Documentary Film

Beyond the myth of the white, male superhero. Into the world of diversity and effectiveness in the U.S. Fire Service.

This is the crowdfunding site for our forthcoming documentary exploring diversity within the ranks of the U.S. Fire Service. Your support is essential to shine much needed light on this important issue. Our trailer below serves as an introduction to the lived experiences of firefighters. Scroll down to learn more about the film, the filmmakers, and levels of donation.

PHOTOGRAPHS IN THIS VIDEO: Courtesy Skip Jones, Csmeadphotography, Craig Allyn Rose

When people are asked to describe a typical American firefighter the most frequent answer is still “a white man”. 

PHOTO: Courtesy Skip Jones


Nearly twenty years ago, Bann Roy and Barbara Multer-Wellin’s documentary TAKING THE HEAT: The First Women Fire Fighters of New York City premiered on the PBS series Independent Lens. The film exposed the struggles faced by Brenda Berkman and a small, racially and culturally diverse group of women who successfully sued the city of New York to replace FDNY’s gender-biased physical exam in the late 1970s. Berkman retired in 2006 

at the rank of captain. Today there are fewer female firefighters in FDNY and across the country than during Berkman’s career.  Significant inclusion of women and minorities has yet to be achieved by the U.S. Fire Service. According to the 2021 Census, 82.2 % of all U.S. firefighters were white, of which 95.8% were male.  The U.S. Fire Service remains the least diverse of all American emergency and military organizations. The exclusion, racism, violence, and sexual abuse experienced by Berkman and many others still goes on today.


Roy and Multer-Wellin’s new documentary, BEYOND THE HERO, tackles the issues behind the U.S. Fire Service’s striking lack of progress, starting with the enduring myth of the White Male Hero. Many fire departments across the country recognize that their lack of diversity makes providing the highest level of assistance to the communities they serve much harder to achieve. But the path to diversity is impeded both by an organizational history of chauvinism and racism and by the general public’s misunderstanding of what the actual work of firefighting today entails. BEYOND THE HERO brings viewers to firehouses around the state of California to witness fire scenes and the accidents and medical emergencies that comprise 90% of the calls most fire companies make every year. The film will also investigate current efforts to reform testing, training, and hiring procedures to make them fairer and more standardized, campaigns to construct separate bathrooms and sleeping quarters for female firefighters, fire camps to introduce young female and minority students to the possibilities of firefighting careers, and career advancement education for mid-career African American firefighters.  Finally, BEYOND THE HERO will explore how counseling and feedback sessions after traumatic incidents can help reduce the soaring rate of suicide and substance abuse that haunts the firefighting profession and perpetuates the often-described” frat house culture” of many fire departments.


This pre-production fundraiser will allow us to cover costs for filming a professional video that will be used as part of the required pitches to funding organizations. The costs include equipment rental, professional crew, travel, and room and board.


As of June 24, 2024, we have received contributions from 36 generous individuals.

Our goal is to raise $30,000 for the entire pre-production process that will allow us to competitively apply for production funds for this important film.

Our heartfelt thanks to all those who have already donated!



You can scan to QR code, or click here, or on the buttons below, to make your tax deductible donation to support Beyond the Hero.











A personal email thank you email from the producers.



Special Thanks" on the film's website, a "thank-you" on our Facebook page and a personal thank you email from the producers.



Free MP4 download of the film, an on-screen credit under Special Thanks, a Special Thanks on the film's website, a thank-you on our Facebook page and a personal thank you email from the producers



Free copy of the film’s poster and an MP4 download of the film, an on-screen credit under Special Thanks, a Special Thanks on the film's website, and on the film’s Facebook page and a personal thank you email from the producers.


FIRE CHIEF - $1,000 and above

A private advanced streaming viewing of the film. You'll be one of the first to watch! Free copy of the film’s poster and an MP4 download of the film, an on-screen credit under Special Thanks, a Special Thanks on the film's website, and on the film’s Facebook page and a personal thank you email from the producers.


Note: Donations above $5,000 may merit an on-screen credit TBD




Barbara Multer-Wellin’s work as a nonfiction Writer/Producer has been seen on PBS, HBO, Showtime, KCET, The Discovery Channel, UPN. Lifetime, TBS, HGTV, etc. She won an LA Area Emmy for her work on the television and web series, YOUR TURN TO CARE. The series also won a Gracie Award. Barbara has produced and written two films for the acclaimed PBS documentary series, Independent Lens. TAKING THE HEAT: The First Women Firefighters of New York City, a documentary narrated by Susan Sarandon, is about the 20-year struggle to bring women into the New York Fire Department, an institution traditionally hostile to change rocked by the overwhelming trauma of 9-11. The second film, PAUL CONRAD: Drawing Fire, narrated by Tom Brokaw, tracks the career of the three-time Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist, focusing on the eleven presidents he lampooned. Her latest film, ORCHESTRATING CHANGE, co-produced and directed with Margie Friedman, about Me2/Orchestra, founded by and for people living with mental illness, was seen on public stations across the country. ORCHESTRATING CHANGE is the sole winner of the 2021 Austen Riggs Erickson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media. She is a graduate of the California Institute of the Arts and a former Chair of the Documentary/Reality Committee of the Producers Guild of America. 



Anirban Roy is an award-winning filmmaker who moved from New Delhi to Los Angeles in 1993. His films tackle various subject matters that have one thing in common – marginalized human beings caught in the trap between expectations and reality. Be it illegal street vendors from Central America in downtown Los Angeles running from the police and hunger (Pepino Mango Nance) or a lonely foreign student, hopelessly lost in America, at war with himself and family responsibility (For Here Or To-Go?) or a rebellious kid waging a war of wits with her orthodox family (Audacity) or two vindictive old men living in an uncaring senior living facility, plotting revenge against each other (The Parting Shot). But his most viewed film is the PBS film Taking the Heat, a film about how women joined the Fire Department of New York. This film was covered nationally on NPR, New York Daily News, TV Guide and many other press outlets. Anirban has also directed a national campaign of TV spots Why I Make about the Maker Movement that has had over 200 million broadcast views, according to Nielsen Ratings.

Beyond the Hero

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