“Gasland” Tour Draws Huge Crowds, Lively Debate

Gasland is now open at the IFC Center in New York City. Director Josh Fox will be there in person at select screenings. Get your tickets here and now.

As part of Rooftop Films ongoing expansion plans, we recently completed a six-city Gasland tour, supported by The Fledgling Fund.

The tour started in Pittsburgh on Friday August 27, with a fantastically successful event. There were some 600 people in attendance, filling the lovely bowl of Frick Park. The lines were long as many activist groups signed people up for protests, petitions, call centers, and various actions, and gave out stickers and t-shirts. During the film, the crowd cheered (and booed) in a spirited reaction to the film. At the Q&A after, the panel of environmental activists was joined by anti-fracking politician City Councilman Doug Shields, and pro-fracking politician Rich Fitzgerald, leading to a fiery debate. Having watched the whole film, Fitzgerald agreed, on stage, to re-considering his position on gas drilling. Overall, it was amazing and inspiring to see such a large crowd so invigorated by a political documentary.

The rest of the tour was no different.

On September 3rd at the Piazza at Schmidt’s in Philadelphia, the show again drew hundreds of people, most of whom had never seen the film or even heard much about the dangers of natural gas drilling. Numerous people came up to me after the show and said things like “I had no idea,” “I can’t believe they’re getting away with this,” and “I’m going to tell everyone I know to see this film.” Director Josh Fox, Adam Garber from PennEnvironment, and Iris Marie Bloom from Protecting our Waters told the crowd to carry their outrage into action by visiting gaslandthemovie.com and calling their elected officials.

Rooftop Films Gasland Screening in Philadelphia

The Piazza at Schmidt’s, Philadelphia, PA

The next stop on the tour was Callicoon, NY, a town that the word “picturesque” seems to have been invented for. It is the kind of town that when you see the pictures of it taken one hundred years ago, which are posted in the local pizzeria, you realize that nothing has changed, because it never had to.

The town is perched on the beautiful and (for the time being) clean Delaware River, whose future is in danger of being contaminated by the secret toxic chemicals used in natural gas drilling. As the sun went down, and the crowd poured in on Sunday, September 5th, it was clear how passionate the locals are about keeping the place they live as pristine as it is today.

Delaware River Looking across to Pennsylvania, Photo Irwin Seow

The Delaware River Looking across to Pennsylvania. Photo: Irwin Seow.

The crowd of hundreds was treated to performances by local musicians Stacey Cohen, Dennis Newburg, and Janet Burgan, actress Tannis Kowalchuk’s gas drilling monster “Frackenstein”, and a spirited “Frack Free” song from an adorable children’s choir. Senator Tom Duane, Sullivan County Legislator David Sager, and Congressman Maurice Hinche (who appears in the film) stopped by to talk about their efforts to fight unregulated gas drilling. And concerned citizens Debra Winger and Mark Ruffalo urged those watching to get and stay involved.

Though many had seen the film before, they braved the cold night and cheered and booed their way through it, flooding to the tables of local activists groups to sign petitions and pick up lawn signs, buttons, and bumper stickers. One woman told us that the “gas companies keep ripping down my No Fracking lawn signs, and I just keep putting them up there.”

Rooftop Films Gasland Screening in Callicoon, Photo: Irwin Seow

Delaware Youth Center, Callicoon, NY. Photo: Irwin Seow.

Harrisburg, PA was up next, which, being the capital of Pennsylvania, is a particularly key location in the fight against unregulated gas drilling. It is in Harrisburg that some of the toughest battles will be waged, and at the screening it was clear that that Harrisburg’s citizens are ready for action.

The show was held in front of the beautiful and historic Levitt Pavilion Bandshell in Reservoir Park. The excellent folk rock band Run On Sentence got the crowd going and even brought Josh Fox up on stage to play on a few songs on his banjo. After the film, Josh and activists from groups including Clean Water Action, the Sierra Club, Trout Unlimited, and the Responsible Drilling Alliance urged the crowd to not only call their elected officials, but to show up at the State Capitol building and talk to them face to face. Members of the crowd chimed in with their own suggestions for getting involved, and questions about some of drilling’s more technical legal issues, such as what exactly is forced pooling. (It refers to the legislation currently under consideration in the PA State legislature whereby you can be forced to allow gas drilling on your land if everyone around you has signed leases to allow drilling on theirs.)

Rooftop Films Gasland Screening in Harrisburg, Photo: Irwin Seow

Levitt Pavilion in Reservoir Park, Harrisburg, PA. Photo: Irwin Seow.

Run On Sentence, Harrisburg, Photo: Irwin Seow

Run On Sentence, with Filmmaker Josh Fox on Banjo. Photo: Irwin Seow.

In spite of the rain that lead to the show being moved indoors at the last minute, an impressive crowd turned up at Syracuse University’s beautiful Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium. Summer People, a fantastic local indie rock band, turned the elegant lecture hall into a swinging rock and roll club, and were followed by another great set by Run On Sentence. After the film, the lively crowd asked Josh how he became involved with the project (he didn’t go looking for it, it came looking for him) and how they could best become involved (spread the word, call your elected officials).

Josh Fox Q&A, Syracuse, Photo: Irwin Seow

Q&A with Filmmaker Josh Fox and Local Activists in Syracuse, NY. Photo by Irwin Seow.

For the last stop on the tour, we returned home to New York City, for a raucous anti-fracking party along the East River at the fully solar powered event space Solar One. Soulful singer songwriter Vanessa Bley started things off, followed by the “excellently overstuffed garage-psych sound”  of Chappo (as described by Pitchfork magazine).  Radical marching band Rude Mechanical Orchestra, whose mission is to support people and communities working for social justice, filled the space with their 30-some dancers and musicians before the film started, and got the crowd dancing in their chairs.

By the time the credits rolled and Josh took the stage with local City Council Member James Gennero to answer questions, the audience was eager to know about both Josh’s filmmaking process and how they could help keep gas drilling out of the New York City watershed.

Gasland Screening NYC

Gasland Screening at Solar One in New York City.

So as much as our tour of Gasland was reaffirmed our collective belief in the transformative power of socially relevant, artfully made films, the real question is, what now? New York state is currently leading by example with its gas drilling moratorium, but that moratorium expires next May, and what then?

First thing, if you haven’t yet, go see Gasland. It opens tomorrow at the IFC Center in the West Village, and nationwide soon after that. Josh will be there in person on the 15th and 16th (tomorrow and Thursday) and if you’ve never seen him speak on this issue, you should.

If you’ve seen it, tell everyone you know to see it. There is no more elegant or convincing argument against hydraulic fracturing out there, in any medium. And it is impossible to see the horrors presented in the film and not feel compelled to do something.

Second, visit gaslandthemovie.com. Click on the state you live in for contact information and automated emails to help you get in touch with your local elected officials. Call them or write to them. As Josh Fox said over and over again during the tour, it only takes fifteen phone calls for a legislator to change his mind on an issue. They are your elected representatives. They want to hear from you, and they want to know what they can do for you.

And stay tuned. Keep checking gaslandthemovie.com for updates and new ways to get involved. We hear Josh is planning a march on Washington.

We hope you’ll join the incredible movement of people who have been inspired by this film to take action to protect our water, our health, our safety and our environment. As the oft quoted anti-fracking slogan goes, “They said it was safe to drill in the gulf too.”

See more road trip photos from the tour here.

Get your tickets to see Gasland at the IFC Center here.

Learn more about Gasland screenings in your area.

Learn more about how you can get involved in the fight against hydraulic fracturing.

Read more about the film here.