Legacy Comix chats with The Ballad of Gia & Frankie co-creator Justin Ciardullo, who discusses his origin in pro wrestling and why both the comic and documentary are set to do amazing things this Fall.
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About The Ballad of Gia & Frankie:
In late 2019, Jambone Pictures uncovered footage unlike anything they had seen before. These videos portray the rise of LGBTQ wrestler Gia Savitz, and their strange and hostile encounters with rival Frankie Firestarter. This disturbing saga unfolded over a period of 11 months until the mysterious disappearance of Frankie.
Selected by 19 film festivals, including the Sweden Film Awards, the Global Indie Film Fest and the Couch Film Festival, The Ballad of Gia and Frankie is one of the only pro wrestling documentaries to receive such recognition for its raw emotion and innovative storytelling.
What inspired this project?
Justin Ciardullo: It’s interesting you mention that, simply because John, the director, may have a different answer. For me, personally, what inspired this all was my first cousin once removed, Deanna, who is an incredible, uncanny, gifted, young woman. I had to help raise her for five years and five months, and felt like I took a time machine and went back in time to spend time with my young self. However, Deanna handled life much better than me, and had a tougher skin than me. If you would throw everything including the kitchen sink at her, she would take it, and come back for more. Despite me being a professional wrestler, and working multiple jobs in the industry, I never had that real attitude. Deep down from it all, I’m a sensitive person, with some fragile components to me, and read too deeply into human emotion, possibly more than the average. But watching Deanna blossom into an unprecedented human being inspired me to reinvent myself, by bringing more of an edge into my embodiment, and finally, make something unique, and unparalleled to the world of professional wrestling.
Why do you love wrestling?
Ciardullo: Professional wrestling is the greatest form of sport and entertainment, at least in my opinion. Since its beginnings, and I’m not referring to the Frank Gotch era when the industry was as real as it gets, but when it was rebranded as entertainment, it was always out to inspire us, and make us feel good at the end of the day. I had a horrible childhood. I got drawn to wrestling when I was three, and it’s possible it was to escape the atrocities going on within my own family structure. I come from enmeshment. Enmeshment is not good for families because we don’t get a lot of personal space. I would turn on Hulk Hogan, WWF, NWA, AWA, Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, and it would overpower all those problems around me, and would make me feel like a “tough guy.” Eventually, it became night and day, and I was a wrestlingholic, and finally, I realized I had to pursue it. But this time, it’s a new era for me, and I’m out to make a difference in the business, unlike before. I realize in America we have a certain group of people struggling right now. I like to call them, the “Children of the Night.” These are the ones that are now walking in my old shoes, when I was in their age bracket, 15-25, let’s say. They’re rebelling, continuing to defy authority. I’m hoping the “Children of the Night” could see the changes I’ve made and lead them to realize there’s beauty lurking within their shadows, and that, sometimes in life, we go through rough patches, in order to acquire beautiful emotions in us.
Tell us about your wrestling career…
Ciardullo: My wrestling career was a learning experience. It was a time where people didn’t know how to take care of one another, and I could tell you this, I’ve been taken advantage of multiple times, even being threatened with a lawsuit from an ECW Legend, whose name I will not mention. I’m going to go more in-depth on that lawsuit. This was for a show that I had booked in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania in August 2006 for a show called Beyond Extreme Wrestling’s Indecent Behavior.
BEW was a promotion I founded. I was low on money at the time so I decided to rent this gentleman’s Pennsylvania promoter’s license. On June 24 2006, he had me booked for a show of his, managing Velvet Sky in her match with JT Moses. On the day of that show, he had me come into this office before bell time. We went over my proposed show, and went as far as promising me things that he didn’t live up to. I trusted this man right away because he appeared to have fatherly qualities in him, and I will admit, I was benevolent at the time to put my faith in him too soon. We finalized everything and gave him my down payment of $500 and the upfront payment would have been another $500 on the day of the show. Weeks had gone by, and a wrestler, whose name will be kept in the dark, messages me on Myspace telling me no flyers were put up for the show, when he promised flyers would be made. Other issues were building up, and finally, I decided I had to cancel the show. However, he wouldn’t let me be, and got his wife involved, who deep down was a very nice person, and tried to do the traditional thing of standing by the man, who is the father of her two beautiful boys. He threatened to take me to court, and finally, a lawsuit was sent to my post office. However, I didn’t pick up the lawsuit, and it was sent back to him, and he withdrew from taking any legal action against me. My wrestling career was filled with a lot of pain and agony, which is why I went back and forth with it, telling my wrestling buddies I was done, and then continuously went back because this is my real career. When you see the documentary, you could see there’s a tone in my voice with the promos that manifest rage and anger in me, stemming from issues like mentioned above. The promos that really stand out are the ones from NEWA, and you will see one of them in our monumental documentary.
Why does wrestling matter?
Ciardullo: That’s a broad question, and I’m sure everyone will give you a different answer. My answer is I love adventure, and unpredictability. Pro wrestling always has something new to bring to the table, kind of like being a police detective. It’s a unique type of environment. A lot of jobs have predictability within, and I love a change of pace.
Who do you want this story to affect?
Ciardullo: The “Children of the Night” as mentioned above, battered and bruised men and women out there, and those who are questioning their integrity, leading them to giving up on their dreams.
Why did you pick Legacy Comix to tell the comic book adaptation?
Ciardullo: Legacy Comix is one of the hottest up-and-coming comic book companies out there. News 12 Westchester did a story about this wonderful brand, and was taken back by the drive within the team of brilliant minds. John Victor Ambrose, our beloved director and I want to win, and we want people to share that sentiment with us.
What has it been like to work with them?
Ciardullo: Unreal. That’s all I have to say.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Ciardullo: We got a journey on our hands here, and I recommend you ride on it with us!
Where can people find out more?
Ciardullo: We got quite a bit for everyone. You could follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok @giafrankiedoc. Check out the production company behind the film, Jambone Pictures’s YouTube Channel, with multiple trailers, and even a wrestling match, as well as Facebook. And let’s not forget where you could check out pro wrestling’s latest groundbreaking documentary, The Ballad of Gia & Frankie, on Vimeo on Demand.
Thank you for granted me this time, and EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED!