short stories

Cameras at the mine

  My debut on screen

     I would have to say this was maybe the hardest, craziest and possibly the most embarrassing thing I have ever done. I was actually in a television show for one episode. The show is Heavy Metal Task Force. I guess you could say I had a starring role, even though I didn’t feel that it was.

Clapperboard used for takes while making films

     A few years back, this television show decided to do an episode at the copper mine I was working in at the time. I happened to be the safety representative for my crew that they were filming. It was the luck of the draw I guess that they used my crew. Actually, it was because we happened to be on day shift at the time. Quite a few of my coworkers and friends were in the film as well.

     My job as the safety guy was to follow this film crew around and make sure they were safe because they were filming in a working mine. I didn’t think this would be a very difficult job. Boy was I in for a surprise! First off, I would like to say that film crew camera men and women are a unique crowd. I think you’re nuts, but you do get the hard shots of film that make it look so real! The camera man that was on this crew really kept me on my toes. I thought, at any given moment, I was going to have to call for mine rescue to pull a body out of a 150-foot drop. This guy was relentless, positioning himself in places that would make a bird nervous, and here I was responsible for his safety. “What is this guy, part mountain goat?” I can honestly say, I walked around with my underwear sucked up my dark side because of all the times I had to catch my breath.

Open pit copper mine

     In comes the producer, who was very good about getting my attention, so the cameraman could do his job. I have always been a talkative person, but this guy was the equivalent of three teenage girls. Questions, stories, suggestions, whatever it took to keep my attention. I have to say, he was very good at it! The only one that I would consider halfway sane was the sound guy. Yet he did a great job of keeping my attention as well. These guys worked very well as a team for sure.

     All three of these gentlemen were very kind to me, but they wore me out trying to keep up with them. We would get out of the Ford Expedition on one of the higher levels of the mine, and they would all take off in different directions at once. Of course, they were doing their individual jobs, but how am I supposed to keep an eye out in three different directions? And talk about fast, these guys were like gazelles. They would have any two-year-old gasping for breath inside ten minutes. This film crew would get done with their individual jobs in one place, pile back in the Expedition, and off we would go to our next destination. Even though I was driving and still answering a billion questions, this was the time I would have a chance to slow my heart rate down again before the next stop.

     I was asked by the producer to find certain types of people that I thought would do well on film. I would take them to these people for a ride along in heavy equipment and for interviews from others about their jobs. (To all the miners that were in this film, let me apologize now, most of you were handpicked by me). I can confess this now because I’m retired and am fairly safe from any retribution.

      One situation that came up was wet weather driving. We had a lot of footage, but the problem was it wasn’t raining, and the producer said they needed rain for the story. When I asked why, he said that he heard from a couple of the haul truck drivers that that’s when it gets crazy out here. I told him he was correct because I was a haul truck driver myself. We had good cloud coverage but no rain. Then I had an idea that almost got me into a lot of trouble. I suggested that I could have a water truck driver over wet a section of road, and they could get shots of the mud and back sprayers of the water truck for rain. Along with this suggestion, we could go up to one of the dumps that were being leached with all the sprayers going. All this sounded good to him, and we did this. Then the request came from him to see a haul truck sliding. I don’t know what I was thinking upon this request, but I had another brilliant idea. Me and my alligator mouth, now overloading my Mickey Mouse ass, is about to cause a painfully close call.

Black and white picture of a 400 ton mine haulage truck
Actual truck I used to drive

     I got hold of a good haul truck driver I knew and asked him to do a small fishtail slide on the section of road we just had soaked down. This driver wanted to do a good job for me, and boy did he! It wasn’t a small slide, it was a Huge slide, and he almost lost it! I could see management’s eyes now while I try to explain that it was my idea and the wreak of a three million dollar truck was my fault. On top of that, other drivers seen that we were filming the slide and decided to help out by sliding their trucks too! After three trucks had done this, it had messed up the road to the point no trucks could come down that hill without sliding, wanting to or not. Three, six, nine million dollars, how many millions am I going to be responsible for?!! Everybody made it safely, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

     The next request was from the cameraman, who wanted to get a close-up of a haul truck driving by. So I had a haul truck drive slowly past us as I’m begging the cameraman not to get too close. So far, so good. Other than the hundred heart attacks I have had so far, nobody had gotten hurt or wreaked any equipment. All this stuff had happened in a few days time. Of course, with everything these three men were putting me through, it would be the longest three days of my life.

