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  • 'Burn' Story about Detroit

    From front page of Firehouse.com:

    'Burn' Documentary Seeks to Tell Story of Detroit
    Efforts are underway to create a film that showcases firefighters as the storytellers.


    Ed Ballam

    -
    Firehouse.com News



    Posted: Fri, 08/20/2010 - 02:31pm
    Updated: Fri, 08/20/2010 - 03:23pm
    ..

    Filmmakers Brenna Sanchez and Tom Putnam spent two 24-hour shifts with firefighters assigned to Engine 50 in Detroit. They want to make a documentary about the city and showcase firefighters as the storytellers.

    Financial backers were concerned there wouldn't be enough dramatic footage to hold viewers' interest -- that there wouldn't be enough flames and, frankly, the documentary would be boring. So, they gave them a little money to make a movie trailer, a teaser of sorts, to see whether there really was a compelling story to be told.

    Their concern was unfounded.

    In the short time the film crew was in the city, there were 10 working, box-alarm fires, including an explosive chemical plant blaze that provided some spectacular footage -- all in the two, 24-hour shifts.

    Indeed, there was no shortage of fires and compelling footage.

    That's sort of the point that Sanchez and Putnam, two Californian documentary makers, are trying to prove. Detroit is burning at an alarming rate and the only thing trying to stop it is the city's fire department.

    Project Outline

    "Burn: One Year on the Front Lines of the Battle to Save Detroit," is a documentary in the making and the brainchild of Sanchez, who is a native Detroiter. She has a goal of documenting firefighters' efforts to save their city, squelching the all-consuming fire block by block.

    "Detroit firefighters are very smart people," Sanchez said in a recent interview with Firehouse.com. "They're not irrational people. They wouldn't be doing what they're doing, fighting fires in Detroit, if they didn't believe the city was worth fighting for. They're staying right where they are, doing their jobs every day. It just tears your heart out. They don't want to walk away. They don't believe Detroit is just some black hole from which you walk away."

    Neither do Sanchez and Putnam, who hope to raise funds for their documentary through donations from individuals and supportive corporations and organizations. They need some $90,000 to start filming in October and they are hoping critical acclaim for their 10-minute trailer will spur contributions to the cause. Firehouse.com is a sponsor of the project. As of Friday, Aug. 20, the filmmakers had raised a reported $6,102.

    It's important to the project that filming begins in October, a time when Detroit experiences a spike in arson fires, on and around "Devil's Night," the day before Halloween. The filmmakers want to be there for that and follow firefighters through four seasons, with the intention of releasing the documentary by Sept. 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the terrorists' attack on the United States.

    "For me, as a Detroiter and an American, I see Detroit at a crossroads," Sanchez said. "It's an iconic city. People know it as Motown. They know about Kid Rock. They know about Eminem. Everybody has an idea of what Detroit is... we need to focus on what it can be."

    Because Detroit is emblematic of what the country used to be - and what it can be in the future - Sanchez said it has a story to tell.

    With firefighters as the storytellers, the 10-minute trailer sketches out what the full-length film will be.

    It was released in July and in the first three weeks, it had been viewed by more than 65,000 individuals. The video is posted here at Firehouse.com and at www.detroitfire.org.

    "If everyone who looked at it had donated five or 10 dollars, we would be filming by now," Sanchez said.

    Sanchez and Putnam, who is also the director of "Burn," hooked up with the International Documentary Association (IDA), a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization which serves as the project's fiscal sponsor. Contributions to the documentary are payable to IDA, which uses PayPal to accept contributions, and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

    The Beginning

    The concept for the project started in December 2008, when Sanchez was home for the holidays. On Dec. 28 that year, Detroit Firefighter Walt Harris was killed fighting a fire in a vacant home. The roof collapsed, inflicting fatal injuries on Harris and trapping colleagues.

    That event triggered Sanchez's creative juices. As a documentary filmmaker, she recognized the importance of the story, picked up the telephone and called Putnam, who had made films with her in the past.

