(Note: this story was from a week and a half ago! I was originally going to add some commentary based on some feedback I got from various people, so I held off posting it for a day. Then, between shoots and a major veterinary emergency with one of my pets that distracted me for a week, I spaced-out that I hadn’t publicized the story. Duh. It’s what happens when I try to be director/producer/cinematographer/social media coordinator and everything else on top of trying to keep the rest of my life together. Thanks to Donna Tam for making the trip all the way to Southern Humboldt.)
Spotlight on the marijuana industry: Local filmmaker working on a documentary to capture the spirit of the pot trade
Donna Tam/The Times-Standard
Posted: 11/09/2010 01:27:13 AM PST
Five young trimmers sit out on the deck, surrounded by buds, sunlight and the open air of Southern Humboldt.
The scene is set nicely for local filmmaker Mikal Jakubal, who is intent on capturing a slice of life within Humboldt County’s marijuana industry.
One trimmer, a seasoned hand who has a sunny disposition and no shoes on, talks as her fingers nimbly pluck buds and trim them with Fiskars, a brand of scissors.
She said she isn’t a pot smoker and had no position on the recently failed Proposition 19 — which aimed to legalize and regulate pot for recreational use — but she thinks the work is fun.
”We get to hang out in the sun, listen to rad music and hang out with cool people,” she said, with the camera rolling.
Jakubal said the trimmer — who does not live in California but travels to Humboldt for seasonal work — is a part of an industry spawned in Humboldt, just as much as the small pot farmers eking out a living or the big growers who are making plenty of money.
The story he hopes to tell with a documentary he has worked on since March is the underlying culture that attracted many of the older growers in the first place — going back to the land.
”It’s not about dope growing. It’s about what Southern Humboldt is about,” Jakubal said. “You can’t talk about it without talking about weed.”
In his film, Jakubal follows four growers throughout the course of a year.
One of the growers, a woman
who referred to herself as “J,” said she was drawn to the Emerald Triangle during the 1970s because of its lifestyle, not its pot.
”I’m a Bay Area girl that migrated to the hills to raise a family and go back to the land,” she said. “We didn’t come to grow marijuana — I didn’t. It just happened.”
A single mom who raised her children in the area and now has her grandchildren growing up in the area, J is a medical marijuana patient as well. She chooses to smoke pot rather than take pharmaceuticals for her anxiety disorder because of the side effects that kind of medication has on her.
One of the themes of Jakubal’s film is the effect of Proposition 19 on the industry. He said what the film will best depict is how much doesn’t change, even with legalization front and center for the nation to watch.
J said she voted for Proposition 19 despite being wary of its lack of protection for small farmers. She said that ultimately, she’s glad it didn’t pass, but she very much would like to see a legitimate marijuana industry.
Both she and Jakubal agree that Prop. 19’s lack of success was not just because of some greedy pot growers but fear of the unknown.
J said she has watched the price of pot cut in half in the last 15 years. But there is fear that if big industry takes over marijuana, the plant will “lose some of its sacredness, its specialness.”
She said a lot of her friends are not happy that she is in a documentary. They are concerned the industry will be glorified or that it may not be safe for her to be so “out” about it.
J said she wanted to tell her story and help the world see that she is just a grandmother trying to keep her modest middle-class lifestyle and positively contribute to her community any way she can.
”I think the rest of the people in the world have a misconception of marijuana growers — that we’re a wild bunch, and we’re rich and we drive big trucks.”
Jakubal aims to have something produced by next winter, but that will depend on funding. Jakubal said he hopes that the chance for the outside world to access the Humboldt County grow scene in a manner more intimate than what the recent media attention has produced will attract funders.
”It’s such a unique, amazing place,” he said. “It’s this secret little subculture that no one gets to see.”