By Jack Beanstalk
Halfway through the production of Jorge Cervantes’ just-released grow-guide DVD, the entire cast and crew woke up at dawn for a glorious morning boat ride from our home base in the city of Vancouver to Vancouver Island, about 10 nautical miles across the Strait of Georgia. We made the journey because the Island—19,356 square miles of thriving Pacific Northwest landscape—offered not only a needed change of scenery, but also access to some of the best grass growers that Canada has to offer, several of whom had extended to Jorge the professional courtesy of a rare entrÃ©e into their private gardens.
At our first stop, we were hosted by a graying married couple, longtime locals very much in love with the plant—together, they ran Vancouver Island Seed Company—and also very much in awe of having Jorge Cervantes himself in their kitchen. They offered us delicious homemade fruit-flavored iced tea, cone-shaped spliffs of their finest harvest and permission to film their precious plants. We quickly assembled a small makeshift set on their back deck, where Jorge went through a step-by-step demonstration of taking clones and later placed a male and female plant side by side to demonstrate their distinguishing differences. As he explained each new aspect of growing herb, I jotted a corresponding check in the appropriate square of my director’s notebook, breathing a small sigh of relief as the ultimate goal grew one step closer.
When the business portion of the afternoon ended, we relaxed with our hosts, chatting over another round of herb and some raw hemp seed. But despite the pleasant company and fantastic weed, I found myself highly distracted instead of just high. In my mind, I couldn’t stop going over the next location, the next scene, the next set of problems that inevitably arrive on any film production—never mind one where every shot takes place inside an active crime scene. Fortunately, Jorge’s name pulls a lot of water up in British Columbia, and some of the most prominent members of the local grow scene graciously opened their homes and gardens to our cameras, which is to say that we truly couldn’t have done it without them. For a bunch of criminals, I have to say, they sure turned out to be some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.
Perhaps I should explain something: I smoke weed daily—many, many times a day during this particular project—but I’ve never even thought about growing it myself, due to a severe case of “brown thumb” that my many houseplants would gladly attest to if they weren’t already dead. That knowledge gap left me with a lot to learn about growers and growing as we went along, and although Jorge made it all sound easy and comprehensible, it was also pretty hard to keep straight, never mind making sure to get it all down on tape. By the end of that first week, my head was constantly spinning and I was completely run ragged—feeling, quite frankly, like I’d be glad when the whole thing was over and done with. Then I could relax.
Anyway, at some point that I hadn’t noticed, the husband-and-wife team had disappeared briefly into their bedroom, only to return with a large three-ring binder bursting with pages, each individually wrapped in its own plastic protective sleeve. They carried the text gingerly, like a sacred volume full of practical wisdom.
“Back when your book was still banned in Canada, we smuggled this copy across the border and made photocopies to share with our friends,” they explained to Jorge, who smiled appreciatively—thinking not of lost publishing royalties, but of all those pot plants grown. “A lot of people in this community owe their livelihoods to this book. We just thought you’d want to see it.”
A banned book. I was stunned at first, and then deeply humbled by the long, wonderful samizdat tradition that Jorge’s book was now a part of—a history shared by Lolita, Ulysses, Huckleberry Finn and other classic works. And even though Jorge’s books are now readily available on both sides of the border, plus everywhere else in the world (except Australia, where it’s still banned), in English, Dutch, German, French and Spanish (and soon Portuguese, Italian and Japanese), and have sold 500,000 copies since his first self-published print run in 1983, it’s unfortunately not hard to imagine an America where this kind of information will once again find itself actively suppressed. The war on marijuana has many fronts, not the least of which is the heavily funded stream of misinformation that the federal government puts out regarding this most persecuted plant. In fact, simply reminding people that pot is in fact just a plant—one of God’s creations and blessings—puts you deeply at odds with the powers that be. Teaching people to grow it is practically a revolutionary act.
Holy shit, it finally dawned on me, after months of planning and a week of on-location shooting, this isn’t a project or even a movie; it’s a mission— my chance to pay back a portion of the debt I owe to Mary Jane for all the help and sanity she’s granted me over the years, plus an opportunity to stick it to the Man while I’m doing it.
With this realization, my enthusiasm immediately returned and never wavered again, despite a grueling schedule that took us through a blur of beautiful growrooms, greenhouses and outdoor gardens. After seeing that smuggled copy of Jorge’s book—itself the “mother plant” for countless underground copies—this director was left in awe and pretty much speechless, aside from three little words: Lights, camera, action!