Weather Forecast


Red Wing native's fracking film debuts

Former Red Wing resident Jim Tittle received a call from his mother two years ago that an open-pit frac sand mine was being considered for the Hay Creek bluffs south of the city.

"It really threw me for a loop," said Tittle, who remembered the area well from his youth.

The curious Tittle set off with a video camera to research the issue of frac sand mining. His work culminated into the documentary film "The Price of Sand," premiering Friday March 22 at the Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing.

The documentary features interviews with people on both sides of the frac sand debate, from displaced homeowners to drivers who found work with mining companies. The goal of the film was to raise awareness of the human impact of frac sand mining, Tittle said.

"I want people to see other peoples' stories," Tittle said. "Wherever I could find a person affected by this, I'd go there and talk to them."

Tittle first traveled to mines in Le Sueur County and western Wisconsin, resulting in a series of YouTube videos that garnered more than 10,000 views in the summer of 2011. But he did not stop there.

"I came to realize I could either make more YouTube videos or explore the issue deeper," Tittle said -- and explore he did. Over the next 15 months he would travel the region interviewing people for a full-length documentary.

Having worked as a director of photography for 20 years, Tittle already owned much of the equipment necessary to make the documentary. But he would need help paying for gas and lodging on his travels, and so turned to crowdsourcing website Indiegogo.

"I had never heard of crowdsourcing," said Tittle, who, in his 50s, admitted to being behind the curve on some recent Internet trends.

Inidegogo provides a platform for people to create fundraising campaigns and receive pledges through its website.

Tittle's campaign asked for $5,600 over a 56-day period. By the end it had raised $6,816 from 96 donors, some of whom posted impassioned comments thanking Tittle for addressing the issue.

Tittle said he is aware of the strong emotion and controversy surrounding frac sand mining, especially in Goodhue County.

"There have been times I've been really upset, too," he said. But Tittle said he is not opposed to the idea of mining for frac sand -- most commonly silica -- just the way mines have been implemented in the region.

"I understand we use silica in a lot of different ways," he said. "But, if you look into this, you see all kinds of excess."

"The Price of Sand" will be part of the 2013 season of the Flyway Film Festival, a showcase of independent films founded in 2008 near Lake Pepin in southwestern Wisconsin.

Tickets for the March 22 screening in Red Wing can be ordered for $5 in advance at Tickets are $7 from the Sheldon box office on the day of the screening. Proceeds go to support Flyway Film Festival and local citizens group Save the Bluffs.

Tittle will be in attendance for a discussion following the film.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

(651) 301-7875