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LADDER 49

Shooting In Baltimore
LADDER 49 takes place in the historic city of Baltimore, one of America's major urban centers, yet one not often depicted in films. For the filmmakers, the city's unique working-class character, charming urban neighborhoods and strength of pride made it the perfect locale for a story about firemen and their family relationships. The fact that Baltimore is currently undergoing an urban renaissance that has cleaned up and restored the city's beauty made the location even more attractive.

Says Jay Russell: "Finding the right locale for this story was key, and Baltimore was the right fit because it's a city with so much character. It's very diverse — it has extreme wealth and also poverty, it has skyscrapers but also quiet working-class neighborhoods. To me, it's like every great American city rolled into one. The other beautiful thing about it is that is sits on a harbor and I loved the idea of a city of water and fire. Water and fire are such big metaphorical icons in this movie.

Finally, one of the other reasons I wanted to shoot in Baltimore is that it's a city that has struggled. It's a city on the rebound, but it has had its economic difficulties over the years. So there are a lot of abandoned warehouses that we were able to use for the fire sequences and yet there's also a really strong spirit among the people.”

Adds Casey Silver: "Baltimore was a wonderful city to shoot. Everyone was cooperative, from the city to the firefighters to the people on location. We had a great experience.”

Baltimore is also a city with a nationally renowned fire department. Established in 1859, the Baltimore City Fire Department began with one steam engine, a hose reel and truck. In 1904, the devastating Great Baltimore Fire nearly destroyed the city and was valiantly fought by local fire crews. Today, Chief William J. Goodwin, Jr. oversees a department of 1,700 men and women dedicated to protecting the lives and property of a population of well over 675,000 citizens. The city's 39 fire stations house over 100 vehicles utilized by firefighters and paramedics. The fire department's dedication is perhaps best summed up in its motto, a motto that came to be shared by members of the LADDER 49 production as a theme: "Pride Protecting People.”

Once Baltimore had been chosen, the filmmakers immediately befriended the local fire departments to gather as much knowledge and cooperation as possible. Notes executive producer Marty Ewing: "The approach to firefighting on the East Coast is very different from that elsewhere so we needed to learn the Baltimore way of fighting fires. It was very important that we had cooperation from the city to use their actual equipment — everything from the apparatus in the fire trucks to the halogen axes, fittings and hoses that they use in Baltimore. We also were given a fantastic opportunity to use real Baltimore firemen as extras. They arrived on the set in authentic wardrobe: soiled hats, coats, the proper belts, tools, etcetera. This really contributed to the authenticity of the picture. Add to this the fact that we found a real firehouse and restored it to operational condition for use as a movie set and you see that Baltimore provided us with incredible good fortune.”

To bring both Baltimore's charms and more dangerous industrial spaces to life, Jay Russell collaborated closely with production designer Tony Burrough (an Oscar® nominee for his work on "Richard III”), who created sets both on the home front and for the "fire event” locations. On the home front, Burrough's challenge was to carry his carefully designed sets subtly through a decade of changes. "We wanted to give a sense of shifting time as Jack matures and becomes a family man,” says Burrough. "The idea was to shift the details in the houses and fire station to emphasize the cha

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