Tuesday, April 24, 2007

My Adventures in Asking the Experts: Firemen and Chopper Pilots

I have a fire in my script, and thus several firemen, (inlcuding one who's a substantial supporting character). I also have two separate scenes involving two separate choppers.

Now, I've never fought a fire before. Nor flown in a chopper. So .... I asked several individuals who HAVE done such things.

Three months ago, when I was still writing my outline, I logged onto a helicopter web site and had a grand old time chatting with a half dozen very friendly professional chopper pilots about their jobs. I explained that I specifically needed to find a valid excuse to have a chopper pad located on top of a mountian in the middle of a desert. One guy told me about the very common occurence of cellular repeater towers on moutain tops, and how such towers always need chopper pads for emergency service (he posted a few pics for me of what such chopper pads typically look like). I also asked about how fast a chopper can go since one character in my script claims that an EMS chopper can arrive in less than one hour from an EMS crew 100 miles away. Again, the pilots were very cool and very helpful. One was a woman who is also an amateur and yet award-winning playwrite herself. She was especioally supportive.

I recently sent them all the link to my script here on the net. They were glad to hear back from me and again very supportive. I am waiting to hear back from them about the script.

As for the firemen, I delayed in doing any firemen research and have been feeling kinda self-conscious about that. But then just the other day I was in Starbucks thinking about this exact situation when I saw a guy walk by with a T-shrt that said SFD on the back. I jumped up, introduced myself, explained I was a scriptwriter, and asked him: can you suggest a fire station around here where it'll be no big deal if I show up with a box of donuts and ask the guys on duty to read my script? He suggested one that was the largest in the area, explaining there are always a huge number of guys on duty at any given time in that one fire house. I asked him if the chief at that station would mind. He said no, that the guys are usually sitting around doing a whole lot of nothing anyway, and they generally like to see/hear about films that make firemen look good.

So, yesterday afternoon I showed up at that huge fire station with a box of donuts (they ate them up in an instant, but it was kinda hot outside so next time, I'll bring cold sodas or ice cream). They were all VERY cool about it. I promised there was no need for them to read ALL of the script, just the parts with the firemen stuff. The first guy to read those segments said he was definitely very hooked and said he'd very much like to see this movie. The second guy was a real movie buff, and he and his brother actually shot an indie film a few years back, and recently submitted a script to a Hollywood agency and got some great feedback on it. He and I talked for several hours. He made fantastic suggestion on my script, especially about my need to move one critical plot point closer to the realm of the Almighty First Ten Pages. Great guy. He said he wants to read the rewrite.

On a side note, I was kinda startled to see how many of these guys have some rather serious burn scars on their bodies. One guy had terrible scars and what looked like skin grafts on both hands and his neck. I can't imagine what it must be like for the wives of these guys, watching their husbands sacrifice their bodies year after year, getting more and more scarred up.

The converation with the firefighetrs ended at exactly 5:00 PM sharp when the alarm went off and they all jumped on the trucks to respond to a kitchen fire. They were out the doors in less than 40 seconds. I said good-bye to the chief and promised that next time I'd bring ice cream.


jasdye said...

yeah, and maybe some ice packs, too, sheila.

that's very cool. (the conversations, not the burns) maybe you should work the burns in as details to your work.

can't say much else as i've yet to read it and my much-missed wife will soon be coming through our doors.

Sheila West said...

They never mentioned ice packs. ;) But I suspect they probably have quite a few there at the station.

I don't have room in the script for any mentoin of burns. And the firemen in this script are only supporting characters. So their personal stories aren't of importance. Maybe another script one day.

You haven't read it yet! C'mon, dude! I'm VERY needy right now! Ya gotta read it! (But maybe your wife needs you more. Meh--I can live with that.)

Jim said...

Hi, Sheila…

I’d like to suggest you check out my new screenwriting site as well as my screenwriting blog. I think you’ll find them both informative.

If I can be of any assistance as you navigate the murky screenwriting waters, don’t hesitate to contact me.


The website: www.TheWorkingScreenwriter.com

The blog: www.theworkingscreenwriter.blogspot.com

Sheila West said...

Thanks, Jim, I'll check it out! :)