Alumni Collaborate on Feature Documentary Film 'Fireboys'

August 6, 2021

Amanda Nagy

Film still from Fireboys documentary.
A still from the documentary 'Fireboys.'
Photo credit: Courtesy of Drew Dickler and Jake Jake Hochendoner.

Drew Dickler '12 and Jake Hochendoner '12 are codirectors of the documentary film Fireboys, the untold story of young men incarcerated in California who are offered a way out: by fighting wildfires.

As seasonal blazes rage across the state, thousands of professional firefighters, including incarcerated volunteers, battle the fires for many months on end, sometimes into the winter. Pine Grove firefighters have fought in all of the deadliest and largest fires in California’s recent history, including the Camp and Mendocino Complex fires of 2018. Without incarcerated firefighters, California would not be able to manage the growing intensity of fire season. The employment of incarcerated firefighters—and the opportunities and challenges that await them upon their release from prison—are at the core of Fireboys. With a passion for social justice, Dickler and Hochendoner are the only filmmakers ever given full access to the Pine Grove.

The film was produced by Professor of Cinemal Studies Geoff Pingree and David Sherwin '11, cofounder of Deep Dive Films. Music for the film was composed by Nate Mendelsohn '15, a double degree graduate in cinema studies and jazz studies. Peter Swendsen '99, senior associate dean of academic affairs and professor of computer music and digital arts, also contributed music.

Dickler and Hochendoner first met at Oberlin as students in Pingree's documentary production course. They were also the first two fellows in StoryLens—the organization that birthed the filmmakers' creative partnership and that continues to expand and  employ recent Oberlin grads in professional filmmaking opportunities. To date, StoryLens, with the support of the Nord Family Foundation and other generous donors, has created eight original short documentaries. The films bring focus to specific non-profit organizations in northeast Ohio and explore issues such as prison recidivism, opiate addiction, child homelessness, gun violence, food access, the foreclosure crisis, and arts education.

Fireboys is available on Amazon and iTunes.


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