I'm way past due for an update - please accept my apologies; seems like I need to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time! Seriously though, the past couple of months have flown by and I have been completely consumed with filming, learning to use my new gear, more filming and responding to those in Louisiana who stay in regular touch. Before I recap, I need some information from those of you who donated at the $50. level or higher and opted to receive perks. For the tee shirts, please email me at either my personal email - email@example.com or my website email - firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know preferred gender and size as well as your mailing address. The books have been ordered and I'm waiting on their delivery. And to view some new still images, please visit my website - www.terrigarland.com
Below is a clip from our interview with Mr. Ronald Carrier of Mossville. In it, he describes the condescending manner in which the Sasol "Voluntary Buyout Program" approached residents whose properties they wished to acquire.
As always, I am eternally grateful for this initial round of funding and how it has allowed me to dig deep into this project. In late January, I traveled to Louisiana and met up with Bret Scheinfeld - an enormously talented sound technician and just plain great person - who joined me from New York. We visited Delacroix, Isle de Jean Charles, Mossville and filmed a segment in P&J Oysters - a New Orleans fixture that has struggled to survive since the BP oil spill nearly five years ago. Besides being the consummate professional, Bret is one of the nicest people I have ever met and his kind and thoughtful demeanor went a long way in helping to record strong interviews. I hope to be able to afford to work with him again soon! After Bret returned to New York, I flew off to Baltimore, on the day the "storm of the century" was supposed to hit the east coast. Completely stressed, I almost cancelled my reservation but chose to trust the various reports that indicated that Maryland would see relatively little snow. I lucked out and was able to drive across the Chesapeake Bay the next morning and meet with John Dodd, former investor in a company that spied upon the victims (and their attorneys as well as Greenpeace) of a Mossville chemical spill some years back. When Dodd discovered that his inheritance was being used to fund illegal activity, he sued to recover his investment and informed the victims.
Upon returning home, I spent a nonstop week crafting my entry for the Tribeca/Gucci fund - a documentary film award that funds about nine films per year with the prize running between $10,000 - $25,000. It was an exhausting process that required an enormous amount of written material - actually a good thing in that it helped me to further refine my ideas. Announcements will be in June; please keep your fingers crossed.
I went back to Louisiana shortly after submitting my application. This time, one of my very generous donors offered me miles and I was able to cut that expense. Her particular airline did not fly to Houston, only Austin. On paper, it was a 4-hr drive to Mossville. In reality, it was just over eight hours. Audio books are a lifesaver! But I would do it again in a heartbeat and if anyone is aching to pare down his or her mileage accounts, I would be more than happy to fly into Houston, Lake Charles, Baton Rouge or New Orleans.
The Sasol situation in Mossville has had an interesting turn. Because of the drop in oil prices, they have put one of their projects - the $14 billion gas-to-liquids facility - on hold. One would think that the ups and downs of the market would be expected and factored into planning and development. Apparently not... However, the "community" changes daily and each visit reveals further destruction of the landscape as this formerly wooded area morphs into what, at present, resembles a post-apocalyptic sci-fi scene. Mr. Ryan is staying the course and is now represented by legal counsel but the harassment continues and he is still in need of supplies that will allow him to function off-grid. I am more than happy to facilitate contact if anyone can help with solar panels, etc.
Besides Mossville, I also did new work down in lower Terrebonne Parish and came away with a great interview with Isle de Jean Charles tribal chief, Albert Naquin, a long-time friend. After leaving there, I wandered the River Road (Cancer Alley) and spent a frustrating afternoon trying to liberate my stuck car trunk before giving up and driving to the car rental facility at the New Orleans airport. Then on to Baton Rouge where I headed north to the very toxic suburb of Alsen. This is the location of the ominous-sounding Devil's Swamp and yet another area that has been transformed from a glorious oasis of wildlife and tranquility into a potential Superfund site. The remaining community is rife with illness directly attributable to industrial pollution and I will be returning, as soon I'm able to meet several individuals who look forward to sharing their stories.
On the way back to Austin, I stopped for the Eunice Mardi Gras. One of my Mossville friends is from Eunice and often returns for this authentic Cajun festival. He was supposed to meet me there so I could record some of his history but a family matter held him up. In order to join the revelers, one must be in costume and I spent the previous evening finishing my wire mask and capuchon (a tall pointed hat eerily similar to a Klan hat but bedecked with fringe or other design elements). I arrived at the starting point at 7:30 am and it was a chilly 32 degrees. My costume was fashioned from hospital scrubs and I will never understand why I failed to bring thermals. I managed to find a seat on the lead covered trailer (pulled by a pickup) and ahead of us were about sixty people on horseback, many of them already inebriated. For the next six and a half hours we traveled throughout the countryside, periodically stopping at fallow rice fields where the "captain" would throw a live chicken into the air and the merrymakers would chase it down. Those that were not killed in the football-like tackles would be hand-fed sips of beer or alcohol-infused jello shots. For a California long-time vegetarian, it was indeed a bit of culture shock. It was also mind-boggling to witness how much alcohol people could imbibe and remain upright on their horses. Save for one initial sip of wine, I believe that I was the only person out of the many hundreds participants who did not drink. And it never warmed up; even with gloves operating my camera was a real challenge. When we pulled into Eunice around 3:30, it was still under forty degree and I was frozen to the bone. The many thousands of residents who flocked the streets waiting for "throws" seem oblivious to the temperature. I had forgotten to eat that morning and by the time I made it back to my car, the nearby Taco Bell seemed like gourmet dining.
There are several new documentary film award competitions with deadlines in the near future. I am working on those applications and scrabbling to come up with additional funding; any and all ideas are valuable and most welcome. Again, sorry for the delay in updates but please know I'm hard at work!