Filmmaker Phelim McAleer has a message for Matt Damon, the star of a new film taking a dim view of the energy-extracting process known as fracking.
“Everyone knows he’s anti-fracking,” says McAleer, responding to Damon's many press interviews for "Promised Land" in which the "Bourne" actor claims the film is even handed. Even liberal film critics have noted "Land's" considerable bias against natural gas companies.
McAleer, the co-director of the new, pro-fracking documentary “FrackNation,” wishes Damon would take responsibility for the film's message. “If he said, ‘this is my passion project,’ he’d get a much better response," McAleer says. "He’s killing his own film by being dishonest.”
This weekend’s box office results bear McAleer out. “Promised Land” earned less than $5 million this weekend in wide release, a disappointing sum given Damon's star power and the film's heavy Oscar season promotion.
“FrackNation” isn’t competing with “Promise Land” directly - yet. McAleer’s film will make its debut Jan. 22 at 9 p.m. EST on Mark Cuban’s AXS TV. New Yorkers can get an earlier look at the film tonight when the film screens at 7:30 p.m. with a red carpet event at the Chelsea Cinema. His film's message, that fracking is being villified in some quarters and could offer a major boost to American energy resources, runs counter to Damon's tale.
New Media is helping McAleer get his own message across, but he still thinks he's fighting a losing battle.
"It's very hard to change narratives," he says, particularly when Hollywood celebrities and urban hipsters are on one side of the issue. It hardly helps that, to hear McAleer describe it, the media won't ask folks like Damon the tough but fair questions needed to inform the public.
He's frustrated that many journalists won't ask anti-fracking sources to back up their outrageous claims with facts and research.
"Journalists are surprised there’s another side of the story … environmentalists have such an easy ride ... the media has given them a free pass," he says. It's as simplistic, and false, an argument against fracking as the viral videos of people's home faucets catching fire.
"Yes, people can light their water, but it has nothing to do with fracking," says McAleer, who would like to take his film "on the road" after the film's TV debut to let more communities in the country see another side of the fracking debate. "There’s an appetite for the truth out there ... this is a story that’s important to every American household."
As for Damon, McAleer thinks the actor is the victim of bad advice.
"Somebody in marketing told him [to pretend the film is fair]. That's why he took the stance," he says, adding the decision may have longer term consequences for the actor. "He's damaging his own brand and box office."