Monday, August 9, 2010

Tapping Into Some Online Green

Perhaps the best way to frame the atypical online distribution path followed by the 2008 marijuana documentary The Green Rush is to describe it as "Hulu on hemp." Unlike most of the website's fare, which is streamed after some sort of theatrical release or TV distribution, this two-years-in-the-making chronicle of northern California marijuana growers rolled onto Hulu after just five film festivals.

A large part of the credit goes to Seattle-based distributor IndieFlix, which picked up The Green Rush last fall as part of a three-year DVD deal. One year into the agreement and a few bold, innovative steps later, there is a disc available for mail order via the company website. But more importantly, there are also inbound calls from all sorts of cable TV and Video on Demand companies.

(l to r) Director Edwards, producer Jay Allen and Casseday 
at 2009 Las Vegas International Film Festival

"We first made a hit on Hulu and are now going to television," says The Green Rush co-producer Casey Casseday during an interview with FilmStew. "Our agency wouldn't touch it, and I've seen several rip-offs since."

"By emailing and following the topic, bloggers will make this film well-known, not network executives who don't necessarily understand in-depth reporting," he continues. "Everybody wants their reality TV show to have a poetic flair and manipulate the audience. We are just trying to show that people live in the woods and grow your pot."

One of the most intriguing aspects of watching The Green Rush on Hulu is to witness interruptions from a parade of Grade A corporate advertisers. It's hard not to wonder how the marketing executives for these companies have reacted to seeing their ads in the middle of a pot doc.

Co-producer Geoff Bunch (r)

"When the movie first went online, it had a McDonald's commercial in the third spot, followed by a cut back to a dude standing in a mature marijuana crop," Casseday recalls. "I'm loving it! The research done with the advertising at Hulu is second to none. I've been skeptical on the placement at times, but they test them and really seem to know their sh*t."

The Green Rush first hit Hulu on May 16th, 2010, and is currently a staple of the Top 15 Most Watched list. The streaming network was certainly taking a chance with the low-profile documentary, but Casseday says that so far, it is paying off handsomely for all parties.

Since Casseday and Bunch first roamed the sweet-smelling northern California woods, just one of the film's featured growers has been imprisoned. Everyone else, in the shadow now of Proposition 19, continues to farm legally on their own land.

Riding a hot topic

"They grow original, OG Sour Diesel and the best friggin' Purple Urkle in the whole wide world," raves Cassaday. "Whether the economy is bad or not, you can't keep people from smoking herb. Everybody up there grows marijuana, even the little old ladies and retired police officers."

While the director of The Green Rush, Jason S. Edwards, is busy this summer working on the TV series Survivor in Nicaragua, Casseday and Bunch wait for the next quarterly Hulu check and keep a close eye on the website's message boards.

"The discussion and reviews on Hulu are a daily reminder of how important this topic is to many Americans," Casseday says. "Viewers love it, hate it, share it, blog and embed it everywhere."

[The Green Rush]

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