We sit down with Diana Oliver, producer of the hemp documentary series Hempsters, to discuss her journey of covering hemp for 20 years and her upcoming docu-series with the Cannabis Car.
Diana Oliver is the Producer and Director of Thunderbird Productions, a full-service, independent film company, based in Dallas, Texas. Diana has produced multiple documentaries on Industrial Hemp, and is most known for her work with Hempsters Plant the Seed, which has been awarded the Top 100 Documentaries of All Time by A Higher Perspective. Most recently, she has partnered up with Bruce Michael Dietzen, the founder of Renew Sports Cars that created the cannabis hemp car.
During our discussion with Diana, we got the opportunity to learn about her passion for Hemp and what she hopes to accomplish through these Hemp Documentaries.
Hi Diana. Reviewing your online profile, I was really impressed at all the work you’ve done to help the hemp movement. Could you share some background on how you got so passionate about hemp?
Diana Oliver: I was an actress in LA and moved back to Dallas in ’94 to move from on camera to producing. I was sitting at my desk in Dallas at Media World Television, when an AP wire came across my computer that actor/activist Woody Harrelson had planted four feral Hemp seeds in a protest in Beattyville, KY. I knew a little about Industrial Hemp from a makeup artist friend, but did not realize what it could truly mean to the world.
So I began researching that day, and became enamored with Hemp! I contacted Mr. Jack Herer, whom my first Hempsters film is dedicated to. Jack sent me The Emperor Wears No Clothes book. After reading that, I basically became obsessed with Hemp. The deforestation issue is paramount to me. One acre of hemp is equal to FOUR acres of deforested trees! The farmers’ plight, the US Economy, the environmental and social economic values in growing Hemp are limitless!
I then reached out to Joe Hickey in Kentucky, who is Woody’s mentor and friend. We were invited to come to meet Woody in Kentucky and basically compete for the coveted filmmakers position. I reached out to a Dallas filmmaker, Director Michael Henning, and he came on board and off we went to Kentucky to meet with Woody and his team. Thankfully we were chosen to follow Woodys’ story and the rest is history, with the multi award winning debut film – Hempsters Plant the Seed.
For those who have not seen the Hempsters documentary, what is it about? What is the message you were trying to tell with the documentary?
DO: Hempsters Plant the Seed is a 14-year project about the fight to legalize industrial hemp in America for our US farmers, the Native Americans, and American citizens alike. We followed seven main activists: Woody Harrelson, The Graves Family, Julia Butterfly Hill, Craig Lee, Alex White Plume, Donna Cockrel, and Gatewood Gailbraith. Along with an additional 18 allies, including Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Ralph Nader, Stephen Jenkins of Third Eye Blind, Tom Cook, Joe American Horse, David Bronner, to name just a few of our Hempsters Heroes!
What was the general feedback after the documentary was released and what were some of the major changes you’ve noticed since then?
DO: The general feedback has been mixed, we caught a lot of flak during the making of the documentary about including Gatewood and his pro-marijuana rhetoric initially from Hemp groups, and I respect that. Back in 96′ when Woody risked his freedom to plant those revolutionary four feral Hemp seeds, we were all really fighting 80 years of misinformation, and actually attempting to change the laws in this country to grow Hemp. I realized about ten years ago that the marijuana movement was so organized, internationally, that groups like NORML were gaining huge momentum to legalize marijuana. In a sense, this also assisted in opening doors for Industrial Hemp, in my humble opinion, and the concentrated grass roots efforts of advocacy groups such as Vote Hemp, Hemp Industries Association & The National Hemp Association, and indeed Hemp farming is slowly gaining momentum, again, in the USA!
During the past two decades, hemp legalization has made steady progress – but it’s been nowhere fast enough. What has been the biggest frustration working for this movement?
DO: The list is too long! Hempsters Plant the Seed was a 14 year, chronologically filmed project. Woody’s story alone spanned 7 years – from his Hemp protest planting, his subsequent arrest, trial and acquittal. I’ve experienced so many blessings and roadblocks while working with such mega stars, but he is a true Hempsters’ Hero and inspiration of mine from day one. I formulated the entire first film around his protest planting. The losses I would have to say, have been the wonderful people we lost along the way, from Jack Herer, Donna Cockrel, Gatewood Gailbraith, David Madera, to some of my nearest and my dearest family.
Any stories of when you were heavily discouraged?
DO: Yes, mostly the naysayers, the “Hemp is a nickname for marijuana” jokes. But God, and my Family, my Mother Mary Oliver, Father Roy Oliver, my sisters Brenda and Lorna, and our investors have helped us along the way and assisted in keeping this Hemp filmmaking dream alive! My business partner, Geoffrey Green, has been crucial, along with investors, Roger Ford and Jesse Sayler of Patriot Bioenergy in Kentucky co-invested in Hempsters Cannabis Car and Bruce’s Tour. Their faith and belief in Industrial Hemp and my filmmaking outreach kept me in the fight!
More recently, you have teamed up with Bruce from Renew Sports Cars to create a new docu-series based on his cannabis car. How did that come about?
DO: Bruce and I met online on Facebook , right after he launched the cannabis car. He had met Aviva Vuvuzela and the Flying Penguins, an Atlanta based band, that wrote the first Cannabis Car Song. Aviva told Bruce about Hempsters Plant the Seed and my producer work. Initially, I was going to feature him in my second of seven Hempsters films, Hempsters an American Revolution & Hempsters Canada Seeds of Growth, which has been in funding mode for a few years, and now thankfully being funded by Executive Producer Robert Bramley.
