Only the Brave film producer Michael Menchel knew the story of 19 firefighters killed battling a wildfire near Prescott, Ariz., in 2013 was one he had to tell as soon as the news broke. He immediately started collecting the material and meeting people affected, hoping to present a film that humanizes the risks first responders face to protect homes, lives and public lands. The film screens at
7:30 pm on Thursday, October 19, at the Jean Cocteau Cinema as part of the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival, with Menchel attending.

What was it about the disaster in Prescott that made you want to tell that story?
Unfortunately, it is this tragedy that brought light to the profession of first responders, and in this story, particularly to wildland fire fighters. There's a young kid that was really going awry, was going nowhere in life, had no direction. … The Granite Mountain Hotshots mentored him. … Then all of the sudden, in a blink of an eye, they were gone.

How does it feel for it to be debuting while wildfires are raging in California?
It is beyond belief, but this is why these guys should be known, why they need more—more attention, more money. … What an eerie coincidence.

Did you learn anything about fire science along the way?
We know a lot. We had to know a lot. We worked with fire—with real fire—as a part of the set. It was manmade, so we had firewalls, propane hoses, liquid gas and fire hoses. There was real fire, and in certain scenes, it was real dangerous fire. …We wanted this to be as absolutely correct and authentic as it could be, and real fire gives you the way, gives you the means, to have real authenticity around it because you can't screw around.