Cannabis Community Spotlight: Meet the Creators of East Coast Grow
Name(s) and title(s): Amy Tasillo and Matt Doherty, Co-creators of East Coast Grow
East Coast Grow is a narrative comedy series about the cannabis industry in Washington, DC. It follows a group of industry professionals navigating the challenges of DC's medical program and Initiative 71.
How did you come up with the idea to write a scripted show about cannabis in Washington, D.C.?
MD: I've been active in the cannabis industry for over 15 years as a grower, advocate, business owner, and consultant for the medical program. For a long time I'd been wanting to do so
mething more to share what goes on behind the scenes, but wasn't sure how.
AT: My background is in filmmaking, specifically scripted content. I'd wanted to make a DC-centric show for awhile and had some different ideas I was working on. Matt's stories about working in the industry were compelling and nuanced in a way that isn't often reported when people talk about the industry. It seemed like somethin
g there was a definite need for, and the subject matter addresses a lot of the social justice issues that are important to both of us in our work.
Writing and filming the pilot for a scripted show is no small feat. How did you make it happen?
We developed the idea in April 2015 and set the goal of premiering the pilot in April 2016. We set a pretty strict schedule for ourselves and put all of our resources into the project. We had a strong team of people helping us out, and that was essential.
"We both live and work in DC, and it's important to us that our creative work supports other local creatives and contributes to building a thriving arts community here."
Your cast is primarily from the DC area. Why was it important to cast local actors?
We both live and work in DC, and it's important to us that our creative work supports other local creatives and contributes to building a thriving arts community here. There's so much talent in the DC area--we had such a wonderful team to work with.
Has the city been supportive of your work?
Absolutely. So many local businesses and organizations helped us out by providing locations and other resources for the show and by continuing to spread the word. We couldn't have done it without them.
What have you learned in the past year and what advice would you give to aspiring television/film producers?
AT: I think one of the biggest pieces of advice is don't wait for permission to get your work made. There are so many distribution outlets now that you don't need to rely on the traditional gatekeepers, and DC has a thriving community of producers to collaborate with and learn from.
MD: Also, it's important to have a clear understanding of the business side of the industry and distribution. Making a project is a lot of hard work, but that's just the beginning. Making it sustainable is where most of your time and energy will go.
Why is East Coast Grow important in a city like DC?
DC is in a unique position when it comes to the cannabis industry. Not only was it the first place on the East Coast to legalize, but it's also the location of the federal government, which has had a huge role in marijuana's illegality and villainization. Telling this story from a DC perspective allows us to address a lot of the broader political and social justice issues surrounding the industry. While the show is meant to be entertaining and comedic, it's also essential for us to address these broader issues.
"Telling this story from a DC perspective allows us to address a lot of the broader political and social justice issues surrounding the industry."
What has been the most (unexpectedly) challenging issue you've faced?
It wasn't unexpected, but the biggest lesson for us has been how much we've needed to adapt from our original concept. Because it's a series based on current events, there are always new developments that can shift the arc of the story. We filmed the pilot and are planning future episodes, and a big part of that is having the flexibility to change the story to meet the changing industry.
Has the community been supportive?
Yes, one of the best parts of making the show has been seeing the positive response from people who work in the cannabis industry. The hope for any creative work is to make something that resonates with people, so their support and excitement for the show has meant a lot to us.
What's next for East Coast Grow?
Currently we're working on getting together the resources to continue the series. We recently won DC's CINE Pitchfest presented by A&E, so we'll be pitching the show to A&E. Our hope is to find a large distributor for the series, but ultimately our goal is to be able to continue to tell the story. We're also screening in February at the Oxford Film Festival in Mississippi.
What did you think of the first NCF? What are you looking forward to in 2017?
It was amazing to see such a positive celebration of the cannabis community and to meet many of the inspiring people working to make the industry thrive. We can't wait to see what 2017 has in store and to watch the festival grow.