Santa Barbara Filmmaker Creates 2015 Refugio Oil Spill Documentary

Gail Osherenko's Online Fundraiser on Track to Raise $12,000

Gail Osherenko with members of the media waiting for the release of rehabilitated pelicans at Goleta Beach.

A Kickstarter campaign to fund Broke: The Santa Barbara Oil Pipeline Spill of 2015, a documentary about the Refugio Oil Spill, is in high drive this week and close to reaching its $12,000 goal.

Santa Barbara filmmaker Gail Osherenko chronicled the activist movement against the oil industry and government officials for two years after a corroded Gaviota Coast pipeline operated by Plains All American Pipeline broke and sent a stream of crude oil into the Pacific.

The inspiration for the film was spur-of-the-moment, Osherenko said: She was already filming a video on the gray whale count when she got a call from a friend about an oil spill nearby. As a birder, she knew how to reach the relatively remote area, while trying not to disturb the ongoing investigation. Viewers will learn firsthand “how unprepared we are to stop and clean up oil quickly after a spill,” Osherenko said, with volunteers arriving without protective gear and medical responders uninformed about the health hazards of oil exposure.

Buckets of oil cleaned off the shore just South of Refugio State beach the day after the oil spill (May 20, 2015)

The title Broke was born out of the cracked pipeline and the subsequent bankruptcy of Venoco, whose offshore Platform Holly was cut off from production after the spill. “Not only did our pipeline break, but Venoco went broke, and our whole dependence on fossil fuels is broken,” Osherenko said.

Osherenko wants to increase attention around the use of fossil fuels and pipeline spills, citing recent accidents in the Gulf of Mexico. Although the film is now in post-production, she is still keeping tabs on current events. “I’ve decided I’m done, but I’m still following really closely what changes will be made in our emergency plans and where the money will go that the environment gets as compensation for the damage that was done,” Osherenko said.

Paul Wellman (file)

The Kickstarter funds will be used to pay for final editing, licensing, and film festival application fees, including for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Broke has already been recognized with two IndieFEST Film Awards, for Documentary Feature and in the Nature/Environment/Wildlife category.

“There are groups of environmentalists around the country fighting new pipelines and fighting to make old ones safer,” Osherenko said. “We need to make a change.”


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