November 18, 2012, 3:00 P.M.

The Ray Stark Family Theatre, SCA 108, George Lucas Building, USC School of Cinematic Arts, 900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007


Outside the Box [Office], the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the USC Ostrow School of Dentistry, and Pyewackitt Productions invite you and a guest to a special preview screening of

TRIAL BY FIRE: Lives Re-Forged

Directed and Produced by Megan Smith-Harris
Written by Bill Harris and Megan Smith-Harris
Followed by a Q&A with Megan Smith-Harris and burn survivor/actor J.R. Martinez
3:00 P.M. on Sunday, November 18th, 2012
The Ray Stark Family Theatre, SCA 108
900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007

TRIAL BY FIRE: Lives Re-Forged is a gripping, emotionally potent, often startling documentary about a remarkable group of burn survivors and their physical and psychological triumphs over adversity. Director Megan Smith-Harris masterfully interweaves the harrowing stories of a cross-section of Americans… Candid interviews with the victims and their devoted family members, personal photos, home video clips and archival new footage bring us so deeply into the forever-changed lives of the film’s stalwart subjects you'll likely never look at – or look away from – a burn survivor gain…You are all amazing.”

Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times

About TRIAL BY FIRE: Lives Re-Forged

It’s just an ordinary day… until it isn’t. A distraught mother jumps through a window to save her son engulfed in flames; a chemistry class explosion at an elite boarding school derails the life of one of its star students; a soldier is ravaged by a roadside bomb in Iraq; a teen race car driver is trapped in a blazing wreck while her parents look on, powerless to help; and a loving family says ‘sweet dreams’ Sunday night unaware their home will be reduced to ashes before dawn. All face the cruel onslaught of fire and survive.

With heart and grace, TRIAL BY FIRE: Lives Re-Forged celebrates the courage and strength of burn survivors as they reclaim their lives after the devastation of fire. The film follows the journeys of ordinary people who rise above their injuries to discover unexpected insights and a transformed worldview. Through extraordinary courage, grit, and determination, all re-forge their destinies by first embracing – and then achieving – new dreams. These powerful stories are framed and given insight by U.S. veteran, actor, and speaker, J.R. Martinez.

When metal is forged with fire it becomes stronger. It turns out the same is true of the human spirit.

Provided courtesy of Pyewackitt Productions. Unrated. Running time: 87 minutes.

To learn more about this film and to view the trailer, click here.

To visit the Official Facebook page, click here.


Filmmaker's Statement

Prior to making this film I had never met a burn survivor. Like most people, I have an innate fear of fire and experience a visceral response at the mere suggestion of being burned. When occasionally confronted with burn survivors through images in the media, I was filled with a vague sense of pity and personal discomfort. I changed channels or flipped the page because the thought of anything like that ever happening to me was too painful, too terrifying to contemplate. 

I always focused on the fire and never considered what it would be like after the event: the experience of waking up in the hospital to discover that your life as you knew it would never be the same. But one day, while leafing through a magazine in an airport departure lounge, I saw a picture of three burn survivors and my heart flipped over. 

Suddenly, I didn’t want to turn the page. I wanted to know everything: How did they get burned? How long was their recovery? What were they like before the fire? How did they manage to reclaim their lives in the aftermath? What were they doing now? I was inspired and humbled by their courage. There and then, I decided to make TRIAL BY FIRE: Lives Re-Forged.

Burn survivors emerge from the devastation of fire and have no choice but to confront enormous physical, psychological, and social challenges head on. Every time they look in the mirror or catch their reflection in a store window, they are reminded of what happened to them. While their spirit is intact, their exterior appearance has been permanently altered in a way, which prompts unwelcome stares, whispers, and comments. We all have scars but most of us wear them on the inside. Burn survivors have no choice but to wear their battle scars in public and constantly come face-to-face with a culture is often unwelcoming to anyone who is different.

As much as survivors wear their burn scars as a badge of honor, they do not want to be defined by them – just as others should not to be defined by the color of their skin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or by any physical challenges they may face. Burn survivors are regular people who go to school, get jobs, pay mortgages, and start families; they have good days and bad, hopes and dreams like everybody else.

It is estimated that one million people suffer burns every year and of those 50,000 are serious enough to require hospitalization. Not all accidents are preventable, but many are. Fire awareness and prevention really can save the lives of those you love. Another underlying message of TRIAL BY FIRE: Lives Re-Forged is that fire is not discriminatory. Burn injuries can happen to anyone at any time. It is our hope that after seeing this film, people will incorporate easily adoptable fire safety practices into their lifestyle that could prevent a future tragedy.

When you forge metal with fire it becomes stronger and in making this film I learned that the same is true of the human spirit. One of the most surprising revelations we had during production was that the majority of burn survivors interviewed for this documentary told us they would not change what happened to them even if they could. While none of them would ever want to revisit the pain and suffering they endured, the experience of being burned has transformed their lives in ways they could not possibly have fathomed. Many believe they have accomplished greater things in their lives than they would have – or could have – had they not experienced their own trial by fire.

