First 'Gasland', now comes 'FrackNation' - Olean Times Herald: Editorial - First 'Gasland', now comes 'FrackNation': Editorial

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First 'Gasland', now comes 'FrackNation'

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Posted: Friday, March 9, 2012 6:52 am

The 2010 documentary “Gasland,” which was nominated for an Oscar, was produced to sound a warning on the potential environmental dangers of the hydraulic-fracturing process in drilling for natural gas.

“Gasland” started out as a one-man film project by Josh Fox, a Pennsylvania man who wanted to discover more about “hydro-fracking” because the Marcellus Shale boom had come to his home county. It wasn’t long, however, before Mr. Fox received big-time Hollywood backing, including from actress Debra Winger.

“Gasland” became a sensation, especially with environmental protection groups and their supporters, and the film became a major factor in steering public debate over the fracking process. In particular, a scene in which a homeowner lights his own tap water on fire — and claims the contamination was the result of fracking — was extra provocative.

Now comes “FrackNation,” a sort of anti-“Gasland.”

Phelim McAleer, an Irish filmmaker and former journalist, is working on a film project that purports to show the truth — and the potential benefits — of fracking in states like New York, which could use the economic boost. “FrackNation,” Mr. McAleer says, “investigates the health scares surrounding the process, and reveals the startling lack of scientific evidence to substantiate them.”

Mr. McAleer and his co-producer, Ann McElhinney (also his wife), can’t count on a big bucks from Hollywood, so they turned to a unique way to raise capital to distribute their documentary.

In less than 30 days, they raised $150,000 from more than 2,000 contributors in a “crowdfunding” campaign through Kickstarter, a website that helps causes raise money. The filmmakers say “FrackNation” quickly reached Kickstarter’s “most popular,” helping to reach the $150,000 fundraising goal in half the estimated time.

“People have really put their money where their mouth is,” Mr. McAleer said, referencing the support for the film. “The majority of backers have been from the U.S. and pledged between $20 and $35. Instead of going to the movies, they’re paying for one. We are so grateful for their contributions, especially when budgets are tight for everyone.”   

The feature-length film looks at the process of fracking for natural gas, “demolishing much of the scaremongering surrounding the process and featuring the millions whose lives have been positively transformed by this emerging industry,” “FrackNation” publicity material reads.

The first clip, posted at www.kickstarter.com, released last week, “highlights the misinformation and biased opinions about fracking that are being represented in the media.”

Mr. McAleer says that $150,000 “is the absolute minimum we need to complete the film. The more support we get for ‘FrackNation,’ the better the film will be, allowing the film to combat the one-sided media coverage about fracking by reaching the broadest audience possible with this story of the truth.”

He and his wife say tat everyone who donates, even a dollar, will become an executive producer on the film.

An immediate question, of course, arises: How much funding has the “FrackNation” project received from oil and gas interests?

In order to “maintain full transparency” and keep the film free from special interests, Mr. McAleer and Ms. McElhinney say they have returned all donations from companies or senior executives in the gas industry.

The filmmakers say that “FrackNation” comes as a new anti-fracking film is due to be released by Mr. Fox, who they say is working on an HBO-funded “Gasland” sequel.

“The Hollywood/environmental establishment has wheeled out big bucks to tell its story,” said Ms. McElhinney. “We’re just asking for small individual donations from people who are ready to see the truth represented. Ours will be a grassroots film telling real stories about real people across America and the world. The new ‘Gasland’ will be funded and speak to the environmental elite — the 1 percent. “FrackNation” will be a film by the people for the people — it will give a voice to the 99 percent.”

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