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Friday, March 9, 2012

Up Bear Creek / 8mar25012

 Evan Greene at Barthell shrine with V. St. John  (Martin)

Hollywood comes to Telluride
to do a film, not just watch ‘em

THE LABOR TROUBLES … Smoke from a tramway bunkhouse still billows into the Bullion Tunnel. Shouts, hot embers and buckets of water spill across the sloped snowy ground, as miners struggle to douse the spreading flames. Nov. 20th, 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 a number of widowed families … 

Stories like these are what first 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” … 

St. John jailed unjustly
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. Three years ago he let historian MaryJoy Martin of Montrose take him on a tour of the region and its historical sites. “The more I learned the deeper I got into the project,” he explained … 

Greene bought the screen rights to Martin’s The CorpseOn 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 versus 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 research and preparation, Greene has partnered with Elbow Grease Pictures, a Hollywood film and television production company, to tell Telluride’s labor tale -- about 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 dollar production package, and are planning on doing a companion documentary, suitable for television, to stir interest. The partners are raising production 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 that will captivate audiences everywhere” … Greene himself 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” … 

Telluride's own "Stuntman", Tim Territo

If all goes according to plan, Telluride will gain more than just publicity from the movie. 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, extras – there should be plenty of jobs to go around once production gets underway.

Lone Cone (photo by Megan Kozey)

DONALD MCKEEVER … Another Norwood legend slips away. “Popcorn” was such a gentleman. Tolerated us newcomers. Even enjoyed visiting with us, on occasion. Always good for a story or a joke ... His bones had been hurting a bunch as he moved into his eighties. Made him a little grumpy, although he’d still make you laugh in front of the post office … Didn’t like government much. But he let us pols put our lawn signs up on his lovely main street property. One of Norwood’s best community folks, to my mind. He leaves us all sad and missing his laugh … Requiescat in pace


Green Politics 101

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

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