BY AJ TRAGER
ANN ARBOR – A University of Michigan professor has begun the editing phase of his full length feature film. The movie, filmed, directed, written and produced all in metro Detroit, tells a lesbian love story in song.
The story, “Liberty’s Secret,” carries a political bite on modern politics. It centers around a presidential campaign and star Liberty as she becomes a political figurehead while also falling in love with her political handler. The plot moves like a media circus as Liberty is pushed through a crisis and has to decide what she will do about getting rejected from her family and many others in her political sphere.
Andy Kirshner, the writer and producer of the film, has been working on it for six years. Since the project got its start, Kirshner has utilized some resources from the University of Michigan’s theatre department – where he has been the Director of Inter Arts Performance for the past 13 years – and has filmed at local landmarks such as the Trinity Church in Ann Arbor.
“It’s in the spirt of the 1950s musicals,” Kirshner said. “Reflecting on the reality that there are many different types of relationships.”
He was inspired by his parent’s story, watching their mixed-religion marriage change from the blending of cultures. When his parents got together, Kirshner says, they didn’t have to face the same legal hurdles that LGBT couples are faced with, but in many ways the struggle against societal acceptance was similar.
“I feel really strongly about civil rights,” Kirshner said. “I feel like I want this to be a piece because, as a musical, it seems innocent on the surface. But it’s a way to reach people who may not otherwise go to a movie with an LGBT theme. It’s that kind of message of acceptance but cast within something that a lot of people can connect to.”
After going through countless rewrites and a few years of production, as Kirshner experimented with characters and plot lines, the big wedding scene was filmed in August 2014 in Trinity Church. He hopes the film will be finished sometime this year.
Kirshner has been composing music for the stage for the past 30 years and sees this project as combining all of his strengths that he has built over the course of his career. But that isn’t all the film has utilized. Kirshner says “Liberty’s Secret” has cost roughly $120,000, much of that from his own pocketbook, and that the quality of effort and time put forth by his collaborators, friends and family who have provided the studio quality editing skills, makes it look more expensive than it really is.
Cinema, much like theater, is a collaborative art form. And musical theater utilizes the many talents that actors, musicians and the production crew have at their disposal.
Debbie Williams, the choreographer, is joined by 35 people on the dance crew, 75 extras and a full main cast to make the film. The pastor from the Ann Arbor Trinity Lutheran Church, who married couples in Washtenaw county last year, also makes an appearance in the film, as do many of the couples who were married last March.
“Movies and art can change culture, gradually. It changes peoples’ minds about things. So even after the legal battle is over, I feel like there is a lot more work that the movie can help with,” Kirshner said.
In the past small movies of this caliber are often pushed through independent film festivals, to participate in a bidding war to gain popularity, but Kirshner says that doesn’t happen much anymore. He says so long as he can define his audience, the movie will be a success, and assumes his particular audience will probably view the film with On Demand or downloads. But he is still planning on finding a small film festival to screen the movie. “Some of the churches are interested in a screening,” he said.
Preview clips of the film can be seen on the website (http://www.isawthekiss.com/) as well as an interview with some of the cast. Even though Kirshner is in the editing stages of the project, he says this could become the most costly process of all. To donate to the cause and see this full-length feature musical come to fruition faster, contact the team via email at INFO@LIBERTYSECRET.COM.