Filmmaker's Blog


Haynesville in Hopenhagen

by Chris Lyon, editor of Haynesville

hopenhagen

Attention citizens of the world! Last week, representatives (official and symbolic) descended on Copenhagen, Denmark with one unified goal- to change the course of the global environmental decline. Now we are half-way through one of the biggest environmental rallies ever achieved, and those of us who cannot be there are holding our breath. Will the leaders of the world make a definitive motion towards environmental responsibility on the planet Earth? I certainly hope for not only slowing the decline, but reversing the trend altogether. Bill McKibben had it right when he told us “It can’t happen soon enough” and “We had to stop this train yesterday” when we interviewed him all those months ago for Haynesville. His interview- among others- really allowed us as filmmakers to get a handle on how bad things really are and how fixing rising emissions is not simply a problem in the United States, but in other developing countries as well- e.g. China and India- where as many as two new coal plants are opened a week to meet the growing energy demands.

It’s a common saying that seems to never change- “Now is the time” they say- or “Now more than ever” and I’m here to tell you that this is that time. A few more years of this unchecked, unfiltered growth and we will be toast. I want to take a detour from COP15 for a moment and reiterate why coal is such a bad energy source. First, it’s acquisition requires an invasive, destructive  process of mining or mountaintop removal which destroys landscapes- literally wiping entire sections of mountain ranges off the face of the Earth and making that land inhospitable to vegetation. Second, it’s dirty- which means heavy metals like mercury, radioactive elements, carbon dioxide, etc. Many times these elements are “scrubbed out” to make them more “clean-” but it’s far from a perfect process. And as we dig deeper and deeper to less efficient forms of coal to fire our plants, the dirtier and dirtier the coal becomes. Third, when burned, coal has the single highest emissions rate of any fuel known to man. Coal factories are painfully inefficient, and difficult to start up and shut down with demand- which means they’re always on.

I lingered on coal so long because it is the world’s biggest environmental violator- and it is used in every country from the third world to the first-level superpowers. Other fuel sources must be discussed as well. Oil is being used for transportation when it has so many more uses- from computer chips to medical equipment- that it seems a little silly to be using oil to drive to the grocery store. The same song can be sung for biofuels like corn ethanol- using food for fuel- seriously? When so many starve on a daily basis from lack of simple nourishment?

I digress. Entire books and volumes have been dedicated to such arguments. The whole thing comes back to getting us on the right track. There is one available for us to set our sights on- it includes wind and solar as the ultimate in green technology. And who knows- perhaps a new technology that hasn’t been discovered yet. But this must happen today. Today. Today. Today. Because even if we start TODAY (I really mean it) it will take a minimum of 30 years to get us where we need to be by shutting down coal plants; replacing them with wind and solar; creating new, utility-scale storage solutions; and changing our existing vehicle fleets to a new energy source- perhaps simply electricity created by the cleanest sources of the future.

The ultimate story of Haynesville is how this huge discovery in Northwest Louisiana, USA effects the people on a micro and macro scale. On the macro scale, the natural gas there and around the world could provide a greener alternative to coal and oil as we transition to the new wave of energy devices for the future.

There is hope in Copenhagen- it’s a global recognition of the problem. Even if you aren’t present to scream at the top of your lungs in Denmark, your voice is needed here as well. Write you representatives, write the president or leader of your country.

This is important. Do your part. Save your grandchildren’s children’s children.

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Climate Change: Humor Me with a Game of Pretend

earth

For the moment, let’s assume that global climate change is real. I know, a lot of you have sent me E-mails and links to the contrary.  And yes, I’m well aware of Climategate and the E-mails from the scientists that popped up on the Internet and every other news site.

But humor me, play along and pretend for a moment that climate change is a truth (for those who believe that climate change is real, I ask no change your mindset).  Now that it’s real (remember, anti-climate change folks, we’re pretending) what does climate change really mean to us?  How does it make us feel  What does it make us do?

First, how does the idea of global warming — the idea that the globe is getting hotter and that catastrophic effects will occur — make us feel?  Primarily, it scares us.  No one wants the globe to heat, especially if it means that terrible things would happen — ice caps melting, Pacific islands disappearing, etc..  So where does that lead us?