Bruce contacted me last summer about collaboration and producing his tour under my Hempsters Brand. At the same time he had also just been invited by Wendy Robbins and Karen Paull to be a contestant on The Marijuana Show in Denver, where he could pitch his Renew Sports Cars Company for one million dollars. That was all I needed to say yes. Because a million dollar pitch was going to get press, which translates to awareness for documentary filmmakers.
Bruce and I partnered up on the Hempsters Cannabis Car Sustainability Tour Docu Series. The project is a docuseries film tour, traveling across the country to share Bruce’s Hero Journey and following in Henry Ford’s non carbon footsteps in the Cannabis Hemp Car!
While in Denver, I contacted The Denver Post to do a feature on Bruce as a contestant on The Marijuana Show and it paid off big time! The Denver Post led to a video feature in the Denver Post Online, this led to The New York Post, ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, and the momentum continued to build from city to city. I then approached the amazing team at High Times, whereupon we were featured in the May/June 2016 Ballers’ Buyers Guide. The High Times article triggered Barcroft Media (and international Media giant) and a current feature on Barcroft Cars You Tube Channel. Our message of Hemp cars is going viral!
All the press momentum really helped The Hempsters Cannabis Car tour to jumpstart our awareness tour.
On the production side, I raised $30k last year with our first investors from Patriot Bioenergy, and that’s when we were off and running with our film crew and Bruce’s Hero’s Journey. We followed Willie Nelson’s Tour from Farm Aid 30 in Chicago to the Marijuana Show in Denver, where Bruce and The Cannabis Car were contestants. From there we headed to Pikeville to have the Cannabis Hemp Car parked in front of Willie and Merle’s final concert in Kentucky. We also filmed on Brushy Mountain an homage to Woody Harrelson’s 20-year Hemp Seed Planting Anniversary in ‘96, which is featured in Hempsters Plant the Seed. Overall, it has been s a lot of Hemp synergy all around!
You can watch both the Sizzle and the Trailer for The Cannabis Car Tour on our Facebook page: Hempsters Cannabis Car Tour, which is currently being shopped for Network Distribution.
What are you hoping to accomplish through the upcoming documentaries that might be different from the original Hempsters documentary?
DO: Hempsters Plant the Seed chronologically followed the fight to legalize industrial Hemp. Now that a few states have legalized it, while the educational fight rages on , now we want to focus on Hemp products, like Hemp cars. When people can see, feel, drive, touch, taste hemp, and wear hemp, this will bring the much needed awareness to the maligned plant.
When is the documentary series projected to be released?
DO: The Hempsters debut film is Hempsters Plant the Seed, and this is already available on Apple TV, Amazon, iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, You Tube, Free Speech TV, etc.
The second and third of the films in our series, which are being produced in conjunction with award winning filmmakers Zach Hagen and Jason Krawczyk of Alternate Ending Studios, are slated to shoot over a two-year period. The first in the series will launch this summer in a film tour and are being shot in tandem this summer on a six-week 27 US states & 9 Canadian provinces tour.
Currently there are 9 films total under the Hempsters brand and our goal is to also launch a Hempsters Network Channel, which is in discussions now. The Hempsters Network Channel will focus on all environmental films, hemp & marijuana related films, and documentaries that fight for our environment.
How could our readers find/watch them?
DO: Each film has its own Facebook page, and upcoming website. I’d ask for the readers to search Facebook under Hempsters and the titles listed above. We have call to action buttons and are launching the Hempsters Docfilm Series Apps via Google Play this month as well. Thank you!
What type of legacy would you like to leave behind?
DO: Hopefully one of an activist, a humanitarian, a truth-seeking filmmaker, an educator – all via the Hempsters documentary/film series. Our focus as filmmakers is to educate the masses about the most misunderstood and outlawed plant in US History, and to offer Industrial Hemp as an organic and viable option to the over polluted and highly toxic society that we live in today. Everything in our society can be naturally resourced, and plant-based. Just think what our world would be like if Henry Ford had mass manufactured the Soybean/Flax/Hemp car?
What was your proudest moment? That moment when you said “This is why I do what I do”
DO: Hmmm, tons of them, but definitely when Jack Herer presented me with a signed copy of The Emperor Wears No Clothes then attended a Santa Monica Film Festival screening of Hempsters Plant the Seed. He hugged me and said he was proud of my work. Again when I went backstage at a Willie Nelson benefit to deliver Willie with his copy of the film and he hugged me and said the same! I also think about when we won ‘Best Work In Progress’ at the Deep Ellum Film Festival and my Daddy and Mama said how proud they were of me. I am not in this for accolades, I will leave that to the celebrities, the farmers, the Hemp car makers, the Hemp companies and the Hemp plant!
I am in this to educate and entertain, and open people’s hearts and minds about this most impressive beautiful Hemp plant.
Thank you so much for your time. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
DO: For the Cannabis Car upcoming tour dates, please see our Facebook page, as Bruce and the Cannabis Car will be on tour with The Hempsters documentary series this summer and fall: Hempsters Cannabis Car Sustainability Tour
Also, please vote for hemp in your state at www.votehemp.com. Hempsters, The Time for Hemp is NOW!
Thank you and God bless you Hempsters!
THANK YOU Gunhee, your work and insight and planting Hemp Seeds is a beautiful thing! Please vote for Hemp in Your State at http://www.votehemp.com
Diana and The Hempsters Film Crew