Locals attend premier of ‘Only the Brave’ Friday

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Movie filmed in LA, features Granite Mountain Hotshots

By Tris DeRoma

For the Los Alamos Friday evening film premiere of “Only the Brave” at the Reel Deal Theater, there was no hoopla, brass bands or meet-and-greets with movie stars.
The movie documented the all-too-brief lives of 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite team of wildland wildfire fighters based in Arizona who took on the June 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire.
Nineteen members of the 20-member team died fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire June 30, 2013. The movie centered on the events leading up to the tragedy.
“Only the Brave,” is a Sony film starring Josh Brolin, Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Connelly. It opened in fifth place this weekend, earning $6 million.
Since much of the movie was shot in Los Alamos, many of the extras who played in the movie came out Friday. The movie began playing at the theater earlier that day.
They were not disappointed by what they saw. So far, residents have given good reviews.
“I was worried that it was going to be too sad, but it turned out to be very poignant, too,” said Erika Gorman, who played an extra in one of the movie’s evacuation scenes.
Christy Conner was six months pregnant with her son Ryan when she got the call to be in the movie.
“He was a moviestar and he didn’t even know it yet,” quipped Ryan’s grandfather Claude Conner, who accompanied Christy Conner and her son to see the movie. Christy Conner was an extra in scenes shot in the Quemazon neighborhood and on Pajarito Mountain.
Christy Conner said her big scene had her running down a hill from the fire with a suitcase when a cop came to help her. She had not seen the movie yet, but was expecting good things.
“It was a lot of fun,” she said of her time on the movie.
Before the movie began, Los Alamos Fire Department Chief Troy Hughes gave a brief talk about what the Granite Mountain Hotshots were all about and the qualifications it takes to be a Hotshot, a group of firefighters assigned to be out on the frontline of a fire to attack it head on. Hughes and his firefighters plan to see the movie later in the week when scheduling allows. After Hughes’ talk, LAFD Fire Marshal Jeff Wetteland read off the names of the 19 killed in the Yarnell Hill Fire.
Besides having a lot of the scenes shot in Los Alamos County, the movie also has another special connection to the firefighters.
The Granite Mountain Hotshots helped contain the 2013 Thompson Ridge Fire in the Jemez Mountains.
“They were on the Thompson Ridge Fire for at least a couple of weeks,” Hughes said. “I remember driving out there in the evenings… I saw them out there quite often.”
Just a couple days after they left Thompson Ridge, they went to fight the Yarnell Hill Fire.
At the time, the LAFD organized a fundraiser to help the victim’s families.
“One of the things we did as a community, and thanks to all of you, we knew that (the families of the Granite Mountain Hotshots) would be faced with some hard times, some financial difficulties,” Hughes said. “Only six of those 20 members were full-time employees and given benefits and considered career. The rest were only part-time people, so when they perished they had little support. Fortunately, you, Los Alamos County, stepped up and raised $27,000. Thank you for your work and support for those families.”
Before the movie, the LAFD had a wildland fire truck on display in the parking lot and equipment similar to what the Granite Mountain Hotshots used in fighting wildfires. Equipment on display in the Reel Deal Theater parking lot included portable fire protection shelters similar to the ones the Granite Mountain Hotshots used to try and protect themselves from the fire.
LAFD firefighters also gave demonstrations on how the shelters were used.
Wetteland explained the differences between structure firefighters and wildland firefighters to people who stopped by before going to see the movie. The LAFD is currently working toward being a hybrid of the two disciplines.
“One thing you learn when you’re a structure firefighter is you respect everything those guys do in the woods, because they’re working without a net out there,” Wetteland said. “We’re tied to a fire truck, we often have a lot more resources, but they’re spread out all over the mountains, and they don’t have a good vantage point. Of course, they’d say the same thing about us. They wouldn’t go into a burning building, they would think that’s crazy.”
“Only the Brave” is playing at the Reel Deal Theater all week. The movie stars Josh Brolin, Miles Teller and Jeff Bridges. Check reeldeeltheater.com for times.