Josh Fox is a film director, editor, producer, writer, actor and cinematographer.
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EDIT: Thank you everyone for your questions! Don't forget to check out Gasland on Docurama.
When my family got offered $100,000 to drill for gas, I decided to investigate it further. I’m now leading the charge in the anti-fracking movement.
Watch the trailer here.
You can watch Gasland on Docurama for free via the app here!
Some concern has been brought as to the validity of the 'burning' water hose in Gasland 2.
Specifically this counterclaim that states a gas line was attached to the hose to cause it to catch fire: http://www.barnettshalenews.com/documents/2012/legal/Court%20Order%20Denial%20of%20Lipsky%20Motion%20to%20Dismiss%20Range%20Counterclaim%202-16-2012.pdf
Have you done anything to respond to allegations of factual inconsistencies?
edit: changed "inaccuracies to inconsistencies"
Yeah, That's complete nonsense. It is very typical of the kind of craziness that the gas industry likes to put out to create doubt. I have created two short pieces to address these issues, you can find them here:
Additionally, the Lipsky case (the flaming hose) has been documented as the fault of the drilling and fracking in his area over and over and over again: http://www.wfaa.com/story/news/local/investigates/2014/08/19/14067180/
I was a big fan of Gasland, it painted a good (in a negative sense) picture of what fracking is and how it can affect the communities that it takes place in. Now, don’t get me wrong, I really want to be on your side with this. I am about to graduate with an environmental science degree, so I realize how bad resource extraction is on the environment, and the high importance of moving towards renewables (solar is my favorite, but that is beside the point). But, my biggest problem with Gasland (and Gasland 2) is how obviously one sided and biased it is. I have also seen Fracknaion, which is equally (if not more so) biased, but they raise a good point. It is easy for activists from their high towers to look down upon rural areas saying “Oh my God! Fracking is fucking everything up! It must be stopped at all costs!!” But boots on the ground, there are people benefitting, and those people rarely have any actual influence on what happens in their own back yard. It is often more influenced by people on the steps of the courthouses, many of whom have travelled from their homes in the suburbs to fight for environmental rights of areas they have never been and will never go.
Anyway, I’m rambling at this point. My question is; as a documentarian, how important is it to provide unbiased views from both sides of the argument, as opposed to just providing shocking one sided reports? Is it more important to sell more, or provide a more accurate picture to the public? And lastly, what do you say to those who say fracking is good for communities (by creating jobs, bringing in money etc.)?
Number one; there's no such thing as an unbiased view. It's just not possible. HOWEVER, there is such a thing as truth. Scientific truth. There are currently 480 some-odd peer-reviewed scientific studies that prove every aspect of the Garland movies. Fracknation is an utter lie, designed specifically to create doubt in the science.
We have an obligation to report the truth. And in this case, the truth of fracking is that it's really really bad. So you can't decide - there's a difference between making a report of a true inquisition, and finding it to be a disaster, than deciding ahead of time what your position was going to be. Fracknation is promoted by the fossil fuel industry. They knew exactly what they were doing. I was going out trying to find if I took that $100,000, and what it would do, and what I found was a total disaster.
Number two: I would resist the idea that environmental campaigners on fracking are coming from the suburbs and going to rural areas. That is just simply not true. The fracking movement is coming from the most unexpected places. It's coming from rural America. It's coming from Rural Colorado, Texas, Wyoming... these are not your typical places for an environmental movement. In fact, there is very little fracking resistance in suburbs or major cities. If you look at the polls in New York, for example, it's all being driven by people upstate. People in the city basically are 50/50 on fracking, people in suburbs are pro-fracking on ballots and it's the people upstate that are really where the fracking movement was born. So I don't agree about either of those points.
I don't think Gasland is successful because it's sensationalistic. I think it's successful because it represents millions of people across America who are suffering the same problems.
