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I have heard many interviews where actors have lamented that their best scenes ended up on the cutting room floor but that floor is looking pretty bare right now. I have written about my involvement in Fighting The Fire before, but now trailers for the film are starting fires of their own across social media platforms and literally around the world.

This could possibly be James Dickey’s best performance on screen as he portrays a firefighter struggling as he realizes he cannot save himself or his family alone while veteran actor James Moreland holds a support group of responders together within the hollows of an old church.

The young and beautiful Kaitlyn Kemp and Braydon Lacer (who plays her brother) seek for the father they used to know while taking shelter under their mother’s wing. Angela Baker, who plays the scared and confused mother chases after the husband she married but cannot seem to find and is grounded only by the solace of a close friend.

While risking this post sounding like a movie review, I have to mention that now that I have seen the final edited version of the film, I will warn you that Sarah Turner Holland’s haunting performance in the film will have you in tears but don’t think Melissa O. Bowen pulled any punches as the grief-stricken mother of a son whose life was taken too soon.

This dramatic and touching view into the lives of responders and their families is truly remarkable and stands to create an awareness regarding issues within the responder arena like PTSD, depression, alcoholism and broken families.

With faith-based anchors throughout the film, it is hard to predict just where this film will fall in regards to a single category but perhaps that is exactly what the film’s creator intended; a movie that was hard to place into a box.

Now that the dates are approaching where select cities will show the film for large groups of responders and their families before hitting the general public, it seemed fitting to delve into the mind and heart behind the film and that would be by interviewing Bobby Lacer.

Bobby, you are the Director, writer and owner of Little Chicago Pictures. How long have you been in film?

I had been involved in entertainment my entire life, but I did not get into the film industry until 2019, really out of necessity. My son was a new actor and needed some film reel, so I wrote, produced, and directed my first short film. It wrote it for him to be the lead character. Unexpectedly, I loved being behind the camera and everything started building from there.

Director Bobby Lacer, Angela Baker and James Dickey behind the scenes

I have shared quite a bit with my readers about Fighting The Fire and its plot, but I have shared very little with what it really took to make the film. Let’s start with how you chose the cast. Can you shed some light on how you selected the cast and if there were a few of them that you just knew in your heart would be perfect?

There were a few people I thought of initially when I first started dreaming up this film. All of them were people I had worked with before. First was our lead character, Brian Cook, played by James Dickey. I just knew he was the perfect person for the role. Second was my son, Brayden, who plays Brian’s son, Drew. Third was Ali Hamad, played by James Museitif. He is a talented young actor. He basically became part of our family after we first met him in 2019. He allowed me to be a mentor to him as he worked his way towards making the move to Hollywood and pursuing his dream. Others came along as I started building out the story. People I had worked with started fitting the mold for these characters, so I was cast many of the lead and supporting characters without having to do a great deal of open casting.

Joseph Moreland (Capt. Walter McGee)

You had a few agencies involved in the film. Was it difficult to sell them on the idea of assisting in the film’s creation?

Not at all. I have worked with Brett Lempner of Aspire Imagery on several projects, as well as Dylan and Austin Shell with Crucible Media. We all work well together and trust each other as professionals. I only needed to make one phone call and they were both on board.

This film took over three years to begin filming because I was waiting until I found the right executive producer(s) who understood the purpose of this film – which is to reach people and save families and lives. I was blessed to meet Stacy Kemp and her amazingly, talented daughter, Kaitlyn (who plays Maddie, Brian Cook’s daughter). Stacy and I had a lengthy conversation about the project and she and her husband, Brandon, came on board almost immediately. They are both wonderful people and a true blessing to this project. I am forever grateful for their belief and support in both me and this film.

Were you taking a risk when you chose to use real responders instead of all actors?

I never considered it might be a risk. Some of the first responders in the film as actors, but many others are everyday professionals - from firefighters, to police officers, medics, and more. They were all wonderful and took direction very well. Best part is that they did not need to be told how to do their job. They already know their role, they do it day in and day out. Best of all, they helped the entire team follow proper protocols to make the film as realistic as possible.

Your background played a large role in the creation of this film. Care to share?

James Museitif (Ali Hamad), James Dickey (Brian Cook) and Bobby Lacer (Big Bob Rich the bartender)

I have worked as a first responder off and on for over 25 years, 19 in the fire service. My brother has been a firefighter for over 30 years. So I have been around first responders for roughly half my life. I have witnessed many similar events to those in the film and one of the personal responder stories highlighted in the film is my own. I know that while we have made strides towards supporting mental health within the responder community, we still have a LONG way to go.

