My dear friend, Craig Nisker, thinks he can save the world one crop at a time. The crop being cannabis (marijuana to the uninformed). And that’s only one of the reasons Craig found himself knee-deep in a seven acre field of cannabis, in the foothills of the Alps, just outside Lucerne, directing a rag-tag group of neophytes in a feature film that’s soon to become a cult-classic (how many years does it take to be a “classic”?) Their bizarre journey is rife with bungles, serendipity and magic. Once again, fact proves itself stranger than fiction.
A few years ago, Craig showed me a very rough cut of a film he’d directed, which had been sitting fallow. The Green Goddess, the pot story you’ve all been waiting for, is his directorial debut.
I had one of those uncomfortable “I want to love it, but…” moments. “Wow, LOVE the troll. Oh, it’s a gnome? Sorry. The acting? Hmmm…” But Craig knew. The amateur actors were sketchy at best. And the cut only hinted at what it would eventually become. Nevertheless, his optimism was contagious, and I knew that if Craig used the editorial wizardry he’d demonstrated on my movie, then he could weave gold out of the The Green Goddess. He was wagering that once completed, the pot aficionados and proponents of the world would eat it up like a big fat hash brownie.
Craig, whose energy level can veer to 10 Red Bulls worth of voltage when sharing his vision, explained the complex visual effects that would ultimately catapult The Green Goddess to high (no pun intended) visibility. He was hankering to birth that ball of hemp. All he needed was a big dollop of green stuff. Cash, that is. Four years after wrap and all they needed was another $100,000 and a couple “names.” Cheech Marin or Woody Harrelson would have been ideal, but neither returned his calls. I don’t know… maybe Craig should let Mr. Marin know that the Mexican accent of the garrulous pot-smoking gnome was an ode to him. Couldn’t hurt…
Frankly, though I’ve grown to love the 90 percent completed movie, I find the “making of” story as entertaining. The serendipity-laden trail began in 2000 when Marc Schultz, the producer, decided he wanted to make the ultimate stoner movie.
Marc took out an ad in High Times, looking for some stoner stories. Nobody shared. Two years later (stoner timeframe, I suppose,) a guy named Chris Iverson called from Switzerland and offered to make the movie. He would buy the film equipment, rent a farm in the Alps and plant a massive field of cannabis. The story would revolve around the backdrop of the growing crop. In exchange, Chris wanted to include five items in the movie: Yoga, meditation, vegetarianism, medical marijuana and cannabis as the Divine Spirit. The deal was sealed.
Their loose premise included a northern California pot grower, nabbed by the DEA and thrown in the clinker, and the friends who flee to Switzerland to grow and sell enough weed to hire an attorney to defend him. At that time, raising cannabis in Switzerland was legal, as was selling, albeit exclusively as hemp, for industrial use.
Marc asked his x-gal pal, who taught acting to prison inmates, to direct. Makes sense to me. His masseuse became the lead femme, her rapper boyfriend scored the male lead and a local DJ signed on as their sound recordist (a small stretch, but how tough could wiring a mic be?) Switzerland? All the pot you can inhale? Make a movie? Who could say no! A small, but hardy group of free spirits headed over the ocean and to the hills.
Meanwhile, Craig heard about The Green Goddess. The producer begged him to join. Craig, who was actually a professional in the industry and was accustomed to receiving a weekly paycheck, hesitated enlisting on this volunteer mission, lofty as the goals may have been…
Improbably, Craig’s parents called from Toronto, his hometown, and implored him to take the gig. No, his folks aren’t potheads. Far from it. Craig’s sister, who has MS, lives in New York, where the mighty weed, the only substance that gives her relief from her debilitating symptoms, is illegal, even for medical usage. Craig took the job and soon found himself in the middle of a little Swiss pot farm, staring at 20 days of unusable raw footage. One thing led to another and once Marc realized that he was the only one on the set who knew how to make a movie, Craig received the role of his dreams: Director! Ahhh… at last.
The production snaked its way through Paris, Amsterdam, London and back to Switzerland, filming local characters, people passionate about peace, love and pot, along the way. I LOVED all those eccentrics! I wanted to hang out with them.
The entire cast and crew worked deferred. The final budget (not including deferrals) will land at around $700,000. The film, besides being a wild and kooky ride, replete with 60s love-child iconography (think hula hoops, hippies and Hair), manages to creatively intersperse information and education about the beneficial uses of the revered and oft-maligned weed.
Recently, I watched the next incarnation of The Green Goddess. I was impressed. The new scenes worked. They were MUCH better, almost unrecognizable, they plowed ahead and lingered on moments of revelry, philosophy, mystery and beauty. The actors seemed to have taken acting classes, and it all flowed effortlessly. My favorite scene involved a talking cow standing in a field of marijuana. I laughed harder and longer than I did at the hair-ripping scene in The 40-Year-Old Virgin (there’s no accounting for taste.) Maybe having grown up with cows did it for me…
I warned Craig I was blogging him and asked for some details from the shoot. Well. This is Craig. I believe I mentioned earlier that he’s a man on a mission. An hour later, he had, in excruciating detail, explained the entire case for the legalization of cannabis and the reason it could positively impact the economy, gas prices, global warming, general health and so on. Seems there’s a bit of a national conspiracy to reject this multi-use crop. I won’t give you the entire lecture, but it’s considered a major threat to the corn industry, among others. Oh dear, he’s brainwashed me. Here I am, trumpeting the glories of pot! I will confess, I occasionally buy hemp seed from Whole Foods.
Now I know you’re just dying to see this film and wondering when? When? When can I experience this green heaven? Visit http://www.greengoddess.info for the most up-to-date info. And go see it, if for no other reason than the talking cow.
peace, ohm shanti, namaste, etc,