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Know the West

Two North Dakota kids explain the Bakken boom

A film about their experience near the town of White Earth.


Note from the editors: The full-length version of this film was nominated for a 2015 Academy Award, for documentary short subject. 

Drilling in the oil-producing shale formation that spans North Dakota, northeastern Montana and part of Canada has been on the rise since late 2006, and the region’s social and economic landscapes are changing along with the boom.

“North Dakota’s per person gross domestic product increased nearly 11 percent from 2011 to 2012 — tops in the nation for the second straight year, and three times larger than runners-up Texas and West Virginia,” reports Pew Charitable Trusts. As of last summer: “crude oil production in North Dakota has more than quintupled since 2007 and natural gas withdrawals more than tripled, thanks to advances in technology such as horizontal hydraulic fracturing.”

Business Insider reports that Williston, N.D., a town at the center of the boom, now has some of the highest average rents for one-bedroom apartments in the United States. That’s around $2,300 a month. What have come to be known as “man camps,” or collections of modular homes for temporary workers in the industry, have sprung up around the region.

In this film, two kids give a glimpse of what it’s like to live through the boom as a young person. This version is a vignette, or short cut, of the larger film, "White Earth," which was shot in 2013. There is a lot of media coverage of the Bakken boom, but we think this work provides a fresh look at this complex and constantly unfolding story.

For more High Country News coverage of the Bakken oil and gas boom:

The Bakken oilfields: ‘No place for a woman’” by Sierra Crane-Murdoch

The Other Bakken Boom: America’s biggest oil rush brings tribal conflict” by Sierra Crane-Murdoch

The Bakken oil play spurs a booming business – in water” by Nicholas Kusnetz

Bakken oil trucks can kick up carcinogenic dust similar to asbestos” by Emily Guerin

J. Christian Jensen is a documentary filmmaker based in California. More information about this film can be found on its Facebook page and on Jensen's website.