Putting your money where your mouth is:
Filmmaker Frank Martin
Documenting For Love of Liberty
Halle Berry with Hilly Elkins
by Rona Edwards
On location during the filming of For Love of Liberty
Produced by Awards 2010
Daniel Chappie James in Korea
Producing is never easy, and producing documentaries is even harder; it takes courage, tenacity and perseverance to find the money, keep to your ideals and tell the story that you want to tell. Such is the case of the 10-years-in-the-making of For Love of Liberty, a four-hour film about black soldiers in the U.S. military that airs on PBS in February, just in time for Black History Month. It stars more than 50 actors and reads like a who’s who of black Hollywood, including Halle Berry who serves as host, Morgan Freeman, Danny Glover, Lou Gossett, Jr., Angela Bassett, Bill Cosby (to name only a few) as well as Mel Gibson, Susan Sarandon, John Travolta and is introduced by Colin Powell. The project began when a young man, Jim Crite, found a book called African Americans in Service of Their Country that had been published by the Department of Defense during Colin Powell’s tenure as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After purchasing it at a garage sale for about a dollar, he brought it to Dennis Considine, who Producer Richard Hull was running Lou Gossett, Jr.’s company at the time. So enthralled were they with the subject matter, they brought it to award-winning filmmaker Frank Martin (MGM: When the Lion Roars; Sex, Censorship and the Silver Screen). Martin was repped by Hillard (Hilly) Elkins who had worked with Considine and, of course, represented Gossett for years. So, with less than six degrees of separation, a project was born. That was back in April of 2000. Pre-9/11. Martin explains, “This film was supposed to have ended after the Gulf War when Bill Clinton gathered a number of black veterans from WWII at the White House to present them with the Medal of Honor, because there were no black men given the Medal of Honor during WWII. Nor were any given the Medal of Honor in WWI. So there was a huge ceremony at the White House with only one guy who lived long enough to attend, Vernon Baker.” And that’s where he planned to end the documentary. And then 9/11 happened. Martin had just finished writing the treatment for the film on September 10 and went to bed at 11 o’clock; he woke up to a changed world.
How this critically acclaimed film about the history of black service men and women got made.