    "Literally, within an hour, Brenna was on the phone with me," Putnam said. "What she had in mind was a pretty amazing story."

    Putnam said he was immediately on board with the project.

    "I am a documentary filmmaker," Putnam said. "I like doing films about people with amazing stories, and this is an amazing story."

    Armed with a solid story and backed by a solid track record of filmmaking, Sanchez and Putnam went to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) with the idea.

    "We went to their R&D department and they gave us a little funding to do a trailer," Putnam said. He added that PBS was concerned there wouldn't be enough action and story line for a full-length documentary and the seed money would determine whether they wanted to pursue the project.

    Over a five-day period last year, the film crew shot nearly 100 hours of film.

    "There were so many fires, it was almost non-stop," Putnam said. "And the firefighters were telling us it was a slow period. There is definitely no shortage of fires in Detroit."

    From their experience, Sanchez and Putnam decided the story was much bigger than what they originally envisioned. They decided the story needed to be cast in a very positive light to let the world know that Detroit shouldn't be written off.

    "The firefighters put it all on the line because they believe in the city," Putnam said. "No one else is taking the saving of Detroit as seriously as the firefighters."

    In the opening lines of the trailer, the filmmakers spell out Detroit's plight in black and white -- high crime, high poverty, a shrinking population and urban blight that has wiped out neighborhoods. Putnam said he hopes the film will be the first "boots on the ground" documentary of the life that's under all the decay.

    A Potential Problem

    Sanchez said it's her goal to be as faithful to the story as possible and to not sensationalize the film in any way. Detroit hasn't had the best press lately, she acknowledged, and found herself earlier this month having to smooth ruffled feathers.

    It seems the city's mayor had put what amounts to a moratorium on filming in the city because of some recent bad press.

    In July, Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans resigned in the wake of what could be characterized as a botched execution of a search warrant for a murder suspect. As a reality film crew followed police officers to the scene, with cameras rolling, an officer opened fire and killed a 7-year-old girl who was sleeping inside the home. The show, called "The Chief," portrayed the police chief as a cowboy-like character that city administrators did not appreciate, according to media reports.

    Soon after the city announced it was examining its filming policies, Sanchez found herself flying halfway across the country to have a face-to-face meeting with the fire commissioner. She told the commissioner her plans and described her vision of the film. She left feeling positive the filming would be allowed to proceed as planned this fall.

    While Firehouse.com was seeking comment on this project from city officials, Detroit suffered a devastating fire and commercial building collapse that injured six firefighters, four of them critically.

    Attempts to seek comment from fire department officials have not been successful and attempts to reach someone in the city's administration and film bureau have also not yet been successful.

    While acknowledging that Detroit's hiccup on filming presented a momentary challenge, Sanchez said it also provided a huge opportunity. She got to meet with the city's new fire commissioner, who didn't know anything about her film, and to have his full attention.

    "He could have stonewalled me, but he didn't," she said. "He listened and was interested."

    Putnam said he understands why the city is skeptical about filmmakers who might want to exploit Detroit and its situation. He said, however, that's not what he and Sanchez want to do.

    Moving Forward

    "There is an amazing personal story with the firefighters that we want to tell," Putnam said. "They don't get the press they should. People want to go in there and show the burned out dying city. There's much more to this city than bunches of burned out buildings. The firefighters are the ones who are out there, putting it all on the line and trying to save the city one building at a time."

    Editor's Note: Those who would like to contribute to the making of the film may do so by visiting here and clicking on the "Make a Donation" button.


    This project is obviously being endorsed by the Firehouse Team as they are running the story and encouraging donations.

    I have a few questions that I imagine no one has the answers to:

    1. Who is overseeing this project? How do we know that money "donated" is actually going to making the movie

    2. The story says that the producers proved the exec's wrong by proving their would be a story, so why are the execs not paying?

    3. How much money do they actually need? They are currently under $7K

    4. What is the time frame? They have been working on the trailer since 2007 evidently and only have less than $7K as stated.

