Gregory Kallenberg was sitting in a Shreveport diner early last year the first time he heard about the massive Haynesville natural gas find from a fellow patron.
“It was like the crazy miner who comes in from the hills saying he has found gold,” said Kallenberg, a former newspaper reporter and cable television writer turned documentary filmmaker. But what he thought would be a film about the people in the middle of a mad rush for drilling rights ended up being something bigger, a story about the nation’s energy future.
Kallenberg took a few minutes from preparing for a screening of the movie at the Copenhagen climate change conference this week to speak with Chronicle reporter Tom Fowler by phone about his filmHaynesville.
Q: What’s your elevator-pitch description of the movie?
A: Haynesville follows the momentous discovery of what is looking like it will be the largest natural gas field in the country. The film itself looks at the discovery from the perspective of three people’s lives and how they’re affected by the find. One is a single mom fighting for her community’s land rights. One is an African-American preacher who’s trying to use the proceeds from the Haynesville to build a Christian school. And the other is a self-described good ol’ boy who becomes an overnight millionaire. The other part that’s woven in between these personal stories is what this vast amount of energy means. What does it mean when you find 170 TCF of natural gas? How does that impact the national energy picture and eventually the energy future?
Q: Energy documentaries tend to be preachy environmental pieces or pro-industry, heavy-on-the-economics films. Where does Haynesville come out?
A: My background is journalism, and being a journalist I was always taught to present things in a balanced way and let the reader pick though the facts and decide what they thought about the story. I approached this film in the very same way. What I had to do was walk a very fine line. It’s the line of not being preachy and not being pro-industry. This is a piece that shows in a very balanced way where energy comes from and what effect it has on the people at the ground level. We all use energy, and using energy, it’s important to know how we get it. And it’s important to know what this energy could do for the nation’s future.
Another thing that we did with the film very consciously is there are no industry people speaking on the expert side. We strictly use academics, pundits and environmentalists. So when all of the sudden you have (environmentalist author) Bill McKibben saying that natural gas is a good solution to take us from where we are to a more green and clean energy future, it has huge impact. That was a conscious decision not to use energy people that has paid dividends because audiences are coming out of the film thinking a different way.
Q: How do you think the movie changes audience opinions on drilling?
A: We’ve now shown this film in Louisiana, in New York, in England, and we’re about to show it in Copenhagen at the climate summit. What we’re seeing with the audience is an empirical change in the way they think. I think people know how much coal we use in the United States. But I don’t think people know how clean a fossil fuel natural gas is. I don’t think people know there’s no utility-level storage for renewables. Bringing these things to the table really does change an audience. During the Q&A at the end of the film, you really expect the audience to want to talk about the personal stories, but they want to talk about energy and natural gas and how they had no idea these facts were there. Especially in Europe, these guys come in with a preconceived notion of what an oil company is and what they do, or what fossil fuels are. The European audiences came out very positive to some of the notions that came out at the end of the film.
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