Discovery earns documentary treatment

Haynesville Shale Gets a Starring Role

The high-profile Haynesville shale gas action continues as hot as ever, spurring some folks to dub it the sexiest play in the industry for now.

Sexy enough that it’s become the focus of an entire movie.

Calm down.

It’s not that kind of movie.

It’s a documentary about myriad aspects of the Haynesville, and it’s creating considerable buzz following screenings near and far, including a showing at the recent Climate Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark.

It all began when American documentary filmmaker Gregory Kallenberg paid a chance visit to a coffee shop in Shreveport, La., which is kind of the geographic hub of the Haynesville shale gas play.

“I was listening to the community talk about this almost gold rush type situation, where they were all talking about huge wells being found and what this was doing to the community and how it was changing things,” said Kallenberg, a former newspaper reporter and cable television writer.

He soon found himself immersed in documenting this story that became larger than he initially envisioned, owing to added insight garnered early on.

“The film started out as a focus on personal lives and the impact of the Haynesville shale on those lives,” he said. “We looked on the northwest Louisiana area as a boomtown.

“It wasn’t until I found this was an incredible real discovery with vast energy reserves that we realized it was going to have national impact,” Kallenberg noted. “We went back to the idea and the script and built this in, where we say all this energy has been found under people’s feet and what does it mean to the nation’s energy future.

“That’s when the film went from a small exploration of people’s lives,” he said, “to a big transcendent piece about how we can get to a cleaner energy future.”

Leading the Charge

The project was financed entirely by Kallenberg. He noted he used his personal funds and also went to friends and family members and “begged.”

There was an all-out determination to steer clear of industry assistance/input in order to create a film that achieved the delicate balance between an industry piece and non-industry. Kallenberg recognized this was crucial to be able to present a methodical argument to show what’s wrong with the current energy picture, e.g., too much use of coal, and how to transition to any kind of significant renewable source – such as solar and wind – which likely will take decades.

Kallenberg said he came to realize that fossil fuels are the way forward, with natural gas being the obvious choice.

“It fell back on me to create a very convincing argument – first to myself – that natural gas could indeed do what I think it could do,” he said.

“Haynesville” uses no industry people to speak as experts. Instead, academics, pundits and environmentalists express their views. The consensus among all is that natural gas is the fuel-of-choice to enable the transition to a cleaner energy future.

Besides Copenhagen, “Haynesville” has been screened in England, New York, Tulane Energy Institute in New Orleans and Rice University in Houston. Screenings at additional venues are in the planning stage.

Kallenberg noted he initially expected audiences to want to discuss the film’s personal stories during the Q&A following the screenings. Instead they want to talk about energy and natural gas and how they were unaware of the facts presented.

“I want my film to be a joiner,” Kallenberg said. “I want it to lead that charge and start that discussion between all people that were polar opposites and get us going to achieve some good.

“I want a million people to see this from the president down to the guy making eight dollars an hour,” he said. “If a discussion of our energy future can be borne out of this film, then I’ll think it’s a great success.”

Needed: Better Self-Promotion

Criticizing the oil and gas industry has long been the kind of “in” thing to do on the part of numerous organized groups, as well as much of the general populace as well.

Kallenberg voiced some criticism also – the constructive kind.

“Self-promotion of the energy industry is abysmal,” he said. “It needs to do better to tout what it’s doing right instead of getting hammered for what it’s doing wrong. The industry gets knocked and then gets quiet and lets everyone roll over them.

“If they handled this right, they could take the lead in this discussion and help create an energy future rather than be on the sidelines or be what they’re against,” Kallenberg commented. “They need to take the lead and charge on doing this and doing it right – they need to want to help themselves.

“I think there’s a new breed of energy industry (people) out there that thinks they need to be progressive to do business in this environment,” he noted. “Part of that is there’s a lot of money at stake, and when this is the case people do really cool innovative things to get things done.

“This has been an industry that I at first when filming didn’t think was flexible or cared about a community or an environment,” Kallenberg said, “but in the end it does.

“If they continue trying and really work on the right ways they’re trying to get at this gas,” he said, “then I think everyone wins.”

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