The film “takes place in the Louisiana backwoods, and follows the momentous discovery of the largest natural gas field in the United States — and maybe the world. It examines the historic find — a formation called the “Haynesville Shale” — from the personal level as well as from the higher perspective of the current energy picture and pending energy future.” (Kallenberg is a former reporter for the American-Statesman.)
More about the movie and its trailer HERE.
How did you come across this subject and what made it seem worthy of its own movie?
Gregory Kallenberg: Well before anyone knew the massive scale of the Haynesville discovery, there was this buzz going around northwest Louisiana. You couldn’t go anywhere without people whispering about “secret wells” and leasing checks being written for “millions of dollars.” It was this surreal “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” moment that makes you want to pick up a camera, hit the REC button and see what happens. At that point, the film was going to be a story about people’s experiences with this weird boomtown hysteria. Once we found out that all of this was true AND the impact of this find would have national impact, we knew we had a film that could address the bigger issue of energy, its human cost and what role that energy could play in our energy future.
What’s the film’s narrative and who are the main players?
The movie documents the discovery of the largest natural gas field in the U.S. The find, called the Haynesville Shale, has an estimated $1.75 trillion in gas and contains more energy than Brazil and Mexico combined. The film follows the beginning fervor of the Haynesville Shale and its effect on three people’s lives. Kassi, a single mom, fights for her community’s environmental rights. Pastor Reegis is an African American preacher who believes that God has delivered the Haynesville Shale and its riches to his congregation. And Mike, a self-described “country boy,” wrestles with the idea of giving up his pristine land in exchange for becoming an “overnight millionaire.” At the same time, you see academics, environmentalists and pundits discuss the broader impact of this find.
Your movie arrives amid a flux of activist docs about energy, conservation and food production. What does yours add to the dialogue?
“Haynesville” is unique in that it avoids the current trap of being a histrionic first-person, hyper-biased film. My goal as a filmmaker was to make a balanced piece about energy and its human cost and larger perceived benefit. I want people to see that energy is an amazingly complicated issue with very few easy answers. What’s most important to me is that people walk out of this film and start the conversation that will lay the foundation for our energy future. For the first time in history, I believe all of us have the power to chart the course for a clean energy future, and I hope “Haynesville” helps start that movement.
What do you think should be done with the Haynesville Shale? Are you conspicuously stepping aside from the argument or does the film make your point?
While I hope the film communicates my point, I will provide a bit of a spoiler here. I personally think we should have gotten off of coal yesterday. The extraction of coal is environmentally obscene and the emissions from coal are borderline poisonous. That said, I only believe in the use of vast energy sources like the Haynesville if we can figure out how to extract in as safe a way as possible that’s fair to landowners and environmentally responsible. If the gas industry and the environmental movement can work together on this, then we have a good shot at a clean energy future.
You screened the movie in Copenhagen at the big climate summit. What was the response? Are you galvanizing people and opinion?
Our screening in Copenhagen was an amazing experience for three reasons: 1) I had the unique opportunity to show my film at the world’s premiere environmental conference. 2) I saw an audience made up of environmentalists and energy lobbyists nodding together at the screen and, afterwards, coming together and discussing the film’s message. And 3) I fulfilled my life’s dream of eating Danish danishes and, I’m happy to report, they were way better than I ever imagined.