Trailer: California’s Cannabis Culture

Yes, I know it's a bit backwards to post the trailer after posting the full-length documentary... [vimeo 13407033]

California’s Cannabis Culture

It's been a couple of months in the making, but my final MA dissertation/final project documentary, "California's Cannabis Culture" is officially done! And it can be viewed here:

[vimeo 13381803]

It's a journey into California's marijuana scene, which could take a pivotal turn in November, when Californians vote on whether or not to legalize marijuana.

Please watch, comment, share, and enjoy!

Passing Clouds documentary

Friends, Family, and other readers of 'The London Scene': you may have noticed that I still haven't posted anything in ages, but there are two very distinct reasons why: 1. Since my laptop broke, I've barely been online. My replacement laptop came in about a week ago, but it's painfully slow, making me avoid computer usage unless absolutely essential. Instead, my nights have consisted of intense "Lost" and "Queer As Folk" marathons. 2. We've been working really hard over the past 6 weeks on our documentary for one of my courses here at Westminster University. Many hours spent filming, scripting, and editing. Far too many. But, it's been worth it because we're finally done!

The documentary is called "Passing Clouds", and it's about an alternative arts club--hidden in a back alley in East London--with the same name. In a nutshell:

"Fed up with present-day commercialism, a group of people from different countries gather to build what they believe is a better way of living. They created a place called Passing Clouds, in London, to introduce a more communal and responsible lifestyle."

And you can watch the documentary here:


In terms of production, there were three of us working on it. I initially found out about this place from a blurb on Time Out. After making contact with the organizers, we filmed over a period of three days.

I did a lot of the camera work, as well as editing (though we all took turns with different tasks, and worked together closely to produce this final version).

This was the first documentary I've worked on since the Nicaragua one ("Mano Por Mano") that I produced for USF in 2008. I forgot how much work goes into such a little amount of time, but I love doing it.

So what are your thoughts on the documentary? Would you visit a place like Passing Clouds? Do you agree with their way of life? Do you think it's better to live a more communal, rather than individually-minded, lifestyle?

Leave comments with your thoughts!

The End of the World Cult

"When people ask me if I've been brainwashed by Michael, I say, 'Yes I have been brainwashed. Michael has washed my brain of all my sins.'" This was just one of the chilling quotes that struck me while watching The End of the World Cult documentary on Channel 4's website.

The documentary by British journalist Ben Anthony, from 2007, gives a glimpse into the lives of the Strong City cult. The cult, which is in a remote town in New Mexico, believed that the world would end on October 31st, 2007.

A man named Michael Travesser, formerly known as Wayne Bent, is their leader. Their 'Messiah.'

He claimed that he was the 'chosen one'. That God spoke to him and told him the date for the end of the world. That our human existence is doomed, and the only way you can be saved is if you follow his word.

End of the World, End of Innocence

And what is his word, exactly? Based on what this documentary shows, it includes giving up 'our world' and doing whatever Michael--the Messiah--says.

This includes sleeping with his son's ex-wife. Taking two women as his 'witnesses', and sleeping with both of them. Forcing everyone to give up their possessions to him. And most disturbing of all: him laying naked, in bed, with teenage virgins.

Some people were smart enough to escape the cult. However, some children were left behind. There were three teenagers whose parents forced them to leave, but the stronghold of Michael's brainwashing was too strong.

Once they left Strong City, they went on hunger strikes. They harmed themselves. Some even threatened to kill themselves. And so, they ended up back into the clutches of Michael.

One of the most haunting things about this documentary was the look in the eyes of his followers. When speaking with or about Michael, they all had the same wide-eyed look of complete and utter devotion. 100% certainty that his word was as good as God's.

'This is the end. My only friend, the end.'

Obviously, the end of the world did not come. It's nearly 2010, and we're all still here.

So what happened with the Strong City cult? Sadly, the cult still exists. On the bright side, Michael Travesser was jailed for 10 years for sexual misconduct with minors.

But even in his prison cell, he's able speak to his followers.

It's hard to tell what his followers are thinking, and how they felt about his false prediction of doomsday. Obviously, there are those that will follow his word no matter what the actions are (or aren't, in this case).

Going back to the Ben Anthony documentary, I can't help think back to the crazed looks in their eyes. Although this was a controversial documentary, I think anything that can provoke such intense reactions is something worth watching.

Better take the time to watch it before the world comes to an end...

Cosplay: Anime Comes To Life

For many people, Halloween is the one day a year to have an excuse to dress up in crazy costumes. For others, creating and wearing costumes is a significant part of their lives. Two years ago, three friends and I made a documentary exploring the topic of cosplaying. This was for a Documentary Production course at USF.

The term 'cosplaying' is a combination of 'costume' and 'play', and refers to people who create costumes and dress up as their favorite animated characters.

This hobby is especially popular in Japan, but it has recently become a subculture in its own right in the United States.

Before making this documentary, I didn't have a good understanding on why people would want to do this as a hobby. Why would you want to constantly portray fictional characters, rather than just being yourself?

After interviewing a sampling of American cosplayers, I found out that it's a way to hone their creative skills. Not only that, but it's a way to gather with like-minded people and form communities of friends from all over the world.

Creative Cosplayers

With this documentary, I really wanted to get to the heart of why people devoted so much time, energy, and money to this hobby.

Cosplayers often get a bad reputation as being 'geeky' or 'weird.' I'll admit that I had that impression before I actually met the people who do it.

I think that Kathryn Harper, one of our interviewees, summed it up best: "It's setting myself free to be who I want to be."

People have so many different sides to their personalities, and there are a countless number of characters you can dress up as to reflect certain aspects.

Most cosplayers also make their own costumes, so it's a hobby that allows your crafty side to thrive.

I can't say that I'll be cosplaying anytime soon, but I can say that doing this documentary gave me a great amount of insight and respect for this subculture. Plus, they probably have the best Halloween costumes...

Anime Comes To Life on Current TV

If you're curious about cosplaying, check out our documentary, "Anime Comes to Life." It first appeared on Current TV in November 2008 (our first paid documentary!).

Check it out here or below: