To celebrate the two-year anniversary of its investigative documentary Triple Divide, the nonprofit news organization Public Herald is offering the public 200 free downloads of the film. On a first-come, first-served basis, anyone can use the promotional code “Triple Divide Fracking” at http://rent.tripledividefilm.org to rent or download a free copy.
Released in March 2013, Triple Divide “exposed the way state environmental agencies failed to regulate fracking in Pennsylvania,” according to the film’s co-director Joshua Pribanic. “One exclusive report in the film uncovered how an oil and gas company avoided liability for water contamination by dismissing its own baseline data” – a finding the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader called a “bombshell that could reverberate across the state.”
Thus far the film has streamed in 120 countries and been downloaded in 29, which the directors believe is a testament to how stories in Pennsylvania resonate with readers all over the world. Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale is one of the largest producing fracking zones on the planet.
“The hard truths in Triple Divide are as relevant now as ever,” said co-director Melissa Troutman. “The human rights impacts from fracking have only grown since the documentary’s release. The Auditor General’s investigation in 2014 echoed Triple Divide when it concluded that Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is not properly handling fracking’s impacts, especially water contamination. Still, new permits are issued for fracking while problems pile up in the absence of solutions amid silence from public officials.”
Troutman is a native of Potter County, home of the film’s namesake – the Eastern Triple Divide – one of four triple continental divides in North America. The mountain peak gives birth to the headwaters of three major river systems – the Allegheny, Genesee and Susquehanna Rivers.
Triple Divide is Public Herald’s first feature-length production, praised as “the best documentary on fracking to date” and co-narrated by award-winning actor Mark Ruffalo. According to the filmmakers, it’s one of the only unbiased films on the subject. Triple Divide was an “Official Selection” for Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival, Albuquerque Film & Media Experience, performed 249 public screenings, appeared in over 50 news publications and continues to screen internationally.
Since the film’s release, Public Herald has continued its investigations of water contamination first discovered during production of Triple Divide. Reports can be read at PublicHerald.org under “Fracking.” In March 2014, one Public Herald report inspired correspondent Aasif Mandvi’s segment “The Benefits of Fracking” on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
In anticipation of follow-up reports to Triple Divide, Public Herald has launched an online petition at Change.org to garner public support for an interview with new Pa. Governor Tom Wolf, who has promised to “work hard to make fracking safe” for the people of Pennsylvania. The governor’s office hasn’t replied to Public Herald’s interview requests.
For the filmmakers, “the lack of attention to the documented impacts from fracking by public officials was a bit of a surprise.” They spent three years obtaining files from state agencies and have started to make these records available online at PublicFiles.org.
“We hardly knew what to expect for Triple Divide,” said co-director Joshua Pribanic. “What we did know is that we wanted this film to be accessible to the public. That meant publishing reports before the film’s release, offering low licensing costs for public screenings, creating a promotions checklist for local communities, and making it available for anyone to view on the internet.”
Pribanic is a native of Sandusky, Ohio and got his start in journalism and film covering agriculture and brownfield pollution along the shores of Lake Erie.
In April 2014, Public Herald won a $35,000 INNovation Fund competition award by Investigative News Network and Knight Foundation to tour Triple Divide across the nation. After seeing the documentary, Tesla Motors donated its top Model S to support the tour, and Public Herald completed 20,000 miles across the U.S. and back without using gasoline.
Public Herald has produced over 35 multimedia reports and amassed 900 Lifetime Members in only three years, with only two people carried by public support. Triple Divide is a publicly-funded ‘in-house’ production, from distribution to web design and promotion.
For beginning filmmakers and budding journalists, Pribanic and Troutman offer the following advice: “To anyone who’s apprehensive about taking on a project like this, don’t be. Investigative documentary work is hard, but it’s a necessary and powerful force for accountability and change.”
PHOTOS: Additional photos available on Public Herald’s Flickr page.