The backyard of New South Wales is facing its biggest threat yet – invasive gasfields. Betrayal by governments has meant protectors are fighting to save the things they love. The Pilliga, Great Artesian Basin, Liverpool Plains – all are at risk.
This is a David and Goliath battle to save our land, air and water from destruction. It’s also a fight for the soul and future of Australia. In this film we meet the experts and people living in the sacrifice zone and uncover the truth behind the real gas crisis confronting ordinary Australians.
Interviewees include farmers, Gamilaraay people, groundwater engineers, medical experts, financial analysts, lawyers, activists, astronomers, toxics experts, politicians, whistleblowers and ecologists. Together they weave a compelling argument against this destructive and unnecessary industry.
How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?
'Sacrifice Zone' is an artistic project that bridges issues of human rights, the environment, community, indigenous rights, youth/the future, health and well-being – in other words it ticks all the boxes of DAF's priority areas. Unlike films generated by big NGOs, or designed primarily for entertainment value, this project exists only because a few well-informed and passionate farmers who are literally living at ground zero of the NSW gas invasion contacted Cloudcatcher Media for help.
The film is necessary because government is failing to protect its citizens, instead allowing itself to be swayed by big gas at any cost to our country. The mainstream media, apart from rare examples, is missing in action. Ordinary hardworking Australians must now step up and save themselves from being engulfed.
The strength of the counterpunch depends on the arrival of the philanthropic cavalry and any other crowdfunding we can muster in the short window of time that remains before NSW goes the way of Queensland and Texas, and becomes a toxic gasland.
What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?
Aims & Objectives
Unlike other films about invasive gas in Australia, like 'Frackman' and 'The Bentley Effect', 'Sacrifice Zone' is designed to prevent something disastrous happening, not document it after the event or celebrate a rare win. This is a fighting tool to educate and empower communities, focusing particularly on the threat to north west NSW. We are aiming to reach both city and country audiences, counter the untruthful propaganda of the gas industry and its influence on government, and seek to bring political change regarding this issue from the grassroots up.
NSW stands at an historic junction in terms of unconventional gas. The people have spoken, but are not being heard by those in power. Our primary aim with this film is to amplify that voice.
The film will have succeeded in a wider sense if the gas companies fail to build a massive, expanding gasfield centred on the Pilliga, and the Queensland gas catastrophe does not spread. We aim to achieve this through presentation of the facts, using nothing but the voices of those who know most about the issue, and those who will be most affected.
Comprehensive surveys in the north west show that over 96% of people over 3.28 million hectares do not want to live in a gasfield. Although unconventional gas interests have been exploring in the Pilliga for 10 years, it is only now that the situation is reaching crisis point, with a confected gas shortage driving development of this resource, at great cost to more important long term values, and despite the economic and environmental insanity of proceeding. The final decision will be made next year.
'Sacrifice Zone' will raise awareness of Australia's food and water security and give recognition to the generations who have toiled to help grow Australia. By bridging the city/country divide, it will strengthen our nation. It will highlight the alliance that has formed to protect indigenous and non-indigenous values relating to land in this country, particularly in the Pilliga, and seek to educate a broad audience about the importance of the unique ecology of the area.
The fundamental importance of water in Australia, especially underground water, cannot be overstated. Communities are calling for a sustainable vision for our nation's future – there is no new water or good food producing land being created – we must protect what we have.
We hope to bring a focus on issues that directly relate to the Murray Darling Basin Plan debate, and expose vital facts that must be considered by the government whilst evaluating the risks of unconventional gas. By presenting the evidence from many experts, we intend to prove the damage that this industry will bring to water, land, environment and the health of communities if it proceeds.
We will know we have succeeded when there is a political shift on this issue, a new conversation in the media and between ordinary people, and clean, untainted water coming out of the taps of both rural and metropolitan NSW.
What is your education and outreach strategy?
The feature film 'Sacrifice Zone' is the tip of an iceberg of work which started some time ago and will continue beyond the release of the main film. Cloudcatcher Media made a series of short films and memes for online distribution which recently assisted in generating a record of over 23,000 objections to the Santos Environmental Impact Statement. Following the release of the feature film, the intention is to release further short films online to deepen the educational impact of the mass of interviews which formed the basis of this work.
In terms of the feature, we intend to do a couple of sneak previews in small cinemas, then utilise reactions from a broad audience to improve and tighten 'Sacrifice Zone' before a series of big public cinema premieres in country and rural areas about a month later. The main focus from then on will be online and DVD/bluray, although we will keep the option of creating a shorter version for TV in case of interest.
During the Shenhua campaign Cloudcatcher Media developed an online launch model to build buzz and impact film by film (for example 'Another Bucket of Coal' generated over 123,000 online views on Facebook via collaboration with the Liverpool Plains Youth). See: https://www.facebook.com/liverpoolplainsyouth/videos/1176982815656552/. The #wrongminewrongplace series also generated big numbers and changed the conversation, creating pressure for the since-announced government buybacks at Caroona and Breeza. We plan to do something similar in this case.
We plan to utilise friendly like-minded groups such as the Knitting Nannas Against Gas and the existing gasfield-free network (which consists of hundreds of groups who came together during the survey process, some affiliated with Lock the Gate, the Wilderness Society and other NGOs, some independent) to build and extend the online audience into house screenings, meetings and regional cinema screenings, with DVDs also to be letterboxed to affected communities if finances allow. As much as possible, we will make public screenings and online releases free of charge, with people encouraged but not forced to contribute to supporting the film via DAF and Chuffed.
We will submit to relevant film festivals in Australia and around the world.
GABPG also plans to take the film into schools, to raise awareness in students about the vital importance of our water and agriculture, and how they can protect them. We have already been approached by several schools requesting we give a presentation.
We also plan to do screenings at the heart of power in the NSW Parliament – where we conducted a well-attended CSG Science Forum a few years ago.