In making this documentary I was focused on taking a challenging subject – being burned – and making it accessible for everyone. This film features seven dramatic stories that take the audience on an emotional journey that is inspiring. My goal was to help people identify with burn survivors in a meaningful way and not just to project their own fears onto them.

I truly feel honored to have had the opportunity to make this film. The people you meet in TRIAL BY FIRE: Lives Re-Forged remind us to never, ever let go of our dreams because even at the bleakest times when your life has been unexpectedly and dramatically derailed, anything is possible if you persevere. It is time to give a voice – and a face – to burn survivors.

Megan Smith-Harris, Director & Producer

About the Guests

MEGAN SMITH-HARRIS | Producer | Director

President and owner of Pyewackitt Productions, Megan’s career encompasses documentary, television, film, theater, and radio. TRIAL BY FIRE: Lives Re-Forged is her first independent feature documentary. The film celebrates the strength, courage, and resilience of inspirational burn survivors and features seven emotionally captivating stories including that of U.S. veteran, actor, and speaker, J.R. Martinez.

Megan also executive produced and directed SURROGATE STORIES, a two-hour special about surrogate mothers and their intended parents, which aired on the Women’s Entertainment Network in 2012 and was recently purchased by Off The Fence for international television distribution. Previous projects include CHILD BRIDES (Executive Producer | Director | Writer) and POLYGAMY (Producer | Writer), both for the anthology series, Secret Lives of Women on WEtv.

Launching her career in Toronto as a performer with the THE SECOND CITY Touring Company, Megan went on to produce and co-write, MAD IN CANADA, a comedy revue, which ran for over a year in Toronto and Montreal. She also co-wrote and performed 50 live episodes of THE NORM, a popular national CBC radio series. In addition, Megan produced 24 documentary profiles (16mm) featuring celebrated Canadians that aired on CBC and Bravo.

Currently, Megan is developing a number of projects with Executive Producer Bill Harris including numerous documentaries, a television series, MUSKOKA DRY and BEHIND THE HEDGEROWS, a feature film.

A graduate of the Producers Residency Program at the Canadian Film Centre, Megan also participated in the inaugural year of Women in The Directors Chair and has her B.A. in Theatre and English from Queen’s University. She is the programmer and moderator for the New Perspectives Documentary Film Series in Wilton, Connecticut. More at

J.R. MARTINEZ, Actor & Burn Survivor

“April 5 2003 was my rebirth. Because I literally was reborn… I had to do everything over again but I learned it in such a deeper way, in a way I was more connected to life and people and adversity and?it was a blessing. I feel like the fire completely re-forged my life.”

At 19, J.R. Martinez was critically injured when his Humvee drove over a roadside bomb in Iraq. Trapped in the burning vehicle for five minutes, Martinez suffered smoke inhalation and sustained severe burns to more than 40 percent of his body. After being hospitalized for 34 months and enduring some 30 surgeries, J.R. recovered. His positive attitude caught the attention of the entertainment industry and he was cast as “Brot,” a war veteran, in ALL MY CHILDREN.

In addition to his success breaking barriers and stereotypes as an actor, Martinez dazzled audiences week after week on DANCING WITH THE STARS eventually winning the competition along with the admiration of much of America for his bravery, sensitivity and candor. He has recently released his memoir Full of Heart and is a sought after motivational speaker.

About Outside the Box [Office]

Outside the Box [Office] is a weekly showcase for upcoming releases highlighting world cinema, documentary and independent film titles. Recognizing a need for greater diversity on campus, the series will draw from around the globe to present movies that may challenge, inspire or simply entertain.

To view the calendar of screenings, click here.

About the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the USC Ostrow School of Dentistry

The Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC, ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the nation's #1 program, is an undisputed leader in education, research, and clinical care all aimed at enabling people to live their lives to the fullest. Occupational therapists are the health care and rehabilitation professionals who help people perform, modify, or adapt their everyday activities in order to live healthier, happier and more productive lives, despite disability, illness, or injury - including burn injury and rehabilitation.

Check-In & Reservations

This screening is free of charge and open to the public. Please bring a valid USC ID or print out of your reservation confirmation, which will automatically be sent to your e-mail account upon successfully making an RSVP through this website. Doors will open at 2:30 P.M.

All SCA screenings are OVERBOOKED to ensure seating capacity in the theater, therefore seating is not guaranteed based on RSVPs. The RSVP list will be checked in on a first-come, first-served basis until the theater is full. Once the theater has reached capacity, we will no longer be able to admit guests, regardless of RSVP status.


The USC School of Cinematic Arts is located at 900 W. 34th St., Los Angeles, CA 90007. Parking passes may be purchased for $10.00 at USC Entrance Gate #5, located at the intersection of W. Jefferson Blvd. & McClintock Avenue. We recommend parking in outdoor Lot M or V, or Parking Structure D, at the far end of 34th Street. Please note that Parking Structure D cannot accommodate tall vehicles such as SUVs. Metered street parking is also available along Jefferson Blvd.

Contact Information

Name: Alessandro Ago