All posts about Notes from the Field

Lines Around the Corner

June 17th, 2012 by Daniel Coffin

Thank you Brookline/Boston for a great run so far.  We’ve had a blast hanging out at Coolidge Corner, hawking tickets and talking with the locals.  We’ve been proudly sporting our Urban Green Energy “Eddy” turbine, (thanks to the cooperation of town hall) and teaching folks about the benefits of “distributed renewable energy”, a major topic of exploration in Cape Spin!

Lines Around the Corner for Cape Spin!

Thanks to those efforts and the warm reception we’ve gotten from the Boston press, our short run here at the Coolidge has been an unqualified success!  Thanks to all who’ve come out to see the film.

Posted in Cape Spin News, Notes from the Field, Top Story

Martha’s Vineyard Recap

August 11th, 2011 by Daniel Coffin

In case you missed it, our sneak peek on the Vineyard was quite an event.  I arrived on the island Tuesday morning, and we were set up at a fine spot called the Point Way Inn thanks to the folks from the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society and the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival.  Despite the wonderful scenery and accommodations, I found it hard to relax.  As is the case whenever you start putting your work out there, our nerves were tight, and I was stuck in a loop praying the sound in the theater would be good.  By the time of the screening at 8pm, I had managed to convince myself that everyone was going to love – or at least enjoy – the film.  I can assure you that the Union Chapel is a great place to catch a film, and the sound was not a problem.

Pre-screening tech check. Sound looks good!

There were, however, several other disturbances that were not predictable.  Have you ever been rained on while watching a movie before?  Well, our gracious attendees have.  About halfway into the film, a microburst (or perhaps just a small thunderstorm), descended on the Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs, and, due to a strong wind from a couple weeks prior, the two windows at the top of the steeple were stuck wide open.

Heavy winds and a soft mist, growing to a light rain, cooled our guests off for about five minutes as lightning and thunder cracked outside.  At one point everyone had evacuated their seats in the middle of the chapel and were standing around the edges intently watching the film.  I’m not sure, but I think the confusion during that section of the film may have helped fuel the second disruption which took place during the post-screening discussion.

If you’re familiar with the Cape Wind saga, you know that tensions, invective and strong opinions are abounding.  We’ve had no luck avoiding it ourselves, and because our goal with the film is to be objective and make the best case for both sides, we knew that we would ruffle some feathers, (and if done correctly, feathers on both sides).  The first speaker was Audra Parker, head of the opposition group, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.  She was not too pleased with our portrayal.  I’d also note that after the screening, the two employees of Cape Wind who attended voiced their own concerns over our editorial choices, so the score was more even than it may have appeared.  I won’t go into detail, but you can read several journalists’ perspectives at NPR, Vineyard Gazette and Vineyard Times.  While we did receive many warm compliments, especially after the panel was over, the general gist of the criticism was about perspective.  Virtually every issue about the Cape Wind controversy gets air time in our film, but our goal was never to resolve those issues.  They have been fought over in court, in the public dialogue, and in the bureaucracy of the local, state and federal governments.  Many of the issues in fact will never be resolved.

Our goal with the film is to document the process, to show how a battle like Cape Wind is fought, in the trenches, in the planning rooms of the organized combatants, through the often-muddied lens of the press.  The film raises more questions than it answers, it elicits visceral reactions, it incites debate, and, hopefully, it heightens dialogue.  Be sure to stay tuned as we continue to book sneak peeks and premiere next year.  And if you’re interested, we are accepting requests for this circus to come to your town next summer.

Posted in Cape Spin News, Notes from the Field, Top Story

The PA post: Squid and Whiskey (my introduction to Cape Wind)

June 24th, 2010 by Caitlin Rotman

No, I did not get drunk off of whiskey. That might have been a bad career move for my first week of work. I am Caitlin, and I just began working with Rebirth Productions as a Production Assistant. That means that I go along on many of the shoots, conduct research and coordinate logistics, keep the notes, help film, collect sound, make sure we don’t forget anything, and when we do, I go find whatever we may have left behind. And, occasionally, I’m the lucky one who gets the coffee. From my privileged perch, I get to see all that goes on in production, and then while the producers are cranking away with the editors (they’re doing a lot of that these days), I get to share with you what our production team is up to. Expect lots of updates from now on!

