Food & Water Watch’s new “Dear Governor Brown” video series highlights the grassroots movement to ban fracking in California. The first videos, released this week, encourage viewers to support two fracking bans on the November ballot: Measure J in San Benito County, and Measure P in Santa Barbara County. Additional videos will be released throughout the end of this year.
Bunker Seyfert, the filmmaker behind this compelling series, travelled to 15 California cities and interviewed 32 different people. Seyfert is no stranger to moving around. Born in Los Angeles, Bunker spent his childhood in Mexico, Germany,and Long Island, New York.
“Having moved around a lot as a younger person, I became interested in people’s stories,” Seyfert said. “I got into filmmaking because it struck me as the best way to communicate those stories to the largest audiences. It makes sense that I chose documentary as my form, since it often requires travel. I think I’m traveling most of the time. And I love it.”
In fact, Seyfert has crossed the United States eight times over the past four years. He has shot videos about fracking fights in New York – where he first became interested in the issue – as well as in Texas, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
“I was most shocked by my interviews in West Virginia, where permitting and environmental regulations are incredibly lax,” Seyfert said. “People had natural gas bubbling up right in their front yards.”
It’s a different scene in California, with its long history of environmental stewardship. “In California, the story is about protecting what people have already worked so hard to protect,” he said. “People understand the problems with fracking, they understand what’s at stake – polluted air and water – and they’re mobilized against it. The only reason it seems like a fight is that there are millions of dollars being poured into it by one of the wealthiest industries in the world.”
The filmmaker makes a poignant connection between the grassroots movement against fracking in California and those who cover fracking. “In the community movements to ban fracking, people are working hard, but there’s also this sense of joy, of collaboration,” Seyfert said. “It’s the same among those of us who are documenting it. We share content. We help each other out.”
In addition to the “Dear Governor Brown” series, the filmmaker is currently working – primarily as a camera operator – “on about 15 other projects,” covering fracking, mountaintop removal, and other topics of interest to those following Food & Water Watch. He is particularly looking forward to the upcoming release of a feature-length documentary “The Commons,” by a Delaware geophysicist about the resurgence of community-based efforts to protect our common resources.
“That’s really what the ‘Dear Governor Brown’ videos are about, too, isn’t it?” asked Seyfert. “People fighting corporate power, democracy versus dollars.”