Melissa O. Bowen and Zachary Thomas Meiser

I too suffered with mental illness for over 20 years. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t find help to assist me in identifying the problem so I could begin the road to better mental help. Finally, roughly 8 years ago, I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder. Since my diagnosis, I have learned tons about my disorder; I take medication regularly and have a strong support network of family and friends. This has lead to the last 8 years being some of the best of my life. I feel better, I love better, and things don’t bother me as they once did.

As a society, we expect first responders to have a different mental fortitude. We expect them to have the ability to compartmentalize the horrors they witness daily. We have always been led to believe they have a different constitution. But we often forget, they are human beings, just like everyone else. They deal with pain and trauma in the same way as everyone else. But as expected, they try to manage it on their own and it often eats them alive inside. This is why I created the film’s tagline of “Fighting the Fire in the field is nothing compared to the fire raging inside.”

Since sharing that tagline, many responders have privately told me that it describes them perfectly. This is why the message of this film is so important to share with the masses. Our first responders need our support. They are just like you and me and need people around them who are willing to listen and able to provide help when needed.

That's me. (Rev. Bratcher)

You are somewhat the “man about town” in Shelbyville. Tell us about the community and why you keep filming in the community.

I appreciate you saying that, but honestly, I have just been blessed to build great relationships with the amazing people who live in Shelby County, KY. The residents and community leaders of this community are so supportive. Whatever my crew and I need, they find a way to support us. The town and rural areas are absolutely beautiful and have a quaint, small-town feel. It is the perfect backdrop for so many of our projects and it would be hard to find another place with people and businesses that provide so much support.

You make an appearance in the film that I found was quite significant but left me with a lot of questions. In a film about a man struggling with alcoholism that is destroying his family and career, you chose to be IN the film and cast yourself as the bartender. Didn’t this make you the bad guy in the film? You did not play his character like the bad guy, so how did you come up with this likable guy in a film about alcohol?

Sarah Turner Holland (Renee McKee)

Without giving away too much, we find later in the film that my character loves Brian and tries to support him. He refuses to continue being an enabler. I think the character shows another example of all the people around us who try to support us and encourage us to get help, but we are often so wrapped up in ourselves that we are unable to recognize we need help. So many people try to help Brian, but ultimately, he has to decide to help himself.

What was the biggest obstacle to making this film?

Financing is always the biggest obstacle. It was especially difficult for this film because we needed a large budget for an independent film to produce it at the quality level I wanted. I was not going to make this film unless we could do it right. As I mentioned before, the Kemps stepped in, provided that financial support, and allowed us to make it happen.

The other was having access to a real fire station, along with turnout gear, trucks, and other apparatus to make the production value genuine. Chief Bobby Cowherd and the wonderful men and women of the Shelby County Suburban Fire District allowed us to come in and use whatever we needed to make this film a reality. We were truly blessed by everyone involved with their department.

Can you tell us about Little Chicago Pictures?

Cameron Ring (Detective Rick Shelton)

As I mentioned, Little Chicago Pictures began as a short film company. We did not get into making features until 2021. Our main focus was making micro-budget films and producing them at a production level well above other films of similar budgets. Our goal has always been to make quality films and that will never change. We have always looked for projects that share a powerful story, a film with a purpose.

While smaller-budget films have been our bread and butter in the past, we are now moving to larger-scale projects across multiple genres. We hope that we will continue to be blessed with amazing scripts that allow us to tell gripping stories.

While we wait to see the film, we want to know what is next. Is this a genre you are going to continue to explore? Is there a scent of a sequel somewhere in the wind?

James Dickey

I don’t think there will be a sequel. We wrap the story of Brian Cook in this film. This is a stand-alone project that focuses on bringing light to a very serious topic in the lives of first responders and their families. Additionally, this film was emotionally draining for me. It hit home in many ways and I continue to be affected by it everyone time I watch it.

It would be wonderful to be able to tell more stories like this one, but we have to see how the responder community and world receive the story we are telling within this production.

According to Bobby, the film will not be released any time soon because the decision has been made to share it with the film festival circuit and has currently been submitted to over 25 around the world.

Find the movie by CLICKING HERE

BTS (behind the scenes) shot of the group meeting

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