So, what do squid and whiskey have to do with this? I’m getting to that…

My first week on the job, we were filming the fishermen. Cape Wind Associates is hoping to build America’s first offshore wind farm on Horseshoe Shoal, and opponents to the wind farm claim it will disrupt fishing in that area for at least the amount of time required to build the project and perhaps longer. The chief fisheries that occur in Horseshoe Shoal are squid, conch, and scup. The squid fishery is the most productive, but it is only in operation for a few weeks out of the year.

To get the story, we shot fishermen in a meeting with the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, we filmed them on a boat out at sea while fishing, and we filmed them from the air, trawling around the Cape Wind Meteorological Tower.

In order to film the fishermen at work, Producer Dan Coffin pulled his weight aboard the Quitsa Strider, captained by Matthew Mayhew and operating out of Menemsha on Martha’s Vineyard. In his 24 hour trial, Dan became a fisherman. Sleep was replaced with hours of hauling lines, manning the helm, sorting through fish (thanks Division of Marine Fisheries) and hoisting crates. All that while he was filming the process and trying to keep squid goo off the camera lens.

But, there was a minor logistics problem: Director Robbie Gemmel and I needed the camera early the next morning on the Cape in order to film those same fishing boats from a helicopter before they sailed to other fishing grounds, off the shoal. So, we figured it out: the boat would land in Woods Hole near midnight to offload over 3,000 pounds of fish. We got a call from Dan a few hours before they docked. The message: bring a bottle of whiskey. I guess that the life of a fisherman is… trying. It is hard work and sometimes tough to make ends meet. I witnessed this firsthand at the Alliance meeting, and so did Robbie and Dan. A week earlier, I certainly would not have predicted that I would be sitting on a dark and isolated dock, at midnight, waiting for 3,000 lbs of fish and film equipment, with a bottle of whiskey. I will admit, Robbie and I tried not to get too carried away by the ridiculousness of the situation, and we saved most of the whiskey for Dan and the crew; they needed it more than we did.

I am no fisherman, but I certainly appreciate them, because I love to eat seafood. And, having driven hours to get to the dock when I should have been sleeping, there was no way I was leaving without some of the darn squid. After all, opponents to the project claim that the “premium quality” Nantucket Sound squid will be no more if Cape Wind is to be built. So, thanks Dan, for getting me some squid, just in case. I was told that meals on the road would be covered. I didn’t realize this is what was meant! And now, I certainly have a much greater appreciation for where my seafood comes from, and all the effort that goes into catching it.

Here is the final result of the squid spectacular when I got my payment home: behold the Grilled Sausage-Stuffed Squid. (Recipe here ).

Sausage-stuffed grilled squid fresh from Horseshoe Shoal

Sausage-stuffed grilled squid fresh from Horseshoe Shoal

What are your thoughts regarding the plight of the fishermen? If the fishing grounds do end up being disrupted, and possibly indefinitely off-limits to fishermen, would it be worth it for clean renewable energy? Is the Horseshoe Shoal fishing dispensable, considering the ramifications it could have for the fishermen? What are your thoughts?

Posted in Cape Spin News, Notes from the Field

Cape Wind: The Record of Decision

April 28th, 2010 by Daniel Coffin

We’ve been shooting and editing non-stop for the last couple of months, all the while anxiously awaiting any signal from the Interior Department about the fate of Cape Wind. Trying to pull meaning from the cryptic, carefully crafted messages of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has been a futile task, leading people on both sides to the brink of lunacy. Citing unresolved issues with the historical impact process, no final approval from the FAA, pending litigation over the EFSB “super permit”, it seemed entirely plausible that Salazar’s self-imposed deadline would slip by, like most other Cape Wind deadlines.

Well, the final moment is upon us. Recommended reading is Beth Daley at the Boston Globe. Off for a busy day of shooting!

