BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is well-known as one of the largest environmental disasters in U.S. history. But what is not as well known is how BP, with U.S. government approval, attempted to sink the oil rather than clean it up, using the toxic dispersant Corexit — and then covered up the practice. Some estimates are that 75% of the oil — 150 million gallons — is still unaccounted for.

On April 20th, 2010, the BP Deep Water Horizon floating oil rig drilling on the Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, killing eleven crewmen and injuring seventeen others. The rig burned for three days and then sank in a mile of water fifty miles off the coast of Grand-Isle Louisiana. Over the next three months, the well gushed an estimated 4.9 million barrels of crude oil into Gulf waters, spanning thousands of square miles, threatening hundreds of miles of coastal wetlands and an abundance of wildlife. It was the largest accidental marine oil spill in history.

While BP struggled to cap the spewing well, they began using unprecedented amounts of the controversial chemical dispersant Corexit, both on the surface and, for the first time, sub-sea injection at the broken well-head 5,000 feet below. Many locals and a few officials feared BP was only using these chemicals to sink the oil, concealing the magnitude of the disaster. Since there are no long-term environmental impact studies for the use of Corexit in these amounts or in this manor, the EPA and the Coast Guard responded to public pressure and issued a directive, on May 25th, to eliminate the use of surface dispersants, except in rare cases, however BP found ways to circumvent this directive.

By May, the fishing industry was brought to a stand still and in early June oil began hitting the beaches, severely impacting the multi-billion dollar tourist-based economy all along Gulf shores. The local state and federal governments now found themselves struggling to safeguard public health and the economy. Of the two, the economy was given priority. The long-term environmental impact of crude oil mixed with Corexit is largely unknown. Studies are being conducted but only time will tell. In the documentary Pretty Slick, James Fox investigates this important — and nearly forgotten — story.

Narrated by Peter Coyote

Rights Available

Worldwide Television, VOD, Digital (exclusive of the United States)

Program Details

FORMAT: 1 x 52’ Documentary Television Special (1 x 70’ Feature Documentary also available)

Technical Details

MASTER FILE: ProRes 422, 1920 x 1080
VIDEO: Texted and Textless versions available
AUDIO: Full Mix Stereo and MDE Tracks available


Production Notes

James Fox (director/producer)
James was born in England and raised in New York and California. He began his journalism career early in life as an assistant to father/writer Charles Fox, a quadriplegic with Multiple Sclerosis. Together they travelled on many magazine assignments from Rolling Stone, Car & Driver to Sports Illustrated. James finished and sold his first documentary to Discovery by the time he was 28. He has since completed 5 films for the likes of Sci-Fi and History Channel and has made frequent appearances on the Larry King Show, Night Line, Dateline, Anderson Cooper and others.

Pretty Slick includes commentary from Dr. Carl Safina and Dr. Samantha Joye

Mark Fraser
Associate Producer
Born in Durango Colorado on a ranch, Fraser has always had a love for the outdoors. After high school, he migrated to California where took up nature photography. His works were published in California Living, National Geographic and Sunset Magazine to name a few. Fraser worked as a contractor specializing in seawalls in northern California while raising two children; protecting coastlines from the forces of nature. Today Fraser is concerned about protecting nature from the forces of man. In 2005 he took up documentary film-making as a medium to reach the masses. A year later, he produced and directed The Good Fight (www.thegoodfightthemovie.com) that premiered at Mountain Film Festival in Telluride where it won the award for Best Water and Conservation documentary. In 2008, a longer version of The Good Fight aired on PBS as part of the Natural Heroes series. In 2009, he co-produced the film I Know What I Saw, which aired on The History Chanel. Now a grandfather, Fraser is dedicated to projects promoting environmental protection and sustainable energy. He is an associate producer of Pretty Slick, a documentary film on the BP oil spill disaster. 

Dr. Carl Safina
Marine Biologist, Blue Ocean Institute
President and co-founder of the Blue Ocean Institute and author of several books on marine ecology and the ocean, including the award winning Song for the Blue Ocean (1998) and Eye of the Albatross (2002). Dr. Safina is currently hosting a TV show, Saving the Ocean with Carl Safina featured on PBS. His new book, A Sea in Flames: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Blowout, was released April 19th 2011.

Dr. Samantha Joye
Professor, Department of Marine Sciences, University of Georgia
The UGA team, led by Samantha Joye, professor of Marine Sciences, UGA, has been involved in Gulf of Mexico research for more than 15 years and serves as a leader in the independent scientific effort to document and track the ecosystem impacts of the BP oil spill. Since the capping of the broken well-head, Dr. Joye has taken three trips to the seabed floor in submarine ALVIN.


“Pretty Slick also does not let the government off the hook: despite massive fines against BP, no new federal safety standards have been put into place. An invigorating work of investigative filmmaking that is certain to spark much-needed discussions about environmental safety issues, this is highly recommended.” ***1/2 Video Librarian