We were on HBO, but we didn't play in the major cities in theaters. We've played in rural America, across the country and Europe. We've done 350 tour dates, in places like Normal, Illinois. Or Ithaca. Or Buffalo. Or Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
The fracking movement is not urban or suburban. It's predominantly been a movement by people who own land.
Well, what we're seeing right now - on balance- fossil fuel resource extraction areas are economically poorer and have higher unemployment rates. If anything, this is a boom and bust cycle, and when that cycle busts, it busts really hard, because now you have an environmentally destroyed area with no jobs. As you're seeing now, Pennsylvania was the second-to-last state in job creation at the height of the fracking boom. So it's just a lie. When we're talking about jobs, we have to talk about the comparison between fracking jobs and all the other jobs that exist. because when you bring fracking into an area, all the tourism jobs go away. A LOT of the agriculture jobs are going to go away, because they are not sustainable - you're living in a toxic zone. Also, you're destroying the renewable energy economy. Renewable energy provides vastly more jobs than fracking.
The Brookings Institute forecasts 4 million new jobs in solar. You're never going to get 4 million jobs in fracking.
So when you go for renewable energy, you create far more wealth and communities. If you invest $1 million in oil and gas, you get 3.8 jobs. If you invest $1 million in wind and sun, you get 9.5 and 9.8 jobs, respectively.
Additionally, the death rate in the fracking industry is 7 times the national average. So you don't want these jobs, and you don't want these jobs in your community. So you're actually taking value out of your community. That's what extractive industries do. They extract the value and leave behind a toxic mess. Renewable energy development actually creates value in a community. A house with solar on the roof is worth more than a house without it. A community with sustainable values and a clean environment is also economically much more valuable and viable than a toxic gas field.
Hey Josh. One of the lasting images of the first Gasland movie was when you lit the methane-infused tap on fire. Why did you make a point to show that scene if people could light their water on fire, due to methane naturally existing in the aquifer, long before "fracking" existed?
Again, that is completely untrue. See my short film on the subject here:
Governor Cuomo determined in the end that the sky is blue! Thank you Governor Cuomo!!!
are there other ways we can extract natural gas ?
Well, right now, about 90% of all the oil & gas wells in America are fracked - so I'm assuming you mean ways other than fracking.
So right now, the answer is for the most part, no. But it's the wrong question to ask. We should be asking how do we get off of natural gas altogether?
And that's a very easy answer.
The wind and the sun.
We can do everything that we use fossil fuels for, including gas, by going renewable. From every standpoint, going renewable is what we HAVE to do - whether we're looking at water contamination, air pollution, regional health impacts, earthquakes, radioactivity, or the big one, which is climate change, if we're looking at all this from every angle, we have to move towards renewable energy.
So what fracking represents is not some new way to get natural gas out of the ground - it represents a huge new push in fossil fuel dependency.
And so fracking must be defeated if we're going to get anywhere near our reasonable targets for climate change.
Given that solar, wind, and water power are not currently sufficient to meet our energy needs, what are your feelings about nuclear power?
Actually they are sufficient. We can power the world on 100 percent renewable energy- no nuclear. And those are peer-reviewed scientific results. See the great illustrations of our capability here:
In Gasland, why did you present a draft copy of lease agreement put together by the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance as if it were an offer made to you by a gas company?
I have stated this over and over again because it is true. My father was approached by NWPOA and was offered the same lease as all the folks in NWPOA got. That was the offer. I sent over 60 emails from NWPOA to my family that prove that my father was a member of the NWPOA to the Colorado Public Radio station that challenged the facts and those are posted at their website. My father was offered the same lease. He withdrew from the leasing pool once it was discovered that fracking was extremely harmful to the environment and would destroy his property value. Additionally, the NWPOA was working directly for the gas companies involved, which is a totally legit way to represent the offer made to my family.
Once again, it is the frackers that refuse to acknowledge reality here. This is the gas industry saying over and over again that the sky is pink. But the truth is otherwise, for more go here:
Do you think other states will do what New York did and ban fracking?
