Exclusive Interview With Rick Bieber On The 5th Quarter

In 2006 fifteen year old Luke Abbate was a passenger in a car that lost control while traveling nearly 90 miles per hour.  Luke suffered unrecoverable brain damage and died two days later. His family made the decision to allow his organ’s to be donated to a nationwide transplant program.

Luke’s older brother Jon, a Wake Forest football player, wanted to honor his brothers memory and did so by switching his jersey number to Luke’s #5 and by dedicating his upcoming season to Luke. The feature film The 5th Quarter, written, directed, and produced by Rick Bieber, tells the true life story of the Abbate family, and how the loss of Luke led to the gift of life.

Earlier this week I was able to ask filmmaker Rick Bieber a few questions about The 5th Quarter which opened in limited release on Friday March 25th. Check out the interview below.

We Got This Covered: The 5th Quarter seems like it’s much more than a typical sports movie, is it that inspirational message that really drew to to the story?

Rick Bieber: The 5th Quarter is a great sports movie – but that’s not what it’s about. It’s a very dramatic story of how the accidental and tragic death of a teenage boy brought a family, a team, a school and a community together to accomplish much more than could ever be imagined. Football became the symbol of how life continues in often very surprising and inspiring ways.  What drew me to the story were the characters involved, and the very resonant and dramatic themes of faith, family, hope and the gift of life.

WGTC: How did you first become aware of the Abbate family and their story?

RB: A mutual acquaintance of the Abbates and of mine introduced me to their story, and that of Wake Forest’s Cinderella season. We all met in Miami of ’06, and over dinner, decided to attempt adapting this most personal story into a film adaption.

WGTC: What kind of reception did you and your crew get while filming on the Wake Forest campus?

RB: Wake Forest was very much our partner when it came to shooting the film on campus and in and around BB&T Field.  It all started with my partner, Bob McCreary, an alumni and former athlete at Wake Forest.  He opened the door to the athletic department, at which point I spent quite a bit of time with athletics director Ron Wellman, Brett Hickman, Mike Odom, and of course, Coach Grobe.  We practically had run of the field, shooting during games at the tail-gate parties, in the stands, on the side lines, and actually on the field as the teams came out of the locker rooms.  This sense of partnership carried onto the campus where we shot several interior and exterior scenes. The administration, faculty and students could not have been more supportive and solicitous.  Wake Forest truly helped make The 5th Quarter.

WGTC: Right now the film is set to debut in limited release this Friday, any plans to expand to other states in the weeks to come?

RB: You’re correct in mentioning that the film will open this Friday primarily in the Southeast.  However, it is our hope that the release will continue to “roll-out”, ultimately giving The 5th Quarter a legitimate opportunity of being seen in theaters across the country.

WGTC: Organ donation is obviously a cause you are very passionate about, can you talk a little on why it’s so important?

RB: One simple check on your driver’s license, and you’ve put yourself in a position of giving the most precious gift of all – the gift of life.  I knew what the last scene in the movie had to be before I ever began writing the script.  In fact, it was the first scene that I had in my mind.  The film needed to end with a sense of hope … of optimism … a validation that Luke didn’t lose his life in vain.  Even at his terribly young age, he wanted to donate, and as a result, he saved the lives of 5 people, including a young mother who had just given birth to her second child, and was dying of heart disease. Now, these two children have a mom to watch them grow. Donate Life, and it’s regional affiliated organizations, have been involved with The 5th Quarter while I was still editing the film. I screened an unfinished version at their national conference in St Louis. Their job is to increase the number of donors.  I hope the film will contribute to that endeavor.

WGTC: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us and good luck with everything.

To see our interview with Stacy Earl, the singer/songwriter that sang Live and Breathe: Theme Song of The 5th Quarter then click here.

About the author


Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.

Lester has been a writer and now an editor of Windy City Gridiron since 2009 covering all things Chicago Bears. He's been writing about sports, and occasionally crossing into the entertainment genre, on We Got This Covered since March of 2011.