Wednesday, January 28, 2015

From Heroes to Zeroes...Time After Time

What have we done?

There's no doubt about it. We have all seen it. Especially, since the tragedy of 9-11. On that tragic day in America, firefighters were seen all over the country as heroes. It wasn't a label that we sought, nor was it a label we even wanted. However, as almost every television broadcast the pictures of our brothers entering the Towers, the viewing audience was enthralled by the scene. Engines, trucks, rescues, ambulances and every other conveyance streamed past the cameras, lights flashing and sirens screaming.
When the Towers fell, America felt sad. Some even felt bad. They purchased and displayed American flags, on their homes and on their cars. "Those poor firefighters," they lamented. "They were so brave!" They watched the scenes from the pile, hundreds of our brothers and sisters searching a helmet, a badge, a turn-out coat, anything that might lead them to a hopeful rescue, until the difficult decision was made that they were there only to make a recovery. Within a few weeks, viewers lost interest in seeing the somber scene day-after-day. They weren't members of their family. They wanted their entertainment back. And American television did their bidding.
Then, when our members became ill from the toxins they tramped in, breathed in, and carried with them every day and night, we asked to be assisted with our healthcare. The reaction was like we had kidnapped their first-born child. At almost the same time, budget talks were getting underway. And as usual, the finger of trouble was pointed at the those who wear the badges of the branches of emergency services. Like a plague, the unions were blamed for high municipal costs (even though, it is often the costs of administrative personnel that are higher) and when we realized that Heaven forbid, there would be another attack on this country and we would still be the first ones on the scene, we asked for newer, more modern equipment. At this point, all of us, career, volunteer, combo, and paid-on-call, were all castigated for asking for more money than we "earn" in the eyes of the public.
So, even after the horrific sacrifice of our FDNY, NYPD, and PANYNJ brothers and sisters, we went from "heroes-to-zeroes" in record time.
After the tragedy on 9-11, we at Dalmatian Productions, stopped all efforts to see our first show, "America's Heroes: The Men & Women of Fire/Rescue." (You can see the pilot episode by using this link, As much as we wanted this show to succeed to tell all of ours stories, we just could not do it at this time. We had to wait until after the shock of 9-11 had subsided.
Thus, it was 2002 when we started up again. We already had the pilot (though it looks a little "long in the tooth" today) and we supposedly had an excellent contact with one of the largest cable/satellite providers in the country. Month after month and year after year, every attempt to market our show, truly any show about the fire service was met with a closed door. One network had the balls to tell us they had no interest in red lights, sirens or smoke. However, it could get video of cross-dressing firefighters, firefighters being arrested or bring drunk, then they'd talk to us about a reality show.
As I've written in an earlier post, we never gave up. We tried numerous "angles" regarding the fire-rescue service in a "reality" sense. At least a few networks turned us down. Most we have heard of. Then, last year, we shook the dust off an old idea. Instead of a reality show, we'd make this a dramatic series.
Following the recent trend over the last few years of having a limited number of episodes instead of 20-22, we created our new show to fit in to a 12-15 episode format; perfect for a mid-season replacement or a limited run in prime-time. Currently, the treatment (a concise, one-page description) has been turned down by one studio and is sitting with two others.
What I believe the studios and networks don't appreciate is who our basic audience is. Just in the U.S., the are over a million firefighters from all classifications. Add to that the percentage of those that are married. Then look at their demographics (the all-important classifications of an audience, age group, gender, buying power) many of those viewers would be in the coveted 18-49 years of age for both men and women; most fall into the middle to upper-middle class economics. What does that gibberish mean? It means that we bring an built in audience that, if we produce a good show, have realistic portrayals of fire-rescue personnel and deal with real issues that we face everyday, we have the power and backing for a successful program. And that is the most important fact that a network is interested in.
Listen, I wish I could give you more details, but at this time, we can't and won't take a chance that someone will take our concept, then create and pitch their version to the networks! Remember, every partner of Dalmatian Productions has been or currently is still involved in emergency services. We've been out on the line, three of us as belly-crawling, snot-nosed, soot-faced, nozzle jockeys. And that is why we want to tell our story. And though the idea behind this new show focuses on what specialized unit of the fire service, we are very careful to involve the entire picture of today's fire-rescue service, including our work in EMS and out interaction with our brothers and sisters in blue.
We're hoping that we will be able to count on you. First, we may need you to run a letter campaign to get this show on the air. Second, if we get a pilot made, we'll need viewers and lots of them.
So let's change the tide of the public's perception and correct the misunderstandings about what it is we do. A 45-second news clip does not define any of us. Let's move from zeroes to heroes!

