Osder Sparks Independent Film Scene

By Kristin Sanderson

poster_largeIn 1985 Jason Osder was in the sixth grade at The Miquon School. In May of that same year, a public tragedy unfolded not too far way in West Philadelphia as officials authorized military grade explosives to be released on the row home compound of the controversial urban group, the MOVE organization. The city watched as firefighters stood by while 61 homes burned to the ground and 13 men, women, and children died.

Years later, after attending Springfield Township High School and New College (a progressive institution in Sarasota, Florida), Jason found himself in film school, thinking about the incident and wanting to understand more about what happened.

“This was the first public tragedy that I was old enough to be aware of in my lifetime ,” he explains of his desire to comprehend the event and why children died. “It struck me that people [outside of Philadelphia] had never heard of it.”

He turned to documentary film as a means for understanding, which led him to direct and produce Let the Fire Burn (Zeitgeist Films, 2013). A work more than ten years in the making, the documentary is entirely composed of historical found footage from the time.

Jason credits his current role as professor at The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs for providing him the institutional clout to garner the otherwise difficult to obtain the archival footage – mainly from television news outlets and hearing testimonies – that he had been seeking to complete the film. Following this, Jason was able to complete and release his film in the spring of 2013 to wide acclaim. Proudly, Let the Fire Burn was named the 2013 winner of Best Editing in a Documentary Feature category at the Tribeca Film Festival, among others.

Along the way, we are also pleased that Jason has crossed film industry paths with fellow Miquonite Scott Blumenthal, who are also doing things “that [are] so clearly born out of projects we did as children,” he says.

When asked what sorts of projects he remembers best, Jason recalls “I remember a lot of playing games and building things. From the very fundamental levels –the campus, the style of teaching, and the innovation – you don’t realize how unique Miquon is until later.”

He also remembers the impact science teacher Tony Hughes had on him in particular, Jason notes, reflecting on his time at Miquon and his own work today teaching media technologies.

“Tony used to say, ‘if the computer does something wrong, remember that you’ve given a bad instruction.’”

Now an experienced media man himself, Jason finds he uses Tony’s advice even today in a career that goes far beyond filmmaking. He began his own media production, consulting, and training company called Amigo Media in 2004. Later, having become an expert in editing using Apple software, he wrote a book on the topic in 2007. Since that time, Jason has expanded his media acumen by creating online and downloadable training materials for sites like Lynda.com and Mixinglight.com. He maintains a production studio in Silver Spring, Maryland.

“I don’t believe you can teach creativity. But you can create the conditions for creativity,” he says – which is, perhaps, another carryover from his time at Miquon.

Jason Osder was named one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film by Filmmaker Magazine July 2013. Having played in theatres across the country over the past year, Let the Fire Burn will air on PBS this coming May. It is currently available on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.