Posted in Cape Wind Developments, Notes from the Field, Top Story

Whew, Where to Start

September 15th, 2009 by Daniel Coffin

Cape Wind has been all over the news in the last several weeks, and here I’ll do my best to briefly summarize them in order, starting with Obama’s Vineyard vacation, three weeks ago.

Obama arrived on Martha’s Vineyard Sunday via Marine One, and we only know this because of reports out of the White House. Not surprisingly, Obama made no mention of Cape Wind in between golf rounds, but there was plenty abuzz. Both the Alliance and Clean Power Now made it into a front page story in the LA Times which portrayed the delays for Cape Wind as bureaucratic lolly-gagging at the federal level. As opponents to the project would counter, there’s still a lot of questions to be answered. Anyhow, the piece is a great brush up on the Cape Wind state of affairs.

I mention the LA Times story first because it was written prior to the untimely passing of Massachusetts senior Senator Ted Kennedy. Kennedy’s legacy of fighting for Massachusetts, civil rights, women and the poor might never be matched, and his passing punctuates the painful vacuum of civility in our current discourse over healthcare. With regards to Cape Wind, his absence from the debate means as much as his opposition has over the last seven years. As the most outspoken political opponent of the project and as the whip which brought many of the state’s legislators in line with him, Kennedy’s departure opens the door for new voices in the political arena to take a leadership role in the battle, whether for or against Cape Wind. Based on comments by Kennedy’s nephew, Robert Kennedy, Jr., (starts around the 16 minute mark) last week, it looks like he’s poised to take that mantle on the opposition side.

The media is certainly playing the story up. I recommend checking out this hard-hitting, if not brassy, editorial in the Boston Globe on the day of Kennedy’s burial and a thorough Cape Cod Times story here.

Later the same week, Greenpeace showed up on the scene. I was filming some BRoll of the beautiful common at the shoreline of Oak Bluffs when I noticed some people handing out fliers to passers-by. Turned out, Greenpeace made a mock Martha’s Vineyard Times set in 2029 with one side praising Obama for approving Cape Wind and another side showing people putting up levees on the shoreline to combat rising seas. Later that day they went over to the marina and released the contraption in the photo below. As usual, there were a lot of raised eyebrows and plenty of explaining to people, all of which made for great film.

Greenpeace's Float in Oak Bluff's Marina

Greenpeace's Float in Oak Bluff's Marina - Courtesy of the Greenpeace website.

Later that day I stopped by the press pool which had taken over the auditorium of the Oak Bluffs School to see what was happening. Much to my chagrin, it was just a whole bunch of people plucking at laptops and milling around. Apparently when the President is on vacation, there’s not much for the press corps to do but wait.

They’ve certainly been busy since then, and I’ll follow up with another post in a few.

Posted in Cape Wind Developments, Notes from the Field

Powerful forces descending on Martha’s Vineyard

August 19th, 2009 by Daniel Coffin

As Hurricane Bill and the Presidential vacation bear down Martha’s Vineyard — only Obama’s arrival is certain — the island is whipping into a fury. Residents and businesses are preparing for an influx of national press and paparazzi and anticipate a big economic boost after a disappointing June. With the Washington press corps coming, reporters are looking for a narrative to hammer all week. The storyline is already starting to take shape.

Much to our delight, the Cape Wind debate, which is omnipresent in the island community, is popping up in national bylines (see National Journal), threatening to steal some of the thunder.

And the rumors are abounding that activists will be all over the island from both sides of the Cape Wind battle, hoping to catch Obama’s eyes and ears. His visit serves as an apt reminder of how important his role is in the Cape Wind debate. Since January’s favorable federal report the Cape Wind project has been stuck in limbo, awaiting a final decision from the President’s Interior Secretary on whether it can move forward. The decision is expected to come in the next month or so, but the feds have missed every other arbitrary deadline they’ve set before, so the battlers of Cape Wind are going on the offensive.

Be sure to contact us if you hear anything exciting or want to meet us on the island and get yourself on camera.