I think other states should. I think people don't think realize that Vermont has also banned fracking. I think you have seen a huge citizen uprising against every place where it's taken place. We have a huge movement in California, Colorado, New Mexico. We're also seeing a lot of local bans that are very powerful. Pittsburgh has banned fracking. There are several valid initiatives to ban fracking in cities in Colorado which have all won. Where the democracy is responsive to the people you have a ban. Where you see the government respond to the people - you have a ban. Unfortunately, right now, you have a huge push from the oil industry against it.
So what about Bakersfield California where fracking and agriculture have happily co existed for lots of years? The central valley produces tons both. I know our air sucks but we didn't produce it. We San Francisco and those nut jobs in Sacramento who think a dumb fish is more important than sending water to the valley. Should bakersfield stop fracking after 50 years of experience?
The short answer: Yes. California is suffering the worst drought in decades. Why? Climate change. Fracking will only make that worse. We need to move beyond fossil fuels. Period.
Also, California is suffering other horrible impacts of fracking- whole aquifers in CA were contaminated by fracking waste. Take a look:
Josh, you said yourself that people could light their water on fire well before fracking existed:
You basically agree with what Governer Ridge is saying in "pinkskyny" film. My question, however, was:
"Why did you make a point to show that scene if people could light their water on fire, due to methane naturally existing in the aquifer, long before 'fracking' existed?"
That's absolutely not true, and absolutely not what I said. The video that you are referencing is severely edited- it was a 20 min answer that was completely rearranged to make it look like I said what I did not. Ask for the full video to be released and you will see. But I have provided you with a website with dozens of references and a short film that will provide you with all the scientific proof that anyone will ever need on the link between drilling/fracking and flammable water. here it is again:
There are also over 450 peer reviewed papers that overwhelmingly support the evidence and reporting in GASLAND. Here they are for your reference:
And here are several articles that also provide the facts about those who are smearing GASLAND:
Additionally the Q and A sequence in the film with Josh Fox was deliberately edited to mis-represent Mr. Fox's statements. Mr. McAleer has persistently harassed Josh Fox and represented his statements in a false light, he has a long history of baiting environmentalists, denying climate change and spreading misinformation.
This kind of deliberate misrepresentation through editing is the hallmark of the Breitbart/O'Keefe school of smear. They've been caught flat out lying and employing these kinds of tactics over and over and over again. Don't fall for them. It's a total scam.
Hi, I brought up Gasland in a class discussion and when I mentioned the burning faucet water, I was told that it was faked/fracking correctly wouldn't do that to the water. How would you respond to a claim like that?
Unrelated: Do you know why all of your posts have negative karma? Are the fracking companies here and just trying to hide them?
Was not faked in any way. I have addressed this question many times, because it is a frequent attack that comes from the fossil fuel industry. At this website there is an 18 minute film and dozens of references that proves the relationship between flaming water and tracking/drilling. Here you go:
(And yes, the industry trolls are always out full force whenever something like this goes down...) Thanks for the question.
How do you feel about Pennsylvania's Act 13 of 2012 and further changes to the legislation? Where do you think it lacking and where do you think it did well?
P.S. We watched your documentary in my high school environmental science class! Prompted the class to do research and whatnot. So thank you for making the documentary.
Act 13 did several things: It attempted to overturn fracking bans in Pennsylvania, so it was a threat to Pittsburgh and other cities that banned fracking. The part of Act 13 that threatened these cities was overturned by the Supreme court in PA, because it was unconstitutional.
The PA constitution states that people have an unalienable right to clean air, clean water, and a clean environment.
So Act 13, which was a totally illegal piece of legislation created by the oil and gas industry, was actually overturned by the state of PA.
It also made it illegal for doctors to tell their patients if they were poisoned by gas wells.
This was also challenged in court, but I don't know the outcome of that.
The sad thing is that if someone offered me 100 grand to drill for gas, I'd have to take it no matter what :(
That kind of money would change my life for good.
How can we fight that sort of reality?
First of all, America is in disastrous economic shape for so many people.
