In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, spilling 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Four years later, WAKE, a 23-minute documentary, meditates on the continued presence of the oil industry in southern Louisiana. Created during summer 2014 by Haverford’s Interdisciplinary Documentary Media Fellows Hilary Brashear ‘14, Dan Fries ‘15, Gebby Keny ‘14, and Sarah Moses ‘16, in collaboration with Artist-in-Residence Vicky Funari and Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Studies Helen White.
For those who attended last week’s screening of WAKE, Sarah Moses’ insight will add to experience; and for those who did not attend, her perspective is illuminating. Enjoy!
1) What perspective did you bring to the filmmaking process? How familiar were you with the spill before working on this film?
I remember following the spill when it happened, but in a pretty distanced manner. So I definitely did weeks of research for this film. Coming into the project I initially had a focus on the political consequences of the spill, but working with the other fellows and having hours and hours of discussions led to us all blending our ideas together into something that I think is far superior to what we would have dreamt up individually.
2) Have any of your personal consumer decisions or habits changed because of the film?
I like to think that I’ve been relatively conscious of the widespread effects my decisions can have. Consciousness and awareness are definitely the first steps to any change. Obviously we live in a very energy-dependent world and I have no intentions of going off the grid any time soon. But I believe that thinking about your actions and their consequences, and meditating on how to change them, is an important part of being a citizen of the world.Also, and this is a little embarrassing but, I can’t drive so I guess I have that going for me.
3) Do you think the purpose of the film is indeed to change consumer habits? Or is that secondary to another aim? Is this a film with an agenda at all?
Our main goal from the start of the project was to attempt to approach the subject in as holistic a manner as possible. The debates that were ignited after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill have never been exclusively about the spill itself, and to present these issues as such an isolated incident would be false. The oil industry influences the lifestyles, economies, and environments of people all over the world, and this is not a new phenomenon. The environmental degradation and socio-political issues along the Gulf have a long history as well. Everything truly is connected, and although we did not have the time nor the resources to portray all of the factors and perspectives involved, our goal was to take the voices we did have and meditate on how they resonate with each other. It’s very easy to say “we need oil” or “we need to switch to renewable energy”, but the truth is it’s always more complicated than that.
4) How did you work with Prof. Helen White? What was the “interdisciplinary” part of being an Interdisciplinary Documentary Media Fellow like?
Working with Helen was such a gift. She is so lively and charming and just lovely to be around, which really kept us going on those early morning trips along the Gulf. And, of course, she has so much knowledge to share. The interdisciplinary aspect of the fellowship was so valuable to the making of the film, and without it a very important perspective (the scientific one) would have been largely lost. With the limited time we had, we could only conduct so much research. But Helen and her chemistry students, Alana Thurston and Chloe Wang, really grounded our understanding of the spill in a scientific perspective that I don’t think we would have had otherwise.
5) How would you like to continue studying film at Haverford? Are there any programs or classes you would recommend to Haverford students interested in film?
I’m majoring in Film and Media studies through Swarthmore’s department, but I’ve had some great opportunities through Bryn Mawr as well. There’s a wide range of course offerings, and looking through the course catalog will give you a good idea of what theory-oriented and production-oriented classes are available. However, nothing can beat the amazing learning experience I had with Vicky Funari, and I would fully endorse any class that she teaches. Even if you don’t think documentaries are your thing, give it a shot. I didn’t think I would ever be focusing on documentary film, but taking a class with Vicky completely transformed my perspective. Bryn Mawr also has a great screenwriting course with Nancy Doyne.