Bringing It Home Filmmakers Linda Booker and Blaire Johnson joined Josh Davis at Hemp.com for this exclusive interview.
There is a new documentary currently in production that has the potential to be one of the best made on the current potential of the Hemp Industry. I was fortunate enough to meet the filmmakers and see some clips from it at the Hemp Industries Association Annual Meeting last year.
JD – Hey gang. Thanks for agreeing to do this interview. I was really excited when I saw the footage of your in production documentary Bringing It Home at the HIA conference last year. So excited that I wanted to do my best to get the word out about it.
JD: So tell me what it’s all about?
LB: BRINGING IT HOME tells the story of hemp: past, present and future and a global industry that includes textiles, building materials, food products, bio-plastics, auto parts and more. The film was inspired by a father’s
search to find the healthiest building materials that led him to the completion of the nation’s first hemp house. Industrial hemp is a
non-psychoactive plant that makes 1,000 of sustainable products and offers solutions for global warming, nutrition, poverty and deforestation. But American farmers are banned from growing it, missing out on great economical growth. Bringing It Home will be the documentary that will have everyone asking, “why can’t we grow it here?”
JD: How did you first get interested in hemp and why did you decide to focus your energy on this project?
LB: Hemp wasn’t on my radar until I met Blaire at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University eight years ago, where we both were studying filmmaking. Blaire was so much fun to hang out with, full of enthusiasm and making a short film about an outsider artist here in NC. We became friends and she helped me out on cinematography on a couple projects and vice versa. Over the years, hemp came up a lot in conversation as she became more and more passionate about it as something that could help with many issues dominating headlines this past decade re: climate change, natural disasters, economic meltdowns and famine. At the time, it all sounded too good to be true to me. But then as I listened and did some research on my own, I realized – wow, this plant has enormous potential and so many uses – especially for replacing synthetic and petro-chemical based products, and has positive effects on the environment as opposed to crops like cotton that require harmful amounts of pesticides and fertilizers.
Then in the fall of 2010 I stopped for a coffee and bought a USA Today (which I normally wouldn’t do!) and there was this big story in the first section about the nation’s first house built with a product called Hemcrete in our home state of North Carolina. The home designer’s story about his daughter, who suffers with MCS was very touching, and what drove him on his mission to find healthy non-toxic building materials. Industrial hemp came out on top as his choice for his company’s clients as not only chemical free, but energy efficient and mold, pest and fire resistant. Blaire and I agreed that this history making use of industrial hemp as a construction material in America was something that might hook people into looking at hemp more seriously. Especially since the first hemp houses in Asheville are beautiful, and of very different styles — contemporary, craftsman bungalow and a 4,000 sf traditional.
There’s a couple things that drive my passion to make this film. I started documentary filmmaking in 2004, so I’m still pretty new to this industry, but from the start I wanted to make films that could bring issues down to a human level and shed a light on complex sides to a story or topic. And I think a sense of fighting for justice and going up against illogical policies was instilled in me by my parents. Nothing fires me up like our government holding back opportunities, rights and the freedom of choice for our citizens. And in addition to that, the strong hold corporations and big industries have over our legislators – especially the chemical industry. We simply cannot depend on our government to protect us from chemicals that make you and your animals sick. We’re years behind other countries when it comes to research and removing dangerous toxins out of home building materials, water supplies, household cleaners and body care products. So between the nonsensical federal policy that is preventing American farmers from growing hemp and hemp’s ability to make sustainable, healthy, toxin-free, building materials and products from auto parts to salad dressings, I’m determined to make a film that as a friend of mine said, “beats them over the head with logic!”
BJ: I first learned about Industrial Hemp while working at Barnes & Noble. I was dusting the bookshelves, and came upon a copy of Jack Herer’s “The Emperor Wears No Clothes”. I knew next to nothing about hemp prior to opening the book. The more I read, the more I wanted to share the story with others. Industrial hemp seemed to offer so many solutions to many of our biggest challenges, from climate change, to reducing our reliance upon oil, synthetic products and chemicals, to deforestation and malnutrition. As I talked to people, few seemed to know about industrial hemp, or they confused it with marijuana. All the books and magazines were embracing the idea of going green, and yet no one was mentioning industrial hemp. I saw that hemp could play an integral role in creating a greener, healthier and more sustainable economy. I couldn’t think of a more important story to tell. Hemp offered so many solutions. The question was “Where to begin?”
I had tried to sell Linda on the idea of making a documentary about industrial hemp for a few years. So, I was elated when she called to tell me that the nation’s first hemp house had been built in our state! We were both moved by the personal story behind the building of the hemp house. The designer’s daughter, Bailey, has a rare genetic disorder. She is also extremely sensitive to chemicals. Bailey suffers from autism-like symptoms and is non-verbal. Her mother calls Bailey and other children like her Canary Kids, because, like the canaries in the coalmines, they are here to warn us that our world has become too toxic.