And the natural gas industry exploits that problem.
We have suffered economic injustice that is insane in America, right now. We're talking about a country where the richest less than 1% owns more than the bottom 50%. And a lot of that inequality is evidenced by these major corporations, and the banks and oil & gas industry are some of the worst offenders.
When we're talking about distributed generations of power - wind, sun, renewable energy - we're talking about forms of energy that are far more equitable in terms of people making money off of them. When you take your $100,000, what you've essentially done is destroyed the value in your property.
And you've also probably destroyed of your neighbor's property as well.
So you can't expect to keep living where you're living if you take that money. Because you're now living in a toxic situation.
So the money comes out to be worse off, and in many cases, you have incredible regret that people ever saw the Natural Gas industry walk into their yard, even if they made money. But beyond that, we have to figure out ways to address the basic economic inequality problems in America.
And one of the ways to do that is to talk about how renewable energy could be a major economic driver throughout all of America.
What would you say to someone who would like to get into the film industry? Thanks for doing this btw
I love this question! First of all, I think you if you're a young person hold two things in your mind: 1) no one can make the movie you want to make, 2) no time has it been easier to make a movie than now.
The camera on your cellphone is probably higher resolution than the cameras I used to make Gasland.
That said, the movie has to matter than more people than just you. So you have to find the thing that matters more to you than anything else in world AND matters to a lot of other people too.
You wouldn't walk in to the Boston Philharmonic and ask to be the first chair violin on the first day, similarly with film-making, you have to continue to work at your craft and work your ass off, and learn to keep your audience close to you all the time - when you've made 5 minutes of your movie, show people and learn what works and what doesn't work with your movie.
The other piece of advice, keep your audience close to you all the time. When you made five minutes of your movie - show it to people right away. Learn what works and what doesn't work with your movie. when we made Gasland in 10 minute increments, we constantly showed people, and it helped us learn what was working and what wasn't working.
Did you have any prior interest in filmmaking before your family was offered the money?
How did you raise both the budget and assemble your crew?
And finally do you see yourself branching out to different topics for documentaries?
Yes, I've made one previous feature film, but I directed theater for 20 years - I made plays and traveled across the world.
The budget? Well, the first movie cost practically nothing - the total shooting budget was I think under $3000 or $4000. That's some that's someone can do over the course of a year. It was really cheap, but I did work with a nonprofit theater company so we did get some donations from people who believed in the film.
We submitted it to Sundance, and they gave us a 20k grant to finish the sound mix, and then they accepted our film in to the festival (which was a huge long shot).
The film was originally just meant for our community, we never knew how successful it would be so we never went around raising money for it. I was sleeping on friend's couches, sleeping in my car, just trying to make a movie.
I was extremely lucky to get my editor and co-camera man Matthew Sanchez to team up with me and work for a year, for free. He's amazing, a total genius.
Our producer, Molly Gandour had just left a job at PBS and had 3 months of unemployment under her belt, so she also helped us with the project.
And I was lucky enough to meet our producer, Trish Adlesic, at a Gasland screening - she joined the team because she really cared about the project. That was pretty much the whole team, just 4 people!
We also received support from the activist community... people came out of the woodwork to help with this project.
You have to understand, when the gas industry creates millions of gallons of toxic waste around communities, you have to do your part to help fight that - Gasland was my contribution to this.
I saw your film a few years ago in an environmental science class, and found the whole fracking issue quite concerning. I discussed the topic with my dad, and he still thinks fracking is an ok means of obtaining fuel, despite the evidence. Can you help me settle this argument once and for all?
If the water contamination issues, the air pollution issues, the health issues, or the fragmentation of our democracy don't move you and the earthquakes fail to shake you out of your chair, I still think, as the younger generation, we have to appeal on the level of climate change.
Your dad's generation, as unmovable as they sometimes are, has known that climate is changing.
It is our responsibility (including them) to leave the next generation a planet that won't be a complete nightmare.
