On November 15, 2008, veteran Detroit firefighter Walter Harris was killed while battling a blaze in a vacant house.
A few weeks later, NPR ran a story about Detroit firefighters and the city’s increasing load of abandoned homes, and we were off. We knew this story had to be told. PBS funded the 10-minute trailer you see on our homepage. We shot the trailer in just five days. Networks and distributors are interested, but in the current economy, this kind of support happens slowly. So we’ve put together a unique funding structure, blending donations, sponsors and “in-kind” support of goods, gear and services. We are committed to making a film we can all be proud of. Thanks so much for your support.
Please note: opened DVD packages are non-returnable.
“WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS; IT SHALL RISE FROM THE ASHES.”
- FATHER GABRIEL RICHARD, WHO WROTE DETROIT’S MOTTO AFTER FIRE NEARLY DESTROYED THE CITY IN 1805
BURN is a feature documentary about Detroit, told through the eyes of Detroit firefighters, who are charged with the thankless task of saving a city that many have written off as dead. Firefighters have an up-close view of the best and worst in any city. This is especially true for Detroit.
Detroit is a picture of the future of American industrial cities in a post-industrial age: One foot in a prosperous past, with an uncertain next act, struggling to survive in a changing economy. Since 1950, racial tensions and vanishing industry have cut Detroit’s population in half from 1.8 million, making it a housing market horror story and leaving behind 80,000 abandoned homes. And in Detroit, social problems manifest themselves in one way – FIRE. The result is a dying city with one of the highest arson rates in the world.
Los Angeles, a city of 4 million people, sees 11 structure fires per day. Compare that to Detroit, which has 713,000 residents and 30 structure fires a day. BURN follows the crew of Engine Company 50 — one of the busiest firehouses in America. Located on Detroit’s blighted east side, E50 stands at ground zero of the city’s problems. Every day, these firefighters face injury, disablement, and death. But they come back, day after day, resolved to make a difference. They’re certainly not here for the money — their starting salary is $30,000 and they haven’t seen a raise in 10 years.
BURN tells the story of these exceptional individuals who, despite the challenges and dysfunction, believe in their city and are attempting to make a difference every day. Every time that bell rings, the doors of E50 roll up, its crew step into worn boots, climb into decrepit trucks and drive out into the crumbling streets of Detroit to battle these complex problems. Until now, no one has properly explored these issues, and these characters, with the depth and detail they deserve. Through our exclusive agreement with the DFD and the City of Detroit, BURN has embedded with the firefighters of E50 and is following the Detroit story through their eyes. We’ll explore human struggles, hope and personal courage in the face of overwhelming odds
THE CREATIVE TEAM BEHIND BURN
TOM PUTNAM: DIRECTOR/PRODUCER
Tom Putnam’s short films and features have played over 400 film festivals and have been released worldwide. His projects for PBS include producing the critically acclaimed documentary feature Marwencol, winner of the Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival and two Independent Spirit Awards. Other credits include the documentary Red White Black & Blue for the Emmy-winning PBS series “Independent Lens.” His short films include Broadcast 23, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and Tom Hits His Head, one of the most widely seen short films of all time. He also was named “One of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film” by Filmmaker magazine.
BRENNA SANCHEZ: PRODUCER/DIRECTOR
Detroit native Brenna Sanchez is a documentary filmmaker specializing in music, adventure and cultural projects. She got her start in as a writer and editor for the award-winning monthly magazines Orbit, Hour Detroit, and Raygun, the cutting-edge music magazine. She has worked on such films as Hank Williams: Honky Tonk Blues (PBS), The Highwaymen (CMT), The Joy of Lex (Discovery), The Cool School (PBS), about the LA art scene of the 1960s, SEARCH AND DESTROY: Iggy & The Stooges’ RAW POWER (Sony), and Johnny Cash’s America (Sony/A&E IndieFilms), which was nominated for a 2010 GRAMMY Award. BURN is her directorial debut.
DENIS LEARY: EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Denis Leary is a five-time Emmy nominee and the star of the critically acclaimed FX series Rescue Me about the lives of New York firefighters. He is also the founder and president of The Leary Firefighters Foundation, which provides funding and equipment to fire departments throughout the United States. Leary has acted in over 40 movies, including The Ref, Wag the Dog, Ice Age and the Amazing Spider-Man. His most recent book, Why We Suck, spent six months on the New York Times Bestseller List.
JIM SERPICO: EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Jim Serpico is President of Motion Pictures and Television at Apostle. A native New Yorker, Serpico co-founded the production company in 1994 with producing partner Denis Leary. Serpico has produced several feature films, is currently executive producing the upcoming Marc Maron series on IFC and served as an executive producer on FX’s critically acclaimed Rescue Me.