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!

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