Denton Fracking Documentary Now on YouTube

Garrett Graham very closely followed a movement to ban fracking in Denton, a story that takes place over several years, the result of which was a documentary called Don't Frack with Denton, released in 2017. Now, Graham announced he has posted the full documentary on YouTube for everyone to see.

Graham worked closely on this project as his thesis for his M.F.A. in documentary filmmaking at the University of North Texas, and, thanks to his work, has been featured on WFAA Channel 8.

Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, is a controversial method of pumping heavy amounts of water, sand, and chemicals under high pressure to break apart shale rock to begin extracting oil and natural gas. Arguments in favor of fracking include the ability to reach difficult areas containing oil and gas, as well as the fact that fracking puts out about half the CO₂ emissions of coal. Concerns about fracking from skeptics include that the chemicals used in the process of fracking may escape and contaminate groundwater — or, as the chemicals and heavy amounts of water break their way into the ground, it may lead to earth tremors, potentially causing earthquakes.

In a character-driven documentary, Graham weaves through the successes and failures a group of activists endure while fighting against fracking in the Denton community. Graham said when creating the documentary, he wanted viewers to be able to reflect on the big picture through a documentation of the movement.

“I wanted Don’t Frack with Denton to be a documentary about activism, not fracking. I’m much more interested in the debates about reforming the system versus taking direct action in spite of that system,” Graham said. “I never wanted this film to be a debate about whether or not fracking is bad, especially since I think the questions is rather obvious and well-answered already. The more interesting question, to me, is: what are we going to do about it?”

Graham said he is opposed to fracking and was never shy about it. He said he hopes the story be a cautionary tale to future movements about obstacles and challenges people can expect to face when they go up against a system, a cinematic story that could resonate.

“It’s not just about environmental struggles, either. These lessons ring true for anyone trying to balance out those impulses towards reform or revolution,” Graham said. “It’s a classic dynamic that every activist has to grapple with if they’re serious about strategic thinking.”

Graham shot over 200 hours of footage over a span of several years, from which he later selected the clips that comprise Don’t Frack with Denton. Graham started in 2014 before he even knew he would be making a documentary, and continued shooting late into 2016. The work of editing lasted well into 2017.

“It’s hundreds of hours of footage, shot over several years, condensed into less than an hour of story,” Graham said, “It took a long, long time, and it taught me a lot as an editor about organizing footage and finding the diamonds in the rough.”

As he sought to tell a story of reformers and radicals with good intentions in a broken system, Graham said that when shooting, he continually asked himself: “What will this mean to somebody watching this a decade from now who doesn’t know Denton and doesn’t know about fracking?” and “Does it still make sense narratively and cinematically?” Graham said he wanted to make it easily digestible and understandable for everyone to be able to participate in the issue, and he feels this film is an effective primer on modern Denton politics.

“My favorite scene in the film is a verbal confrontation between the police and some of the activists blocking the fracking site,” Graham said. “It’s a scene I wasn’t expecting to get, and it just started happening in front of me. It’s just a really genuine moment where someone confronts the police who are here to 'protect and serve' about why they are protecting and serving the fracking industry instead of standing with the citizens who exhausted all of their legal options to protect their health and safety.”

After this encounter, a powerful moment follows, as one of the police officers shakes professor Adam Briggle's hand, saying he should be very proud of himself before escorting him and his friends off the property. This wholesome scene neatly encapsulates the impact this documentary will have. Graham, while doing documentary work on activism and social justice, said he appreciates all the people of Denton and everyone in the film for their patience and cooperation.


Header image by Christopher Rodgers