On November 15, 2008, veteran Detroit firefighter Walter Harris was killed battling a blaze in a vacant house.
Filmmakers Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez were civilians, with no connection to the fire service. But they knew there was a story there.
They pitched the idea as a series and a feature to every production company, studio, and cable network that you watch in your homes every day. They all loved the project, but said the same thing: that their ambitions were too high, and that there was absolutely no audience for a firefighter series or film. They didn't take no for an answer.
Today, BURN may be one of the largest films funded entirely by charitable donations, no investors. Putnam and Sanchez raised the money themselves, in $5-, $10-, $100- and $1000-dollar donations from a few corporate partners and thousands of incredible individuals. They put together a unique funding structure, blending donations, sponsors, and in-kind support of goods, gear and services.
BURN premiered at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. It came away with tremendous reviews and the festival's Audience Award! But no distributor and, again, the entertainment industry didn't believe there was an audience for BURN. But Putnam and Sanchez did. So they decided to distribute the movie themselves, an incredible undertaking. They literally called and rented theaters in more than 170 cities across the United States for one- and two-night screenings of the film.
For more details on the long and eventful road to BURN, please read Film Independent's very thorough BURN CASE STUDY.
This is NOT how most movies are made or distributed! From the start, Putnam and Sanchez were committed to giving back to the Detroit firefighters whose story they were telling. They, of course, had no way of predicting how successful (or unsuccessful) the film would be.
Thanks to terrific sales of BURN DVDs, merchandise and screening tickets, the BURN team returned to Detroit in May 2014 to donate more than $310,000 worth of much-needed gear for Detroit firefighters.HUGE thanks to our fans and our partners: Denis Leary, Jim Serpico, MSA, Apollo Fire, CMC Rescue, New England Ropes and KASK Helmets.