Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of zombies. My favorite zombie film is still Night of the Living Dead and I only made it through about twenty minutes of the first episode of The Walking Dead before getting bored and switching to some cartoons.
I really didn’t think there was too much ground left to cover for stories about the undead. We’ve seen proverbs of survival, criticism of consumer culture, and allegorical tales of human beings facing the personification of the primal lizard brain.
But zombies versus pot? Scary.
Writer and director Mitch Williamsmith, along with producer Shaun Kennedy and cinematographer Brian Kennedy, are working on their new film, Rasta Zombie, which will combine marijuana activism, zombie apocalypse, and every conspiracy theory you’ve ever heard.
But how can a zombie film successfully tackle a theme like marijuana legalization? I cornered Williamsmith and demanded answers.
ISLA: Tell me about your plans for the film.
Williamsmith: This is our first attempt to make a new film industry completely independent of Hollywood. The miracle that is crowd-sourced fund-raising makes this a real possibility, with special FX that rival Hollywood standards. And if we put the film out for free, we can still have a way of expanding our operations through the sale of merchandise related to the film. Crowd-sourced fund-raising could take Hollywood’s business model and turn it on its head. If the fans are the ones who fund the films, it eliminates the need for big business to get involved. I feel this is the future of film entertainment. A direct relationship between fans and the filmmakers. For the most part, alternative media has become the way people receive real news. We feel that in order to save our country, there must be a cultural Renaissance: a grass roots movement of independent media, industry, art, music and film. If these new industries work together in new and innovative ways to challenge big business, we might have a shot at real change. It may be a drop in the bucket, but we’re just doing our part.
I’ve seen pot leaves all over your press kit. Other than the obvious, what does weed have to do with zombies?
Marijuana use is one of the major themes of the film and appears throughout the movie in several different forms. We’ve all heard of the real zombie sightings like the one in Florida caused by synthetic drugs. This film suggests that these legal synthetic substances are being distributed by a “Shadow Government” to zombify the masses. The prohibition of hemp makes this secret operation possible. Otherwise, people would be smoking real marijuana. I personally believe that if hemp were to be decriminalized, we could very well prevent the collapse of our economy and restore the virtues of our profit-based medical industry. By the end of the film, I strongly believe that the audience will agree.
What the film is really all about is waking up the zombified public to the fact that hemp is not just simply a drug to get you high. Whether it be through smoking the plant or by ingesting its extracted oil, thousands of people around the world have claimed that using cannabis medicinally cured their cancer, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and just about every other major ailment you can think of.
The character Rasta Zombie, himself, has a strong relationship with marijuana. He is a Rastafarian pop icon with enormous influence, and was inspired by Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson and even John Lennon. He was very outspoken about the truth movement, peace, ending war, and especially the legalization of cannabis as an alternative to big oil, big steel, and more importantly, big pharma. The film begins after his mysterious disappearance, and many people believe it was due to his activism in support of marijuana legalization.
In a way this movie is actually an “anti-zombie” zombie film. One of the major goals of this movie is to wake up the general uninformed public, much like the zombies in the film. For both the zombies in the movie, and the unawakened viewers, Rasta Zombie is there to help guide their spirits back from their synthetic control. I can’t say too much about the conclusion, but hemp and music plays a large role. Expect a wild ride. Something never before seen in film. Wake yourself before you break yourself.
Someone may have recently convinced me to side with decriminalization rather than legalization as a way of locking tobacco companies out of a future marijuana industry. What are your thoughts on this subject?
I’ve heard that Obama is opposed to the legalization of marijuana and supports decriminalization. We’re opposed to everything Obama supports. I’m no expert on the political implications of legalization, decriminalization, and medical use. From what I gather they all have limitations. So I would say none of the above. Marijuana was never called such until “The Marijuana Tax Act” about 80 years ago. Before this act it was called “hemp”. You could grow it without any restrictions. It was sold over the counter as medicine. Henry Ford made his first car almost entirely with hemp. He had fields of the stuff surrounding his factory and combined the hemp fiber with the resins to produce thin sheets of building material that was ten times stronger than steel. He also made the engines to run on bio-fuel made from hemp.
The reason it was made illegal was because the steel, paper, paint, and oil industries wanted to protect themselves from the more economical hemp industry. They came together and created a very effective campaign to demonize and criminalize hemp. Their industries, based on cutting down trees, sucking oil from the earth, mining metals, and even promoting profit-based medicine, continued to flourish into the future. Hemp should be fully legal across the board.
We still lose with all three of these options because there will be laws put in place to keep people from growing as much as they want. If there were no limitations whatsoever our economy would boom.
