Fire By Nite

Fire By Nite

"Fire By Nite" was a popular Christian-based youth video club and internationally syndicated television program staring Chris Theis, and various other actors and comedians. The program was produced by Willie George Ministries and Church on the Move in Tulsa, Oklahoma which aired on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, the internationally distributed AFN, and local broadcast networks across America in the early to mid 1990's. It was hosted by renowned youth minister Blaine Bartel.

"Fire By Nite" focused on many issues affecting teens and young people from drug abuse to the eerie world of satanism. The show featured special guests such as then-upcoming recording artists dc Talk and the Newsboys, as well as popular artists such as Carman and Petra, and world-renowned speaker Josh McDowell. In an age where the Christian music industry was a small, but growing industry without a lot of exposure, the large viewer base of "Fire By Nite" helped launch the careers of many Christian artists that didn't fit the CCM radio-friendly mold of the time. It also featured popular skits including "Family First", which featured Bartel and his wife Cathy as brother and sister.

"Fire By Nite" was additionally funded by the support of its membership program. For a monthly or yearly fee, viewers could have "Fire By Nite" delivered to them in the mail on VHS.

Blaine Bartel was the host of "Fire By Nite" until 1992, when he left Church on the Move (COTM) to start a church in Colorado. In Blaine Bartel's last episode of the show, he passed the hosting duty on to COTM's new youth pastor Eastman Curtis. Eastman Curtis hosted the show for a full year, and then production of "Fire By Nite" was returned to Blaine Bartel, where it was produced from Blaine Bartel's church in Colorado. Eastman Curtis then went on to host a television show called "This Generation" that was broadcast on The Inspirational Network of which Eastman Curtis produced with former Fire By Nite Director/Editor, [ Eric J. Smith] . After one final year of production, "Fire By Nite" ended permanently in 1995 when Bartel returned as Youth Pastor of COTM's new enterprise and youth program, "Oneighty". The final two years of "Fire By Nite" were available only through the membership program.



1: Blaine Bartel (Start - 1992)
2: Eastman Curtis (1992-1993)
3: Blaine Bartel (1996-1997)

Other Cast Members

In addition to the hosts, Lee Wilson, a.k.a. Mr. Excitement, was the announcer of the program, and was the only cast member on the program during all three major changes to the show.

Additional recurring cast members were Christian comedians John and Vicki Jo Witty and Chris Theis.


Original Format

The original format of "Fire By Nite" was filmed in front of a live studio audience, with the exception of the skits and "Family First." The show followed a "Saturday Night Live" variety format. All musical guests performed their songs live. A typical episode followed this pattern:

# Introduction of Host and Show Theme
# Introduction of Episode by Host
# Skit 1
# Performance by Guest Music Artist
# Skit 2
# Interview with Guest Music Artist or additional Guest
# "Family First"
# Message By Blaine Bartel

The only episodes of the original format that were not filmed before a live audience was the two part series "Sex: Truth and Consequences", "Satanism Unmasked", and "The Evolution of the American Teenager". Each of the two part series featured a special set, no live band, and fewer skits. "Satanism Unmasked" purported to investigate the truth about Satanic rituals and witchcraft and how to combat them. "The Evolution of the American Teenager" was a docu-drama produced in the summer of 1992 that chronicled the changes in teenage culture from the 1950s to the then present, 1992. It also discussed the "counter-culture" of the Jesus Movement and how it changed the landscape of the contemporary Christian church.

Director/Editor, Eric J. Smith joined Fire By Nite in February 1992. Within three months, Smith and Fire By Nite writer Tony Leech were unsatisfied with what they saw as the antiquated Family First sitcom. Smith and Leech petitioned Blaine Bartel on what they considered a more sophisticated comedy concept for a new serial comedy they entitled, "God Save the Queen". With approval from Bartel, Smith and Leech led the crew to a new aesthetic, revamping the entire Fire By Nite program. The old format was going to be retired after the "Evolution of the American Teenager" two-part series, after which the new format would be unveiled. On the final day of production on the premiere episode of "God Save the Queen", Executive Producer and Pastor Willie George walked in on the set, claimed he knew nothing of the new format, and fired Blaine Bartel. Smith, Leech, and a few other key production staff members met with Pastor George to discuss the new direction. Tony Leech resigned. Smith stayed on board to oversee the transition from Blaine Bartel to Eastman Curtis in the late summer of 1992. "God Save the Queen" was scrapped (never to be seen by Fire By Nite fans), and Eastman Curtis took over the lead role in yet another new concept. Smith resigned his position in March of 1993. (Two years later, Smith returned to the staff of Willie George Ministries and was employed there for just over two years and continued to freelance for them until the late 1990s before moving back to his hometown). Willie George Ministries only produced three more episodes of Fire By Nite, after Smith left, before they ended production of the program.

