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NewCityNet Film Tip of the Week

By Ray Pride

OCTOBER 27, 1997:  Doug Wolens' entertaining documentary about the Eighth Annual Cannabis Cup and Hemp Expo, held in smoky Amsterdam, is one of a burgeoning number of intimate, off-hand projects that have seen the light of day almost entirely because of the ease with which one can shoot on video and bump the result up to 35mm film. "Weed" is an amusing glimpse at the 450-location, ever-tokin' coffeehouse culture of that city and the 1,500 or so visitors who descend for five festival days on behalf of hemp. For those so inclined, "Weed" will prove a hemptronic, weedarific treat, a cheerful glimpse at another culture's subculture. Lotsa happy folks. Lotsa smiles. Some giggles. Wolens, a native Chicagoan, shot his documentary for about $3,000, then edited it with Adobe Premiere on his home PC. He had worked as a litigation attorney for eight years, then decided he had to become a filmmaker. "People tell you it takes courage to quit your job to make movies," Wolens says, laughing, "But I needed more courage to get up and go to work! It was hard just getting out of bed."

Traveling through Amsterdam a year earlier, Wolens and his wife found themselves unable even to find a room because of the fest. The next year, he rented a three-chip Hi-8 camera, essentially a camcorder with superior color separation, then went to Circuit City and bought twenty-four batteries. "I bought 'em and kept the receipts. When I got back, I returned them all. You do what you need to do as a filmmaker. I wouldn't have done that with a mom-and-pop store, but... I bought thirty hours of tape, supposedly the best Hi-8 you can get. Then I needed a mess of chargers. Circuit City and Good Guys again, fifteen chargers. I numbered my batteries and I made sure to cycle them all. I didn't sleep much -- I spent my time at night recharging my batteries!" Returning home, Wolens cut 95 percent of the movie using the Adobe Premiere program." I learned all about editing as I went along. Premiere was totally intuitive, just cutting and pasting."

"Shooting for five days wasn't hard," he reflects. But it was a huge effort assembling it. It's so important to love what you're doing, and once I discovered what it was about, I learned to love this film. People don't realize they have choices. My heart is in this movie because it's about freedom and choice. It's subtle -- this pot over that pot -- but they are choices."

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