Post 53 documentary to debut at Darien Library

DARIEN — Tim Warren’s documentary “High School 9-1-1” is nearly 10 years in the making.

The former Darien resident, who was a high school volunteer at Post 53 from 1982 to 1985, decided in 2007 that he wanted to make a film about his hometown’s unique emergency medical service. He took time off from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, where he was an executive producer, and with his partner at Boomerang Productions, Kelli Joan Bennett, began a year of filming the Posties.

On Tuesday, Dec. 20, Warren will finally debut his film where it all began, with two screenings at Darien Library at 4:30 and 6 p.m.

“We’re incredibly excited. Obviously, it’s been nearly a decade journey. A lot of people coming have been waiting a long time to see it, and some may have even forgot about it,” Warren said in a phone interview Monday, Dec. 12. “It’s going to be really nice to see it all come full circle. It’s a nice love letter to Darien and to Post 53.”

In part, Warren wanted to highlight the sense of empowerment Post 53 offers teenagers by giving them tremendous responsibility. He attributes much of his success later in life to lessons he learned as a high school volunteer.

“Post 53 really shaped who I was. Even though I didn’t go into the medical field, I still use those life skills I learned at the Post today,” said Waren. “It taught me how to work with people, manage people, make quick decisions under stress, and handle stress in general.”

Those skills have led Warren onto a successful career producing television, including a stint on Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue” and the upcoming “Terry Crews Saves Christmas,” which will also debut on Dec. 20 on the CW.

“High School 9-1-1” was Warren’s first foray into documentary filmmaking, and was beset at first by financial difficulties and editing issues.

“I would say the whole experience was initially part ignorance and part arrogance. And not understanding what it takes to put together a film, especially a self-financed film,” Warren said.

The financial burden of filming weighed heavy on Warren. “I took year off from work to shoot and by the time we got through, I was like, ‘I gotta go back to work.”

After following a class of Posties from September 2007 to June 2008, hiring a professional editor was not in Warren’s budget, so he and Bennett taught themselves to edit, making cuts slowly while maintaining full time jobs.

Their initial cut was a four-hour documentary, which the duo thought was genius but recognized was too long. Two subsequent cuts brought the film’s run time down to two hours, and then 103 minutes, but the top film festivals, to which Warren and Bennett had submitted, were not biting.

It was until a chance encounter between Bennett and the Director of the Los Angeles Film Festival, which had passed on the film, that the partners received advice to get the film down to between 85 and 90 minutes.

“We went back, cut it down to 86 minutes, reapplied and ultimately got into the Heartland Film Festival,” said warren. “We premiered there at the end of October. The response has been unbelievably positive. It was one of the favorites of the festival and people have been blown away by the Post.”

Beginning with the Darien screening, Warren is embarking on a national screening tour of schools and youth organizations, giving people the first in-depth look in film of a year in the life of a Postie.

“The Post has been featured on dozens and dozens of various news shows, from CBS Evening News, to NBC Nightly News, and it gets a nice, three-minute segment. But that really doesn’t fully capture the experience, the training that kids go through, what they learn and why they do what they do. I wanted to do a longer form, full-length documentary to capture that,” Warren explained.

He’ll be joined at the library screening by many of the former Posties featured in the film, a reunion to which he’s looking forward both to see how the students have grown in ten years and what they’ve gone on to accomplish.

“Empowered teens are happy teens and happy teens go on to do great things,” Warren said. “If you have people that are truly empowered and don’t feel like the world is hopeless, then you have a lot better chance to do positive things. That’s really sort of the larger goal of the film.”; @justinjpapp1