Put it to him this way: if he was going to leave you his house, he wouldn't go to the basement and knock the supports down with a hammer or leave the car running in the garage (and fill your house with toxic fumes). He wouldn't poison your tap water. He wouldn't make the home that he's leaving to you inhospitable and that's what our climate is doing to the world.
I think you have to look at this issue from the prospective of this: what will happen to the next generation after hes gone, and how important is it to him to leave you a world worth living in?
...what's your mom think?
Hi Mr. Fox.
I admire your activism and your bravery in standing up for what you believe in. And thank you for popping by on Happy Earth Day to talk about your view on what we are doing to the environment.
How do you think your education at Columbia University has helped in your activism? How can someone, student or not, start a movement for a cause they feel strongly about or send their message to the world effectively? What were some of the challenges you faced in proactively taking a stand for your beliefs and how were you able to deal with them?
Well, at Columbia i was a theater student. I studied a lot of Shakespeare ...I think that always helps, but drama is essentially always about the social ills of its time.
When you're in drama, you're in a political context. There's no great play ever written that wasn't explicitly about the politics of that time (Death of a Salesman, Macbeth, etc).
That being said, i never really set out to start a movement, I wanted to save my town. All politics is local.
If i was at Columbia now, I would start anti-fracking groups on campus. The group would encourage Columbia to divest from fossil fuels. It is incredibly hypocritical for institutions of higher learning to be invested in the very thing that will deprive their students of a future. That makes no sense- to be preparing people for a future while simultaneously destroying it.
We have actually just completed a film on Divestment- you can request a screening by signing up at
I think this may help you. One of my favorite teachers at Columbia, Ann Bogart, told me: if you want to get anything done, talk to the person next to you at dinner.
One day she was a dinner and a guy next to her started talking to her and went on and on about a film that he wanted to make. She said, "good for you, I have nothing to do with film, but good luck."
Years later she found out that the film (The Red Violin) was made. And she was convinced that it happened because eventually he kept talking to a lot of people and kept talking until he found the right person and they made the film.
So, if you're passionate about something, always talk to the person next to you at lunch, at breakfast, at the bar. It is about them. It is who you are close to. It is who you are lying next to in bed.
This also helps make the issue closer to you. We usually think of saving the earth as this big far away thing, but its not, its as close to you as the person lying next to you in bed, as the person sitting with you at dinner.
Hey Josh, great documentary, but I've got to ask what is Bill Maher really like? What's it like going on his show?
The Bill Maher Show was one of my favorite things that's ever happened to me because everyone on the panel was after me (except for Bill), and I had fun despite how combative it was. It was obvious that they were going off the industry talking points, which are all false and easily defeated.
But it's terrifying going on a program like that, even though you know that the people you're debating against are less knowledgeable than you and you know they will use the most specious arguments to try to attack you. Its a huge challenge to try to keep your cool and try to be rational and calm instead of reaching across the table and strangling someone. I was happy with the way it turned out.
I didn't really get to meet Bill Maher, by the time you get to your part in the show, Bill is already on air. After the show tapes, there's a little party and I got to say hi to him at a little post-show reception. He seemed like a nice guy. What was more interesting is that I actually think I moved the panel a bit. I got some of them to admit that they didn't know what they were talking about...of course that was once we were already off the air.
I really enjoyed his production staff (who all happened to support Gasland). They were incredibly well prepared.
Josh, what's your favourite cheese?
Oh my god! What's my favorite cheese? I'm a lover of all cheese, I have so many things to say about cheese.
In France (where they banned fracking), they have amazing cheese. They actually named a street after me there. Also, 20,000 wine makers marched in the streets...and you know, you can't have wine without cheese.
In California, there's a dairy farm Fiscalini makes the best cheese, and the whole farm runs off renewable energy.
Cheese production and renewable energy go really well together because you can have solar panels over where your cows graze and the grass still grows. Then, in some locations, you can sell the energy to your neighbors.
Upstate where i live, dairy production is in trouble. Milk is selling at a very low price per gallon. So selling renewable energy can help.
