KODIAK — The Discovery Channel’s three-episode “Alaskan Steel Men” premiered Friday and highlights the welding work of Kodiak-based Quality Marine of Alaska. The show was produced by Lizard Trading Company, a non-fiction TV production company based in California.
Dennis Butts and his wife Theresa own the company, which has been operating out of Kodiak since 2010. They’ve been working in the industry for 20 years and moved the business from Seward when the Kodiak Shipyard bought its new boat lift. When a producer approached the two about a possible TV series, they jumped on it.
“We always thought what we did was cool,” Dennis Butts said. “A producer called us and was interested in it. He came up and shot for a week and was impressed.”
A full crew came up to Kodiak for about four weeks of filming in January and February.
“For so long we’ve been shaking our heads at the stuff they’ll make TV shows out of, and I’ve always wondered why nobody ever noticed us,” Theresa Butts said. “What we are doing is so interesting and so much variety.”
Quality Marine of Alaska works on welding jobs across the state, though the series focuses on repairs in Kodiak. While most welding businesses generally stay in one field, Quality Marine of Alaska deals with welding for fishing, pipelines, boilers and the petrochemical industry.
“The stakes are always super high and there are environmental challenges,” Theresa said. “It’s Alaska. Nobody else faces what we have to deal with.”
The first episode, “Dead in Water,” depicted the company working around the clock to prepare Kodiak’s fleet for an upcoming fishing season. An underwater welder repairs a vessel while a giant storm approaches. Other members of the team respond to a cannery that unexpectedly shut down.
The show’s other two scheduled episodes include emergency repairs on vessel hulls, a barge and a wind turbine part.
The series emphasizes Kodiak’s extreme weather and promotes the idea of working in difficult conditions.
“It’s going to be different from anything we’ve seen before,” Theresa said. “I think Alaskans especially will appreciate it. It’s so real and it’s stuff we really do.”
Dennis said the difficult part about filming was that the crew wasn’t used to sharing successes and challenges publicly, or to being interviewed.
“We just go in and handle these situations,” he said. “When things went as planned, they wanted us to celebrate. It was a little bit of a change.”
The three-week series started Friday on the Discovery Channel. The second episode airs on Sept. 6 and the third airs Sept. 13.