interview by Christine Thompson
NOTE: SAG-AFTRA has approved an interim agreement for On Fire since the film is being released by Cineverse, an independent, non-AMPTP affiliated distributor. Under the terms, members “may work on these productions without being in violation of the strike order,” per the guild. The entire team of On Fire expresses their gratitude to SAG-AFTRA for allowing the cast to promote On Fire during this challenging time for the industry.
Peter Facinelli (Donovan “Van” Ray on the Fox series Fastlane, Dr. Carlisle Cullen in the Twilight novel series, Mike Dexter in 1998’s classic movie Can’t Hardly Wait) tells us how he was called to help direct ON FIRE after Director Nick Lyon caught Covid during filming.
Inspired by true and harrowing events, On Fire tells the story of an ordinary man (Peter Facinelli) that finds his world suddenly torn apart as devastating wildfires rip through the surrounding countryside. With precious moments ticking by, he must flee with his son (Asher Angel) and pregnant wife (Fiona Dourif) if they have any hope of surviving the rapid forces of mother nature.
DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT BY NICK LYON
“On Fire” is a film that holds a special place in my heart. It started as a simple treatment in 2017, inspired by a camping trip with my sons, where the idea of being surrounded by a forest fire sparked a terrifying concept; to make a survival disaster movie that takes place in a forest fire.
As a film director, “On Fire” is one of the technical accomplishments I am most proud of. To make a film about the calamity and terror of surviving a forest fire is no small task. With “On Fire”, I knew I needed to devise and design a style to quickly and safely portray a forest fire, without setting an entire forest ablaze, and without millions in additional production costs, that would allow me to focus on the drama of the family’s journey and their survival amidst the burning chaos. Lower budget, high concept action, and disaster are genres I specialize in as a filmmaker; it’s sort of my forte. Before “On Fire”, I had directed multiple films, where I combined lighting techniques, fog and smoke, real fire, and visual effects to create disaster situations, which is the technique I chose to implement in this film, which would otherwise have been impossible to do as a lower budget production. I felt it essential for me to shed light on the intensity, horror, and devastating impact of wildfires across the world. From its inception, while sitting at a campfire with my boys, the film’s story evolved over time, incorporating fictionalized elements from true stories of actual fire victims and the ever-growing threat of forest fires. Collaborating with my co-writer Ron Peer, we transformed the original treatment into a full-length feature film script. Executive Producers, Simon Crow and Matthew Joynes of SC Films International, with whom I produced Bullet, brought the story to Lonestar Storytellers, who showed great enthusiasm for the script and very quickly decided to finance and produce the film. We were off to the races in August of 2021, and physical production was finished by Thanksgiving 2021.
Escalating forest fires threaten landscapes worldwide as populations encroach into the wilderness, and warming climates fuel an increasing amount of forest fires globally. It was important for me to depict a relatable, all-American family, who, despite their modest means, face
the imminent loss of their entire livelihood due to the fire. I cast Peter Facinelli, Fiona Dourif, Asher Angel, and Lance Henriksen to portray the Laughlin Family, an All-American working- class family whose entire life is tied up in their home. If they lose it, they lose everything so the stakes are high. And to boost the stakes and danger even more, I decided to make the Matriarch of the family Sarah Laughlin 9 months pregnant; which made their quest for survival more than just them. Each actor passionately imbued their role with depth and emotion, capturing the characters’ essence and struggle to survive and protect what matters most; their home and family.
I also wanted to pay tribute to the courageous first responders who risk their lives to combat forest fires. But rather than tell the story of the firefighter, I chose to tell the first responder side of the story from the perspective of a 911 operator. Ashlei Foushee embodied this wonderfully as a novice operator, experiencing her first fire. Her performance added nuance, and intensity, highlighting their incredible responsibility and the emotional turmoil such responders must endure.
At the tail end of physical production, I contracted Covid, leaving me unable to complete the film. But with all ingredients in place, Peter Facinelli, who had a deep understanding of his character and understood my vision, stepped in as a director, successfully guiding the project to its completion for the last week. Peter’s contribution played a crucial role in bringing the film across the finish line while holding up the integrity and style that had been established.
“On Fire” is more than just a film; it is a call to action. Through compelling storytelling, it raises awareness about the escalating threat of forest fires and reminds us that we as humans live in nature, and as our societal footprint encroaches further and further into nature, we must respect its power. Directing “On Fire” was a great honor and a fulfilling experience. To have the opportunity to write, direct, and produce a film that carries such meaningful significance is a rare privilege, and I am immensely grateful.
Peter Facinelli, Fiona Dourif, Asher Angel, Lance Henriksen, Glenn Morshower and Ross McCall
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