But to answer your question, any cheese that is very stinky and very gooey. I like cheeses that are very strong and...sensual.
I'm Italian, so cheese is in my veins.
I already drive a Prius, is there anything else I have to do to make the earth not die super fast, or am I pretty much good?
Haha! That was my question several years ago.
so i created two projects -
Solutions projects details all of the science behind how we can get to renewable energy. Grass roots is about organizing your community to get off of fossil fuels.
So, lets say you have an electric car and you have solar panels on your roof - no offense, but whoop-dee-doo, you're a great person -
Now get the rest of your neighborhood to start contributing too!
Grass roots is meant to encourage entire communities to go rogue from fossil fuels. We're currently hoping to expand this in to a national program.
However this is a democracy problem, not just an energy problem.
So we need to solve this the way we would other political problems - engage with our neighbors, engage with our communities, and start making changes.
So, to recap: you can find activist groups at solutionsgrassroots.com and Gasland's website
Pittsburgh banned fracking? I didn't know. All my questions are moot, then.
Yay, Pittsburgh! Seriously, this is the best city. Yinz are missing out!
PGH was the first city to ban fracking in the entire world! And Troy Polamalu was the ONLY major sports figure to tweet about GASLAND (and recommend it!) Yinz know what your talking about n'at.
Given the Monetary Power this industry has, do you see a stop to the practice coming any time soon?
Never count out a determined movement. They said we would never win in New York. We did. They said we would never win in the Delaware River basin. We did. We will keep on winning. There is a long long long list of places that have banned fracking including much of Europe, many places in CO and NM. Maryland just won a 2 year moratorium. We are on the move!
Josh, can you predict what other industries might help to improve the problem with fracking in this country? How will this ever get resolved?
There's really no way to improve fracking. The only way to handle this question is to go to renewable energy.
If you watch Gasland 2, you'll see the industry actually admits that a huge amount of their gas wells leak. 5% will start to leak immediately upon drilling. 50% start to leak after 30 years. Their own documents detailed the exact rates of failures of their past wells.
Now, if you're dependent on that aquifer, then you have to keep that resource clean. Because once it is polluted it's pretty much polluted forever.
But the real issue is, we have to be moving off fossil fuels period. To start to use new fossil fuels such as shale gas is the opposite of what we should be doing.
Thank you so much for this advice, also good job on making a film that will hopefully make a big difference to the world.
Fantastic! Thank you!
Why do you think that documentaries like yours and Food Inc. are so successful, yet the issues they cover remain largely unchanged? Are corporations really that powerful, or are people hypocritical and don't actually follow through with their outrage when it means spending more money?
First of all, I would challenge that we weren't successful - I am flabbergasted by how much success we've had.
The anti-fracking moment is one of the most successful and fastest growing environmental movements in history.
We've seen frackers pull out of countries like Bulgaria and South Africa. We've seen bans or moratoriums in places like Maryland, New York, Germany, France.
To get more information, i would suggest people sign up for alerts on gaslandmovie.com.
We win victories in the fracking battle all the time, but to be completely honest: yes, the corporations are that powerful. We're at a time of unprecedented corporate power and greed. These corporations have dominated the political conversation for a long time, but that doesn't mean that we can't win, as the fracking movement has proved true grass roots movements like those in NY/MD/Germany/France are what have had real, significant victories.
These are not just symbolic victories - the ban in the Delaware river basin provided millions of people with clean water.
The New York fracking ban does the environmental equivalent of taking million cars off the road and 60 coal power plants off for a year. That said, we still have a long long way to go.
Our current system is not sustainable - it ravages it depletes, it destroys, and it harms a lot of people, but i have a lot of faith in the world of renewable energy and the world of activism
Simply being involved changes your quality of life, and I would encourage anyone to get involved even in the most hopeless of battles because it makes your day seem complete.
Hi Josh, is Gasland on Netflix? Or will it be?
It's also available for free on Docurama!