Growing up in North Dakota, producer Todd Melby drove through miles of open prairie that went "seemingly forever." But the recent oil boom has transformed that tranquil landscape drastically. In Rough Ride: The Oil Patch Tour he documents the influx of drillers, frackers, truckers, and others flooding the region to make their fortunes.
Rough Ride puts a human face on the oil rush through a series of vivid and sometimes humorous video "chapters." Produced with interactive storytelling partner Zeega, incubator station Prairie Public, and AIR, the documentary builds upon Melby's reporting for his Localore project, Black Gold Boom.
Watched in sequence, the videos take about 20 minutes—but there's a deep well of additional content for those who want to dig. At the end of each chapter, users will find interactives: information visualizations on drilling and crime, photo and video galleries, or first-hand tips on thriving in the oil fields. (Note: best viewed in the latest versions of Chrome or Firefox.)
As Melby discovers, some are making bank, and others just scraping by. Finding a place to live is a particularly difficult proposition. While the minimum wage is higher in the boom areas, so is rent. Chapter 5, "Nowhere to Lay My Head," illustrates this through the story of Robert Reid, 49, who moved from Florida only to be laid off from the dishwashing job he'd found at a truck stop.
Reid was sleeping in the woods when Melby spoke with him in August, "I've just been winging it, you know," he said. A gallery of photos by Melby and award-winning photographer Ben Garvin show the range of trailers, pre-fab homes and "man camps" that have been hastily set up to meet housing demands.
Melby's Black Gold Boom coverage has already drawn national attention, with a series of pieces airing on Marketplace over the last few months. Listen to NPR's Tell Me More today, and APM's The Story on Wednesday for more background and voices from the oilfields.
A Social Storytelling Fusion
Like other Localore sites that Zeega has co-produced—see Austin Music Map and Planet Takeout—Rough Ride demonstrates the power of the production platform that the interactive storytelling team is building. Video, photos and audio are all dynamically served up, drawn in real time from social platforms such as YouTube, Flickr and Dropbox. Clickable graphics such as "Love, Hate & Everything In Between," pictured above, hover over video backdrops, providing access to yet more stories.
By inventing tools for producers to seamlessly combine their own reporting with user contributions, the Zeega team is opening up the documentary craft in new ways. Check back for news on the launch of other Zeega-powered Localore sites in the coming weeks..