Members are doing great things; Dale Beaumont-Brown is crowdfunding to make a documentary on the medicinal use of cannabis. A topical issue which is very much in debate, and their reasons for making it are worth hearing, I think. Anyway, here’s Dale with the rest…
GrassRoots: The Cannabis Revolution, is a feature-length documentary exploring the medicinal use of cannabis, the patients involved & the campaign to change UK law. With unrestricted access to activists/medical cannabis patients, we lift the lid on the people within the UK movement. A subculture of politically driven people who feel they are forced to break the law getting access to the medication needed to treat their varying conditions.
Over the course of 3 years we explore their lives and why they campaign for change. As well as discussing the beneficial properties of cannabis, investigating the UK’s drug laws, and challenging cannabis stigma.
Whilst GrassRoots is a story of the cannabis campaign as a whole, it’s also a personal exploration into one particular activists life. Clark French is a 29 year old campaigner, struggling with multiple sclerosis, personal and familial demons and the battle to get safe access to his medicine; cannabis. He is also my cousin.
This is what drove me to telling this story. I was interested in making a film about cannabis, the illegality shrouding it and the struggle for patients/activists to get it legalised, but most of all I wanted to produce a character study about someone having to deal with life after being dealt a really cruddy hand.
Some challenges & perspectives on making a Cannabis documentary:
Up to now, (we’re running a Kickstarter campaign – more info at bottom of post) it’s been entirely self-funded. Dozens of excursions, hotels, dodgy petrol-station sandwiches, crew, flights to San Francisco, Denver, Amsterdam (twice) & Barcelona (twice). It’s been an uphill battle. Luckily my day job running my media production company in Norwich, UK (Elixir Media Production) means I was able to fund the shooting of GrassRoots with the money accrued from other documentary/corporate shoots.
‘Patience’, not, ‘patients’ –
I’ve been making films & docs for 8 years but this is my first feature-length documentary. So, there’s a point when dealing with social issue docs like this, when you suddenly realise, “right this is going to take years to document, not months!” However, I never really found that a hindrance, more of a motivator.
As a documentary filmmaker one of the most difficult (and deciding of factors) to commit to something for such a long period is getting access to the subject you want to highlight, in this case, the relatively secretive world of cannabis and the activists within it. I stumbled into this completely by mistake.
My cousin is a prominent and outspoken activist in the ‘canna’ community, having founded several national cannabis reform organisations. This got me into some places normal media were not ordinarily permitted and afforded me a lot of trust that maybe I didn’t deserve.
However at the same time, I was doing a ton of research and kept coming back to the fact that apart from the occasional article or news segment, there simply was not a feature-doc out there exploring the cannabis issue with the sort of access that I was getting. I was not going to squander this opportunity and embroiled myself in the UK’s cannabis movement.
There were also some great moments too that I’m looking forward to seeing on the big screen. I had unrestricted access to a medical marijuana facility in Denver, Colorado right around the time cannabis was going legal for recreational use.
– I had access to River Rock for two full days and filmed EVERYTHING; from seed, to weed.
– An interview amongst 2000 plants (some 12 foot high).
– The trim room, where they trimmed the crop was so large it was a converted bus depot.
– And the dispensary where the patients got access to some 75 ‘top-shelf’ strains, edibles and concentrates.
I also fulfilled a bucket list item in the Bay Area by filming at the Golden Gate Bridge… and that’s all I’m going to say about that scene. It’s too epic to spoil!
GrassRoots is as much a film about socio-political injustices as it is passion and dedication. You will be introduced to people committed to fighting against the odds; whilst struggling with ill health & the threat of criminal conviction in the face of societal stigma. Despite this, they fight for something they believe in.
GrassRoots is important because as a socially-conscious feature-documentary, in 25 years’ time people may look back on this and say, “Do you remember when weed was illegal?” Documentary has the power to be a social document and stand the test of time; it is a continually relevant art-form.
Thank you; get in touch if you want to ask me anything.