Professor Jason Osder Awarded $30,000 Grant by Sundance

November 30, 2011

Samara Sit, School of Media and Public Affairs
202-994-5349; [email protected]


Jason Osder’s feature-length film Let The Fire Burn centers on Philadelphia’s 1985 MOVE controversy

WASHINGTON — George Washington University's assistant professor of media and public affairs Jason Osder was awarded a $30,000 production grant for his in-progress feature documentary titled Let The Fire Burn. As an awardee, Osder will receive ongoing support from the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and is eligible for a series of labs and fellowships at the Sundance Institute. Winners were chosen among applications received from 74 countries.

"Receiving a grant from Sundance and the recognition that accompanies it is a true honor," said Professor Osder. "I was at a standstill with this project when I arrived to GW five years ago, but through generous institutional support and plenty of personal tenacity I am now in a position to complete the film at the level that the story merits. This story is too important to us today to be relegated to the backbench of history."

Let The Fire Burn, which is in a final editing stage, vividly depicts the 1985 collision between the city government of Philadelphia and a radical African-American group called MOVE that resulted in a deadly fire claiming eleven lives and destroying sixty-one homes. This incident is not just a forgotten national tragedy but an epic illustration of how intolerance and fear can lead to unthinkable acts of violence.

Professor Osder grew up in Philadelphia and was eleven at the time of the fire. Watching the tragedy unfold on TV at the time gave him a lasting impression of bitter injustice. He has been working to bring the MOVE story to the screen for a decade.

Andrew Herwitz, president of The Film Sales Company and presenter of such films as Born Into Brothels and Fahrenheit 9/11 became sales agent and executive producer of the film in summer 2011. This connection was initially made when Osder participated the 2010 Independent Film Week, the oldest forum in the U.S. for the discovery of new independent filmmakers.

As part of the film's production process, Professor Osder is hosting focus groups with knowledgeable individuals and organizations. Earlier in November, former Washington Post columnist and director of GW’s Prime Movers Media project Dorothy Gilliam assisted with a gathering of National Association of Black Journalists members who covered the tragedy at the time. They included former Philadelphia Inquirer journalists Vanessa Williams and Elmer Smith, NABJ founder Paul Delaney, former Washington Post journalists Richard Prince and Bill Raspberry, and George Curry, who covered it for The Chicago Tribune.

Professor Osder teaches documentary production, digital media skills, and online journalism at the School of Media and Public Affairs. He is co-author of Final Cut Pro Workflows: The Independent Studio Handbook, and publishes training on topics including information architecture and YouTube on the Online Training Library. He is also president of Amigo Media, a postproduction boutique and consultancy.

The School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA) is dedicated to the rigorous study of journalism and political communication with a focus on understanding the impact media have on how societies inform and govern, connect and communicate. As media undergo transformational change, SMPA's goal is to advance both theoretical insight and innovative practice. SMPA conducts ground-breaking research, offers inspiring teaching, encourages hands-on work in the field and in our production facilities, and engages directly with thought-leaders in Washington, D.C. and around the world.

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