GasLand Reaction Discussion

Evan McCauley, Spencer McClellan, Nathan Sarachick, Parshon Sorornejad, Joshua Woodruff


Produced, directed, and narrated by Josh Fox, GasLand is the story of Fox’s own curiosity and concern over the process of hydraulic fracturing and its personal and environmental impact. The documentary was produced in collaboration with HBO, and was developed for general audiences. The film is primarily the story of Josh’s experience and follows him around the country as he discovers the flaws in communication and the dubious conditions under which these operations are run. There are explicit references to industries and people that have contributed to the problem, and frequent attack of the industry as a whole. Where the film itself may not be a direct attempt at activism, it is very clearly a call for action by Fox. Fox refers to himself not as a activist and not as a documentary filmmaker, but a man concerned about the future of his childhood home, and critic of the organizations working to reap the land for all it is worth.


GasLand is set entirely in the United States, beginning its production in Pennsylvania and expanding to other states including Louisiana, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. Josh Fox was particularly interested in filming in areas that have had notable instances of contamination that is believed to be due to the fracking process in those areas. In addition, Fox seemed to be more intrigued with locations that were similar to his own home at the Delaware River Basin. As a result, the majority of the film’s locations are quite similar to each other regarding their living conditions and economic status. Therefore, the film doesn’t portray locations where fracking has not caused a significant impact on the surrounding community, and this makes the film slightly more focused on a particular sample of possible filming locations. Fox does mention the potential of the expansion of the fracking industry to all corners of the location, allowing for some relatability to viewers outside of the film’s locations. Fox also mentions near the end of the film the possibility of an expansion of fracking to Europe and Africa, adding a global element to his otherwise national analysis.


The majority of the film is made up of simple video and audio recordings of interviews of people Josh Fox interviewed across the country. For the most part, he did not use anything more than a camera and a microphone in the production (in terms of filmmaking). The viewer is presented the whole journey through his eyes, which makes the interviews with these individuals seem very personal and as a result, more powerful.


He did collect samples of tap water from a lot of the places he visited and sent them to be tested to find out what chemicals were in the water. Most of the water samples came from places that the big oil and gas companies said that the water was safe. When the test results came back, it was very clear that the water was not safe and that the big companies were lying.


The activism and response to the environmental damage seen in the documentary is primarily personally motivated. As far as one can tell watching the documentary their outcry was not part of a greater personal agenda of environmental activism. The documentary is about normal people who want to remain healthy and have clean water and how the fracking has affected them on a personal level. The people seemed to (for the most part) have some historical or family ties to the land they lived on, often either having grown up in the area or residing on an inherited property. This would of course make them try to protect the water quality whether from caring for the land that they grew up on, health concerns, or economic concerns over the implications of either having to move or (as some did) buying and hauling water from town every week. The people interviewed shared an interest in protecting their water from (apparent) fracking based pollution regardless if that interest comes from purposeful activism or just standing up for their own wellbeing and health.


The film presents two distinct perspectives towards the issue of fracking. On one hand, Josh interviewed various people and families that were personally affected by the industry, who lived in the small towns and rural areas where the fracking was taking place. These people demonstrated how they cared for the environment they lived in and how they were concerned for the long-term local and global effects that fracking would cause. These people were the ones who are affected on an individual level by this industry, and could personally see the impact it was rapidly having on the environment. Conversely, Josh also interviewed representatives from the companies responsible, wearing suits and ties in corporate buildings in the city, who showed a different outlook. They evidently cared less about the effect their business was having on the environment, because they were not the ones living on the receiving end.

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