The show below: TV crew films subterranean Hutch sites for History channel series 'Modern Marvels'

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Exploring the underworld will lead a documentary film crew to visit a subway system, a nuclear site that splits neutrons and a cave where someone grew marijuana.

But first, they arrived in Hutchinson and took the elevator 650 feet below the Earth's surface.

Working for "Modern Marvels," a documentary television series on History, the crew spent Wednesday filming at the mine face of Hutchinson Salt Co., Underground Vaults & Storage Inc. and Kansas Underground Salt Museum.

Working for Jupiter Entertainment of Knoxville, Tenn., the crew included a producer, two cameramen and an audio person.

Under orders set by History, formally known as The History Channel, they could not speak to the media about the project, titled "Secret Underground," said Matt Sprouse, the producer on site.

Wearing the customary hard hat and carrying the box with a breathing device, necessary for all who go underground, Sprouse said Hutchinson was their only stop in Kansas for the show.

Driven in a tram by Lee Spence, president and CEO of Underground Vaults & Storage, they made a stop at storage bay 73, where millions of Warner Bros. original negatives are stored. Underground Vaults & Storage is the largest single storage facility for movie and television film internationally because depleted salt mines make excellent climate-controlled environments in which to store valuable artifacts and documents that need to be preserved.

Slowly, cameraman Dom Giordano was pushed down the long walkway of the storage bay, as he sat on a green cart and filmed the shelves of film canisters.

"We take turns pushing each other around," said Roger Gower, the second cameraman.

For Spence, driving the film crew around the cavern with jagged walls of salt was old hat. The big draw has always been the great volume of Hollywood films stored beneath Hutchinson, Spence said.

Focused on the sites and sounds found underground, they moved next to the Underground Salt Museum.

Plans for the film crew to come to Hutchinson happened quickly, according to Linda Schmitt, executive director of the Reno County Historical Society and the Kansas Underground Salt Museum. Sprouse contacted her the first week of August.

"I had a conversation with their producer and told him about our museum, about the active mine and Underground Vaults & Storage," Schmitt said. She referred him to Lee Spence. Less than three weeks later they were filming.

In Knoxville, Sharon Martin, a supervising producer for Jupiter Entertainment, said there was an issue of propriety, working for History, and she could not speak of the segment her company was filming in Kansas.

However, she did say two producers were working on the concept. They learned of Hutchinson when they researched a variety of underground facilities around the country.

"Modern Marvels," a documentary television series created by Bruce Nash, has aired on The History Channel since 1995.

History plans to air the segment sometime before the end of the year, said Brandy Crawford, programming coordinator for History.