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ABC hopes to have Quecreek rescue movie on air before year's end

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Whichever actors get cast in the ABC television movie about the rescue of the Quecreek miners, chances are they'll be at work on the project soon. The movie is expected to air sometime during the upcoming 2002-03 TV season, with ABC hoping to get it on the air before Christmas.

Last week, the nine miners and rescue worker Bob Long sold the rights to their story of survival for $150,000 each to ABC parent company Disney.

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The Quecreek
mine rescue


Wilkinsburg lawyer Thomas Crawford represented the miners in the $1.5 million deal, which also includes book rights. (He was picked because he'd previously represented a friend of one of the miners.)

"It's the highest amount paid for rights according to what everybody told me," Crawford said. He gave other producers who pursued the miners' story the opportunity to beat Disney's deal, but no one would improve on the $1.5 million offered. "Individually, I'm sure some people that have sold their rights got more, but for the story, it was the most that has been paid for TV movie rights."

Crawford said a TV movie is what all the producers pitched. A big screen feature was never seriously considered.

"They had the same view I do that the story has a currency," he said. "A feature [that's released] three years from now might not be nearly as successful as a TV movie done quickly."

Crawford said the miners were introduced to six different teams of producers at the suggestion of Quinn Taylor, senior vice president of movies/miniseries for ABC, who traveled to Pittsburgh to meet the miners. Taylor was on a flight back to Los Angeles yesterday and unavailable for comment.

"The producers made their pitch and the miners had the opportunity to talk to the producers," Crawford said. "The miners gave their input and Quinn Taylor will decide who's the producer." That may happen as early as this week.

Crawford, who generally handles criminal, tax and labor law, and partner Barbara Weiss worked on what was, for them, an unusual deal. Crawford said he'd never dealt with rights issues "on anything of this scale" before, but he has done rights work "more with authors than Hollywood." He said time was of the essence in the negotiations.

"If you're going to do anything on location in Somerset and it's going to look like summer, you better get to it," he said.

An ABC spokeswoman said Pennsylvania will be seriously considered as a filming location. The Pittsburgh Film Office has already begun making its pitch for the region.

"I'm thrilled the miners got a great deal," said Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office, "and I only hope Disney stays true to the story and films it where it took place, in Southwestern Pennsylvania, so the region can enjoy the economic benefits of this filming in addition to celebrating the lives of the Quecreek nine."

Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under PG Online Talk.

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