The Story of spOILed

The first time I was asked, “Is ‘Big Oil’ funding this film?” I had to laugh. We knew that would be the assumption when we started raising money. It’s a given that every film made about oil MUST slam those greedy, evil companies that feed our “addiction”.

The truth is that companies known as “Big Oil” wouldn’t come near a film like spOILed for fear of the repercussions they fear would come from the elite press corps and politicians. Truth is a dangerous thing. When people are hurting from high fuel costs there must be a villain, and oil companies are such an easy target.

While spOILed does explain some practical realities of the oil business and examines charges of “price gouging” and “record profits” the film isn’t about oil companies. It’s about us—the people who are suffering and who are going to suffer a lot more as the result of being deceived about this critically important commodity affecting every aspect of our lives.

Frustration is what drove me to make spOILed. I began learning about oil/gas and energy in general after I was tapped by a small oil and gas organization to help them with their media needs in 2002. What I learned blew me away. After years of study and analysis I became alarmed at the deception taking place in the US and around the world. Much of the deception was/is intentional and systematic. Varied groups, all pursing their own individual interests, have misled us. The end result is that most people are completely unaware of the biggest problem ever faced by humanity—a problem that will become obvious to all sometime soon. Instead of giving people the truth and paving the way toward real solutions, politicians have actually made the problem worse.

With few people willing to take a realistic, sobering look at our oil use, I knew I had to accept this mission. The idea of spOILed was born. Now I needed some money. I knew no major oil company would touch this project, but just to be sure I asked a few executives from “Big Oil” if they would consider an investment of this kind. They suppressed their laughter (mostly) and politely declined. I ultimately found the investment I needed from a small group of independent investors. Yes, some of them have oil/gas interests. However, I told these investors they would have no input in the content of the film. Some of the content they would like, some they might not (such as the considerable amount of time devoted to the BP Gulf Oil Spill of 2010 and the Santa Barbara Spill of 1969, and even the issue of Peak Oil).

I know there are those who will attack spOILed because the investment used to make the film did not come from some mythical, disinterested entity. Here’s a shocker—no other documentary filmmaker has managed to find such a benevolent, neutral investor. We welcome criticism from others, so long as they have the integrity to attack our data and analysis, which we believe is sound and true.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the making of spOILed is that I have the same end goal as biggest green energy advocate out there. We must transition AWAY FROM OIL as such a dominant fuel for transportation. The difference between us is that I am facing the REALITY that this transition will take many decades to achieve and while we’re on the way we need a LOT more oil to keep the modern world functioning.

22 Responses to “The Story of spOILed”

  1. “‘Big Oil’ wouldn’t come near a film like spOILed for fear of the repercussions they fear would come from the elite press corps and politicians.”

    This strikes me as an incredibly naive statement. Politicians are all bought and paid for, and the American press corps has been a neutered lapdog for decades.

    “I began learning about oil/gas and energy in general after I was tapped by a small oil and gas organization to help them with their media needs in 2002.”

    And no doubt, the information provided to the filmmaker was truthful and honest and not at all biased toward itself or the oil industry.

    I’m not pre-juding this documentary, but pointing out two red flags that make me wonder at the underlying agenda behind this doc.

    • Mark Mathis says:

      My response to this post is woefully late. I apologize for that.

      Mr. Gnauckweirst is doing what many people have been doing since the first stories were written about spOILed. He wants to make the film about oil companies. It’s not. We only discuss oil companies in the context of our oil use. You can’t make a film about our relationship to oil and not talk about the companies that produce the commodity. But, we keep that part of the discussion to a minimum, probably no more than 15% of the film. spOILed is about us, the people, our lives and how petroleum is imbedded into everything we do.

    • Colleen says:

      I am proud to admit I work in the oil and gas producing industry. However, I do not work for “Big Oil”. I work for an “independent”. An independent oil &/or gas company focuses on exploring, drilling, developing and operating wells (sometime marketing natural gas), but doesn’t own refineries, pipelines, or filling stations. It is the 18,000 independent companies (and it’s 400,000 direct employees) who produce 54% of this country’s oil and 85% of our natural gas and drills 94% of the country’s wells…not “Big Oil”.

