Industry gets cast in 'FrackNation,' the latest documentary on the drilling debate

March 4, 2012 1:13 am
  • Martha Losey from Dimock, Pa., is featured in "FrackNation."
    Martha Losey from Dimock, Pa., is featured in "FrackNation."
  • "FrackNation" creators Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer sitting on the beach at Marina del Rey in greater Los Angeles.
    "FrackNation" creators Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer sitting on the beach at Marina del Rey in greater Los Angeles.
  • Bill Graby, a dairy farmer in Callicoon, N.Y., has been campaigning to lift the New York state ban on fracking.
    Bill Graby, a dairy farmer in Callicoon, N.Y., has been campaigning to lift the New York state ban on fracking.
  • From the film "FrackNation" - Sabina Rzeczkowska: "I have a pension of 200 USD. The gas and electricity bill takes most of it. If we had our own gas, it would be much cheaper, much easier."
    From the film "FrackNation" - Sabina Rzeczkowska: "I have a pension of 200 USD. The gas and electricity bill takes most of it. If we had our own gas, it would be much cheaper, much easier."
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The fracking fight is coming soon to a theater near you.

More than a dozen Pennsylvania communities that are home to natural gas drilling will get the big-screen treatment this summer in "FrackNation," a new movie attempting to serve as a counterargument to the 2010 "Gasland" feature that still fuels the anti-drilling fracktivist movement.

"FrackNation" was directed by Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney, a married couple living in Marina del Rey, Calif., whose previous subjects include Al Gore and anti-coal environmentalists. Their treatment of natural gas drilling will "look at both sides of the argument," Mr. McAleer said.

The film, however, is being partially funded through donations on the Kickstarter website, and the roster of "executive producers" who have donated at least $1 includes scores of energy industry associates. The filmmakers said Thursday they plan to return any donations given by "senior" workers in the industry, which they define as executives.

So far, "FrackNation" has raised more than $150,000 through the New York-based website, which allows anyone to contribute any amount of money to a project.

Mr. McAleer and Ms. McElhinney are already stars of the Republican Party and see the drilling debate as the latest example of out-of-touch, urban elites trying to dictate how the people closest to drilling live their lives.

The film will be timed to coincide with the release of "Gasland 2," an HBO-funded sequel to filmmaker Josh Fox's takedown of the industry that also includes significant coverage of Pennsylvania.

The dueling documentaries illustrate an expensive and unusual way to lobby: at the movies. Agenda-driven documentaries have no guarantee of success, with some like "Super Size Me" -- Morgan Spurlock's 2004 indictment of the fast food industry -- taking over the national conversation and making millions at the box office. Others air on the Web only, circulating only among the like-minded.

Available footage and trailers of "FrackNation" play rather like industry commercials that have already been seen across Western Pennsylvania, telling stories of farmers and landowners who say gas drilling provides economic stability.

Erich Schwartzel: eschwartzel@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1455.
First Published 2012-03-03 23:17:41

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