    5. This just doesn't seem like the way movies are made. I have enough people begging for payroll deductions already.

    No offense, it would be an interesting watch, but I am holding on to my money.
    RK
    cell #901-494-9437

    Management is making sure things are done right. Leadership is doing the right thing. The fire service needs alot more leaders and a lot less managers.

    "Everyone goes home" is the mantra for the pussification of the modern, American fire service.


    Comments made are my own. They do not represent the official position or opinion of the Fire Department or the City for which I am employed. In fact, they are normally exactly the opposite.

  • #2
    I was thinking the very same questions. Something isn't right there.

    The trailer makes it looks absolutely awesome with great action, great straight up interviews, and of course lots of fire footage. Makes it look very attractive.

    I wouldn't get my wallet out just yet....
    Jason Knecht
    Firefighter/EMT
    Township Fire Dept., Inc.
    Eau Claire, WI

    IACOJ - Director of Cheese and Whine
    http://www.cheddarvision.tv/
    EAT CHEESE OR DIE!!

    Comment


    • #3
      It would be cool...... A REAL film about firefighting

      I hope they can do it.
      Get the first line into operation.

      Comment


      • #4
        Lame

        I can say the film crew was here and they do want to make this film. I guess you can't give up that wack pack money to make your helmets pretty? The firefighters of detroit will probably pitch in and take care of it so all of you can watch our story.
        Jerry Stewart
        Firefighter Engine Company No. 44
        Licensed Paramedic State of Michigan
        [email protected]
        (313) 732 7377
        Detroit Fire Department Local 344

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by detroitfire1552 View Post
          I can say the film crew was here and they do want to make this film. I guess you can't give up that wack pack money to make your helmets pretty? The firefighters of detroit will probably pitch in and take care of it so all of you can watch our story.
          Pheeeeeeeeew thank god...We have all been sitting on the edge of our seats to hear your "story".
          FTM-PTB

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by detroitfire1552 View Post
            I can say the film crew was here and they do want to make this film. I guess you can't give up that wack pack money to make your helmets pretty? The firefighters of detroit will probably pitch in and take care of it so all of you can watch our story.
            Hey man, relax a bit. I think Detroit is going through a tough time right now and the FD has a unique story that I think we all would like to hear. However...I am not going to finance it.
            Jason Knecht
            Firefighter/EMT
            Township Fire Dept., Inc.
            Eau Claire, WI

            IACOJ - Director of Cheese and Whine
            http://www.cheddarvision.tv/
            EAT CHEESE OR DIE!!

            Comment


            • #7
              This movie could be good PR for everyone, not just the Detroit guys. Most people don't know anything about our jobs. I used to think that was a good thing. Let them see us when we're out working and the rest of the time forget us and let us do our thing. As times change and more people are complaining about where their tax money goes my mindset is changing too.

              This movie could shed a good light on firemen everywhere. People could get a real inside look at the FD and the men that run it. Maybe it would help them see value there, in us. Maybe they would see thet we are people that care and that we aren't only here for the benefits. Maybe a movie like this could help us see a little more value in ourselves as firemen.

              When people tell you that you are nothing more than a line item on a budget that could easily be struck it knocks a little bit out of you. I know that around here we could use something to relight the fire that used to be in our guts and make us feel useful again.

              Now don't get me wrong, I'm not thinking that a movie can fix all of our problems but it certainly could help.

              Comment


              • #8
                buncha stuck up ****** cant toss $5 towards a movie like this... wow!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Quite frankly, I was hoping someone with some credibility might be able to shed some light into the story because it doesn't really make sense as explained in the article. As stated, begging for money isn't normally the way that movies or documentaries are made.

                  DetroitFire1552 - you may not believe this, but the people making this movie don't care about you or the armpit of a city you work in. They are interested in making money, period. Why are you opposed to the idea of the people making money off of a movie funding it themselves instead of trying to appeal to the good nature of firefighters to fund it for them so they can make more money?

