A Stranded Nation: Young filmmaker seeks to get the facts straight about Canada’s oil and gas industry

Filmmaker Heidi McKillop in a screenshot from A Stranded Nation.

Heidi McKillop knows what it’s like to have the facts change your mind about oil and gas development, and she’s hoping her new documentary will help do the same for others.

The New Brunswick-born social work grad turned surface land administrator and now filmmaker has just released A Stranded Nation, a feature-length documentary that addresses the key issues around Canadian oil and gas development and explores the interconnections between oil and gas and everyday life.

It features interviews with prominent industry leaders and supporters including former New Brunswick Premier Frank McKenna, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel, Modern Resources CEO Chris Slubicki, BMO Capital Markets managing director Randy Ollenberger, researcher Vivian Krause and energy advocate Cody Battershill.

McKillop’s goal is for people across Canada, particularly young people, to be better informed about oil and gas.

As a student at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, she supported the province implementing a ban on fracking, but says that she was not properly informed.

“I didn’t believe that you could balance both business and environmental standards. I also thought that the oil and gas industry was irrelevant and was being phased out of Canada,” she says in A Stranded Nation.

McKillop moved to Calgary in 2013 and found work as an office administrator with an oil and gas company.

She then studied petroleum land administration at SAIT and moved into the role of junior land administrator with the same company until she was laid off in 2017.

“During the recession I actually lost my job and I became a full-time waitress at Joey Eau Claire. Basically what happened was I realized there was so much information out there that was misrepresented on oil and gas, so essentially I started thinking ‘well, what can I do, what would be something that people would actually be interested in?’ and I was actually watching Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary and I was like, ‘I’m going to make a documentary.’ Quite literally one day I woke up and decided to do it,” McKillop told JWN.

She says she chose the documentary format because she knows from her own circle it is an effective way to reach young people “who don’t like politics or don’t necessarily care.”

She didn’t have any filmmaking experience and taught herself the language of filming and editing using resources online. She also paid for the whole thing.

The lead camera operator, editor and drone pilot on the project is Calgary photographer Arden Shipley.

McKillop says her full time job at the popular restaurant in downtown Calgary helped her make the connections to put together the interviews for the documentary.

“Everyone started from me serving a table at Joey’s, every single person,” she says.

“Our overall message is that Canada is not an environmental laggard, it’s not dirty oil, that Alberta’s concerns should be heard and that we need to start working together cross-provincially.”

The full documentary is available on YouTube here.