Min­ing is one of Aus­tralia’s most pow­er­ful and lu­cra­tive in­dus­tries, and the ABC’s Dirt Game takes its view­ers into the heart of it. Guy Davis spoke with its pro­ducer and lead­ing man.

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The new six-part ABC minis­eries Dirt Game looks at the Aus­tralian min­ing in­dus­try from a num­ber of an­gles, fo­cus­ing a team of ded­i­cated in­di­vid­u­als from a va­ri­ety of fields within the in­dus­try work­ing to­gether to help change the for­tunes of a strug­gling Aus­tralian com­pany.

But when there’s so much at stake in terms of the econ­omy, the en­vi­ron­ment and even peo­ple’s lives, every­one has some­thing to gain … and some­thing to lose.

Here, Dirt Game’s pro­ducer David Taft and star Joel Edger­ton take us be­hind the scenes and un­der the sur­face of this com­pelling new drama.

What in­spired

David: Dirt Game’s writer Michael Har­vey


and I have been work­ing on it for around five years. The in­spi­ra­tion is what you read in the pa­pers ev­ery day, and have done for some time. There’s al­ways a min­ing story, ei­ther in the main part of the pa­per or the busi­ness pages. And it struck us as a fairly fun­da­men­tal part of Aus­tralian life, and an ob­vi­ous ve­hi­cle. Min­ing seemed like a nat­u­ral, iconic Aus­tralian in­dus­try. And it gave us the chance to look at is­sues not nor­mally cov­ered on tele­vi­sion in lo­ca­tions that are unique to Aus­tralia. Joel: Min­ing re­ally is a mas­sive part of our econ­omy. I mean, I’m talk­ing to you on a mo­bile phone and cer­tain el­e­ments of that phone came out of the ground. It didn’t re­ally oc­cur to me that min­ing plays such a key role in so many things I rely on ev­ery day.

Joel, what can you tell us about the char­ac­ters in­volved? And how does your char­ac­ter fit into the scheme of things?

It’s very much an en­sem­ble piece, with the action re­volv­ing around the char­ac­ters played by Ger­ald Lepkowski, Freya Stafford, Katie Wall, Shane Con­nor and my­self.

It pro­vides a cross-sec­tion of the in­dus­try from the fi­nan­cial back­ers and the up­per ech­e­lons of man­age­ment to the union reps

In ad­di­tion to its lo­ca­tion shoots, Dirt Game was also filmed in the ABC’s Mel­bourne stu­dios. I got a chance to look

and the work­ers them­selves, the peo­ple go­ing down the tun­nels for 12 hours at a stretch. My char­ac­ter Shane is a union del­e­gate to be­gin with. He’s a mem­ber of a blast crew, a reg­u­lar kind of miner, with ex­tra du­ties as a union rep. From there, he’s re­cruited by the min­ing cor­po­ra­tion to start rep­re­sent­ing their needs. He trades off his in­tegrity as a union rep for the chance to pos­si­bly change things from the in­side. Some­times that works, some­times it doesn’t.

What were some of the chal­lenges the pro­duc­tion faced?

David: The prac­ti­cal dif­fi­culty is that, un­like al­most any other TV se­ries I can think of, we had to go where the holes in the ground ac­tu­ally are. When you do a show like this, you re­alise what a big coun­try this is, and how dif­fi­cult it can be tak­ing a whole crew to th­ese places. But we’ve done it. We’ve filmed in coun­try New South Wales, coun­try Vic­to­ria and West­ern Aus­tralia, with other scenes shot in Mel­bourne and the metropoli­tan area.

at some of the mine sets and they struck me as in­cred­i­bly re­al­is­tic.

Joel: Hav­ing those sets was a ne­ces­sity – it’s so ex­pen­sive to lock down a mine be­cause the ma­jor­ity of them are op­er­at­ing 24 hours a day. So ap­proach­ing them to say, ‘Hey, would you mind stop­ping work for 12 hours while we film our TV show?’ doesn’t re­ally work. And there’s also the in­sur­ance as­pect: it’s ex­pen­sive and time-con­sum­ing to go through the nec­es­sary pro­cesses ev­ery time non-min­ing per­son­nel go un­der­ground.

How true to life do you feel Dirt Game is, David?

Sto­ry­lines leap out at you from the pages of the pa­per, and part of the chal­lenge has been to fic­tion­alise them. When peo­ple are killed in mines or there are min­ing dis­as­ters, we in no way want to leech onto those sto­ries. We’re us­ing them as in­spi­ra­tion rather than lit­er­ally. Min­ing doesn’t just deal with en­gi­neer­ing and ge­ol­ogy and com­merce – it deals with the en­vi­ron­ment, with claims of na­tive ti­tle, with in­dus­trial re­la­tions. And there’s eco­nomics on top of all that. It’s fer­tile ter­ri­tory for drama.

All in a day’s work: DirtGame’s Shane Con­nor, Freya Stafford, Ger­ald Lepkowski, Katie Wall and Joel Edger­ton don’t mind get­ting their hands dirty.

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