It was well understood that before the prior incident, Executive Producer, Pastor Willie George, had kept a fairly laissez-faire approach to the Fire By Nite program, entrusting it to Producer, Blaine Bartel. After the incident, Pastor Willie George kept a close eye on this and every other production...including the very successful Oneighty program.

Eastman Curtis

After Eastman Curtis took over hosting duties, parts of the show changed dramatically. The show was no longer filmed before a live audience, there was only one skit in addition to the main drama, and all musical guest segments were music videos. Despite the format change, "Fire By Nite" continued to be a leader in its genre, and continued to be chosen for the "world premiere" of Christian music videos.

Blaine Bartel's Return

When production of "Fire By Nite" moved to Blaine Bartel's church in Colorado, the format of the show changed slightly again. The program length was reduced from 60 minutes to 30 minutes, and followed this format:

# Show intro/theme
# "The News" (commentary on current events impacting young Christians) by Lee Wilson.
# Music Video
# Drama
# Message by Blaine Bartel


"Fire By Nite" has had a lasting influence in America. Teen Mania's mission trips and the Teen Mania Acquire the Fire convention was a joint project between Blaine Bartel and Teen Mania founder Ron Luce, and both were heavily promoted on the program. Although not started by "Fire By Nite", See You at the Pole gained nationwide exposure after being promoted by Al Denson on the program. "Fire By Nite" also helped break many new Christian music artists, and was frequently chosen to premiere many Christian music videos.

Technical Information

The show was shot primarily on BetaSP. Occasionally 16 mm was employed; and 35 mm was employed for the new format's fresh new opening title sequence, but was later scrapped due to Blaine Bartel's exit from the show. Some studio work utilized the 1 inch Type-C format for acquisition.

Editing was performed in a Grass Valley Group VPE-141 time code conform edit bay, utilizing a GVG 110 switcher, and a GVG DPM-100 digital video effects generator. It was posted to the D2 format. The D2 format had a feature called "pre-read" which was the latest in post-production technology at the time. Pre-read was the predecessor of non-linear editing.

Graphics were produced on a Quanta Delta character generator with the Logo Compose option. It had, among others, the "Dom Casual" font. This was a font name that charmed Smith and Leech. The font itself wasn't very appealing. It's name was the inspiration for a character of a Sinatra-esque Swooner - who was also named Dom Casual - in the "God Save the Queen" series. Tony Leech was a huge Sinatra fan.

Audio mixing in the edit bay utilized a Ramsey 16 channel audio board. Audio sweetening, editing, and music production was done in a Pro-Tools suite.

There was a copy stand and camera for post-production and the Quanta Delta Logo Compose feature.

VHS tape duplication was performed out-of-house, but the packaging was designed, printed, assembled, and mailed in-house. These were pre-video-non-linear days.

Partial List of Episodes with Guests

1988 Fire By Nite #19: Conquering Temptation with special guest Petra
1989 Fire By Nite #30: Why Feel Guilty? With guest Margaret Becker
1989 Fire By Nite #35: Spiritual Warfare with guest: Petra
1989 Fire By Nite: Let's Face The Music featuring Kim Boyce (Special program outside of the monthly series)
1989 Fire By Nite #38: Sex - What Do You Pay To Play? with guest Josh McDowell
1989 Fire By Nite #39: Sex - What Do You Pay To Play? featuring music from Rick Cua, DeGarmo & Key and Whitecross
1990 Fire By Nite #43: People In A Box with special guest John Schneider
1990 Fire By Nite #47: Why Bad People Go To Heaven with special guest Geoff Moore
1990 Fire By Nite #51: Save The Planet's People with guest: Petra and Ron Luce
1992 Fire By Nite #55: Sex, Love And Dating with guest: Josh McDowell and Petra
1993 Fire By Nite: Sex - Revolution or Revelation? with guest Whitecross
1993 Fire By Nite 10/93: Why Good People Go To Hell with guest Toymaker's Dream

ee also

* "The Gospel Bill Show" (another Christian youth television program from Willie George)

External links

* [ Blaine Bartel's website]
* [ Eric J. Smith's website]

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