“For this film to be taken seriously outside the cannabis community, it is important that it is seen to be transparent. I hope by approaching the subject objectively, it will provide a catalyst for debate in wider society.”
“We are not talking about a miracle,” says documentary film maker George Wilkins. This month he finishes filming Project Storm, a bold film that aims to explore cannabis’s potential as a cancer cure which follows the stories of six UK cancer patients who are being treated using cannabis oil.
The 28 year old film maker, who is based in Hull, is not interested in making bold claims or perpetuating myths as to cannabis’s miracle properties. “With this film,” he says, “I am hoping to blow hyperbole out of the water. There are many claims about what cannabis can achieve, and in many ways they undermine the whole argument.”
What George is interested in is showing human stories that show cannabis can make a difference. “For this film to be taken seriously outside the cannabis community, it is important that it is seen to be transparent. I hope by approaching the subject objectively, it will provide a catalyst for debate in wider society.”
Project Storm follows the work of Bud Buddies. In particular, the documentary focuses on the work the organization is doing to treat six people from around the UK who have cancer with cannabis oil. Ranging in age from 6 to 74, those being treated are suffering from various forms of cancer including prostrate, glioma (brain), bowel and GBM (a common childhood cancer). Five of the subjects are being treated directly for their cancer, but for one of the patients the treatment is preventative – a maintenance dose to prevent the cancer returning.
As well as looking at the work of Bud Buddies and following the progress of the cannabis oil treatments they are administering, the film also looks at different aspects of the cannabis and cancer paradigm. This includes interviews with the scientists conducting ground breaking research into cancer treatment using cannabis at the Complutense University in Madrid. It also looks at the pharmaceutical sector’s development of drugs that are cannabinoid based, the development of medical seed strains by the cannabis industry and the role of cannabis criminals and how they fit within the law.
Inspiration for this film came by chance. George recounts that 18 months ago he was visiting a friend who owned a health food shop in the North East of England. As they sat chatting a man walked through the door. As George recounts. “I could see straight away that he didn’t look well. This man asked my friend if he knew where he could buy some cannabis oil. He explained he had terminal cancer and the doctors had told him he could not have any more chemotherapy. He had read about oil on the internet.”
“That sparked my interest. I went home and started researching immediately. I read articles, watched films like Run From The Cure (by Rick Simpson), read accounts of how cannabis had cured all these medical conditions – from arthritis and MS to cancer. I couldn’t understand why this thing wasn’t massive! Why was it that, with all this information, it hadn’t broken into the mainstream? And that’s when it hit me. There was just too much information; much of the evidence was anecdotal, the science was often inaccurate and it was getting lost in the white noise of the internet. What was needed was an objective overview, one that didn’t take sides, didn’t try to impose an opinion. I knew straight away that this was a film I wanted to make.”
He explains that to give the medicinal cannabis angle real impact he decided to target “the big guy”: cancer. If there was any truth to the anecdotal evidence surrounding cannabis oil’s effectiveness in tackling cancer, then that would get noticed by the unconverted. However, he also knew he needed to do it in a way that didn’t scare off people who didn’t use cannabis.
Through his research he came into contact with Bud Buddies, meeting with leading cannabis activist Jeff Ditchfield, who was instrumental in setting up the organization, and working with him to produce a short film, “The Search for CBD.” From there, the Project Storm plan developed.
Bud Buddies was set up to help people suffering from illness in the UK for which cannabis has a proven history of being effective. The organization is underground and somewhat controversial, although George is quick to point out that the work they do is often misunderstood. “Bud Buddies are not making any great claims that cannabis is a cure. What they do provide, however, is a point of contact for people who suffer from illness and have run out of options. The therapies Bud Buddies use follow the science and they are in touch with the research that is out there. It would be easy to dismiss what they are doing based on the issue of legality, but the people that approach them are doing so because they can’t wait for five, ten, fifteen years, when a cannabis based treatment might be cleared to be available on the NHS. The hypocrisy behind the present cannabis laws is detrimental to these people and the life (literally) choices they have.”
George is reluctant to focus on results, not wishing to add to the hyperbole he seeks to escape with this film. However, he does admit that results have been positive in all the subjects. None of them had used cannabis before their disease and came to Bud Buddies after researching alternative cancer therapies on-line, having already been down the route of traditional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It is the human stories, the characters that don’t fit the cannabis user stereotype and their experiences that gives the film its power.
“What I think comes through in this film is just how normal these people are and how their stories are ones that everyone can relate to. Sometimes I find it very difficult. These people remind me of my dad, my aunty… That is what I hope this film will do. Make the subject acceptable across society.”
Produced by Panopticon films, Project Storm is due to be finished by Autumn. The film has stirred interest and George has been involved in discussions with distributors regarding its release. An independent project, the film maker invested £15,000 of his savings which allowed him to part finish the documentary, but then ran out of money. In desperation, he turned to crowd sourcing to raise the funds necessary to complete the film. “The result has been amazing,” George says.
“Within hours of putting the word out on Facebook and Twitter, money started coming in. In six weeks we have raised another £15,000, which has allowed us to complete filming.” Donations have ranged from £5 to £5000 and have come in from all over the world, from cancer sufferers in Belize, people who have lost friends and relatives to the disease, family members of those whose stories we are telling in the film. We were really touched by the generosity.” More funds are required to finish the film, but the donations continue to come in and he is hopeful he will reach his target.
“When I started this project, the subject interested me. But over the past 18 months it has inspired me. What drives me on, what makes me determined to get this film out there and seen by as many people as possible is the realization that the only thing that separates me from the people we have been following is time. Statistically, either I, or someone very close to me, will be diagnosed with cancer. I hope that this film can help to bring about a decent debate. From what I have seen during the course of filming, cannabis is not a cure all ‘miracle’ drug as it is often claimed to be. It is, however, another weapon, and a significant one, in the treatment of cancer.”
To find out more about Project Storm, visit the website www.projectstormthefilm.com
Originally published in Weed World Magazine Issue 111