Scorched – Pennsylvania’s Coal Mine Fires Documentary

Social Media teaser created for the documentary, Scorched: Mine Fires in Pennsylvania Coal Country

It’s strange how life’s detours can take you on different paths fast. In this case, I had the opportunity to try out some filmmaking ideas in the depths of winter. And I mean deep in the Pennsylvania winter, in 8-degree weather on a Northeast PA mountainside while searching for coal mine fires when it was cold enough to make cell phones freeze.

We’ve been working on Beyond the Breaker, the Huber Breaker documentary for several years (and looking to release in 2018).  Along the way, we discovered a significant amount of what plagues Pennsylvania from an environmental perspective. And we aren’t talking about current coal mining issues that are politically supercharged. This is about what was left in the wake when coal operators abandoned their ships and left parts of Pennsylvania in a state of ruin.

We have experienced wading through dead streams the color of rust, or in more technical terms, AMD (Abandoned Mine Drainage) but we also tripped over an obscure and overlooked issue. Coal mine fires. Most people’s knowledge of mine fires stops at Centralia. But that’s just one location out of 80 or so in Pennsylvania. It’s ridiculous and frustrating how these issues have been left mostly unchecked and how Pennsylvania has turned its back on the mining towns that once carried our society into modernity. These fires will last for decades, if not longer, and barely anything is being done to fix this problem.

In December we found out about a brand new film festival, the Philadelphia Environmental Film Fest, so we (Alana Mauger, Mark Clement, and Robert Hughes of EPCAMR) scraped together a plan and in about 4 days we shot several locations, finished the edit and recorded original music (special thanks to Sheila Hershey, Charlie Hannagan and Jacopo De Nicola for mixing and mastering) in time for the submission deadline.

So, the challenge was completed and successful. Scorched is currently making its way around the country and being shown in several film festivals. While festivals are sometimes thought of as merely vanity events, they are good places to network and compare your content to work being created by other filmmakers and should be one piece of an overall business strategy that can help you gain exposure.

And to throw in some basic policy that’s being ignored (and why we do documentary work) here’s that bit about the right to good health in the Pennsylvania Constitution:

Article 1, Section 27:

“The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all of the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”


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