I am not a radical documentary filmmaker. I normally shoot narrative films about love and relationships. I have chosen to work on this documentary because as an American, I feel that I don't have enough information on what is truly happening in my own country. Why are these pipelines being built from Canada to Texas? What are the impacts socially, environmentally, politically? I wanted answers myself. So Leslie Iwerks and I took on this journey.
I want to be clear that I am not taking sides on this issue. I truly want to present what we find and then we can all make our own decisions.
We are trying to be as unbiased as possible and present the issue from all sides. We want to provide a film so all Americans can see what is happening and decide for themselves what should happen.
It's not easy being balanced. Many pro-pipeline politicians and companies will not get on camera. The EPA and the State Dept will only give us written statements and off the record comments. What I'm finding is that it is very difficult to be unbiased when making a documentary. We are doing our best.
We interviewed landowners in Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana, along the proposed pipeline route and the current Keystone I pipeline route. We rented a car and drove the route. I think we put about 1,000 miles on our car in one week.
These landowners could be me or you. They really are good people, despite most being put on hateful landowners lists by the pipeline corporation and lambasted by pipeline proponents. The Keystone I landowners saw the destruction firsthand and are dealing with the leaks that have occurred to date and the Keystone XL landowners fear what they believe to be inevitable destruction of their land and water and livelihoods.
These landowners are truly trying to protect the land and their family. They say they are willing to negotiate and talk it through with the foreign pipeline organization but they have said they have been given no opportunity to have their voices heard. Instead they are harassed to sign easements for little money that in the end will be used to fix their land after the pipeline is put in. They are making no money and dealing with the destruction of a portion of their land while the pipeline organization will be making billions per day once the pipeline is working.
Overall we found the largest issue from all of landowners to have been how they were treated and harassed by land agents and threatened with eminent domain. One was even told that if she signed her easement they would do their best to keep her son from going to Afghanistan. That gives me the chills.
To look at the other side, we also interviewed a union representative who is for the pipeline for jobs. He was a really great person and truly passionate about making sure his members have jobs. He makes a very strong argument for his position. Every day he deals with members who have no jobs. That is his reality just as the landowners and the oil industry and government have theirs.
I do want to say that most of the landowners are actually for a pipeline and less dependence on Middle East oil. But when land agents show up on their land and tell them to sign over an easement to the foreign pipeline organization or they will invoke eminent domain and the land will be taken anyway, the landowners are immediately put on the defensive. They are feeling threatened and unprotected by the government.
As an American, I do feel the landowners have a right to be heard just as I would expect that right if it were happening to me. And at the same time the environmental impacts along with the social and political impacts should be considered as well.
We realize America is addicted to oil and we need it. Our goal is not to ignore the need for oil and jobs. But we also don't want to ignore the impacts to the environment and the landowners who are feeling attacked and threatened. There were many tears from hardworking farmers who help to feed the world as they feel threatened with eminent domain from a private interest and foreign company. Let's listen and protect them too. And when we finished filming, a leak occurred in an oil pipeline that spewed oil into the Yellowstone River this past weekend. It was quite a punctuation mark on our shoot.
We want to make this film to bring public awareness to this topic to all Americans. I can honestly say, I had no clue about this pipeline until the National Wildlife Federation called us and asked if we would look at this issue. How many other Americans are like me? A lot.
Let's get the information out there so we can all ring in on what is right for this precious land of ours. Let's get to the bottom of this pipeline. Is it being built so oil can get to China and our gas prices will actually rise and not go down? Or is it truly being built so we can get away from our dependence on Middle East oil and help stem the wars and bring jobs to America? Does it really have to be built through the Sandhills in Nebraska and through our largest drinking water source - the Ogallala Aquifer? What is really going on? I'm not sure we will ever really know if we can't get the right access but we need to try. For America's sake and our own.
If you are interested, here is our IndieGoGo site for more information: http://www.indiegogo.com/Keystone-XL-Pipeline-Documentary.
After this shoot, I will need to make another rom com!!