Eddie Mensore’s claustrophobic thriller, Mine 9, takes audiences two miles underground where nine coal miners become trapped with only one hour of oxygen.
The independent film is set in the Appalachian region of West Virginia where film writer and director Mensore was raised.
Mensore often heard about disasters like the one in his film throughout his upbringing and wanted to tell this story to honour coal miners.
“It was sort of dumbfounding to me that nobody has ever told a realistic claustrophobic thriller about what these brave people really do for all of us,” he said.
The film serves as a reminder to people of the dangers coal miners face each day.
Mensore didn’t want to base the movie on one specific event or group of people, instead he took elements from four or five different coal mining accidents from his youth and blended them into one story.
It took Mensore a decade to find a functioning coal mine in Appalachia that would allow the film crew to come in and shoot.
“We only got to shoot there for two days. We went underground with a skeleton crew and filmed real coal miners operating real equipment,” he said.
They took the exact uniforms from the coal miners and dressed their actors in the same outfits to shoot the rest of the film on set.
Within the film, the coal miners are faced with many hurdles like not having an escape team, a sick foreman, equipment in need of repair and a pump in need of replacement.
The need for paychecks pushes the miners to continue, even after a near accident and despite knowing the amount of methane in the mine is increasing.
A gas explosion traps the miners and for the bulk of the film the survivors struggle to stay alive and work through possible escape routes or finding a means of communication.
The majority of Mine 9 was filmed on set in an Atlanta warehouse, where the mine consisted of a four foot space, floor to ceiling, in which the actors and crew members spent a lot of their time.
“We were down in this set for hours and hours at a time, hunched over, a lot of us are tall guys too. It was a lot of fun and we became really close,” said actor Clint James, who plays coal miner John in the film.
“I don’t really get claustrophobic, but we were in tight spaces. We were mainly just sore.”
On day three of shooting, James was crouched on hands and knees in the mine on set and said to his fellow actors, ‘I don’t know about you guys, but I’m hurtin’.’
The others agreed with him, they were all hurtin’.
James, who worked for the United States Air Force for eight and a half years could relate to his character in terms of working hard for a living, but he admitted he didn’t know what being a miner is like.
This role opened his eyes to the hard work done by coal miners and has grown his appreciation for the workers, he said.
“We all really just take electricity for granted and they’re down there right now, digging,” he said.
Before Mensore hired his actors he took them back to a real coal mine, to go underground, meet real coal miners and hear their stories.
At one point after the release of the film, a comment was made mistakenly that the actors in the film were real miners, James stated.
“I love that, we really poured our hearts into this film,” said James.
He added that feedback from coal miners has been that the film shows the realism of mining.
The purpose of the film was not to be political, stated Mensore, and the mining industry appreciated the story they were trying to tell.
“I’m not political in any way. I’m just hoping to put a spotlight no matter if you think [coal mining] is good or bad, what these people do for us, they put their life on the line every day for us,” said Mensore.
Interviews with the coal miners from the coal mine where a portion of the film was shot play throughout the credits, one of Mensore’s favourite parts of the film.
Mine 9 plays at the Performing Arts Theatre of Hinton (PATH) on Aug. 21 and 22 at 8 pm.
Go to hintonmovies.ca for tickets.