In 2018, speaking at a Wharton Leadership Conference, Kelly Martin, who was the chief fire and aviation management at Yosemite National Park, told attendees: Like for you as a female firefighter? What do you think are the things we could do better? ‘ She said. She added, “You don’t have to be really heavy with people during the initial communication to really create a conversational environment in your business.”
Like the new documentary film Anchor, directed by Holly Tuckett, demonstrates it beautifully in her nuanced and understated presentation, Martin carefully weighed how she approached to become a mentor and a voice of conscience to change, illuminate and improve the working culture of female firefighters. professional. And it goes far beyond rehabilitating a work environment poisoned by sexual and emotional harassment. While the number of women is relatively low (accounting for only 10%) in the profession, their presence and contributions nonetheless underscore how vital they can be, as firefighters face the increasingly complicated challenges of deploying firefighters. effective strategies for dealing with more frequent and intense situations. forest fires and changing public perceptions of fire, in general.
Anchor will host its premiere at the Cinequest Film Festival, which runs March 20-30, as reported during the festival site (scheduled to premiere at noon on March 20, with a virtual screening night later in the day at 7 p.m. MDT). The film will also be screened, courtesy of the American Documentary and Animation Film Festival and Film Fund (widely known as AmDocs), which facilitated the granting of a Simple DCP for the Anchor production team to complete post-production services. Anchor is a production starring some of Utah’s best-known creative professionals, including Tuckett; producer and editor Maddy Purves and screenwriter Jennifer Dobner; and Utah filmmakers Marissa Lila and Torben Bernhard. The film also features music by Los Angeles-based composer Nami Melumad. The film also received tax sponsorship from the Utah Film Center.
Tuckett cleverly adapts the character study approach in the documentary to show how Martin and his colleagues faced a culture of sexual harassment, misogyny, and intimidation in the wildfire world. Martin values discretion and confidentiality, as she has clearly thought about when to speak about what she and her colleagues have been through. Early in her career, which would eventually last for 35 years, Martin caught a colleague spying on her while she was showering, but she decided not to press charges. Over the years, she discovered that such incidents as well as cases of harassment and discrimination against female firefighters were widespread. In 2016, as the #MeToo movement had become visible in many career fields, she prepared to testify about experiences before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in September 2016. In 2017, Time the magazine included her among The Silence Breakers by naming the person of the year.
Tuckett also offers the story of Lacey England, a generation younger than Martin, who like her mentor saw how women are so quickly disparaged by men, who believe themselves unable to cope with the arduous physical demands of their work. . Yet England, like their female colleagues, is proving that they meet the same training and certification requirements as rappelling to the ground. England also sees potential in diversifying the perspective of knowledge in its field. Indeed, wildland firefighters have recently experienced extended seasons of wildfires which have become more aggressive, but there are also questions about fire suppression and tactical strategies, many of which were based on outdated knowledge that has become more aggressive. little relevance to today’s conditions. And, England, like Martin, sees the importance of not demonizing fire as always bad, drawing on, for example, indigenous knowledge about the culture of fire. In fact, many scenes from Anchor present fire in a symbolic and miss-en-scene way, which clarify the epiphanies to be drawn from the film.
Tuckett also features scenes from the Women-in-Fire Training Exchange (WTREX) program, which Martin coordinated to pave the way for a new generation of leaders in the profession. The participants come not only from the United States, but also from Canada, Australia and Portugal and about 10 percent of the participants are men. The impact of WTREX is significant, especially for women firefighters who come from teams where they might be the only woman or among a handful. More generally, firefighters, men and women, also have to deal with driving problems during the off-season as well as the emotional challenges that accompany their work, which manifest themselves in various ways through isolation, suicide, trauma. and drug addiction. There is also an expanded knowledge base on fires, motivated by many practical, social, scientific and cultural considerations which have reinforced the relevance of many forest fires which have become major events in recent years.
With the final edited version of the film, viewers will be in awe of the straightforward yet understated franchise of the women. However, as Tuckett explains in an interview with The Utah Review, gaining the trust of the documentary’s subjects did not happen automatically. First, Martin and England didn’t want their stories to be sensational. “We talked about it at length because they didn’t want a piece of ‘trauma porn’,” Tuckett says. “When Lacey [England] went to a Ron Howard Sundance screening last year paradise [a film about the deadly wildfire in 2018 that devastated the eponymous California town], she said it was a lot of traumatized porn that also focused too much on portraying fire as the villain. ”
The clincher to pursue Anchor the filming took place during a humorous incident in Tallahassee when Tuckett and the production managers arrived after a red-eyed robbery and had only managed a few hours of sleep before meeting Martin, England, and others female firefighters to talk about how the film would be made. “We were going to fly away, but we also wanted them to tell us what they wanted the story to be,” she recalls. Prior to the trip, Tuckett and his team were advised to arrive at the meeting “fire-ready” which meant having fire-resistant boots and cotton underwear. As Tuckett wrote in a blog post, “In forest fires, cotton or wool underwear is the rule; the fabrics withstand the extreme temperatures of a fire and will not melt or stick to the skin.
This little detail was important. The firefighters had been skeptical of the journalists and other filmmakers they met because they feared they would be portrayed as victims. England, for example, served as the main PR contact for the group and the film shows how female firefighters have long thought about expressing their concerns and messages by telling their stories. Coming back to the Tallahassee meeting, “I was nervous because the atmosphere in the room was freezing and calm,” Tuckett explains. “When I asked if there were any questions, someone shouted, ‘Did you bring cotton panties? I pulled my pants down to show them that I actually did. Kelly [Martin] came over and said I was hilarious. She said, “It took guts and you’re going to fit in.” I was ready to be vulnerable.
Likewise, in the aftermath of the 2016 congressional hearings, Martin generally avoided one-on-one interviews, but welcomed Tuckett and the production team to Yosemite to continue the conversation. Even in the film’s final scene set on Martin’s property in Idaho, which was shot during the pandemic unlike other footage seen in the documentary, Tuckett accepted his wish not to show him his house. However, Martin did agree to a scene being shot in her kitchen and some footage outside in the aisle with her and England. The final scene was shot exclusively by Tuckett.
An intelligent, sympathetic, cleverly framed film, Anchor comes at a fortuitous moment. With Deb Haaland as the country’s first Native American cabinet secretary in the service of the US Department of the Interior and a new federal administration that appears to be precisely encouraging diverse and informed dialogue to reform and enhance the broader culture involved, it appears that the hopes of Martin, England and his colleagues could be turned into meaningful actions and policies.
This is Tuckett’s second feature-length documentary. His first, Church and State, debuted in 2018, winning a Special Jury Prize at AmDocs and Best Feature Documentary at the Nice International Film Festival in France. For more information on Anchor, To see the movie website.