Behind the Scenes of The Culture High – Part 4

Wagamama and Red Bull 

by Jason Reed

For a recap see: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

So where were we before Christmas interrupted our jaunt around the backstage area of the 2014 documentary, The Culture High?

In truth, there’s a reason that part 4 has had such a lag: work has not stopped on the post-production of the film. The frantic shuffle of papers, the smell of fresh paint, the waft of imminence hangs in the air as all hands are on deck to start the next phase of this highly anticipated documentary. But, we shall delve ever further under the cloak of film making, and step behind the magic curtain; first, we must not neglect our dutiful necessity of a UK filming update.

One of the hardest aspects of filming in the UK was the shortlisting of erudite figures. We have so many good people speaking on the subject of drug policy that it’s a thankless task to narrow contributors down. Inevitably, one misses a great deal of insight by having to limit the on-screen numbers, but this is the baneful existence of a film-maker. Hard decisions are part of the job, and it’s for this reason that I don’t envy director Brett Harvey. Film-making is relentless in its indiscriminate and unyielding acerbity. We were nearing the end of the UK journey, but decisions were still being made as we travelled. Schedules were ever the enemy: with the best will in the world, we were beholden to last minute curveballs that had a habit of pitching around to hit the Culture High crew in the sleep deprived eyes. Only two things were keeping spirits alive – Wagamama and Red Bull.

Fresh from 3 hours sleep, the crew made the trip to London once again to interview international figures of drug policy. The UK boasts some of the leading figures in the global drug discussion.

Steve Rolles Transform

Steve Rolles of drug law reform group Transform

Steve Rolles from Transform Drug Policy Foundation was the next candidate to sit in The Culture High hot seat. Steve needs little introduction to those that follow the issue from the grandstand; Steve, Senior Policy Analyst, is without a doubt the authority on global drug policies and offers an unrivalled insight into the broad areas that The Culture High shall be addressing. Steve left a notable mark on the drug discourse during the Google+ debate from 2012 whereupon he upstaged many notable opponents such as Eliot Spitzer, Peter Hitchens, and  former US Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey.

With little time for a change of set, Niamh Eastwood was next to have the glaring spotlight shine into her knowledgeable eyes. Niamh is Executive Director of the UK’s oldest drugs charity. Founded in 1967, Release has never been off the front-line of the drug policy debate. There is no organisation that can compete with Release, or Niamh, for devotion and experience in promoting human rights based alternatives to punitive drug policies. Niamh and the team at Release get to see the very real and unremitting turbulence that law enforcement led policies can cause. The organisation is also notable for their campaigns such as Nice People Take Drugs and their now infamous playing cards.

Niamh Eastwood of drug policy reform group Niamh Eastwood

Director of Release Niamh Eastwood

We have to pay thanks to Release for the secondment of their offices for the day. The fact that such a hard working collective gave up their time to take part in The Culture High is testament to the drive and hospitality of UK exponents.

This day’s filming started at 6am and didn’t end until around 11pm when the hotel provided a welcomed place to drop. Food was still the stuff of whispers. After nearly two weeks of pedal to the floor filming, we were but 4 more interviews away from a UK wrap. I feared for the safety of the Canadian film makers Adam Scorgie, Brett Harvey and Stephen Green. If I had taken a before and after picture of their faces, I’m fairly confident that their eyes would have amply displayed the toll that this trip had taken on them. The UK had left a mark. It’s at this point I pay homage to the director, Brett. Do you, dear reader, know the film Cool Runnings? Are you aware of Coach John Candy’s definition of a driver? The guy that doesn’t go out, sits in the hotel room all night, planning turns – in the bathtub? Well this is Brett (the amount of time Brett spends in the bathtub is a personal matter for him, but you get the analogy I’m sure). Brett never stopped thinking; his mind fulfilling its necessitous duty of perpetual thought. As soon as one interview is completed, he’s already prepping and researching for the next. His own private conveyor belt of work sees Brett in a Howard Hughes style isolation and, may I say, equal amounts of screen genius. It was akin to watching a pristine musician at work. There is one chink in Brett’s directorial armour: he’s too nice. To complete his legacy, he needs to start throwing things, kicking over rubbish bins, or storming off set. No, this is not Brett Harvey’s style. His calm, rational, and instinctive charm is effortless. Canadians, eh? You can’t trust them to be acrid when you want them to be.

Brett Harvey - the Culture High

Canadian film maker Brett Harvey


With an early morning call and an hellacious London commute, we meet Lord Brian Paddick for a beautifully concise and intriguing interview. Lord Paddick, former Deputy Assistant Commissioner in London’s Metropolitan Police Service, now resides in the House of Lords where his service can now appropriately advise and steer. His addition to The Culture High lends a great deal of credence to the issues that prohibition pervades.

Lord Paddick

Lord Paddick, former Deputy Assistant Commissioner in London’s Metropolitan Police Service.


So, with one more behind the scenes update to come, and with only three more UK interviews to cover, the clock inevitably ticks: The Culture High now builds to its global release of the teaser on April 20th.

Stay tuned.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking  we used when we created them. - Albert Einstein.

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


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