    There was this one point where we were driving up onto one of the dumps. I was as helpful as I could be, giving them ideas along the way and kidding around with them about anything and everything. As we were driving across one of the dumps, I was goofing off and made a comment about seeing money and not dirt ahead. This being said, I had no idea that I was being filmed from the passenger side of the back seat. Ultimately, this ended up in our little movie.

Tv cameraman with ball cap on backwards looking through camera

     The producer told me he needed a supervisor to be on film for the story. The supervisor they wanted couldn’t come out because he was in meetings all day. That supervisor and all others wouldn’t be available in time to do what we needed to get accomplished. So the producer asked me to play a supervisor just so when a supervisor was available they could piece them in. Sounded reasonable the way he explained it. What did I know about movie making, I mean I’m just a miner? Besides, I might have a little fun acting crazy at the supervisor’s expense. There aren’t too many chances you get to make fun of your bosses and not get into trouble.

     Here I was doing all kinds of crazy things on film, thinking it was just to set up for the supervisor to be placed into my spot. I had a lot of fun with it. It was like acting without worrying if someone actually seen it other than the one’s around me at the time. Along the way, I got a couple of mechanics that I knew to do a little skit for the film. Wow, did they do a great job! Also had the film crew go on board a shovel and film my friend and favorite shovel operator loading trucks and interviewing him. I’m not sure that he has forgiven me for that yet. We went to dispatch, and they interviewed and filmed my friend doing his job keeping up with everything going on in the pit.

One man standing by tire, another man standing by bucket of huge mine loader
Actual loader used in film

     The final day came, and I was exhausted, but we had to film the loader one more time, as we had filmed the loader and operator earlier in this process. That’s when I got the shock I did not expect. While the cameraman and sound guy were filming the loader and operator,  the producer asked me to talk to him in the Expedition. The operator of the loader was also the main safety guy over me, so I said ok as long as I can still see the other two members of the film crew. “Billy, you have done a great job so far, and I only need one more thing from you.” the producer said. “What’s that?” I asked. “I need you to sign these papers, so we can use the film we have of you and make you the hero in our production.” He said. This was not easy for me to do because, I was just messing around and not being serious at all. The sound guy and cameraman got back in the vehicle and asked the producer if he had asked me yet. I couldn’t believe it, they had all already talk about this, probably in the motel they stayed in the night before. The cameraman told me I was good on film and wanted to use the footage. They finally talked me into it and I kinda had a dull pain in my gut because I had just signed to let others see me as the opposite of who I really am.

There was only one part I couldn’t get right on the final day. The producer told me he wanted to take some still film of me for the end. I asked him what he meant, and he said it’s what they call a “hero shot” in the film industry. I tried my best to pose for this hero shot, but it just wasn’t what they wanted. Furthermore, I think the reason I couldn’t get it right was because they called it a hero shot. Besides, I wasn’t any kind of hero, I just played a part in our little film. Maybe if he would’ve called it the still shot or dull shot, I would’ve gotten it right?

     Finally, everything was done, and we had no idea when our little film would show, what show it would be on or anything for a few months. Finally, we got word that our show would be on “Heavy Metal Task Force” season two, episode two. The show finally aired and when I seen how they chopped things up and how they had filmed me without even knowing it on the dump, I was more embarrassed than ever. The one thing I can say was how proud I was of the people I worked with every day. To see my friends doing their jobs on film was a thing of beauty.

       Heavy Metal Task Force always has three different places they are showing on the same episode, and we got top billing! If you watch it, you will see how the show starts and finishes with us at the Ray mine just outside of Kearny, AZ. You will get to see the names of people in the film, but I left their names off here because I didn’t get their approval. I hope you enjoy the film and make as much fun of me as you want. It is pretty funny, after all. All the people at the mine have already had a lot of fun at my expense. I still have one guy that calls me “Hollywood” every time I see him. I really don’t mind anymore, or I wouldn’t be writing about it. Take care and remember, we are all in this together.

Watch Heavy Metal Task Force Season 2 episode 2 on Prime Video