Up close and personal

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 November, 2010, 12:00am

It was only a matter of time before the harrowing ordeal of the 33 miners trapped for 69 days in a Chilean mine was made into a film. But nobody anticipated it would be this fast. Just 46 days from the time the final miner, Luis Urzua, was lifted to safety comes the premiere of Discovery Channel's one-hour documentary, Rescued: The Chilean Mine Story.

'We acted really fast for this story,' says Michela Giorelli, producer of Rescued and vice-president of production and development for Discovery Networks Latin America.

'Guillermo [Galdos, director of Rescued] called me the day ... the day the miners were found alive ... [We] got there right at the beginning when there were not that many big companies [who] reacted so fast and I think that was something that helped us negotiate with the government for exclusive access.'

One of the difficulties with creating a documentary of this nature is the unpredictable outcome. No one knew the fate of the miners, and the mission could have ended tragically.

'From the beginning when we approached them, the question that they had for Discovery Channel was what will happen if the rescue operation fails and the guys die?' says Galdos.

'Our point was clear. We said if that happens, we will show that everything humanly possible was done to rescue them. Once they understood the seriousness of our approach, I thought that slowly, slowly they started putting down their guard and giving us more access.'

The crew also had to walk a fine line between overstepping into the personal space of the trapped miners' families and capturing a sense of the atmosphere. So they camped outside the mine the entire time, living in the same conditions as the families and sharing their hardship and strife.

'We shared so many fires at night. We shared so many meals with them,' says Galdos. 'We shared so many moments, we shared so many tears that we became part of this big family that was waiting for the miners.'

In addition to the families, the crew also needed to reach a certain comfort level with the engineers, technicians, medics and rescuers, who were not accustomed to being filmed. 'Slowly we managed to get the trust of the engineers and at the end, they considered us one of them,' Galdos explains.

In the end, more than 70 hours of original footage were captured. It took a team of 30 people - cameramen and women, screenwriters, editors, 3-D experts and more - to sift through all the material and convert it into a one-hour special.

Rescued: The Chilean Mine Story airs tonight at 9pm on Discovery Channel.