      Hopefully you are aware that crude oil and natural gas are commodities, NOT consumer products. Meaning; since independents don’t deal in consumer products we do not have to advertise to market our products like Big Oil. However, attitudes like yours make it pretty obvious that we probably should. But, this lack of PR in itself is really good proof that we are rather lousy at manipulating the system.

      Nope, we don’t manipulate the system, nor are we out to deceive the country just for a buck. Nope we are just people. People who actually LIVE in the states where oil and gas are produced. And personally, I think we are really good people because we stay and work in an industry that is…at best misunderstood, and at worst despised. And we stay because we know how important our industry.

      In truth; it pretty much sucks that whenever Hollywood needs a bad guy they pick an oil company. And it really stinks that politicians blatantly lie to get votes. Perfect example is Interior Secretary Ken Salazar who said on October 5, 2011 “As a U.S. senator, I remember using the statistic of our imports of 70 percent of oil from other countries. Today, our imports are down to less than 50 percent, the last figure I saw.” Now, I am not sure what figures he last saw (I’m thinking maybe 1985) but as of August 2011 we are importing 67% .

      I don’t expect to change your opinion, but not everyone lies like our politicians.

      • Sal says:


        Allow me to confirm all that you said. To add and support your “Hollywood Villain” character, even in the Muppet Movie, of ALL MOVIES, the villain was tearing down the MUPPET THEATRE to drill for oil. As I sat there with my wife and 2 small children, I just rolled my eyes and smirked a little laugh, knowing that was a typical, if not stereotypical way of brainwashing yet another generation yet to grow up to discover the truth. Do I need to get into the technology of directional drilling to show how ludicrous this villification was? I will, a well can be put in the middle of no where and produce oil from underneath a metropolitan area nearly 3 miles from any buildings, specifically theatres and GOD FORBID, news stations. We would never want to disturb that protected species known as the MAIN STREAM MEDIA, after all, who then could we turn to for TRUTH!?!?!?!?!?

  2. Ronald Stein says:

    Continuous actions toward cleaner air in CA, i.e., the Global Warming Initiative, brings up the analogy with crossing the street within the guidelines of the cross walk and getting hit by a truck. You’re right, but you’re “dead right”.

    The regulator nightmares in CA and the extra costs for our transportation fuels contributed to CA loosing 4,600 businesses in 2010, an average of more than 12 businesses a day, according to a study by Economic Modeling Specialists Inc, as reported by the LA Times in August 2011, and has lead to CA having the second worst unemployment in the USA at more than 12%.

    1. The California Energy Commission (CEC) estimates that California drivers already pay up to an extra 5 to 15 cents per gallon as a result of the stringent requirements from CARB for California’s boutique reformulated gasoline.
    2. In addition, California has the 2nd largest State fuel tax that is 43% higher than the national average.
    3. In the USA, only California based refineries manufacture the CARB boutique reformulated fuels for California. No other refineries in the USA produce this expensive blend.
    4. In a State that contributes less than 1% of the worlds’ Green House Gases (GHG), the citizens voted in 2010, “not to delay” the implementation of the Global Warming Initiative AB32.
    5. The manufacturing facilities of our transportation fuels estimate that the additional Carbon Tax costs to California drivers as a result of implementing the California Global Warming Initiative AB32 may be as much as another 50 cents a gallon by the year 2014, and possibly a $1.00 by 2018 for a go-it-alone State that contributes less than 1% of the Green House Gases being emitted into the worlds atmosphere.

    It’s a great idea to have cleaner air, but are we “dead right” as the additional Carbon Tax costs to transportation fuels to pay for this cleaner air over the next few decades will put continuous pressure on California’s businesses to be competitive with the rest of the nation and the world and will have a direct impact on California’s high unemployment?

    • Mark Mathis says:

      The reality of what’s going on in California related to GHG emissions is the kind of thing we examine in spOILed. Why would California put this sort of burden on itself when the entire state has no measurable impact on global temperatures? Why would California execute this self-inflicted wound when China is putting a new coal-fired power plant on line every week, especially when these new coal plants aren’t nearly as clean as the ones built in the US? And, of course, China, with it’s 1.3 billion people (about four times the population of the US and Canada) is just now entering its own industrial revolution. And it’s the same case for India with 1.2 billion people. It is not possible to control the world’s creation of GHG emissions and whatever impacts these emissions may be having on the planet. Therefore, does it make sense to bankrupt your state trying to empty the beach of sand one teaspoon at a time?

      spOILed raises these sorts of questions because they are big, important and have a dramatic impact on our lives. Is it too much to ask to want a clear, logical, factual conversation about our energy use? For some, unfortunately, this request IS too much to ask. But, we’re asking anyway.