To me, 9 year-old Bailey represented an alarming new chapter in Rachel Carson’s époque book, “Silent Spring”, about the toll of manmade chemicals upon our environment. Bailey’s silence represented the toll that the chemicals in our everyday lives are taking upon our children. No one is more susceptible to the effects of these chemicals than children, and many chemicals are now linked to the rise in illnesses among children. Her father, Anthony Brenner, recommended the book “The Hundred-Year Lie” by Randall Fitzgerald. I highly recommend it.
Our need to reduce our reliance upon oil isn’t just about fuel consumption. It’s about the 1000’s of products that are made from oil, that we’ve all fallen in love with. But they’re taking a huge toll upon our health, our environment and our economy.
I can’t think of a better economic development plan than using hemp to rebuild our nation and to create a healthier, greener world. Hemp is the opposite of a trickle down economy. It begins with a farmer and a seed. It can revitalize the manufacturing sector of our economy, allowing American entrepreneurs to replace cheap, often toxic, imports with healthy, hemp-based furniture, fabrics, plastics, foods and building products. Hemp is about building mold-resistant homes and schools for our kids, and generating an exciting, healthy new market for our graduates.
We’ve built our world with oil and 1000’s of synthetic products. Now is the time to rebuild our world with hemp. Our children and the next generation deserve it.
JD: There are so many different industries that Hemp can be used in – are you focusing on any one in particular or doing a general informational doc?
LB: We’re covering the major hemp industries with a focus on industrial hemp’s benefits as a construction material. We’ve filmed in the U.K. where they have entire housing developments using hemcrete and very impressive commercial projects with hemp blocks and hemp panels such as the Adnams Brewery Distribution Centre and the newest Marks & Spencer department store. Hemp shiv, when combined with lime-based binders, regulates the humidity of the building and continues to absorb carbon and other toxins. The University of Bath just completed a multi-year research study on it along with straw and other natural building building materials. We got the lead researcher, Dr. Mike Lawrence to tell us on camera that if he were building a new home, he would build it with hempcrete. We also got an exclusive interview with the popular British TV show host of GRAND DESIGNS, Kevin McCloud who spoke to us about his company HAB’s hemcrete-built housing scheme in Swindon. He pretty much summed it up when he said “It’s a no brainer!” You can see an excerpt of that interview at http://www.limetechnology.co.uk/projects/project16.htm
BJ: I was particularly interested in hemp’s role in housing and construction, because it could be an economic game-changer. Hemp was no longer confined to t-shirts and body-care products. Now hempcrete (a mixture of hemp, lime and water) could be used to build the healthiest, most energy-efficient buildings that were also non-toxic, breathable, and mold, flame and pest-resistant. However, I knew this could be a difficult idea to introduce since people are often resistant to change and new ideas. After doing some research, we learned that the Europeans had been building houses with hemp since the 1980’s. The Europeans already had the scientific studies to back up the claims. We were excited to go to England where hempcrete was being tested by Universities and being used on an industrial scale. In the UK, the collaboration between universities, government and industries has created a thriving hemp industry. It is frustrating that the US is so far behind Europe. Yet, we are also inspired by our interviews with Americans like David Bronner who challenged the DEA in the courts for the right of all Americans to eat nutritious hemp foods. We are looking forward to taking viewers behind the scenes of some of America’s most successful hemp businesses like Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and Nutiva.
JD: Having produced shows for the Discovery Networks I understand putting together a documentary is no small endeavor. What’s are some of the challenges that you have faced and are facing?
LB: Funding, Funding and Funding! That is the big one. We’ve exhausted our own resources and hit up our friends and family to the point where they probably are avoiding us! But truly, their support has been amazing, and we are very grateful to them and all who have contributed to the film project.
The other significant challenge have been that for the most part, Blaire and I have done a lot of the work outside the actual production and that can drain your creative energy and time to focus on the actual film. People who make docs or other media know that the actual filming is a small percentage of the process. The other tasks such as research, organization, transcribing, logging footage, editing, outreach, marketing and fundraising and communications add up to a full time job. And now we have all this social networking to keep up with! I have to admit I feel envy when I see long credit lists at the end of documentaries, but that’s a testament to those filmmakers who have years of industry experience and respect.
And we’ve had to make some tough decisions about how to tell the story of hemp and how much to include the personal stories of some of the people featured in the film and how much to delve deeper into the issues such as chemicals in our habitats. It’s easy to be pulled in a lot of different directions with this film, because hemp does so much!
And of course there’s the stigmas and confusion about hemp.
