MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Scenes for “Moving Mountains,” a movie being produced about a southern West Virginia woman’s real-life struggle to make coal-mining practices better in the state, are expected to be filmed at the historic Berkeley County Courthouse.
The Berkeley County Council on Thursday unanimously approved Executive Producer Penny Loeb’s request to film at the courthouse during the first week of September.
The campus of Shepherd University also is slated to be used as a filming location, Loeb said Friday.
Based on her 2007 book “Moving Mountains: How One Woman and Her Community Won Justice From Big Coal,” Loeb said making the movie about Patricia Bragg and her fight to save the drinking water in her tiny Mingo County, W.Va., community, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“I always thought it was a great television movie,” Loeb said of Bragg’s story.
Loeb said she hopes to finish work on the movie by the end of the year.
Loeb said she began writing the screenplay eight years ago. Her nonfiction book was published by the University Press of Kentucky.
Before that, Loeb said her investigative journalism work about mountaintop removal for U.S. News & World Report in 1997 was the first national article published on the controversial mining practice.
Bragg’s fight began in 1994, when her neighbors’ wells went dry in the community of Pie, W.Va., due to a deep coal mine, Loeb said. A civil action filed in circuit court eventually was settled, Loeb said.
Berkeley County’s courthouse fit the movie’s need for a “classic” appearance, and the location also was convenient for the movie crew and photography director, who will be traveling from the Baltimore area to film in the Eastern Panhandle, Loeb said.
“It’s a very low-budget movie, which is why we can do it,” said Loeb, who lives in nearby Loudoun County, Va.
Loeb said the filming to be done at Shepherd University will incorporate Bragg’s decision to pursue a college degree. Before going to college, Bragg was a housewife, and she and her husband, Dewey, a disabled miner, had little income when the community’s water problems surfaced, according to Loeb’s book.
Aside from her community’s battle over well-water protection, Bragg joined the lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Bragg v. Robertson) in which the late federal judge Charles Haden II ultimately ruled against coal industry mountaintop removal practices. Haden’s decision eventually was overturned by the 4th Circuit, Loeb said.
Bragg also became quite sick amid her struggles, but eventually graduated summa cum laude from West Virginia State College, Loeb said.
“Trish is a very special person,” Loeb said.
For more information about “Moving Mountains,” go to http://movingmountainsthemovie.com.