It took me almost 40 years to realize that Documentaries are my real passion in life, they’re both my preferred method of consuming information and my favorite way of telling a real story. I was born and raised on them with both my parents watching doc’s of all types all the time. The truth is I just retain more when I watch a well crafted documentary – I learn more from a good documentary series then a year of full time school – I learned everything I know about the natural world from the lips of Sir. David Attenborough, learned Quantum physics on a wim with Brian Greene & relived a childhood hero with Asif Kapadia’s SENNA…if I have an intellectual itch, I can usually find a documentary to scratch it – and as it turns out I’ve always loved telling stories, and I’m quite good at it too…
As someone that’s come to this realization a little later in life and not wishing to load myself with student debts I’ll never pay off – I decided to just start making them until somebody noticed… and that decision has led me down some quite amazing paths: I’ve met a personal hero from my childhood in Valentino Balboni and even interviewed him at speed on a 3 hour blast across Death Valley in a Lamborghini (Ep 2 of The Ridealong) and I’m now also a full blown veteran advocate after spending the entirety of my time as a US citizen advocating for veterans rights after discovering their story quite by chance…
From Outlaws to In-laws: The HEROES HARVEST story – 2020
MEDVETS is a 501 (c)3 non-profit based in Fort Bragg, right in the heart of California’s Emerald Triangle. Their Founder “Big Jake” Lawrence started MEDVETS as a vehicle to distribute free cannabis donations to local vets, but in 2018 – Prop 64 aka “The Regulate and Tax Adult Use Marijuana Act” came into effect and began TAXING donations, and you can guess the result. Thankfully in 2019 Senate Bill 34 was passed, removing the direct taxes, but everything still has to comply with retail regulations – This is the story of the start of a small group of companies creating a “Heroes Harvest” for local veterans.
Filmed from a COVID testing bubble at MEDVETS headquarters where social distancing was easy – it took six careful weeks to film and countless thousands of miles.
the BIG REORG – 2020 (during COVID-19 lockdown)
On March 16th 2020 San Francisco and it’s surrounding counties locked down to prevent accelerating the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the disease it causes: COVID-19…and the instant it happened, EVERYTHING I’d be working on disappeared in a cloud of elbow sneezes, masks and social distancing.
After a few weeks lamenting the death of 14 months of hard work getting the VETSGROW sequel; “Take the high road” off the ground, I was back to square one…well actually minus-one because I’d lost all my clients too.
Unless it’s escaped your attention, I don’t do bored, so I started calling my NOIP (Network Of Interesting Persons) and tried to piece together what to do next. The conversations I had enlightened me as to the systemic changes afoot across the global economy, a huge reshuffling of the deck – the biggest reorganization in history!
After three conversations I wished I’d recorded I decided I might as well…and the BIG REORG was born.
VETSGROW – 2018 – 19
What is it?
VETSGROW is my first complete documentary project, a 9 Episode series about veteran suicide, PTSD and the opiate crisis set to the backdrop of a mission to teach a Vietnam veteran called Al, to grow his own medical cannabis at home.
While I was in the process of taking US Citizenship and studying history for my civics test by watching everything Ken Burns has even made, I stumbled into an article talking about veterans taking their own lives at a rate of 22 per day driven by issues such as PTSD, mental health issues and an extreme version of the same opiate crisis that’s in the news.
The article outlined that many veterans were turning to cannabis for alternative help, but that many vets couldn’t afford it. At the same time I was also building a ‘grow show’ for my client Monster Gardens while working on my own documentary plans and the idea just came to me: Teach veterans to grow medical cannabis instead…which as you’ll come to see was easier said then done. I’d only just become a US Citizen so my London accent just added to my lack of credibility as a civilian with the first month spent just trying to get people to return my calls – then The Veterans Cannabis Group founder Aaron Augustis responded and helped me connect to another group: VET-Connect of Sonoma, who directly lead to my first student recruit, but I’m starting to spoil it now, for the rest of that story you need to watch VETSGROW…
(…but in case you do need more of the story, then I did write something for a small cannabis magazine https://hightimes.com/activism/accidental-activist-snafu-vetsgrow/)
The RIDEALONG – 2017
What is it?
I’ve loved exotic cars since I had a wall of posters as a young boy, but I’ve only driven or ridden in a few of them on the odd track day. At the beginning of 2017 I was working on the first real idea for a documentary idea I could make by myself, inspired by the 2004 “Long Way Round” travel documentary series that followed actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman on a filmed 20,000 mile motorcycle trip from London to New York.
I concocted a plan to lap the United States on an old BMW motorbike given to me by a friend in order to discover the ‘American identity’ by shoving cameras in the faces of those I met on the road and asking them: “What is ‘an American’?” and recording the responses that ensued. This ‘identity ride’ or ‘RiDENTITY’ was planned in tandem with the process of taking US citizenship, as I’d already set the wheels in motion at the start of the year and saw myself as ‘an American in training.’ I thought I could somehow bum my way around the US for a few months doing freelance work on the way to pay for it, I never got the chance to find out.
‘Katie’ the 1990 BMW K75T I was given by my good friend Martin sadly blew all her cylinder gaskets on the shakedown ride putting RiDENTITY back to square one. Seeing this all unfold on Facebook a friend in the south bay heard about this predicament and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse – to tag along with his Silicon Valley Exotics Car Club 100 OCT on one of their ‘experience’ tours with around $20 million of exotic metal in convoy over four days around a thousand miles…and then I found out a childhood hero would be going too…
Two days remain unedited as I did this project purely for me in my spare time came, but it came to an abrupt halt when VETSGROW got funded. I’m thinking of setting up a crowdfunding campaign to complete it because the last two days have some of the most amazing footage including a butt clenching ride in a Porsche 918 Spyder.
Day 1 – Silicon Valley to Mammoth Lakes (run time 29:16)
Day 2 – Mammoth Lakes to Las Vegas (run time 35:07)
Day 3 – Las Vegas to Beverly Hills & Day 4 – Beverly Hills to Silicon Valley are both in Post Production (awaiting time/funding to complete)…but it’ll be worth the wait, the ride in the 918 rewrote my mind’s idea of fast.