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Buffalo expat Rob Lieberman is back for 'Fire in the Sky' screening

The screening is scheduled for Saturday night at the North Park Theatre on Hertel Avenue, with a Q&A with the director immediately to follow.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Flip through his personal photographs and you very quickly start to understand Rob Lieberman's life – a life largely lived over the past several decades in Hollywood.

The snapshots revealing faces and places that, really by any standard would be considered glitzy, glossy and grand.

"If you ask any of my friends now they say to me, you're still a Buffalo boy, you know, you're still from Buffalo. I carry that city around. It's my persona, actually," Lieberman said.

Born at Millard Fillmore, graduated from Riverside, and then the University at Buffalo – with the first film degree in the school's history, by the way – a story among dozens he shared for the better part of an hour as he detailed his path: from a Queen City kid to a prolific creator having directed seven feature films, a couple hundred hours of television and, quite literally, thousands of commercials – many award-winning. 

"I'm one of the most lauded commercial directors ever and, and all from Buffalo. Just a dream and in a kid's mind, in a city that really didn't encourage it very much, but it made me fight harder," Lieberman said.

A fight that partially started with a cold call the then-college sophomore made to a small film company he found in the Yellow Pages.

"He had the contract for doing the coaching films for NFL films," Lieberman said.

And that gave aspiring filmmaker Lieberman his Most Buffalo gig.

"I'd check in the hotel go out to dinner with the players. Couldn't ask for more glitz than that for a kid from Buffalo," he said. "And I would go to the game set up my cameras, shoot the game, get on the charter flight, fly back, process the film, they had a processor at this little company cut the film. It's a little offense first half defense first half, so on and so forth. And I was back at class Monday morning."

Just a small preview of the life to come, a life he couldn't wait to get started far away from home. He eagerly left Buffalo for Los Angeles in 1969, and a hustle and grind that well, you know, they make movies out of.

Knowing that so often it's who you know, he set out to meet a lot of people.

"One of those people is going to have a profound effect on your life. And that's what happened to me," Lieberman said.

Every happy accident along the way has been driven by a sheer force of will and for that Lieberman forever credits Buffalo.

"You know, it's like I am the sum total of Bocce Pizza, Ted's Hot Dogs and, you know, I'm saying," he said. "It's like, that's all my all my experience revolves around. Standing in snow up to my waist, freezing my ass off trying to get the Hertel bus to Riverside High School. You know, it was a rough day growing up. But it was a city that holds all my memories, it holds all my family memories, my parents, it holds everything for me."

And so Saturday, Lieberman will be back in Buffalo screening one of his many films in the place he saw his first movie.

The screening of the cult classic sci-fi thriller "Fire in the Sky" begins at 9:30 p.m. Saturday at North Park Theatre on Hertel Avenue, and a question-and-answer session with the director will follow.

All proceeds from the screening will benefit a nonprofit, the Squeaky Wheel Film & Arts Center.

"it was impossible for me, it was an impossible dream," Lieberman said. "And if I could do it, any ... we hear this all the time. But if I could do it, I guarantee that you could do it, guaranteed. All you need to do is you need to want it bad enough."

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