This horrendous revelation leads us to an intense need to look at the reasons behind this phenomenon.  And this leads us to explore carbon in the atmosphere as one of the possible culprits.  In the United States, we start to break it down to fuel sources, and coal sticks out as a primary offender.  At this point, we put our heads together and try to find ways to mitigate the carbon problem.  If we can mitigate the carbon problem, then maybe — in this thought game that we are continuing to play — we have a chance to slow down climate change.

Because we are smart, and because we want to stop global warming, we start to look at cleaner fuel sources and start developing new ways to generate energy.  This developing of new energy technology takes time, so we need to buy ourselves a couple of decades.  We look at our available fuel sources and find that natural gas could be a good way to go.  It’s cleaner than coal and more available than oil.  Because we need the time, we start to replace coal with natural gas in electricity generation.  We even consider natural gas as a transportation fuel and build natural gas “filling stations” for truck fleets.  This give us the necessary leeway to build better, more affordable renewable sources of energy.

In the end, we look up (from this imaginary scenario) and realize this fear of global warming has done something really interesting.  It has set us on a path to avoid this doomsday scenario and, in the end, we have advanced civilization to next generation of power creation.  This drive to solve this huge problem has left us in a better place, a place where our air is cleaner, the world isn’t getting AS warm AS fast and we have an amazing shot at a bright energy future.

Now, you can stop pretending.

We’re back to the immediate present, and let’s say that these guys have totally lied about global warming and climate change.  Let’s say this was a huge conspiracy to sell more windmills or an ingenious marketing ploy to get ad rates up for histrionic cable news programs.  What does it really mean that we’ve sweated a phenomenon that we’re not sure about one way or the other?  Is it really that bad that we’re driving hard to create a cleaner and more sustainable energy future?  Is it terrible that we’re angered by coal and are now exploring natural gas and renewables as a major part of the future energy mix?  Because, in the end, from where I’m standing, this game of pretending has done some pretty amazing things.

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Sheffield Doc Fest, Day 3: Saving the Best for Last

I can’t state enough what a great festival this is and how hospitable our hosts (namely Hussain, Andy and Charlie) were.  Awesome crowds, enthusiastic film execs, great potato chips that taste like prawns or roast chicken.

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Today was our last screening and, apparently, the buzz had gotten around.  The word in the main meeting place was that the film had a universal personal story and a global energy story.  As a result, when approaching some of the higher up execs, they all seemed to know something about the film.  It was a really good feeling to hear that we had made something that played well to an international audience.

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The day was spent lining up meetings and preparing for our screening.  To be clear, the weight had been lifted off the night before, so “preparing” also included ambling about in the Wintergarden market and looking at vast arrays of carved elves, handmade woven beer glass holders and a weird take on what they called “neon American mini-dresses.”

We made our way back for our tech check and found a big crowd waiting to see the movie.  We were blown away.  Especially since I couldn’t find any relatives (wife, children, mom, etc.) in the audience.  Nor did I see anyone I had paid to come (that’s the last time I pass out one pound coins at a bus stop).  The crowd was our best yet.  They laughed, they cried, they gasped and then they clapped.  The Q&A was amazingly profound and really smart.  All in all, was an awesome experience.

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We left the theater with a great feeling inside and a bit of spring in our step.  In the time it took us to walk to the bar for a celebratory pint (the only tequila in town was, unfortunately, back in my room), we had requests for five meetings to discuss the future of “Haynesville”.  We were pretty puffed up.  That is until we met the bartender who met our “don’t you know who we are” with a vastly more powerful “I don’t give a crap who you are, just order your drink, pay your money and sit down.”  Ah, being knocked down to earth can be harsh.

Same picture, but it is of a constant action here in Britain.

Same picture, but it is of a constant action here in Britain.

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Sheffield Doc Fest, Day 2: “Haynesville” has its Day in the Sun

[ON AN IMPORTANT NOTE:  Please know that we just found out what happened in the US at the Texas military base and our thoughts go out to the families, civilians and soldiers who were affected by the shooting.]

Back to Sheffield:

You know you’re going to have a good day when it starts with a “Haynesville” t-shirt and a bottle of Jack:

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Actually, this is “thank you” gift for the organizers.  They love it when the Americans come.

