Southern West Virginia, once known as the “billion dollar coal field,” is now the home of a fading industry where unemployment runs rampant. Through the eyes of this multi generational family, the Jarrell’s tell a story that is not theirs alone. John, 23, who has been laid off from the mines three times, lives with his wife Crystal, 22, and their two children, Rylan, 3, and Jaycee, 2. As a result of the layoffs their family lost their home and had to move in with John’s parents, Vic and Angie. After not being able to find a job, they relocated to Morgantown to live with Crystal’s parents, four hours away from their home.
The physical distance from this extraction industry puts a barrier between the non-Appalachian and those that live in the shadow of these coal companies. This project will allow a population outside of West Virginia and the surrounding Appalachian region to become familiar with a situation that does not directly affect them. My goal with this project is to begin to bridge this gap, and create dialogue and understanding surrounding this topic.
I hope my project will achieve discourse among people within and outside of Appalachia. Along with images, audio will be used to allow my characters to tell their story themselves. Viewers will be able to see the similarities between coal mining in West Virginia and other parts of our country.
Watch the short documentary Living Coal, below.