Trial By Fire: Lives Re-Forged celebrates the journeys of burn survivors who rise above their injuries to discover unexpected insights and a transformed worldview. Last month the documentary screened in Calgary at a private preview for the Canadian Burn Survivors Conference. Director/Producer Megan Smith-Harris was deeply touched by the experience. "The film received an incredibly warm reception," she said, "and a week later when I got a personal note saying, 'thank you for showing the world that there is so much more to us than scars,' it reaffirmed my belief that Trial By Fire needs to be seen by a wide audience."
Smith-Harris honed her producing and directing skills first at the Canadian Film Centre in Toronto and later at Women in the Director’s Chair, in Banff. "I’m enormously grateful to the CFC for all they taught me," says Smith-Harris "it was one of the most productive years of my life, and the WIDC program was invaluable. Those early opportunities really gave me a leg up with my professional career."
Smith-Harris met her husband, former A&E Television executive Bill Harris, at the 1997 HotDocs film festival in Toronto. Within five weeks they were secretly engaged and came out officially as a couple at the Banff International Television Festival, marrying during HotDocs the following year. "We redefined the meaning of an American/Canadian co-production," quipped Harris, who serves as executive producer on Trial By Fire: Lives Re-Forged and co-owns Pyewackitt Productions, the couple’s boutique production company based in Connecticut.
Smith-Harris, who had never met a burn survivor prior to undertaking the project, was motivated to make the film after seeing a photograph of burn survivors in a magazine. "I experienced a jolt of understanding that gave me instant empathy. I realized that accidents can happen to anyone at anytime. You think it’s just an ordinary day… until it isn’t." The film features emotionally captivating stories – a distraught mother jumps through a window to save her son engulfed in flames, a high school chemistry class explosion derails the life of one of its star students, an oil refinery worker survives a major blast only to face even greater challenges, and a racecar driver makes a miraculous comeback after being pulled from her fiery wreck. Through extraordinary courage, grit, and determination, all re-forge their destinies by first imagining – and then embracing – new dreams.
Of equal importance, "These are stories that could save your life," said Smith-Harris. "The film takes you on an emotional journey, one that doesn’t pull any punches but is ultimately, inspirational." As the publicity for the film states, When you forge metal with fire, it becomes stronger.
It turns out the same is true of the human spirit.
The film features war veteran and celebrity, J.R. Martinez (All My Children. Dancing With the Stars) and will be shown twice daily at the IFC Center in New York City (Greenwich Village) from Friday, August 3 to Thursday, August 9 and at the Laemmle NoHo 7 Theater in Los Angeles (North Hollywood) beginning Friday, August 10 and running until Thursday, August 16.