Surviving Disaster: Eruption at Mount St.Helens

BBC / Discovery - 2005 - Director/Writer

I interviewed a lot of the scientists and people caught up in the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption, the deadliest and most destructive volcanic eruption in U.S. history. To me it’s fundamental that the drama is based on eye witness accounts, and as much as possible dialogue from those transcripts. 

To really get the authenticity of the human story of the people caught up in the eruption I cast background and smaller speaking parts with some of the actual scientists from the USGS monitoring team that worked on the mountain.

I was very reluctant to use CGI to recreate the magnitude of the 24-megaton blast that demolished 230-square-miles. As a feature film cameraman I had some experience shooting on model sets. 

I managed to persuade the ‘I, Robot’ SFX team to build a 2 story snow-capped model of the mountain, dusted in 2 ton of baking soda! Shooting on ultra hi-speed cameras we blew the model apart with hydrogen canons – slowing the drama into the minutiae of trees snapping and rock being liquidised.