The inside story of Northern California's legendary pot farmers. Are the good times coming to an end?
DECEMBER 20TH UPDATE:
As of today, we have only 8 days to raise almost $28,000. While this is still technically possible, it’s looking unlikely. Then again, miracles can happen.
WE'VE GOT A PLAN B!
Even without a miracle, we’ve got a Plan B: Select a level at which you want to support us and click “Back This Project”. Even if we don’t make the all-or-nothing deadline, once the campaign is over, you can directly send us a check or money order for your pledge amount and we’ll still send you the rewards for your contribution level just as if we’d have made our total campaign amount. Any money will allow the editor to get a running start on the film while we find ways to raise the remainder of the funds. It’s a win/win for everyone!
Keep telling your friends, sharing on Facebook and Twitter, pitching the campaign to your mailing lists! Every bit will help. Thank you!
ONE GOOD YEAR, THE DOCUMENTARY "So many people have told this story wrong for so long. It's nice to finally see it done right.”
While "Humboldt" has become synonymous with high-grade marijuana for both the medical and black markets, the outside world knows little about the farmers themselves.
ONE GOOD YEAR tells the story of the everyday lives of four medical marijuana growers and their unique community behind the Redwood Curtain in the remote hills of Humboldt County, California. With unprecedented access, the film presents an insider’s view of this legendary pot-farming culture, the question of legalization, and why many farmers wonder if the good times may be coming to an end.
(NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Thanks for sharing our video! But, please include a prominent link to this page so supporters can easily find us. Thank you!)
IT’S ABOUT THE DRUG WAR
The purpose of the film goes beyond Humboldt and its unique grower culture. ONE GOOD YEAR will help reframe the narrative around marijuana cultivation by showing the family-farmer, community-minded and ecologically-responsible growing that the Humboldt pot economy has been built on for 40 years.The film will provide an alternative to the drug war propaganda that associates marijuana farming with environmental degradation, violence and criminal activity, thereby helping those working to transition society to more sane marijuana policies.
THE FILM IS IN THE CAN!
The entire film has been shot and we’ve got a great editor on board. Now all we need to bring this great story to the world is funding for the edit.
HOW KICKSTARTER WORKS Kickstarter is all or nothing. We have to raise the entire $31,000 before December 29th or your credit card is not charged, we don’t get funding and no rewards are mailed out.
But, never fear! See PLAN B, above.
A SPECIAL PLACE CALLED HUMBOLDT COUNTY AND A YEAR LIKE NO OTHER.
On remote ridges, down dusty roads, behind locked gates, in a county where pot is the only industry, three generations of growers have built a thriving alternative culture, complete with their own radio station, off-grid homesteads, organic gardens, art and music festivals, community center and alternative schools.
After enduring decades of pressure from law enforcement, they now face a bigger challenge: the possibility of marijuana legalization and the end of the black-market that the entire local economy revolves around. Proposition 19, the marijuana legalization initiative on California’s 2010 statewide ballot, forced people to contemplate the consequences of a post-prohibition future. While my film participants are medical growers, much of the surrounding community still operates in the black market. Any changes in this larger economy will affect the future of the entire community, no matter whom they grow for.
In 2010, for the first time ever, the Humboldt community publicly admitted the importance of marijuana to its past, present and future and asked, What’s next? Some opposed legalization out of fear that the pot market would be taken over by a corporate monopoly, while others embraced legalization and took steps to adapt. Most held their breath and waited to see what would happen next.
Proposition 19 ultimately failed at the polls, but the “what’s next?” conversation that began in the community continues to this day, providing the unique spirit of openness that allowed this film to be made.
A STORY ABOUT AMAZING PEOPLE
While there are many important political, economic and environmental issues that shape the story of marijuana in Humboldt, I sought out a very human-centered, character-driven story that is engaging on a person-to-person level. Even if growing marijuana while living on a remote homestead off the grid in Northwestern California is the farthest thing from your daily reality, I still believe that you’ll find empathy and commonality with the people in the film.
ONE GOOD YEAR is shot in cinema-verite style, following four California-legal, medical-use pot farmers through an unusually eventful year in their lives.* From planting to harvest, we follow the ups and downs of living an agricultural lifestyle in a small, rural community while the world around them changes rapidly.