Back to business.  Day 2, P-Day.  Premiere of “Haynesville”. It was a pretty nerve-racking day (hence the Jack), and we spent it beating the drum for the film.  The heartening part of it, and one of the amazing things about this trip, is that the Europeans get the concept of energy.  They also see the energy future (and the future of natural gas) much the way the film does.  It even goes down to the concerns about coal.  Supposedly, Italy is moving to use more coal and the EU is in a knot about it.  But I digress.

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The festival had done a great job putting up the posters everywhere. We augmented their efforts by putting them everywhere where everywhere wasn’t.  Mark might have felt it was a bit over the top when I placed one on his forehead (he has a huge forehead), but that’s showbiz baby!

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Food had to be had at some point and, feeling like Anthony Bourdain, we made our way to the Sheffield Wintergarden Street Market.  This particular dude was making fresh paella out of squid, chorizo and small children (that last part isn’t true, but this is the land of Sweeney Todd, so anything is possible).  The entire meal of paella, bratwurst, Mark’s German hog “beltbuster” and some kickass tropicana orange juice ran us 7 quid.

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After playing cable TV host to the foods of Sheffield, it was off to the library theater.  What an amazing night. The film looked beautiful and sounded great.  I really hope that at least some of you get to see it in a theater or on a really good HD television (but please invest in more “Haynesville” DVDs and paraphernalia, not a television).  The crowd was enthusiastic and smart.  They knew when to laugh and when to gasp, though they weren’t sure what to do during Mike’s squirrel hunting scene.

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I was expecting a lot of browbeating about U.S. consumption and our different ways of seeing the energy future.  Instead, it was the opposite. While most of the time was people praising the film (I loved that part) and its cinematography (congrats Rob and Mark) and editing (way to go Chris) and how much they loved Kassi (kudos to Kassi), the energy discussion was more about agreement on what needs to be done to achieve an energy future.  The night ended at the pub with an Irish filmmaking crew that is making a film much like “Haynesville” in Ireland.  All in all, it was a great validation for our project and fantastic start for “Haynesville.”

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Sheffield Doc Fest Day 1: “Haynesville” Documentary Lands in England

IMG_1861Welcome to Sheffield, England!  Here are some rules:

Chips = French Fries, Crisps = Chips, Bobbies = Police, Lift = Elevator, Coffee = Tea, and, this is an important on, look the opposite way on traffic (this one should be boldfaced).

You remember those, and you will be fine.

We completed Day One at the Sheffield Doc Fest and, aside from Mark nodding off from jetlag at inopportune times, everything is going really well.

The festival itself is amazing.  It’s more a working of  media power-conference with the films as the glorious highlights.  The cool thing is that the entire city seems to be our hosts.  This starts with a big hug from Hussain Currimbhoy, the amazing and congenial festival programmer.  Yes, you might have thought the British were “stiff upper lip” non-huggers, but Hussain has broken the mold (technically, he’s Canadian, but we’ll still credit England with with his outward show of emotion).  That hug began a great first day.

We started out by getting the lay of the land.  As I said the entire town is participating in the festival, so the venues can be in chapels or student unions or historic theaters.

IMG_1854While this was natural to the Sheffield Doc Fest regulars, Mark and I needed a bit of pathfinding from the locals.  This gent was awesome and almost insisted on taking us to our destination himself (another trait of the brits is that they can’t get the “Want to go to India and take it for the Empire?  Let’s go!” out themselves, so, seemingly, they’re always up for an adventure).

The day was spent at really cool conferences like hearing Steven Johnson espouse about the natural crossover between documentaries and the Internet.  I won’t bore you with the details of the global television standards of the BBC or how Europe’s forward thinking plan to expand and meld media in cool new ways… or, maybe I will… no, I won’t… perhaps, when we get back (and you are having trouble sleeping).

In between these seminars we were papering the town with posters and getting the word out.  The surprising part was that we had already started to get some good buzz around the Fest.  We kept bumping into people saying that they heard of the film or that we had put a poster on their briefcase and/or forehead (that last part isn’t true).  The challenge is that we are competing for eyeballs against the best documentaries in the World.  This includes the odds-on Academy Award winner “The Cove”, festival darling “Winnebago Man”, “Moving to Mars” and a host of studio-backed new documentaries (coming to a theater or television near you).  As a result of being a small PR-team-less film, you have to hit it pretty hard.

Tomorrow is the screening, and they have put us in one of their premiere venues.  We are excited and nervous to see if people will show and be as excited about “Haynesville” and its message.  Wish us luck, send positive vibes and messages.  With that, Mark and I settle in at a pub, grab our first Guinness and bid you goodnight.