Monday, January 12, 2015

One Week Down...But a Lot More to Come

Well, the first (productive) week of the new year is finished. Regarding our new show about the fire service, nothing has changed; still no word from the TV studios and production companies.

However, I decided that if we are, hopefully, going to need your help to get this show on TV, then you need to know more about us and see us more frequently. To that end, I've beefed up our presence on Twitter and it has been a great week. Our Twitter follows' presence increased many-fold, as we jumped from 9 to 93 since last Sunday! We had really hoped to reach 100 followers by today. As you can see, we fell short by seven. That's not a big deal though. We've been honored by the many "favorites" and "re-Tweets" we have received, and to that, we say, "Thank you."

As many of you may know, Hollywood is a fickle place and a place where lawsuits fly back and forth, faster than some of the best drivers from NASCAR on opening day at Daytona Beach! And due that idiosyncrasy, we are unable to announce too many details about our new show. But here are a few:
  • The show is not, for the most part, about life in the firehouse.
  • The focus of our show is on integral and very important division within the hierarchy of the department. Though the public rarely sees this division in their local departments, our research and conversations with the "host city" and the fire department in that city, have demonstrated the tremendous work this division does 24/7 in this wonderful city in the Northeast.
  • We have quite a cast of characters you'll meet, and just like anyone does when they watch a good show, they try to identify their favorite and attempt to follow their "STAR's" throughout the time the show airs.
  • Too many words here in a description and a smart young lady or young man may know what this show is all about AND what else is coming up. And that, my friends, would be no different than handing the keys and alarm code to a 16 year old neighbor and tell he could take anything that he/she liked.
  • If that happens, then they will start popping up trying to sell their own pitch and declaring we had nothing to do with it,
    • This happened once back in 2000, We had demonstrated the pilot episode at a large television industry conference.
    • We had a booth decorated to look like a firehouse, with a brass (painted) pole, rolls of hose, axes, irons, chains etc. Oh, and a Code 3 MX7000 at the top of the booth.
    • We were approached by a major cable/satellite network who watched our preview tape numerous times and requested us to send several additional copies to their corporate office. Which we did when we arrived home.
    • We never heard back from the network. Yet, six months later, that network had a fire-rescue reality show on the air which duplicated the majority of our show to the point where we had to retain legal counsel.
    • To avoid a lengthy and expensive lawsuit, the network was willing to settle. All we asked for is that the their show could have one more airing and then must be withdrawn from broadcast. We did not ask for a penny.
  • Our new show is a drama. At the same time, it has great fire service humor and a lot to say about the lifestyle that's forced upon us when we decide to become firefighters.
  • If it is picked up, we want to make sure that the overall themes, SOPs, and reality of working in the fire service remain true to our chosen profession/avocation.
As soon as we can, we'll release more details. And, we'll let you know when and if we'll need your assistance.

Until next time, let's make sure that Everyone Goes Home.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

On Our Way....MAYBE?

It's been quite a while since we've posted to our blog. I could list dozens of excuses, but those of us in emergency services, don't do that. We suck it up, face the music and list the reasons. Basically, there was only one. We had come to the proverbial "brick wall" in try to get a good, strong and true show about the men and women of fire-rescue, on television. None of the major broadcast or cable/satellite networks were interested. Yet, by flipping a few channels, you can have your pick of every other "flavor" of reality shows, e.g., "COPS," "Wardens," "North Woods Law," "Alaska State Police," and many more. And as much as we admire our brothers and sisters in blue or tan, what about those of us who wear the red or blue & yellow?

So, we gave up. It was that simple. We had been working since 1999 and our first pilot, "America's Heroes: The Men & Women of Fire/Rescue," to bring a reality show about the fire service to television. However, as we have all seen, be we career, vollies, or paid-on-call's, we're the "experts" at going from "heroes to zeroes!" Sure, everyone loves us after a great rescue or major fire and they "respect" (sic. pity) us when we experience and LODD, but just let us ask for a decent wage in a union contract, or tell the town supervisors that we need to replace our 1985 pumper with 90,000 miles on it, or our 1992 ambulance with over 150,000 miles on it, and the next words said about us are covered in crap!

I was pretty discouraged. I was only active in the volunteer fire service and EMS for eight years, but those are some of the most important years of my life. Ever since 1985, when I had to retire out due to an injury, my car has never been without an emergency jump bag. I've never shirked stopping at the scene of an emergency to assist until fire and EMS arrive. Basically, I've lived by the axiom, You can take the boy out of the firehouse, but you can't take the firehouse out of the boy!"

