The Eagles Have Landed
By Jason Reed
It was a typically cold and brisk UK September evening. The summer had rescinded and left a bleak Autumnal alternative to what was a very nice summer. The three Canadians, Executive Producer, Adam Scorgie, Director, Brett Harvey and Line Producer/Editor, Stephen Green, had finally landed on UK shores after months of planning. The Culture High had finally set sail in UK waters!
As you can imagine, the best thing that could happen at this point, when strange men with a rather splendid array of movie making equipment dock on foreign lands, yes — communications lines decided to fail. We were left blind at trying to track each other down. It was pure luck that I just happened to find them about 5 minutes after they had got to the hotel. The film Gods were with us! After a few hours out on a South Eastern town, and with the guys getting to know the wildlife (I mean nightlife of course) we were set for the first day’s filming. Now, you’d think it would be nice to break ourselves in gently, to take on an interview that was simple logistically and a relaxed venue? Oh no my friend, this is The Culture High we’re talking about. If the crew aren’t holding on for dear life, riding the schedule like a rodeo on a monster’s back, then these guys don’t feel like they’re working or giving the supporters their money’s worth. Adam, Brett and Stephen are their own biggest critics. It’s no word of exaggeration that the responsibility they feel towards the supporters resides firmly on their shoulders at all times. It’s palpable.
The morning arrived. First shoot day had dawned. Where are we headed? Oh yes, the UK houses of Parliament, where else? Of course, of course, we chose the hardest logistical challenge on the first day of filming. I’ll spare the full story of how we had to pick up a light rig from Tottenham Court Road before getting back to Parliament, I could write a blog post on that trip alone — but we can perhaps sum that little jaunt with a preamble to a joke, only with no punchline: How many Canadians and a full film rig can fit in a London black cab? The answer is: thank goodness for the tube! If there was a soundtrack to this day’s filming, it would have been the Benny Hill theme.
We finally arrive at Parliament, security fiercer than usual. We had an entrance opened for us, and I’m not talking euphemistically. We had to get the entirety of the gear through the scanners of the parliamentary security. This is something the crew are well used to, but for a novice like me, it was soul destroyingly arduous, and I’m used to moving full music rigs around London.
Who, who was the first UK interviewee for The Culture High? It was the most senior scientist in the House of Commons, Dr Julian Huppert MP.
Julian Huppert MP sat on the Home Affairs Select Committee that conducted a year’s long investigation into drugs policy. The conclusion of the study was well publicised. The committee called for evidence based policy decisions and a Royal Commission so as to prise the contentious issue away from the clutched hands of the government. Like most reports, it was largely ignored.
Dr Julian Huppert and his team were so very accommodating, incredibly patient, and excited to see his office turned into a movie set as Director Brett and Producer Stephen morphed the space into something that dazzled like an Elstree Studio soundstage.
There was only one problem: the rather archaic process that is the House of Commons. You see, MPs still have to physically drop everything, literally, and run to the chamber to vote. This gives a certain amount of unpredictability to the proceedings. Despite Julian Huppert having to sprint on a few occasions, he gave an interview that is unrivalled in its political insight. You’ll of course forgive me for holding my cards close to my chest and give nothing away of content. What a tease!
After a 15 hour day, and a first day of successful shooting, and with all of us flagging due to not eating and barely squeezing in a drink, we embarked on the next leg of the journey; the next day, a legend awaited us. The crew had a 4 hour drive to Leeds for a morning interview with Mr Nice – none other than Howard Marks.
Howard seldom needs an introduction. He’s the most prolific cannabis smuggler in history. He’s a rock star in his own right, a movie star, and a contemporary icon. How could you film a documentary about drug policy and cannabis and not speak to Howard Marks?
Howard is an author and tours the UK stage in his one man show. His charisma was evident and clear for the cameras to see. The crew said that it was one of the funniest and most enlightening interviews they have done to date. There was a positive glow; two UK film days down, and things were going fairly smoothly. Two interviews in the can, and a few hundred miles already clocked up. The journey has only just started. The Culture High was off and running in the UK.
Jason Reed is a journalist and activist with LEAP. He is Associate Producer for The Culture High. You can follow Jason on Twitter @JasonTron
Follow The Culture High on Twitter: @theculturehigh