  3. Martin Kral says:

    This is all part of the New World Order, Agenda 21. I have been studying this topic for weeks when I came across this web site. I plan to see the film tomorrow 10/26/11 in Roswell NM.

  4. Mike Markie says:

    I was the only left wing liberal in the 5:00 showing in Artesia, New Mexico. Shorts and boat shoes with no socks!! I was impressed by the effort the director made in the creation of the film. I am no critic of independant films, or documentories but I believe the information and images in the movie are a fair depiction of todays oil markets. The humor in the film was directed at both political parties but California did suffer a needless “shot,”, but all in all I had no problem with content. I do have some questions on the viewpoint, the prospective and the analysis the director and his team took. I will withhold my judgement until I can purchase the DVD and really explore the details. Not a bad effort, but I do believe Michael Moore will remain the at the head of the independant film class!!

    • randy verret says:

      Michael Moore remains at the head of the documentary film category because a lot of Americans, unfortunately, are poorly informed on a great number of issues, not just oil. My fear about “spOILed” is it will get NO TRACTION not because of poor content or entertainment value but because it seems we have an “A.D.D” society these days. If a viewer can’t get sound bites and a solution in 38 seconds, they loose their attention span. Not sure if the public is ready (yet) for the realities we face. I hope I’m wrong…

      • Mike says:

        You also wont’ get the same traction as Michael Moore because the Hummer & limo driving, private jet flying, hollywood types consider anti-oil to be fashionable. For example, James Cameron was a huge and vocal proponent against the Canadian Oil Sands. The industry brought him up to take a look, where he saw the great effort and progress made at minimizing environmental impact – then he shut up. If you can’t say something bad don’t say anything. How many private jets flew across the country from Beverly Hills to Washington to demonstrate against the product that they have no hesitation to use.

    • Matt Hester says:

      Michael Moore remains at the head of the class of misinformation and outright lying to make a buck in his “BSmentaries”. Randy Verret hits the nail on the head about the reason for Moore’s success is the generally poorly informed, dare I say even idiotic, public. Good grief!

  5. T. Smith says:

    Michael Moore is actually pushing specific agendas i do not think his movies should be able to be called documentaries when the producer obviously is bias. Another great documentary to watch is “Michael Moore hates America” .

  6. Alexander T. says:

    Thank you Colleen! Kudos to Mark, Matt, & T. Smith.


  7. Greg says:

    The bemoaning of lost jobs in California is starting to change. In the area I live in, Northern California, we have tunred the tide and are acutally seeing real estate recover and sale tax reciepts increase on an annual basis. It is time to stop the fear and start progressing towards a very bright future. America is still the world wide hitech leader and we need to start acting like it.

    High gasoline prices is not necesarily a bad thing. It has forced comsumers in California to drive efficient vehicles. Gasoline economics has forced lower consumption which benefits everyone. Take a look at current consumption levels in California, they are much lower than in the past so in a sense we have reached peak oil sales. I hope that eventually domestic vehicle manufacturers realize more horsepower and the profits associared with trucks is not sustainable.

    High energy prices has driven alrernative energy and made these sources viable. BP announced their 1000th wind turbine installation in the US this week. We have turned the tide regardless of the political/press dire predicitions.

    Come on people, lets start focusing on what is right about the US and quit knocking it and focusing on what is wrong. It is time to be optimistic and raise the US to a new level.

  8. Brian M says:

    Let me throw out some red meat here.
    I will be going to see the film tonight with a bunch of friends. Most of us met here in Austin, Texas, several years ago as group members of “Crude Awakening Austin,” from which the film “Crude Awakening” borrows its title. We all happen to believe in the premise of peak oil forecasts, meaning that we accept as inevitable that we will reach a point, soon, where it is no longer cost effective to mine the world’s oil and adoption of alternatives will be unavoidable.

