MDN editor Jim Willis had the pleasure of interviewing Phelim McAleer, creator, director and star of the documentary FrackNation, yesterday (watch the interview below). Phelim attended a screening of his new film in Binghamton, NY on Sunday, Feb. 10. He was joined by over 400 area residents, a surprising number given Binghamton is not all that large a city and the screening was held the day after a major snow storm had dumped more than 7 inches of snow in the area.
MDN will provide a full review of the documentary in a separate article. This article is about meeting Phelim in person…
After waiting for long lines of fans after the screening to get their copies of FrackNation DVDs and posters autographed by Phelim, he took a few minutes to grant me an interview. Phelim is as charming, personable and unassuming in person as he is on screen. When you talk with Phelim after having just met him for the first time, it’s like chatting with an old friend and picking up where you last left off. Phelim is like a latte from Starbucks or a favorite pair of slippers—he’s just “comfortable” to be around and brings a smile to your face. It’s not often you meet someone famous who’s the same off screen as he is on screen—but that’s Phelim McAleer.
Immediately following the movie screening Phelim held a question and answer period with the audience. Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan, a well-known anti-driller and environmentalist zealot, challenged Phelim over his “lack of knowledge” about the circumstances in Dimock, Pennsylvania (one of the main topics in FrackNation). Ever unflappable, Phelim verbally skewered Mayor Ryan from the start. Ryan tried to reassert himself after his embarrassing performance by repeatedly asking questions that were more like statements. The man would not sit down and would not shut up, but it didn’t seem to bother Phelim. Ryan was either handily dispatched by Phelim, or shouted down by the audience. So I started my post-screening interview by asking Phelim about Mayor Ryan and his claims.
I also asked him about Craig and Julie Sautner, a couple from Dimock who sued the local gas driller for millions with bogus claims of having “weapons-grade uranium” in their water because of shale drilling in the area. The Sautners were prominently featured in his film (even though they threatened Phelim with a lawsuit on camera). You’ll get a charge out of Phelim’s response to my question, “Weren’t you scared when Julie Sautner threatened you by saying she had a gun and showed you a pistol permit?” It’s classic Phelim.
Finally, I asked him if there will be a FrackNation 2 and about his plans for the immediate future. He spills the beans.
Phelim is a superbly talented movie maker, a tenacious investigative journalist and an all-around nice guy. Watch the humorous interview below, and be sure to watch FrackNation at your first opportunity! I promise, you’ll be happy you did.