Far from the oil and gas patch in a seaside annex to Hollywood, CA, independent filmmakers are working on documentaries that attempt to push back at critics of the industry. FrackNation, a pro-hydraulic fracturing (fracking) documentary under way, questions information in the controversial 2011 Academy Award-nominated Gasland, as well as creator Josh Fox, who is now pursuing a sequel.
Irish ex-patriot journalist/filmmakers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer said their film “will tell the truth about fracking.” On their website they assert, “There are two sides to every story, and then there is the truth.” The pair said motivation for the project came from “journalistic censorship.” McAleer questioned Fox at a screening of Gasland, during which Fox admitted that people included in the film could light their tap water long before fracking was introduced. “The ‘lighting water’ scene is one of the famous parts of Gasland, and it led to many of the scares surrounding the process,” the filmmakers said.
After his confrontation with Fox appeared on YouTube and some legal skirmishes followed, McAleer decided that “this was a great story; it got me interested in what he is covering up,” the filmmaker told NGI. McAleer and McElhinney, along with a third journalist from Poland, have completed interviews with residents and workers in shale gas producing areas who tout positive experiences between their communities and the exploration industry.
To complete their documentary the FrackNation filmmakers have launched an Internet fundraising pitch in an attempt to secure $150,000 by April 6. Last week they had raised about $22,000. The KickStarter project is to be “funded by the people for the people.” The filmmakers noted that Fox’s sequel is to be funded by HBO with $750,000.
“Normally, KickStarter projects are pro-radical environmentalism,” said McAleer. “FrackNation will be the first documentary funded through KickStarter to challenge the environmental establishment. It will appeal to the workers and small farmers who know the truth but never see it represented in modern documentaries.”
Interviews already completed are available to see on the website, including one with a farmer whose royalties from shale gas production have saved his farm; a Dimock, PA, homeowner who says her drinking water is “just fine;” and a dairy farmer in Calicoon, NY, who worries that if gas production is kept off his land he will have to sell portions of it to developers.
The two filmmakers previously completed documentaries challenging the environmental movement in Not Evil Just Wrong (2009) on climate change, and Mine Your Own Business (2006) about the mining industry and environmentalists. McAleer is a former foreign correspondent for the Financial Times.
The second documentary, spOILed, is focusing on misinformation about the energy industry. After researching the industry, filmmaker Mark Mathis said he became convinced that deception was taking place. He believes that there is plenty of energy worldwide; the problem is “governments getting in the way.”
Mathis’ film attempts to explain some practical realities of the oil and gas business by examining charges of “price gouging” and “record profits.” The film isn’t about oil companies, he said. “It’s about us — the people who are suffering and who are going to suffer a lot more as the result of being deceived about this critically important commodity affecting every aspect of our lives.”
Mathis said he has some of the same goals as conservation advocates in that the world should be transitioning from fossil fuels.
“The difference between us is that I am facing the reality that this transition will take many decades to achieve and while we’re on the way we need a lot more oil to keep the modern world functioning,” Mathis wrote on his blog.
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