Jarret Liotta has a love-hate relationship with Westport.
After college, the Staples High School graduate spent years in Los Angeles. The journalist was a regular New York Times correspondent, and contributed to 100 publications.
But in 2008, he returned to give his kids some suburban experience.
Now — with nearly a decade back home, as a freelance writer and photographer — he’s gained a new appreciation for Westport’s uniqueness. He’s deepened old relationships, and made new acquaintances.
“Sad to say, many of us are so paralyzed by the fear-based myths of being ‘practical’ that we shun the directions our hearts want to lead us,” he says.
“Instead we waste time talking ourselves into believing we’re happily situated in our work life.”
Two years ago, he decided to go all-in pursuing film and video — interests he’d had since dabbling in them decades ago at Coleytown Junior High.
He wrote “Home Movie,” a feature-length dark comedy. Filmed entirely in Westport, it’s the story of a young woman’s trip back to her hometown after her father dies.
But the title also refers to the help Liotta got from many local people and groups, including the Westport Woman’s Club, Senior Center, Police Department, Kaia Yoga, 323 restaurant, Gold’s Deli, even the Harding Funeral Home.
A Kickstarter campaign — running through Thanksgiving — will help him place “Home Movie” in film festivals.
While working on that project, Liotta talked with Bill Harmer. The Westport Library director mentioned that his previous library in Michigan was involved with films on local subjects.
Bob Mitchell of the Westport Historical Society heard that Liotta was interested in a Westport-based documentary. He suggested veterans.
“I’ve always been a dove,” Liotta says. “I’ve had relatively set ideas about the military, and what I imagined was a typical veteran.”
But he liked the idea. After each interview, his impressions evolved.
“On a personal level, it was very enlightening,” he explains. “I found myself understanding many positive aspects about the involvement I wouldn’t otherwise have considered.”
Liotta started with World War II veterans, including well-known Westporters Leonard Everett Fisher, Ted Diamond and Bob Satter. Some he knew personally. Others, he says, “I had the good fortune to meet.”
While he still considers any kind of military machine “repugnant” — though “perhaps necessary” — he now has a different perspective on those who choose to serve.
“The people I interviewed seem to recognize the tremendous value in living a service attitude — giving back or taking responsibility to help their larger community,” Liotta says.
“That’s a brilliant and honorable concept. To me, that’s really the core reason to honor veterans.”
Right now, Liotta is editing the film. It’s called “Community & Country: A Spirit of Service.” It will be shown at Town Hall on Monday, November 13 (7 p.m.)
He hopes the library and Historical Society will make copies available after it’s screened.
That will be their — and his — way of giving back, just as our veterans have done.