We’ve also got an awesome soundtrack. Humboldt is full of home-grown and very talented musicians, many of whom are excited to let us use their songs in ONE GOOD YEAR. “Family Felony” by the Camo Cowboys was a perfect fit for the trailer and Cash Johnson graciously let us use it. (If you want to hear more of the Camo Cowboys, check out their page on Myspace.com.)
CORPORATE MEDIA ALWAYS GETS IT WRONG
Humboldt County has been the subject of untold magazine articles and radio and TV news shows, most of which do little more than perpetuate the worst of the hype and sensationalism: gun-toting growers in ski masks, shootouts with law enforcement, foreign cartels trespassing on National Forests or rich hippies rolling in easy money. It’s the story lazy writers come here for because hype is an easy sell.
Having lived in this community for nearly 20 years, I’m hoping you’ll appreciate the deeper perspective and authenticity I bring to the story, qualities that can only come from a local’s sensitivity and experience. With legalization on the horizon and ever-increasing media attention focused on Humboldt County, it is more important than ever that this community tells its own story.
CROWDFUNDING: A COMMUNITY OF MICRO-PRODUCERS
I like to think of crowdfunding as “fan funding”, since it directly connects viewers and supporters with producers and directors, eliminating the traditional funding gatekeepers. If there’s an audience for a film, it can be made and distributed. Everyone with a few bucks to spare becomes a film (micro-)producer. That’s why all contributors get a thanks on the website and contributors of $100 get a thanks in the film credits. It’s our way of acknowledging everyone who helped, in whatever big or small way.
AND IF WE RAISE MORE THAN OUR GOAL?
We’ll feel incredibly honored that our supporters have our backs. We’ll still need money for color grading, sound design, and miscellaneous expenses like E&O insurance, music licensing and so on, all of which add up fast. Once the film is released, we’ll have film festival submissions, distribution expenses, outreach and the like. As we get close to our goal, we’ll be announcing “stretch goals” to cover these expenses, with some special rewards as encouragement.
Taking this on as a personal passion project has meant that I’ll be the last to get paid, but being able to earn a small producer/director/cinematographer salary for my work would be a blessing if there’s funding available when all else is said and done. If that level of extra funding were raised, it would free up more of my time now to help with post-production and outreach.
HOW KICKSTARTER WORKS.
The way Kickstarter works is that your account is not charged and we don’t get a dime and you don’t get the rewards—nothing, it all gets canceled—unless we meet the entire funding goal by the deadline. What that means is that every dollar matters and the sooner it is pledged, the better! Pledge early, pledge often!
Even if you can’t afford to back us, spread the word to your friends and networks. Remember, sharing is caring. Tell your friends on Facebook. Tweet about it to your followers. Blog about the project or call for an interview. Share links to this page anywhere. It even helps to put up posters in your town. Let’s get the word out to all our future ONE GOOD YEAR fans far and wide. Game on! We can do this!
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: A COMMUNITY IN THE SHADOW OF PROHIBITION
As the energy of the ’60s counter-culture waned in the urban centers, particularly San Francisco, many young people chose to continue the Utopian experiment by moving into rural areas where they could live off-grid, closer to nature and out of the prying eyesight of authorities.
When they first arrived in this part of Northern California, these “new settlers,” rarely had much in the way of income. Welfare and food stamps were often necessary to survive as they eked out a living in the depressed rural economy.
While not coming here specifically to grow pot, home vegetable gardens were the obvious place to plant some of the seeds from the bottom of the baggies of imported Mexican weed that people smoked. Once they realized that friends back in the city were willing to pay for the extra weed they grew, the Humboldt pot economy was born.
Southern Humboldt’s combination of climate, remoteness and a culture of disdain for authority going back to the moonshine days provided the perfect substrate in which the new culture’s roots could take hold and anchor tight. While the back-to-the-land-ers came for the land and community, growing marijuana gave them a way to fund their dream.
Forty years later, the Garberville area is booming and has become a hub of countercultural values and institutions. A large community center was built—mostly with donated labor—along with alternative schools, a vibrant homesteading community, a listener-funded radio station and a robust economy based on the marijuana trade.
