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CANNES — It was arguably only a matter of time until someone got the urge to make a film about the risks of offshore drilling, but it took the recent, and still ongoing, oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico to bring money, passion — and the right celebrity — together. This last is actor Stephen Baldwin, who is in Cannes to talk up a documentary he has already begun lensing called “The Will to Drill.”
A lot of “serendipity,” he said, helped get this $1.5 million project off the ground. The focus will be the impact of the current oil spill and its devastating, and almost certainly long-lasting, effects on the people and economy of the U.S. Gulf Coast.
“This is not a blame game,” Baldwin said. Asked if this pic would take British Petroleum to task for its key role in the accident, the actor said he thought “everyone is to blame for this oil thing, for our over-dependence on it. Not just one company.”
The actor does see the project as proselytizing for the environment: “I want to talk to the world with this film. I want to create the story of the impact that then crescendos into motivating people to be pro-active in their own choices.”
To this end, Baldwin has involved one of his old friends and mentors, Paul Cohen, a filmmaker and current director of Florida State University’s Torchlight Center — and crucially the marketing brains behind the recent international hit “The Cove” — as an associate producer.
Also tangentially involved, and perhaps the eventual narrator of the pic, is Kevin Costner, who, Baldwin said, has spent some $25 million of his own money to come up with the so-called Costner Oil Separator. In turn, this centrifuge invention, which Costner worked on along with his engineer brother, may be brought to the attention of BP.
The oil giant at the center of the catastrophe in the Gulf, BP, is still racing against time to figure out how to plug up, divert or otherwise end the now three-week-old river of oil that is already destroying fish and fauna along a huge stretch of land and sea.
Baldwin already has shot some aerial footage of the devastated areas in south Louisiana but will get down to business at the beginning of June. He plans to shoot for two months with mostly local crews and to finish editing by the end of September — in time to submit the opus to the Sundance Film Festival next January. (One of the 65 movies he’s been in as an actor, “The Usual Suspects,” got its serendipitous start at the Park City event.)
The actor makes no bones about what he considers the short-shrift given to the disaster Down South by those who could make a difference and about what it sometimes takes to get concrete things done.
Every A-lister went to Haiti to man the phones or whatever in the aftermath of the earthquake there, he pointed out; we just haven’t seen them galvanized for this, just five years after Katrina, Baldwin said.
“The exciting … the important thing is that as a celebrity I can walk into Plaquemines Parish (one of the coastal Louisiana areas most devastated by this accident) and get folks to pay attention, to provide access,” he said. “This project is my greatest passion.”
In fact, Baldwin has for the moment put on hold another passion project, a feature film he’s been developing, and which he would likely direct and produce: Called “Water Moon,” it’s a redemptive tale involving a father who loses his own daughter (during Katrina, it turns out) but whose own devastated life is eventually salvaged by another child.
As for the money to make the environmental doc, that too came about serendipitously. It involved a series of fortuitous encounters which led eventually to his meeting one Frank Levy, an ex-oil man turned investor who now lives in the Crescent City.
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