News from the film as well! The new trailer, which we premiered at Silverdocs, will be posted here and everywhere on Monday. We’ll also be updating regularly on the shenanigans over the next week, posting pictures and linking to stories, so stay tuned.

Posted in Cape Spin News, Notes from the Field, Top Story

Cape Cod Commission Holds Another Meeting!

April 1st, 2009 by Daniel Coffin

This past Monday the Cape Cod Commission (CCC) held a public meeting at the Barnstable District Courthouse to review its options as Cape Wind marches forward with its “super permit” issued by Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB). The EFSB reached a tentative decision in March to issue Cape Wind Associates a composite certificate which covers the final nine outstanding state and local approvals related to its electric cables.

The CCC was also overridden by the Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management (CZM) just in January when CZM issued a pair of certifications of the environmental reports for the proposed wind farm.  Following the CZM determinations, a pair of lawsuits were filed against the state for failing to consult with CCC, as required by law.

Punctuating Monday’s meeting several times was a glaring error in a front page Cape Cod Times (CCT) article in this past Friday’s issue: a supposed Cape Wind transmission cable was claimed to be 7 ¾ feet thick, though it is really just 7 ¾ inches.  Walter Brooks of Cape Cod Today wasted no time pouncing, publishing a comical artist’s impression of the imagined supercable.

While both sides take pleasure in each other’s shortcomings, the meeting had a more serious intent, to teem out a clearer position for the Cape Cod Commission as it seeks to reestablish its jurisdiction in state matters.  Many voices spoke out against Cape Wind, some reiterating oft-mentioned positions, while others offered new insight into how Cape Cod Commission should move forward.  Many of those voices are people who’ve been fighting this battle for a while: Cliff Carroll, Rob Brussiere, Charles McLaughlin, Sen. Rob O’Leary, and Tom Bernardo.  The Cape Cod Commission is an important regulator of the Cape Cod region – these several decisions by the Patrick administration overruling local jurisdiction will likely set precedents which slowly strip CCC of its strongest powers.

Key proponent of the wind farm, Rep. Matt Patrick (D-Barnstable), showed up to persuade the Commissioners from their long-held positions.  Patrick articulated how the anti-Cape Wind prejudice was ingrained from the early days of the battle when the Cape Cod Times launched its “editorial jihad”, writing over 100 op-eds in opposition to the project. “In the end, most of our elected and appointed boards’ decisions are subject to the perspectives of the people on them and the frame of mind they have been given by local media,” he said.

Before finishing his remarks Patrick admonished the CCC’s efforts in continuing to fight Cape Wind. He said, “The Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board has always been able to override local boards…always.”  Whether the decision stands is up in the air, but what we know for sure is the battle isn’t over yet.

Posted in Cape Wind Developments, Notes from the Field, Top Story

MMS Releases Report!

January 16th, 2009 by Daniel Coffin

It actually happened.

Just a sampling: “Analysis finds impacts are expected to be mostly negligible or minor; some moderate
impacts were found.”

Read about the rest here:

Update: at the Cape Wind press conference.  They’ve brought out Rep. Matt Patrick, Clean Power Now’s Barbara Hill and IBEW’s Marty Aikens.

Posted in Cape Wind Developments, Notes from the Field, Top Story


December 19th, 2008 by James Zhen

This winter’s first major snowstorm is currently dumping half a foot of snow across southern New England, and the meteorological tower installed in the middle of Nantucket Sound by Cape Wind Associates continues to collect data.

According to the Cape Windwebsite, the average wind speed over the past hour has been 35 knots, with the highest sustained wind gust at 43 knots. By Cape Wind’s calculations, the proposed wind farm would have generated 422 MWh, which is close to the maximum 468 MW of power that Cape Wind is rated to produce. For comparison’s sake, Cape Wind is expected to average 170 MW of power.

But would the turbines be able to generate power when the winds are blowing as hard as they currently are? According to the American Wind Energy Association, the answer is yes. Turbine manufacturers design their turbines to withstand wind speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. In more extreme weather conditions, the turbine blades turn out of the wind, thus slowing down the rotation of the blades.

Posted in Notes from the Field

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