(Los Angeles, CA) – Manning massive fire hoses, rushing into burning buildings and serving their community: For a tight-knit group of teenage boys in a town outside of Memphis, Tennessee called Germantown, fighting fires became their unparalleled adventure in real life bravery. HOMETOWN GLORY, written, directed and produced by Ray Costa, the head of Costa Communications film composer agency and p.r, is a riveting documentary film that chronicles a subject he knows well. As a teenager in the seventies, he was among the ranks of the volunteers who risked their lives to protect a town. HOMETOWN GLORY will premiere and be the opening night film at On-Location: The Memphis International Film Festival April 22nd at the Malco Ridgeway Four. Attending the event will be Ray Costa, Composer George S. Clinton and the firefighters chronicled in the film.
Cross cutting archival footage, hundreds of vintage photos, present day interviews and dramatic reenactments, narrated by Tim Russ (Star Trek Voyager, Samantha Who) an original score by award-winning composer/Tennessee native George S. Clinton (Austin Powers) recorded with an orchestra with horn solos by Grammy nominated Chris Walden and songs by Sir Paul McCartney and the Ohio Players , HOMETOWN GLORY reveals how Chief Phil McCall enlisted a dedicated force of adolescents who would fly from their classroom desks to battle blazes. McCall, a father figure to the boys, would exert his considerable authority through a brusque professionalism, punishment , and an endearing support of his teenage charges who were required to maintain high grade point averages in order to participate in the program.
By the mid 1970’s , the population of Germantown had swelled to 20,000 residents and the local teens were trained firefighters. During the brutal fire fighter ’s strike in Memphis in 1978, the Germantown volunteers assisted that city, dodging gunfire to extinguish arsonist’s blazes. Additionally that same year, the crew traveled to Waverly, TN to offer aid in the catastrophic Union Tank Car explosion that took 16 lives, including the town’s fire and police chiefs.
Dubbed “Filthy Phil’s Fire Fighting Fanatics” and given individual nicknames by McCall like “Basketball,” “Flipper,” “Jelly” and Costa’s own moniker “Castro” (denoting his Cuban heritage), the boys represented a cross section of athletes, freaks and nerds who united under chief McCall’s direction into a fire fighting force with an unerring professionalism and expertise far beyond their years.
But it wasn’t all flames and fury: a captivating camaraderie lives at the heart of Hometown Glory. The film acknowledges that the Fire Station was a de facto clubhouse in a small town with few diversions, and visiting girls who were only permitted to visit the station until 9 p.m.
“Becoming a firefighter at 16 was an invaluable experience,” acknowledges Ray Costa, “and we learned lessons that I apply everyday in my life . Everyone profiled in the documentary has given back to their community and I wanted to find a way to honor the firefighters I worked with, the Chief’s legacy and the City of Germantown.”
As seen in the interviews, these teenagers have been transformed into grownups whose reminiscences and revelations convey a captivating tale. “Before they were men they were already heroes,” confirms the film’s narration: The courage, valor and commitment of a gusty group of Southern teens shines in Hometown Glory.
The mission of On Location: MEMPHIS is to advance, educate and inspire filmmakers, students, and professionals in the cinema arts; to connect the regional audience to the work of local and global filmmakers; and to collaborate with other organizations to strengthen the film community and the economic development of Memphis. On Location: MEMPHIS envisions Memphis as a premier destination to attract a broad spectrum of filmmakers and quality films.
The writer/director/producer Ray Costa graduated from Germantown High School, then the University of Memphis and worked in news and public affairs at WHBQ NewsTalk Radio before moving to Los Angeles. In making the documentary, Costa took advantage of his over 20 years in the entertainment industry and asked for advice from seasoned professional on his first feature. He first called Academy Award winning documentary director Jessica Yu (Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien) to ask her advice. Yu’s words of wisdom assisted Costa in finding the central theme that would carry the story. Costa describes the documentary, “The documentary plays more like a feature than a traditional documentary. There is a lot of heart and emotion to the stories. It is like remember the Titans meets Backdraft or Rescue Me.” Traveling back to Germantown, to shoot the film, Costa contacted Frank Bluestein, who was his drama teacher at Germantown High School. Bluestein recommended a Germantown High alumnus, Waheed AlQawasmi for the production. AlQawasmi was enlisted as co-producer and the director of photography and he hired the local crew to shoot on the newest state-of-the-art camera, the RED. Additionally, Lisa Lax Casting assisted in searching for the perfect young actors for the reenactment scenes. The film took several trips back to Tennessee for Costa to complete principal photography. The original editing was done by Waheed and final editing was completed by Jake Hamilton (Grace). The film was color-corrected at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, California with sound editing and a 5.1 mix at Jet Stream Sound in Burbank, California. Costa went to his award-winning clients and friends for their professional input on the project including Editor/Composer John Ottman (Usual Suspects, Fantastic Four), Composer Mark Adler (The Rat Pack, Food Inc.), Composer Jeff Beal (Rome, Appaloosa) and director John Swanbeck (The Big Kahuna).