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“Haynesville” Documentary Chosen for Prestigious Sheffield Doc Fest

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“Haynesville” (www.HaynesvilleMovie.com) to have its World Premiere and

Compete for Green Doc Award at Prestigious Sheffield Doc Fest in England

(SHREVEPORT, LA.)  The news that “Haynesville” had been chosen for the prestigious Sheffield Documentary Festival (www.sheffdocfest.com) in Sheffield, England was delivered by phone.

“I was floored when I found out,” said Gregory Kallenberg, the director and co-producer of “Haynesville”.  “The head programmer from the festival personally called to tell me how much he liked the film, and that Sheffield wanted it to premiere in their festival.  In the film fest world, that kind of thing just doesn’t happen.”

But it did happen, and now “Haynesville”, an independent documentary about the historic Haynesville Shale natural gas discovery and its affect on three lives, is heading to Sheffield, England to show at the exclusive Library Theater.  Hussain Currimbhoy, the head programmer for the festival, seems as excited about the film as Kallenberg and his team are about his festival.

“’Haynesville’ is rare example of brilliant independent filmmaking,” said Currimbhoy from the Sheffield Doc Fest headquarters. “It takes an incredible story that the mainstream has not noticed and brings it to the fore with intelligence and passion. Films like these have a long life ahead of them. Sometimes you can just tell that.”

Kallenberg and Mark Bullard, co-producer of the film with Kallenberg, will head to Sheffield in early November to promote the film prior to the festival.  The World Premiere of the film is on November 5 with an encore performance on November 6.

“It’s good to get international recognition for ‘Haynesville’,” said Kallenberg.  “Aside from the compelling personal stories in the film, ‘Haynesville’ has incredible potential to help drive the global energy discussion and get us focused on the energy future.”

The film is also competing for globally influential “Green Doc” award alongside potential Academy Award nominees like “The Cove” and “Earth Days.”

“Being nominated for the award is really exciting,” said Bullard.  “This is the start that ‘Haynesville’ was hoping for.  Sheffield and being nominated for the Green Doc Award is giving us the momentum we were hoping for.  From here, we’re expecting a lot from our film.”


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Is Nuclear Power Explored in the “Haynesville” Documentary?

Nuclear power plant

Recently, we had a pretty lively discussion on the prospects of nuclear energy on the Facebook fan page (Haynesville Facebook page).  I was pressed on discussing how I felt about nuclear power.  I also received a number of notes asking me if nuclear energy is discussed in the film (no, that can be the next film, let me know if you’re interested in looking at an investor package?).

Here are my thoughts on this:  Being a child of Three Mile Island accident, the Chernobyl disaster and “China Syndrome”, I was finely tuned to not like the idea of nuclear energy.  The idea of a nuclear waste accident was enough to keep me up at night and the recent arguments against Yucca Mountain (made by bloggers, residents and environmentalists) didn’t help.  In recent years, and especially while making this film, I’ve changed my thinking a bit and softened to the idea.

Nuclear is a great energy source.  It’s efficient, and it’s mostly clean (aside from the occasional opening of a waste spigot and radioactive water spilling into a local river*).  All that said, there is still a huge hump for this country to get over.  The hump is squarely rooted in time, money and public opinion.  From what I understand, it takes 10-12 years to get a nuclear power plant permitted and built.  Also, though I know the cost is likely to come down, the current cost of a nuclear plant is around $5 billion.  Lastly, most people don’t want a nuclear power plant in their backyard (or a waste dump beneath their homes).

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I know.  There is a more efficient, safer nuclear power solution in new advance on how to extract and use U235.  But even the most gung ho nuclear experts say we’re around 15-20 years before that technology will be ready.  When you factor that in with the idea that it takes a decade to build, then you throw in the cost, I think everyone agrees that we need to start executing an energy solution right now.

I set out to make a documentary about a huge natural gas find, and its affect on three lives.  The original purpose wasn’t to stump for natural gas as a fuel source for the energy future.  I found that, as I looked deeper into the energy future and saw the options, I felt that finds like the Haynesville Shale find could make a real difference in the way we produce energy.  That led me to the belief that natural gas could help us have a cleaner energy future.  Right now, we can start changing dirty coal plants to natural gas.  Right now, we can start to twin natural gas turbines with a renewable energy infrastructure.  Right now, if we like, we can even start to use natural gas for the sole purpose to bide our time as a nuclear solution is developed and implemented in a safe, efficient and clean manner.

