about the film’s beginnings here in Ithaca?
RL: It was never really released, though we did have a screening at Cornell Cinema. There were a lot of people from the community, from the campus and around who had cameo roles in the film and who wanted to see it. I still have people who were involved with the making of the film who haven’t seen it yet, and in part that’s why it’s coming back to Ithaca. So, this is the chance to see it. It’s playing for a week starting Friday [Oct. 4].
daze: I’m really interested in this idea that the film was made by placing professional, scripted actors into real-life situations and then filming the results. Can you tell me more about that?
RL: The main characters are SAG [Screen Actor’s Guild] certified professionals. The rest of the ensemble are essentially locals playing themselves. My former thesis advisor Ben Nichols who is also a former Mayor of Ithaca plays the Mayor in the film. Wally Wiggins, who is a lawyer here in town, plays a lawyer. The Ithaca Cops play themselves as well as FBI and NYC police. Cops are hams anyway, and they do a really convincing job … The cast is literally hundreds of people. When we had auditions in Ithaca, there were people lined up around the block downtown, up here at the Center for Performing Arts and up at Ithaca College. We also had auditions in NYC. We got 1,200 head shots out of the city alone