BJ: I would have to agree with Linda, that FUNDING, FUNDING, FUNDING is the biggest hurdle! There are so many hats to wear, and so many expenses to make it all happen. We still have some fun ideas that we want to incorporate into the film to help tell hemp’s fascinating history using animation, as well as some fictional scenes to bring hemp’s scandalous history in the 1930’s to life, but without some significant funding, these powerful aspects of the film won’t come to life.
I’ve spent most of my hours in the editing room, and finding the right copyright-free music is another challenge. If you’re a musician inspired by our film, we’d love to hear a sample of your music. Of course, we’d love to pay you, but we hope you might settle for film credits.
JD: Have you gotten a lot of press about this?
LB: Not too much yet. We received a little in North Carolina when we did a Work-in-Progress screening at Cucalorus Film Festival last year. Press is one of the things we need help with.
We’ve been invited to participate in Hemp History Week’s Press Dinner Event on June 6th in Los Angeles where we’ll get to show a trailer and talk a little about the film. We’re hoping that generates some interest and support.
BJ: We were excited to make the front cover of Hemp Industry Insider, an online magazine, which is now Hemp Lifestyle Magazine. We had a great interview with Editor and Founder Dionne Payn.
JD: The big question – and maybe this is the producer in me – how are you getting the money to fund this project?
LB: So far it’s been house parties, crowdfunding (see below), friends and family, and a small grant from the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation. We’ve also received support from three of the larger hemp companies in the U.S. — Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Nutiva and Merry Hempters. All of this has helped us achieve shooting in NC, CA, Spain and the U.K. But I’ve also had to contribute a significant amount of my own savings to make up the difference.
Blaire and I haven’t paid ourselves for the thousands of hours we have invested to date. We know this film has the potential to make a difference and educate people worldwide about the benefits of hemp so we’re willing to put so much of ourselves into it. But we’re at a point where we’ve got to raise money to keep going as we’ve drained our own resources.
BJ: I’ve also exhausted my own personal resources to get the film to this point. If people want to see this film get made, we really need your help! Linda and I can’t say enough words of thanks to all of our family, friends, and fellow hemp enthusiasts who have donated thus far. But if you’re passionate about hemp, education is key, and a good documentary is a powerful tool to reach the masses. With your help, we can take this film to the next level.
JD: When do you expect it to be completed and what are your distribution plans?
(LB) We have a target goal of this fall, but it’s largely dependent on whether or not we can raise the money to finish it, or get in-kind contributions to help as well.
We’ll do our best to get into the more prestigious film festivals, but we are realistic that the competition is fierce. We’re hoping to work with documentary outreach orgs like Film Sprout or Working films that have organized grassroots community campaigns for organic food/environmental/ sustainable themed docs. And target film festivals around the globe with those themes too. Also we’ll cut shorter educational sections specifically geared toward different groups such as civic leaders/agricultural commissions, legislators, farmers and builders/architects. We have a lot of footage that gets into technical detail for all those sectors. And we’re hoping that it will get picked up by a cable network here in the U.S. and overseas. Then the usual DVDs, streaming, etc.
JD: So any big plans for fund raisers? How can people get involved and be a part of this Documentaries completion?
(LB) We hope to make an announcement soon about a big fundraiser in the L.A. area the beginning of July. And we’re brainstorming about a “Hemp for Hope” concert fundraiser sometime this summer in Chapel Hill, NC. House film fundraising parties are one way people can help. You can invite a bunch of people over, show a trailer, serve up some tasty hemp appetizers and ask everyone to help us make this film. If you live in NC, we might be able to come talk in person. Or if you’re rich and can cover our travel & expenses, we’ll gladly go anywhere!
Did I mention we have an IndieGoGo campaign right now?! If people reading this article make a contribution of $25 or more at http://www.indiegogo.com/bringingithome-two?a=54337) and email us at email@example.com with the secret code: “hemp.com” – we’ll send them a little hemp product surprise.
Another huge help that doesn’t cost anything is to like us on facebook, sign up for our newsletter, visit our IndieGoGo campaign and website and TELL OTHERS! share, fwd, tweet, etc.!
JD: Have you gotten any push-back? If so from whom?
(LB) None yet, that I’m aware of. I think people who are not familiar with industrial hemp maybe question why we’re doing a film about it or make the usual, expected jokes about it making you high, etc. But that’s exactly who we want to reach with this film.
JD: Well I hope that you get the funding you need. I believe this is a documentary that needs to be seen. Thank you for taking the time to tell us about your project!
(LB) Thanks so much Josh! And thank you for telling your Hemp.com readers about BRINGING IT HOME!
BJ: All our thanks, Josh! Muchas Gracias!!
If you, our readers would like to donate to Bringing It Home and help Linda and Blaire please visit http://www.indiegogo.com/bringingithome-two
We’ll bring you more updates on the Bringing It Home Documentary as they get further into shooting (hopefully they will get those donations that they need!)