"Back Fires" - Fiction Podcast Production

Who are you and what do you want with my money?

I'm Alex Blumberg, a writer and filmmaker adapting my award-winning original screenplay into an episodic podcast. Back Fires is a historical drama about prison inmates who fight wildfires - inspired by the real-life, post-World War II origins of California's fire camp system.

With your generosity, I plan to bring Back Fires to life as a scripted podcast, with talented professional voice actors, expert audio engineering, and a dynamic story world of lush soundscapes that immerses the listener in the fear and terror and joy and heartbreak of this world. Your donations will finance studio recording time, actor and crew compensation, music and sound effects licensing, and podcast hosting to distribute the show across major audio platforms like Spotify, Stitcher, and Apple Podcasts.

What's the show about?

"An eclectic group of California inmates are chosen for an unorthodox prison reform experiment that relocates them to an isolated mountain camp to fight wildfires in exchange for their freedom - only to face hostile opposition from furious locals and within their own ranks."

Back Fires is a humanistic kaleidoscope through which we explore the prison system and the contemporary lightning-rod topics of criminal justice reform and rehabilitation. The story is grounded in historical realism thanks to the time and generosity of retired Cal Fire Captain Jerry Glover, who battled wildfires alongside prison inmates starting in the 1950s, and who entrusted me to breathe fictional life into the sacrifices, joys, and tragedies of this very real world.

Back Fires is also a disaster story, inspired by the man-vs-nature aesthetic of Jack London - a story of man's fragility and the limits of civilization when confronted with the terrifying indifference and overpowering force of the natural world.

Lastly, Back Fires is an existential drama, whose emotional conflicts reflect eternal questions about the human condition. When someone breaks the laws of society, how do we balance the need for punishment and safety with the hope of rehabilitation and redemption? What is the true cost of bravery and sacrifice? What is the full measure of a person - our best moments, or our worst?

Do you really know how to make something like this? What's your background?

Director/Writer/Producer Alex Blumberg is a screenwriter and documentary filmmaker who has written narration for Helen Mirren, optioned an original TV screenplay (not this one!), and created award-winning work for a range of entertainment brands and media outlets including Radio Free Europe, Billboard, Marvel, Complex, The Hollywood Reporter, Pandora, and National Geographic.

Audio producer Gary O’Keefe is an audio engineer for American Public Media’s hit radio program Marketplace. He has engineered performances and interviews for major recording artists like Bruno Mars and Ed Sheeran; mixed a feature film that was awarded “Best Documentary Feature” at the Austin Film Festival; and sound-designed for clients including the Biden/Harris 2020 campaign, TED conferences, and Tommy Hilfiger.

Fine. Is your script even good, though?

In 2022, Back Fires won the grand prize in Creative Screenwriting's annual Unique Voices Screenplay Contest. You can read more about the origins of the story in my interview with Creative Screenwriting from April 2022. Other awards include Final Draft Big Break (Top 3 Finalist), Sedona International Film Festival (2023 Grand Prize winner, TV screenplays), and ScreenCraft TV Pilot Contest (Top 10 out of 3400 scripts). Back Fires is the #1-ranked script on the Coverfly platform, across all genres and formats.

Why should I support this?

The Back Fires project is a scrappy underdog, just like the inmate firefighters of the fictional prison camp. It was recently read and passed over by the development department at Paramount Pictures. But I'm not deterred.

In fact, I am more convinced than ever that this is an important and compelling original story, whose themes and characters will resonate with a wide audience of all ages, races, and backgrounds. I love the idea of bypassing the elite Hollywood gatekeepers entirely and adapting the screenplay to the booming, democratic medium of scripted audio drama. From our hearts and minds, straight to your eyes and ears.

If you want to see (and hear) more original, cutting-edge stories from independent voices working outside the studio system; if you're tired of the same recycled ideas on TV and in the movies; if you value challenging, thoughtful entertainment that embraces contradiction and uncertainty over moralizing and melodrama; if you're an audiophile who loves high-end podcasts and the fast-growing world of prestige scripted audio dramas - please consider making a small donation to help bring Back Fires to life. Any contribution is greatly appreciated.

Thank you!


Praise for Back Fires:

“This excellent script raises profound and prescient questions about the morality of prison labor. Even with limited pages, it still manages to crack open this issue via every possible perspective and give each POV the nuance and weight they deserve.”
-ScreenCraft TV Pilot Competition jury member

"Within seconds of reading, the reader is drawn deep into this world and the experiences of the character, feeling for them through the detail and dialogue and living in their shoes. It's a depressing world, terrifying, but filled with complexity, intrigue, and purpose."
-Creative Screenwriting Competition jury member

"This pilot holds nothing back in its presentation of the hard lifestyle these men lead to reduce their sentences; in other words, this pilot succeeds in its ability to clearly establish the life-or-death stakes of this occupation with its gripping teaser. This opening episode also has the daunting task of fully developing a core cast of inmate characters with the subtle depths that establish them for the series ahead. And it absolutely excels in this endeavor, giving this pilot a well-rounded, ragtag crew for the episodes to come with worthy individual conflicts for each of them."
-The Black List

"Each man has their own battle and struggles on a personal level, as well as the ones being in the firefighting team brings. All of the characters are written with a compelling complexity that draws strong and marketable actors, thus raising the value of the project.”
-ScreenCraft TV Pilot Competition jury member

"Back Fires deals with powerful underlying social issues – how society views and handles criminals, the nature of incarceration (is real imprisonment a mental state that we can change, rather than a physical condition beyond our control?), how imprisonment affects the inmates, racial tension, prejudice, the suffering of the families of prisoners, dirty politics, alcoholism, the nature of heroism, the unfairness of the penal system and others. The screenwriter has woven these subjects into a rich fabric that draws the reader in and makes us question how we handle these issues in our own lives… an expertly written, deeply engaging pilot that deserves to be seen on screen by the widest audience imaginable!"
-Sedona International Film Festival jury member

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Alex Blumberg
Los Angeles, CA

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