Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Right Kind of Activism in Fort McMurray

They came to my attention on Twitter, when the little video teaser they made to advertise their crowd sourcing attempt garnered international attention. You might have seen it, a brief clip that so incensed Travel Alberta that they began sending letters from lawyers threatening two LA filmmakers with litigation. It was, of course, the most absurd move Travel Alberta could have made, because that little film clip that was plugging along in some degree of obscurity suddenly became news as two filmmakers trying to fund a project were being crushed beneath a government behemoth. The actions of Travel Alberta virtually guaranteed that the project would be funded - and the accompanying brouhaha brought Andy Cobb and Mike Damanskis to my attention, too.

I tweeted at them, asking subtle questions like how they planned to get to Fort McMurray, since it seemed they planned a project with an anti-oilsands bent and were also planning a little trip to our community. It was a dialogue that occurred in fits and starts, and when my pal Tim Moen contacted me about spending some time with them to do an interview, and Toddske of YMMPodcast invited me to do a podcast with them, I threw aside my initial reservations and did both. And I am so very glad I did.

Andy and Mike hooked up with Tim, who is a local filmmaker. Tim is well known now for having worked with Neil Young and Darryl Hannah when they were here, and his involvement with Andy and Mike gave me some confidence in participating as I knew that Tim would serve as both guide and witness to what they were up to while here. And when Toddske suggested a podcast I agreed. I didn't expect what happened next, though.

I have done a number of podcasts now, with Toddske and Tito and a revolving cast of friends. I have enjoyed every single one, but I think the one that I like the most, enjoyed the most, and found the most "true" to me is this last one with Toddske, Tim, Andy, and Mike. There was something incredible about sitting at a table with two strangers, filmmakers from LA who had never been here (and I have never been to LA) and talking about industry, and community, and climate change, and activism, and the future. It was a frank, open and honest dialogue between three locals and two visitors, and five people who all find their lives deeply connected to oil as we all acknowledged our reliance on it.

I don't know what their final film project will look like. I did an interview with Andy as well, and I won't comment on it except to say that speaking with Andy is like talking to an old friend you didn't know you had and had never met before. His history of activism and mine, while different in nature, gave us a common understanding of each other and how we came to where we are in our lives now. When I first saw that film clip months ago I suppose I thought Andy and Mike were a couple of clowns, intent on disparaging my community through comedy. I still think they might be clowns, but in the best way, kind of like American Rick Mercers, and far, far more intelligent than I had ever suspected they would be. And I also discovered that unlike some recent visitors (cough*aging Canadian music icons*cough) they came to our region with an open mind, and I think while they came with one story in mind they left with a different narrative, one that reflected industry but one that touched on the community, too, and the difference between the two.

This is, in my opinion, the best podcast I have ever done with YMMPodcast. It is a long listen, and if you can get past the donkey-braying laugh you hear (which I sadly admit is mine), I think you will discover a fascinating conversation. We spent a couple of hours, we laughed a lot, and we learned a lot. I have come to be rather fond of two American clowns who landed on our shores recently, and I look forward to their finished film, whatever it happens to be. You see, I have learned that I will take every opportunity to share my story of my life here, and my thoughts on our community, no matter the eventual outcome of the article or film or project. I will take every chance to spread the word about our community - and sometimes it will result in something like this, something that I am far more proud of than I ever expected to be:

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