It’s a plant, like a flower. Did you know you can go to some Fiesta stores and purchase large bags of opium poppy seeds? You can also grow as many as you want as long as you don’t harvest opium from the flowers. The more the government gets out of our business the better.
Most of the laws that have been put into place are unconstitutional laws. Unconstitutional laws are, by default, not laws at all. People should wake up to this. Wake up and nullify unconstitutional laws. If everyone started throwing hemp seeds in ditches and fields across the country, the government couldn’t stop us. I went to a small town in Kansas years ago. Weed was growing literally everywhere. In peoples yards. By the railroad tracks. I’m talking fields of the stuff everywhere you looked. Supposedly, a hippie they called Johnny Hemp Seed would throw his seeds everywhere so they would grow, and it definitely worked. The locals told me that the cops would burn the fields a few times a year, but in the end, they could not control it. They call it weed for a reason. Because it grows like weeds.
Our movie is all about taking our country and our rights back. All that’s really needed is passive force. If we simply ignored these laws that keep us in chains and we do it together as one. There is no way we would lose. A grass roots movement (pun intended).
You’ve mentioned that a portion of your budget is planned to be donated to NORML?
Actually, that was our first choice, but they turned us down and said they would not support a project on the promise of money. I was a little upset when I heard this. It gave me the impression that they don’t want marijuana legal because if it were, they would no longer receive funds from people who support the cause. I’m not making claims against them, but that’s the impression I got.
So we did a little research and found a man by the name of Rick Simpson who is making highly concentrated cannabis oil. Over 5,000 of his patients have claimed to have cured their cancer. We decided to take $5,000 out of every $100,000 raised from our film budget to donate to his foundation www.phoenixtears.ca. I’ve been in contact with him for the past few weeks and he agrees that it would be a good idea to have a mascot for the legalization movement. We hope Rasta Zombie can be this icon. Rick is traveling the world healing people for free. If you don’t believe this is possible, watch his film, Run from the Cure, for free on YouTube. We want to give him as much of our funds as we can without hindering our ability to produce this film. Things need to change, and it starts by voting with your dollar and giving your money to people that want to challenge the current system. This system has proven itself not worthy of existence in my opinion.
This is in no way similar to any other zombie film in existence. What this movie has to say is that the human spirit can overcome any obstacle. That we’re not all doomed to become mindless eaters of flesh. That the answers to our problems have been hidden in plain sight for far too long. We must remember our fallen heroes who spoke about truth, peace, and love. Their spirits are still with us, so we do not fight alone. If we band together for the common good and demand change, a new Renaissance will rise. Freedom will rise.
I saw something cool on your indiegogo page called “Story Bender Perks.” Can you explain what they are and where you got the idea for them?
Shaun, Brian, and myself where just sitting around the table in the back yard thinking of different perks we might offer. The standard perks like T-shirt’s and movie posters where obvious. I was trying to think of something that would take film making and make it more interactive. Something that would involve the fans in a way that has never been done before. At the same time, challenging the tried and true ways that films have been made.
I thought back to the Choose Your Own Adventure books when I was a kid. They were usually very poorly written, but it was the possibility of being immersed in your own world that made me obsessed with them. It amazed me. When I was a kid, we couldn’t afford video games, so I read a lot, and these kind of books were the closest alternative. I simply took the Choose Your Own Adventure idea and applied it to film making. I can’t take credit for it. Whoever invented those innovative books with uninspired children’s stories can take credit for the “Story Bender Perks”. I wanted to call it “Choose Your Own Adventure” originally, but Shaun was opposed to that name so we settled on “Story Bender,” simply because we’re all fans of the Avatar: The Last Air Bender cartoon series.
Crowd-sourced fund-raising is the future of movie entertainment. It just needs some fresh ideas to make it really take off. Even if our campaign doesn’t reach it’s goal, I’m hoping others will use this idea and even come up with something better. To me this isn’t a contest. Creativity is a universal language. I’m hoping that artists, musicians, and filmmakers start working together. Helping each other out.
I’ve always told myself that there’s no point in being created, if your not creative. Whether it’s building a house, creating a child, or painting a picture. We’re all here for this reason in some way or another. To create and help each other create. Brian and Shaun Kennedy have helped me both create the trailer and challenged me to evolve this story to what it is now with their extraordinary talents. We’re all in this thing together. I’m hoping the audience, alternative media and fellow filmmakers get involved in our project in some way or another. Aside from you, we’ve not heard much from anyone. We’re hoping that will change soon. Come together right now….over weed!
How can my readers get in touch with you and support the film?
Please contribute to our indiegogo campaign if you can. We need as much help and support as we can get. We really want to get this film made and we want to get behind this cause. We also have a Facebook fan page, YouTube, and Vimeo account. And you can follow us on Twitter @RastaZombie2014.