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'Promised Land' Officially Starts Production, Oil Drilling Plotline Detailed

The Playlist By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist April 24, 2012 at 3:22PM

As "Promised Land" has been moving along, gathering up financing, a director and a cast, the actual plot details have been kept mostly under wraps, with only vague allusions to a Capra-esque tale about two rivals in a small town. In the last few weeks, the filmmakers behind the Kickstarter-funded documentary "FrackNation" posited that the film written by Matt Damon and John Krasinski was going to be an anti-fracking movie (fracking is essentially the process by which water and chemicals are blasted to separate rock layers to extract gas and oil). But of course, the documentarians are making a movie that purports to tell the "truth" about the controversial nature of fracking, so they had an agenda of their own to push, and besides their word, there was no indication that "Promised Land" was going to tackle that topic.
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Gus Van Sant Matt Damon

As "Promised Land" has been moving along, gathering up financing, a director and a cast, the actual plot details have been kept mostly under wraps, with only vague allusions to a Capra-esque tale about two rivals in a small town. In the last few weeks, the filmmakers behind the Kickstarter-funded documentary "FrackNation" posited that the film written by Matt Damon and John Krasinski was going to be an anti-fracking movie (fracking is essentially the process by which water and chemicals are blasted to separate rock layers to extract gas and oil). But of course, the documentarians are making a movie that purports to tell the "truth" about the controversial nature of fracking, so they had an agenda of their own to push, and besides their word, there was no indication that "Promised Land" was going to tackle that topic.

But today, Focus Features announced the film was now in production and along with that news, the studio dropped the first official synopsis which reveals that the story does take place in the oil industry, but you won't see the f-word anywhere and thematically, it seems to be reaching for something more than just a political issue.

The film will find Damon playing Steve Butler, a corporate salesman who arrives in a rural town with his sales partner, Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand). With the town having been hit hard by economic decline in recent years, the two outsiders see the local citizens as likely to accept their company’s offer, for drilling rights to their properties, as much-needed relief. What seems like an easy job for the duo becomes complicated by the objection of a respected schoolteacher (Hal Holbrook) with support from a grassroots campaign led by another man (Krasinski) who counters Steve both personally and professionally.

“Matt and I wanted to write a story about American identity. In all of today’s political and economic rhetoric, I feel people often lose sight of the deeper, core principles of what defines us as a country. We knew we needed to find a contemporary issue that would serve as the backdrop to the story but, more importantly, allow us to fully explore this idea,” Krasinski said in a statement. So while there will be an issue around which the story revolves, it seems it's all in serving the purpose of something deeper.

Rosemarie Dewitt, Scoot McNairy and Titus Welliver round out the cast, and issues-based drama or not, this one is certainly compelling.

This article is related to: Promised Land, Matt Damon, Gus Van Sant, John Krasinski


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