    Now, some people describe the situation we anticipate as “peak oil sales,” as Greg notes above.

    My perspective is that, after 26 years in the Army and having endured repetitive deployments to the Middle East, I decided that the number one national security priority is getting the country off our dependency on oil. Note, I do not say “foreign oil.” When I go to the gas pump, I do not see a pump for “domestic” and another for “foreign.” Our addiction is undifferentiated. We simply need to begin to make the societal energy transition in earnest. I think all the pragmatic “we cannot turn the lights off today” arguments are really just delay tactics. We need cutthroat no-holds-barred commitment, and surprisingly, the one corner of our national economy-enterprise where that commitment is starting to show up is the Department of Defense. Take a look at this report, authored by a platoon of retired generals and admirals, speaking to the national need to break the habit:

    I will come back here tomorrow and report on what I found in the film. But I really look for frank, responsible accounting for how we get out of the corner we have painted ourselves into. The time for half-measures, in my mind, is long past. But I am afraid that only a really severe crisis, brought on by our dependency, will create the conditions that can lead to real change. Time will tell.

  9. Brian M says:

    Post-viewing report:

    Last night, I was one of the attendees at the Barton Creek Mall showing of the film, here in Austin Texas (which is gearing up for the annual SXSW interactive festival), which I attended with four other friends. I did not get the chance to talk to Mark Mathis after the film–lots of others were milling around and I knew I had to get headed home–but some of what I say below is what I would have conveyed to him.

    First, I applaud the general purpose of raising the profile of the issue. I agree with him when he says, as he did to the audience last night, that as a country, we just aren’t tackling the necessary work of a) recognizing we have a real energy problem and b) identifying viable short and long-term solutions to that problem. So for doing that: Mark, thanks for the service your film provides. Your film does make a contribution to the broader discussion, and highlights many important points about how we got to where we are, what it means, and what some prominent observers of the topic see the debate and options moving forward.

    The film was entertaining. The transitions generally make sense and create a narrative sequence that the average audience member, I think, can follow. The audio quality–important especially because of the number of interviews the film provides excerpts from–are clear, crisp, and flow together reasonably well. The image of Mark walking with the (presumably) empty gas can works as a connective motif. There are moments of humor, such as the “three amigos” of New Mexico dressed up as mariachis.

    Now for some observations on the substance: the thrust of the film, the conclusion it seems to extend to viewers, the assumptions that consciously or unconsciously seem to undergird its position.

    About halfway through the film, I found myself starting to feel mildly uncomfortable. I think that the “slant,” and I am among those who left unconvinced that the film achieves any kind of impartial, above-the-fray analysis, by the end of the viewing was decidedly pro status quo. By status quo, I mean that I can see Mark being invited to the Republican National Convention and would be warmly received. He cumulatively ends up defending the oil industry, both the majors and smaller, independent industry members. The selection of interviewees includes many who represent strongly conservative, even whiplash right-wing people: James Inhofe, the poster boy of the anti-Climate Change movement and perhaps the senator in the US Congress with the deepest pocket oil interests; Lord Monckton, from the UK, who was used presumably to “expose” the Climategate” email fiasco and deride those who support aggressive reduction of fossil fuels dependency; Robert Bryce, author of the books “Power Hungry” and “Gusher of Lies,” whose message seems to me to most closely align with Mark’s: Bryce speaks regularly around town here in Austin, where he lives, so his point of view is especially familiar–his BASIC argument is that any sensible person who looks at the same BP data sets he has will come to the same conclusion–that there is no future free of oil, and most attempts to decouple ourselves from the oil-driven lifestyle are quixotic, misguided, misinformed, or deluded, or all of the above. By returning to Bryce repeatedly throughout the film, Mark tips his hand considerably in revealing the bias he himself has. Of course, the interspersed shots of Mark looking askance at various iconic images, such as an anti-EXXON poster he saw on the wall in the Greenpeace office where he interviewed their rep, are smarmy techniques to underscore that view.

    [see part II, to follow...]

    the next great global industry: energy and resource efficiency

  10. Brian M says:

    Correction: I said Jeremy Revkin. I’m sorry…should be Andrew Revkin.

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