Multiple times a day, firefighters venture out on a potentially fatal journey all in the hopes of protecting society. While this is common knowledge, the actual stories behind the Fire Department of New York are not well known, and neither is the culture of being a firefighter- all until now.
Former firefighter-turned actor Steve Buscemi teams up with Oscar nominee Liz Garbus (whose previous work includes The Farm: Angola, USA and Bobby Fischer Against the World) to produce A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY. “A Good Job” itself refers to a difficult fire, something that firefighters actually look forward to seeing, which is just one fact out of hundreds one will learn after watching the documentary.
A Good Job manages to quickly grab people straight into its narrative of history – from the time that the FDNY consisted of only white male firefighters, to the struggle African Americans faced in becoming part of the department, and then again forwarding to the resentment women faced in entering the work field. The audience learns about some of the most horrific fires in New York City history and even what goes on behind the fire department doors – where people are pranked and eat dinner together as a family.
Buscemi and Garbus comically open up the hidden stories of these firefighters who risk their lives to save ours. Building up to the brave firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11, the film alternates flawlessly between Buscemi’s previous career and anecdotes to interviews with various firefighters known for their well repute. Not only is the film entertaining and insightful on the rather secretive lives of firefighters, but it is almost a duty to watch the film as it gives new insight on what firefighters actually face and what it actually takes to be one. A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY premieres on HBO on tonight September 8 at 9 p.m. You can read our interviews with Director Liz Garbus and Producer Steve Buscemi below.
Director Liz Garbus
What drew you to the project?
Steve Buscemi drew me to the project. He was a firefighter and he wanted to make a film about the guys that he knew and what they went through and, along with HBO, we all came together to make the film. What’s amazing about the film is that we all think we know something about firefighters in this world, and of course we’re all aware of them, but this film is sort of like x-ray vision into the heart of the firehouse kitchen. You know, what they go through every single day and what they face, the camaraderie, the humor. And it’s because of Steve that we were able to tell that story.
What were the challenges of making the film?
The challenges were narrowing the story. It’s such a big history, there’s so many directions to go in, there’s so much darkness, there’s a lot of joy. So it’s finding the stories that sound out and communicate. But it was really working with Steve that we were able to hone in on those pretty quickly.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
Yeah I’m working on a bunch of projects, so a couple of things at HBO. So I’m looking forward to the next ones.
You were a firefighter during the 1980s and then returned during 9/11, so how was it like returning back then and returning now to interview them?
It was a privilege to talk to a lot of the firefighters that I didn’t know .Some of them I did know and I wanted to – one was Dennis Gordon who’s in the film and I’ve known him for thirty years, so it was wonderful. It was so easy to talk to him. Some of them I was intimidated to talk to because they’re like legends on the job, but everyone was so down to earth and I applaud them for having the bravery to share their experiences because they typically don’t like to talk about this stuff.
And how was it like going back as a volunteer firefighter after 9/11?
Well I felt privileged to be there and I felt totally safe being with the guys from my company.
You previously urged for higher wages for firefighters in the past, so do you feel that struggle is making progress in the years since 9/11?
I’m certainly not up on all of that but I certainly feel that firefighters deserve the highest salaries that we can pay them. A lot of these guys have second jobs, they have families, they have mortgages and I think they deserve whatever we can afford to give them.