SAFFE doc hits festival circuit

Kilgore Assistant Fire Chief Mike Simmons – dressed as 'Blazze' – carries one of the Special Abilities Family Fun Event Day's guests in the promotional poster for the "Everyday Heroes" documentary.
Kilgore Assistant Fire Chief Mike Simmons – dressed as 'Blazze' – carries one of the Special Abilities Family Fun Event Day's guests in the promotional poster for the "Everyday Heroes" documentary.
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The heroes of the Special Abilities Family Fun Event will enter the film festival circuit officially in September.

“Everyday Heroes,” the documentary short film by Chip Hale was accepted earlier this month to the Austin Revolutionary Film Festival.

The festival is the same one that awarded Hale’s previous documentary “Sweethearts of the Gridiron” (about the Kilgore College Rangerettes) the director’s choice award for best documentary at last year’s event.

The biggest difference, though, is the Rangerettes went into Austin with an established reputation and name recognition throughout the state, country and world. Kilgore’s SAFFE Day and “Everyday Heroes” do not.

“For something like SAFFE Day this is good; this is exposure outside the immediate Kilgore area,” he said. When the short documentary – running for 38 minutes – making its Texas premiere in Austin, it brings awareness to what the Kilgore Fire Department, the city and the SAFFE Day volunteers are doing and could inspire others to bring a similar event to their own city.

“We’d love to have [SAFFE Day] every third Saturday in September in the nation,” Kilgore Assistant Fire Chief Mike Simmons said. He sees SAFFE Day as having the possibility to be for fire departments and families with special needs what National Night Out is for law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. “And it started right here in little Kilgore, Texas.”

The documentary could also give inspiration to other filmmakers to tell the “great stories” happening in smaller communities, Hale said.

“I can’t think of a better way than to use this platform to tell a story like SAFFE Day and ‘Everyday Heroes,’” he said.

With Austin Revolution on the horizon in September, Hale said, he is excited to bring the story to a new audience.

“I’m looking forward to it, and I’m hoping this is the first of many more,” he said, noting he submitted the film to a handful of other festivals which should make their official selections over the next few months.

Austin is the perfect place to show “Everyday Heroes,” he said, because the city is the center of filmmaking in the Lone Star State and could convince some Texas-based filmmakers that Kilgore is the perfect location for their next project.

“That’s where stuff starts in Texas filmmaking; it starts in Austin,” he said, adding most movies that originate in Austin are filmed in the state also. “They’re loyal to Texas.”

When he was creating the film, Hale said, his goal was to create something that would make everyone involved with SAFFE Day proud. He explained the best moment, though, so far was probably when he screened the movie for city employees and SAFFE Day volunteers in May. After the credits rolled, he said, then-City Council member Laurie Weatherford thanked him for making Kilgore look so beautiful.

That compliment paired with the acceptance and nomination for best short documentary at the Austin Revolution Film Festival gave him validation that his efforts in putting together the movie were of the quality he was hoping. During the editing process, he said, he started questioning his technical skills because he did not have a team of people involved in creating “Everyday Heroes” like he did for “Sweethearts.”

Although he is happy “Everyday Heroes” was selected by its first festival, Hale said, his sense of relief comes when the movie is completed.

“I take a lot of pride in that just being able to finish it and everything else is just kind of gravy,” he said.

Another reason Hale felt relief upon completing the project was the concern he had with the limited number of shooting days. In total, he had only six days to get interviews and footage with almost no pre-production time and one day fully committed to filming the actual SAFFE Day 2015 events.

He ended up with only about 20 hours of footage to work with when creating the short documentary. Although 20 hours – four hours shy of a full day – might seem like a long time, he said, it is not when a lot of those hours are interviews and will have to be made into a 38-minute movie, which grew from the original 15-minute time stamp.

There is still a possibility, with the right funding or backers, to turn the project into a 60-minute feature-length documentary suited for a TV documentary, such as one seen on PBS.

Part of the movie making and distribution process is technology – using Dropbox to share images, Vimeo to get editing comments and social media to share news – and Hale said it has been a positive tool for independent filmmakers.

“Let’s face it, if someone could download it on their phones and watch it in 38 minutes, I don’t care what they watch it on,” he said. “I would rather stay with the flow and technology than to be left behind.”

Even though being accepted and receiving a nomination from Austin Revolution Film Festival is “gravy,” Hale said, that does not mean he does not want to get into more festivals. He hopes the documentary makes its way into more events, and he said, he wants to continue spreading the word about SAFFE Day at each one.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Kilgore Assistant Fire Chief Mike Simmons said, noting the experience and process is completely new to him.

He was happy to know KFD and the city were able to create an event that touched people and that the story would now be shared even more widely through “Everyday Heroes.”

“All it takes is one person to see it and like it, and it makes it all worthwhile,” he said.

Simmons’s SAFFE Day alter ego Blazze might make an appearance in Austin, but he could no say for sure.

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