April 2012

Hollywood comes to Telluride

By Art Goodtimes

THE TALKING GOURD

Green Politics 101

Toss your hat
not far left of the ring
but into the radical
middle

THE LABOR TROUBLES … Smoke from a tramway bunkhouse still billows into the Bullion Tunnel at Telluride’s Smuggler- Union Mine. Shouts, hot embers and buckets of water spill across the sloped snowy ground, as miners struggle to douse the spreading flames. Nov. 20, 1901, and Western Federation of Miners Local 63 President Vincent St. John has just made it up Tomboy Road from town. He dashes into the Smuggler- Union mine portal, heedless of his own safety, and starts helping pull men out … Just the summer before, St. John had raced up Tomboy Road to almost single-handedly broker a cease-fire after a deadly skirmish at the mine. Union member John Barthell, unarmed and just 24 years old, had been shot down by the Smuggler-Union’s armed guards in Marshall Basin when armed union members came up the hill looking for scab workers …Tensions were still high, although the WFM Local 63’s first strike had been settled favorably for the union. The tragic fire that fall — a direct result of the Smuggler- Union’s new Boston-based owners’ failure to install iron doors like “the majority of mine entrances and tunnels” had – left deep wounds among workers and widowed families … Stories like these are what intrigued Recording Academy executive (the Grammys) and screenwriter Evan Greene. “I fell in love with Telluride as a student at CU Boulder 20 years ago,” said Greene. “And I’ve dreamed of respectfully bringing Telluride’s amazing story alive ever since” … One Bluegrass he let his friend drive home alone and he took the dog and a tent and lived up on Firecracker Hill, back when camping was an allowed forest use in these parts. Five years ago he brought his family to the 4th of July Parade and “bought every book I could find” about Telluride’s history. “The more I learned, the deeper I got into the project,” he explained … Greene bought the screen rights to Martin’s The Corpse On Boomerang Road (Western Reflections, Montrose, 2004) and her manuscript “Undesirable Citizen: A Biography of Vincent St. John.” Then he wrote a script for a full-length feature film. “It’s a great story about humanity,” Greene said. “It’s almost a perfect good vs. evil story. A wealthy industrialist hires his son-in-law who’s failed at everything to take over a mine. An iron fist is the only kind of management Bulkeley Wells knows” … Finally, after years of preparation, Greene has partnered with Elbow Grease Pictures, a Hollywood company, to tell Telluride’s labor tale — the struggle between the workers and the capitalists, between the Western Federation of Miners and the Mine Owners Association, between Vincent St. John and Bulkeley Wells. They’ve laid out a $11.6 million production package, and are planning to do a companion documentary, suitable for television, to stir interest. The partners are raising funding, and are open to involvement from the Colorado investment community … “The story of the fight between U.S. workers and their employers that Evan Greene has discovered yearns to be told,” said Elbow Grease producer Marcus Avery. “He has crafted a magnificent depiction of the triumph of the human spirit in the face of almost insurmountable adversity” … Greene is just as upbeat about the film they are calling “Undesirable Citizens.” “Given the issues that are prominent in our cultural dialogue right now (union relevance, mining accidents, the battles between workers and management, the greed of big business),” he said, “this subject – especially since it drove labor relations forward and gave birth to many of the worker protection laws we now take for granted – could not be more topical and timely” … If all goes according to plan, Telluride will gain more than just publicity. According to Greene, “The partners feel strongly that the film should be shot in Telluride and Colorado.” They’ve contacted Colorado film commissioner Donald Zuckerman, and they’ve engaged as director Michael Schroeder, who has shot a feature film and several commercials in Telluride already. To Tim Territo of the Telluride Film Commission, this was good news. “People from the whole area will benefit from this project,” he noted. Actors, carpenters – there should be plenty of jobs to go around once production gets underway.

PIÑON RIDGE … Sheep Mountain Alliance’s Jennifer Thurston is right. The $11.6 million bond the state has set for the new Canadian-based Energy Fuels mill cleanup in Paradox Valley is too low. What are state regulators thinking? Have they already forgotten the state’s financial disaster with insufficient bonding at Summitville? … The old uranium mill-site downstream of Naturita cost $86 million to clean up (taxpayers footing most of that). The Slick Rock mill-site cleanup, in San Miguel County, cost $50 million. And Grand Junction’s mill-site cost $500 million … There’s a hidden subsidy for you, all to the benefit of the One Percent’s uranium industry (whose production in Paradox will be sent overseas, not for our domestic energy needs). Imagine if we put the cost of those three cleanups into solar or wind? We’d have alternative energy for the whole Western Slope. And we’re just talking mill-sites. The hundreds of mines and adits still leaking radioactive elements into our watersheds would take many billions more to clean up … Which is why I’m so fried with the Democrats. They’re advocating subsidies for the uranium industry, just like the Republicans. And we haven’t cleaned up the messes from the last uranium boom … Ask Obama and Udall and Bennett when they’re going to get off the “safe nukes” bandwagon.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commissioner.