All it took was one trip to the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020 for Beth Bruce ’88 to fall in love with the world of independent films. Now she’s one of the producers of a new film, On Fire, which premiered in theaters on September 29, 2023.
Bruce recently started a company with her brother and a third partner called Lone Star Storytellers and Media Group, LLC to support Texas filmmaking, offering films that provide good, heartfelt stories. They started to build relationships with producers and creatives who were trying to get projects off the ground during the COVID-19 pandemic before finally getting some traction and great feedback about On Fire.
“We had no idea what we were getting into,” Bruce admits. “I started as a passive executive producer, but we had some issues with production and the leadership there, so it became clear that I needed to roll up my sleeves and dive in. Landing Peter Facinelli as our lead actor was a huge turning point. We leveraged the few connections we had, and somehow the story hit with him. He helped direct much of the film, especially in editing and post production.”
Inspired by true events, On Fire tells the story of the Laughlin family, with Dave Laughlin (Facinelli) at the heart of the film. As he juggles the responsibilities of impending parenthood and caring for his ailing father, Dave struggles to support his family in their day-to-day life. Suddenly, his world is torn apart by a devastating wildfire, making survival Dave’s main objective for his son and pregnant wife.
“The film captures the power of human resilience and the unwavering strength of the human spirit when faced with adversity,” Bruce says. “It also spreads awareness of the dangers of wildfires and the importance of preparedness.”
The Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strike began on July 14, 2023 and is still ongoing at the time of this publication. On Fire is one of the first films to be part of an interim agreement with SAG-AFTRA.
“We have agreed to the interim terms related to paying residuals and bonuses for streaming to the actors, which is one of the major reasons for the strike. This means we are supporting the actors and the guild, and they are allowed to do press for our film even during the strike,” Bruce explains.
Filmed in Bastrop, Texas, in November 2021 with 90% of the crew from Texas, Bruce is grateful that On Fire could support local crew and service staff who have been impacted by the pandemic and strikes as well as other general economic hardships.
“Many have told me that I basically completed film school as I worked through all of the phases of filmmaking all the way to distribution! I have always learned that one of the keys to success is surrounding yourself with smart, trustworthy people, so I am glad that happened with this film,” Bruce says.
Beth Bruce ‘88 is the producer of On Fire.
Bruce is passionate about lifelong learning, a passion that grew from her Trinity University education.
Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Bruce moved to Houston when she was four years old, and in her words, she “never looked back” once she got to Texas.
As a student at a large public high school, Bruce knew she wanted to meet new people and experience different things, so she started to look at smaller schools in Texas. Her father talked with work colleagues and helped Bruce create a list of prospective colleges.
“I visited four or five schools, but after my first visit to Trinity, I just knew that was the place for me. I never really even considered any other schools after my tour,” Bruce confesses.
When she arrived at Trinity, Bruce thought she wanted to be an attorney and dove into a number of political science classes. However, after her first year, she realized law school would not be for her.
“I tested out some business classes, and I remember loving a religion class as I had not been exposed to so many of the faiths and practices we learned about in that class,” Bruce recalls. “I was just trying to absorb the liberal arts and so many different topics.”
She ultimately landed on accounting as her major and worked in energy auditing after graduating from Trinity before eventually starting her own financial operations transformation consulting company called Apollo Advisors. During this time, she was also a chief financial officer for a smaller company and helped Baylor College of Medicine transform its financial and IT operations from 2015-21.
“Trinity really helped me learn how to learn, and I love it! I keep jumping into different industries and applying the core set of business skills that I honed during my consulting years. I have tackled many different aspects of energy, and now I’m diving into entertainment and film production,” Bruce says. “It’s all different, but steady business leadership, management skills, and the right people, processes, and technology have been at the core of all of my roles.”
Bruce has since relocated to the Lake Travis/Austin area and is currently working on five different startups, including a film fund with some of the creatives who were instrumental in getting On Fire completed and in distribution. She is also helping a team of engineers launch a company which focuses on water measurement and industrial automation, creating solutions for flood and water measurement that are reliable, cost effective, and easy to deploy. Additionally, she is an investor and financial adviser for Iron Wolf Ranch & Distillery in Spicewood, Texas.
“I love helping entrepreneurs begin to scale and see their hard work and visions become successful, stable businesses,” Bruce says. “I plan to just keep on learning and helping others along the way.”
Bruce stresses that she didn’t plan out any of her career. Rather, she followed the opportunities that were right in front of her, and she encourages Trinity students and alumni early in their careers to do the same.
“If you asked me 35 years ago what I would be doing and what I would have experienced, I would have certainly not been able to make this up,” Bruce says. “There are definitely uncertain and scary steps along the way, but don’t be afraid. With your Trinity foundation as well as friends and colleagues you meet along the way, you’ll always have people there to support you and allow you to make the ‘next right move.’”
Bruce also believes it is important for people to love what they do.
“I have always been very interested in the companies and industries I have supported,” Bruce says. “When you are no longer learning and enjoying your work, it is time to move on.”