                  With your attitude, why should I give a damn about you, your fire department, your city, or these film makers? Just curious, how much of your money have you contributed to the cause? It is after all "your" story.
                  Last edited by MemphisE34a; 08-23-2010, 10:04 PM.
                  RK
                  cell #901-494-9437

                  Management is making sure things are done right. Leadership is doing the right thing. The fire service needs alot more leaders and a lot less managers.

                  "Everyone goes home" is the mantra for the pussification of the modern, American fire service.


                  Comments made are my own. They do not represent the official position or opinion of the Fire Department or the City for which I am employed. In fact, they are normally exactly the opposite.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by DarkStarr View Post
                    buncha stuck up ****** cant toss $5 towards a movie like this... wow!
                    I am gonna make a movie about firefighters.

                    Please send your money through Paypal to [email protected]
                    Last edited by MemphisE34a; 08-23-2010, 10:01 PM.
                    RK
                    cell #901-494-9437

                    Management is making sure things are done right. Leadership is doing the right thing. The fire service needs alot more leaders and a lot less managers.

                    "Everyone goes home" is the mantra for the pussification of the modern, American fire service.


                    Comments made are my own. They do not represent the official position or opinion of the Fire Department or the City for which I am employed. In fact, they are normally exactly the opposite.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by MemphisE34a View Post
                      I am gonna make a movie about firefighters.

                      Please send your money through Paypal to [email protected]
                      PayPal sent.
                      Career Firefighter
                      Volunteer Captain

                      -Professional in Either Role-

                      Originally posted by Rescue101
                      I don't mind fire rolling over my head. I just don't like it rolling UNDER my a**.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by detroitfire1552 View Post
                        I can say the film crew was here and they do want to make this film. I guess you can't give up that wack pack money to make your helmets pretty? The firefighters of detroit will probably pitch in and take care of it so all of you can watch our story.
                        You guys got enough **** on your shoulders to carry this on your own too. I'll be helping the project out, Bro.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by detroitfire1552 View Post
                          I can say the film crew was here and they do want to make this film. I guess you can't give up that wack pack money to make your helmets pretty? The firefighters of detroit will probably pitch in and take care of it so all of you can watch our story.
                          well any chance I had of donating just evaporated.

                          Big deal you have a story, so does my city, so does everyone else's city. You pay for yours we'll pay for ours.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            MemphisE34a

                            (With your attitude, why should I give a damn about you, your fire department, your city, or these film makers? Just curious, how much of your money have you contributed to the cause? It is after all "your" story.)

                            You must be the pride of your department. I bet people fight over eachother to work with you. Since you like slamming other brother's and the city's they work for. If you don't want to give money fine.

                            Just remember the brother in Detroit does the same job as you, and I don't see him slamming you or your city.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I can't begin to tell you how many movies I have seen about firefighters, fire departments either large metro, medium or small.

                              You have to remember that they are movies on what the producer wants to see on the screen, which by the way might draw a large crowd for ever showing all over this country.

                              I can name a few, Firehouse, Towering Inferno, Backdraft, Ladder 49, even Emergency, but they are movies and not the real thing. Yep someone has tried to make it look realistic but anyone who has been around this business long enough know that 90% of the film is BS! All fires are staged and control, using gas burner, oakum on door frames and windows to burn.

                              If anyone wants to make a movie about any department, let these people fund it, film it and produce, but with someone creditably from the department they are portraying to be technical advisors.

                              If anyone is thinking about making a killing in the movies as extras, forget it, unless you have a sag card and then you will get move than medium wage for being in their movie.

                              By the way, when they shot Ladder 49 in Baltimore, I turned down a part in there as an extra, as I didn't and couldn't hang around a set waiting all day for maybe 10 minutes or so of work. It hadn't been that long since I had my back surgery.

                              Robert, I am with you my brother.
                              Stay Safe and Well Out There....

                              Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers

                              Comment

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