Sylvie Peltier and Greg Nosaty chose the appropriate date of April 20 – recognized as “weed day” among pot smokers – to debut the English-language version of their latest documentary.
The hour-long Demystifying Cannabis tackles “the myths and taboos that characterize this complex plant, and the stigma faced by its consumers,” as the promo states on the website of Cloverdale-based Red Letter Films (redletterfilms.com), the hub for the married pair’s movie-making adventures.
Their TV-documentary production company scored Radio-Canada’s commission to make Demystifying Cannabis over the past few years, with interviews filmed in Canada, the Netherlands, Israel, Portugal and the U.S. state of Colorado.
The spark to get the project going was Justin Trudeau’s 2015 campaign promise to legalize the recreational use of cannabis.
“That’s really when work on this started, the pitching,” Peltier recalled. “I went, ‘Wow, this is really big, surprising,’ and I started to put together proposals to do documentaries about that. CBC-French were interested, and we developed the project, which started in 2017, because the idea was to get before-and-after commentary about legalization.”
Residents of White Rock since 2007, Peltier and Nosaty first met in 2000 and married in 2011.
When Peltier founded Red Letter Films, she worked primarily as a documentary director. After being bitten by the producer bug, she moved on to more ambitious projects. While directing a project on blind people looking for love, she met Nosaty. Two years later they met again, by chance, at a local Ikea store, and their professional and personal lives merged from that point on.
Red Letter Films’ studio has operated in Cloverdale for three years.
“I have a multi-camera switcher setup, so it’s like a miniature TV studio,” Nosaty explained. “We do some online webinars, and we’ve been doing online courses there as well, in this multi-camera environment, and some of the interviews for our productions are done in there as well, with a green screen. It’s a multi-use space.”
“It’s our sandbox,” Peltier added, without missing a beat.
The production of Demystifying Cannabis took the couple on an “unexpected journey and taught us much more than we expected,” according to a website post that explores the subject of cannabis as an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Some people snicker at the notion that liquor and cannabis stores have been considered essential services during COVID-19,” the pair say. “This pandemic has upended everybody’s lives and caused tremendous anxiety in people. Alcohol and cannabis use has been on the rise. While drug and alcohol abuse is deplorable, now would be the worst time to curtail people’s access to those substances which have helped them deal with their anxiety.
“Also, it is still important to curtail the black market for cannabis. When legal cannabis stores are closed, like in the province of Ontario currently, the authorities are effectively handing the market back to illegal operations and losing all the tax revenues that such sales generate. Yet, one would think that tax revenues would be in high demand these days.”
Red Letter Films’ Youtube channel is a portal for interviews that didn’t make the final cut for Demystifying Cannabis, including some with Randy Caine, the harm reductionist and former Langley City council candidate who operates Hempyz Gifts & Novelties on Fraser Highway in Langley.
“We’ve gone through many versions of the documentary, going back and forth with the CBC,” Nosaty said. “Originally it was supposed to be two hours, and we have tons of content that didn’t make it into the show, material that really fleshes out addiction and things like. So all these hundreds of hours of interviews, over the next year or two, we’ll cut into short pieces on different subject matter – edibles, addiction, use – and keep feeding that content to our Demystifying Cannabis Youtube channel.”
The channel is where people can view the English-language movie, starting on April 20.
“It’s launched online, but we can’t just put it on the Youtube channel for everybody to see, because we plan to enter it into festivals, so we have to do this more like a private screening,” Peltier explained.
“There’s also an opt-in page, so if people watch the trailer on the Youtube channel, they can click to add their name to our mailing list, because we can’t just add people to the list,” Nosaty added.
The Red Letter Films Facebook page is also where people can find the film.
“We have a distributor for this worldwide, so we are hoping it will be sold to different television networks,” Peltier said, “but right now we’re doing the private launch in this way, so people know it’s exists and they can watch if they want to.”