The title, ONE GOOD YEAR, comes from an oft-repeated phrase around Southern Humboldt that goes something like this, “I’m going to quit growing weed and do [fill-in-the-blank], but first I need just one good year.” People have been known to repeat it year after year, without a touch of irony.
THE QUESTION OF LEGALIZATION
A year-in-the-life would have made an interesting film in and of itself, but there was also a marijuana legalization measure on the November, 2010 California ballot that many feared would be the beginning of the end of their cherished way of life. The measure—Proposition 19—ultimately failed at the polls, but its mere presence started people talking and organizing and considering how to adapt to the changing marijuana economy like never before.
The discussion that took place around Prop 19 and the tension leading up to the election—which coincided with the pot harvest—provides a political narrative that interweaves with the on-the-ground, year-in-the-life narrative, each bringing richness to the other.
Much of the Humboldt community felt that Proposition 19 was written in such a way that not only would it legalize and therefore devalue pot, but that it would put the entire marijuana industry directly into the hands of corporate monopolies—a bad thing for both growers and consumers. Others who grow under the California medical marijuana guidelines feared that the measure would take away their ability to grow and supply patients with marijuana.
What will come out in the film is the landscape and community that the back-to-the-land-ers hold so dear and the special lifestyle they’ve been able to scratch out of the rugged hills with their bare hands over three generations. It is a region with no other economy besides marijuana. So, when the people talk about their concern for the economy and the falling price of pot, they are indirectly expressing their love of their land and community and the fear of losing their way of life. They are asking the same questions as anyone facing loss of their job anywhere: how will I put a new roof on my house or pay for my child’s education?
When Proposition 19 failed, even many of those who voted for it breathed a sigh of relief, feeling that it gave the community time to come out of the shadows, organize and help create a sensible, economically democratic, farmer-friendly marijuana policy. As one of my film subjects said recently, “Prop 19 came at us. If we organize, the next legalization initiative can come from us.”
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
The greatest single challenge so far was figuring out how I would tell the story of a community steeped in secrecy and embedded in the black market. Prior to 2010, even those growing legally under California’s Proposition 215 medical-use law still felt the need to live largely underground.
I’d been pondering this conundrum for a few years prior to starting production. I had considered using actors and reenactments, hidden faces, animation and so on to tell the story in a more stylized way. Once Proposition 19 raised the prospect of legalization and the community realized the necessity of stepping into the light and organizing for its needs, I was able to make the film I’d always wished for.
Once the participants generously and bravely agreed to share their lives with the world, I dove into production. It was exhausting. I had hoped to be able to hire a cinematographer and sound person, but so many of the shoots have a one-on-one intimacy that would have been ruined by the presence of a crew.
As the election drew near in November, 2010, I began to see the possibility that if legalization passed in California, the story might only be starting. I spent election night in the KMUD studio, filming the frenzy of the newsroom until 2am. When Proposition 19 had clearly failed, I realized my film had an ending and I was done.
The sense of relief was so stark that it brought me to tears on the drive home. The challenge now is to keep the momentum and see this through till the end credits roll on premier night. I'm quite confident that if I could pull all that off single-handedly, things can only get easier from here on out.
Having Gretta on board is a godsend. When we first met and spent a few days watching selects footage together, I could see immediately that she was “getting it”, not an easy thing with the Humboldt story. I’m stoked with her work so far and confident that she’ll do magic in the edit room.
The immediate challenge ahead is raising money to pay salaries and other post-production expenses. That's, of course, why we're here on Kickstarter.
Once the film is finished, we'll have to do some serious thinking about our distribution plan. My personal inclination is to skip the usual practice of holding the film back while waiting for an A-list festival premier. Instead, I'd prefer to take a more modern approach, one that acknowledges that this film is a collaboration between those involved in its production and our fans who will be funding us and supporting us in other ways.
This would involve tapping into our support base and bringing the film to theaters or campuses or conference rooms wherever there was the demand, selling DVDs/downloads immediately and applying to every festival without regard to premier status. There are up- and downsides to every option, so we'll have to consider everything carefully once we get to that point.
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