*Nuclear spill into Rhine

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When Coal is blacker than Coal

CoalBituminousI think we can all agree that coal is nasty.

From an environmental standpoint it’s awful.  The mining of coal is one of the most destructive processes known to modern civilization.  Coal is responsible for the physical removal of beautiful mountaintops in Appalachia and beyond.  If that’s not enough to prove out its nastiness, look no further than the burning of coal. The carbon output is obscene and the other byproducts of the fuel are downright cancerous (mercury, et al).  For now, I’ll leave coal ash alone.

While the environmental impact of coal is profound, the more profound and insidious affect of coal is on parade in Washington.  In a recent slew of articles (New York Times, CNN and others), we are learning that the coal industry is gearing up for a nasty fight with natural gas.  This fight is focused over the energy bill.  With the new natural gas reserves like the Haynesville, the cleaner burning energy stock is well positioned to take us into the brighter and cleaner energy future.  Apparently, Big Coal doesn’t like that.

Word on Capitol Hill is that the coal lobby has already started to stack the energy bill in its favor.  Initiatives like the bogus “clean coal” technology have supposedly won favor and funding and is working hard to become the “clean” fossil energy of choice.  This has included an initial pledge from the Department of Energy for $1.5 billion.  This is truly sad.  I understand the power of the coal lobby and its influence over our government, I only wish that we could leave politics behind and try to look at the big picture.

For the first time ever, we, as a nation, can see an cleaner energy reality.  We can see the solution before our eyes:  renewables working with natural gas.  But even with the answer given to us, we seem to reach back into the pockets of old, dirty solutions and find ourselves back in league with the blackness of coal.

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As New York goes Green, so goes the Nation

new-york-governor-david-paterson

This week, Governor David Paterson of New York released his energy plan.  As expected, the plan centered around the idea of creating greener energy sources and green collar jobs.

What wasn’t expected was the main thrust of his plan: “to tap environmentally sensitive natural gas” to build a “clean energy economy”.

Governor Paterson’s plan is to explore tapping the natural gas resources in the Marcellus Shale (another huge find that almost rivals the Haynesville Shale).  This is huge turnaround for the state of New York and its energy policy.  As well, it’s a tremendous boost for the idea of natural gas over cheaper and dirtier coal.  More importantly, this is a pragmatic approach to how we will achieve a clean energy future.  With a state like New York advocating natural gas as a cleaner fuel, more states will ultimately follow in their path.

What does it mean when other states follow New York in advocating natural gas as a necessary stepping stone to a clean energy future?  It means that we, as a nation, may finally be inching towards an energy future that is bereft of coal.  It also means that we are starting to be realistic about a renewable energy future.

Solar and wind need time to develop and come down in cost.  The only way to buy these energy sources time is to find a cleaner “bridge” fuel.  With New York leading the way with natural gas as fuel source, we could finally see a light at the end of the green energy tunnel.  It will be interesting to see what Governor Paterson’s plan yields, and if the public can get behind an energy source that will secure a cleaner and brighter energy future.

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How did this documentary get the name “Haynesville”?

Why is the film called “Haynesville”?

This question has been asked countless times in countless ways (“I live in Haynesville, is this a film about my hometown?” or “My last name is Haynesville, are you trying to make us famous?”).

The film is, of course, about the largest natural gas discovery in the United States.  The formation where they are finding the natural gas is a shale formation called the Haynesville Shale (it’s a huge area in northwest Louisiana and East Texas, at a depth of 12,000 feet).  The find found quick status on a local, national and international level.  As the local and energy traders started buzzing about the discovery, it came to be known simply as “The Haynesville.”  From there, I decided on the name.

I don’t mean to make the naming sound so easy.  As Mark, Chris, Hank and anyone else in my immediate circle can attest, the naming of the documentary bordered on excruciating.  One day, I’ll post an entire list, but a truncated look at the list of names included: “Boom”, “The Find”, “Drill Deep”, “Squirrel Hunt”, “The Best Fried Chicken in the South”, “Why Can’t I Think of a Name?” and “I Think I Got It!”.

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