During those ten years, my three partners and I had developed lots of ideas for other shows that all touched on the fire service. I was even asked to produce a version of our show for an Israeli network. Most of those ideas, after beingfo registered with the Writer's Guild of America-East, were tucked away in either a drawer or a hard drive. Until last year...

At this point, I must explain that I am not yet able to go into specific details, the show I'm about to explain to you in non-specific terms is currently being shopped at two major studios in Los Angeles. Be that as it may, let me say that during a lot of that down time, I spent hours and hours online researching the fire service. There were some great web sites and others that were rudimentary. Nevertheless, they all allowed me a peek or two into their department, their personnel, the SOP's, etc.

Then I found one, a fairly good-sized city on the East Coast, that intrigued me because of the makeup of one of its specialized divisions. This department has never been featured on a TV drama before. As a matter of fact, the division I was interested in, which hundreds of departments around the country also have, has never been the main focus of a TV show either. However, its make-up was unique to my research and the wheels started to turn. Over the next few months I wrote what's called a "treatment" or "synopsis" of the show. It would be true to the heritage of this department and the our proud heritage of the fire service. However, this time, the show would not be "reality-based," rather it would be a one-hour, limited series, drama.

Last year, the four partners of Dalmatian Productions decided to take one more stab at the TV biz and to tell our story, even if we had to dramatize it. One of our partners is based in L.A. and has done a great deal of work in and on television, as a technical adviser. He spoke to producers and directors that he knew and most of them told him that we had an interesting concept. They encouraged us to develop it further.

Now, I've written my small share of both fiction and non-fiction. As a matter of fact, I'm about 75% finished writing a fairly humorous account of my first four years in the fire service, along with one of my partners, who I met when we both joined this combo department back in 1977. But I had never written a real TV show. Never! Nevertheless, my three partners and my personal adviser who graduated the University of California with a degree in screenwriting, ganged up against me and decided that I had to be the one to write the script for the pilot episode of this show. This is not what I had expected.

Needless to say, I sat down to the task. And over the course of a few months and lots of telephone calls, online meetings, etc., we hacked one out that everyone liked. However, there was no way we could try and pitch it based on our own personal views. We needed to get some feedback from those who have been or still are in the trenches every day. 

Another of our partners, located in the northeast near our target city, is still active in his department after more than 20 years. And those many years brought him numerous friends and contacts in the fire service. So quietly, he started pitching the idea to other members of the fire-rescue service. Everyone who read the synopsis, loved it. For the first time in several months, we could take a breath. "Sure," someone might say, "It's a fire show. Everyone is going to like a fire show." And we couldn't get caught in that trap. Thus, we proceeded to share the story with trusted friends who had no connection with the fire-rescue service, unless they have to dial, 9-1-1! And amazingly enough, they too, enjoyed the idea for the show and the story we had created.

With that accomplished, we now had to get our material to a couple of very important people; the decision-makers in Hollywood and the leaders of the city we chose and the leaders of its fire department. Using numerous interpersonal relationships with people at the department level and the city level, the pitch was passed on to the city's Office of Television & Film, as well as to the Chief of the city's fire department. And on a beautiful Monday morning this past September, I received a phone call from the Director of the city's Film & Television office. Remarkably, this call included the news that both the City and the Chief of the Fire Department, were very interested in our project. 

I was brutally honest with the Film Office's Executive Director in that a complete professional presentation had not yet been made to the studios, however, their interest in being the "host city" of the show could provide us a great deal of "influence" for the studios to see. 

Now we come back full circle. Hollywood has enjoyed its extended production break from the beginning of November through New Year's week end. Our synopsis is sitting with people at two major studios. And we will muscle every person we can, especially from our targeted department to talk it up amongst the people that they, in turn, know.

It is our plan, that in the event we do not hear any feedback from the studios, just with what we can bring to this "fight," that we will turn to you. Real men and women who place your lives on the line each and every day. Utilizing more than this blog, and adding in our Twitter Account @DalmatProd, we will ask for your help, as soon as we get the green light to announce it publicly. You'll have a chance to read the synopsis and possibly, even the pilot script. And if you do like it, we'll organize teams by educating you, so that you will jump on our bandwagon and work with us to convince the execs that this is a show that the nearly 1,000,000 men and women firefighters and thousands more EMT and Paramedics will want to see,

Stay tuned to our Twitter feed @DalmatProd and we'll keep you posted on the develpment and then, at the right time, with the most influence, we will all pressure the studios to pickup our show  for a 10-12 episode limited series.

If you have any questions, I'll be around to answer them. You may do so via Twitter, forum comment or email to

Now, let's stay safe out there so that #EveryoneGoesHome.