By Andy Sheehan

APOLLO (KDKA) – They’re filming a movie called “Promised Land” in Armstrong County.

The townspeople are perched on folding chairs trying to get a glimpse of star Matt Damon and crew who have turned an old high school gymnasium into a movie set.

If art imitates life — here’s proof. Both filmmakers and the town of Apollo are trying to come to terms with the explosion of natural gas exploration.

“Course it’s a big moneymaker for the farmers, but what’s it doing to the land too?” questions Audrey Thompson, of Leechburg, said.

“I think it’s an opportunity, but there is a lot of controversy over it,” added another onlooker.

The movie script is tightly guarded, but those who have read it say it’s neither anti nor pro-drilling, but does profile a community trying to decide.

Watching the filming is Scott Baer who got a job fracking wells nearby and believes that shale gas drilling is a godsend to the Apollo area.

“Jobs all over the area,” he said.

But Margaret Smith says she’s concerned about the long-term impacts on the environment.

“I think I need more information before I can say, ‘Yeah, you can do that around my area,’” Margret Smith, of Apollo, said. “I mean, we got the little ones to think about. We don’t know what that’s going to hold for their future.”

Behind them, movie extras made up of their friends and neighbors file into the gym to shoot a town meeting scene about the very same debate.

In the controversy about shale gas drilling southwestern Pennsylvania takes center stage as Hollywood now has it’s say, but it’s unlikely that this film or others is going to settle the debate.

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