indieWIRE INTERVIEW: Aaron Russo, director of “America: Freedom to Fascism”
by Jonny Leahan (July 24, 2006)
Director Aaron Russo’s doc “America: Freedom to Fascism” takes on the IRS, the Federal Reserve and other organizations that the film claims “have abridged the freedoms of Americans via money creation, voter fraud, the national identity card (which becomes law in May, 2008).”
Through interviews, the film connects the dots on an alleged systematic erosion of civil liberties in America. Russo is probably best known for serving as producer fore the 1979 film, “The Rose,” directed by Mark Rydell and starring Bette Midler.
In this short correspondence with iW, Russo touches on a “rumor” that eventually prompted him to make this film. Cinema Libre will open the doc in limited release beginning Friday, July 28th.
Where did you grow up and where do you currently live?
63 years-old. Making movies, was a manager [and was born in] Brooklyn, New York. I grew up on Long Island in Lawrence [and now live in] Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
What were the circumstances that lead you to become a filmmaker?
I wanted to build a career for Bette Midler and get her into movies.
What other creative outlets have you explored?
I was Bette Midler’s manager. I was running a nightclub and managed people and put on big shows.
Did you go to film school?
No. I learned filmmaking by making “The Rose.” The critical part of filmmaking is the ability to develop screenplays. It is ultimately all about the screenplay. Learning how to develop material is critical… weaving together character, story so they make sense.
Where did the initial idea for your film come from?
From me. For years I heard there was no law that requires Americans to pay income tax. I thought it was an interesting rumor and where there is smoke there’s fire. I wanted to find out for certain since I’ve been hearing about it for so long and I knew the IRS would not answer the question.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in either developing the project or making and securing distribution for the movie?
I had no problem making the movie since I did it on my own, it was difficult and challenging to do the research. The distribution was the biggest problem since all the studios were afraid to distribute the film. They were afraid of being audited by the IRS. That was the biggest problem I encountered, and raising the money for the marketing.
What are your biggest creative influences and/or favorite films?
“One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest,” “Spartacus,” [and] any movie that shows a mans’ struggle against authority and/or mans’ struggle to be free.
What is your definition of “independent film”?
A film that carries the thought and inspiration of the filmmaker or filmmakers without outside interference.
How do you define success as a filmmaker?
Two things. First is the accomplishment of capturing what you are trying to say on film. Second is to have an audience feel the same way you do about the film.