You can view the trailer here.
And download the entire film from Freedom Feens (you’ll need a bit torrent client). The film is scheduled to be officially released by a distributor in spring 2011. But you can download with the blessing of the movie’s creative commons license.
The online version is NSFW due to language. The spring release will be slightly shorter and cuss-free.
In either version, you’ll see some familiar faces, or at least some freedomistas whose names you know, like Sheriff Richard Mack and our own MamaLiberty, who first alerted me to the film’s existence then sent me a copy.
The film is full-length, fast-moving, surprisingly funny, and chaotic enough to please its intended audience (teens and young twentysomethings) without being too chaotic for those of us who “can’t remember the 60s because we were enjoying them too much.” It’s also nicely subversive in that it begins with some eye-catchers coupled with moderate messages (e.g. pro-medical cannabis) then riots its way toward more hardcore positions. There are a lot of good lines in it but my favorite is the final line delivered by MamaLiberty.
I had the chance this week to “talk” with Dean and Vedadi by email. For your holiday pleasure, here’s Part I of that interview. The rest will be posted over the weekend. Although the interview contains mentions of scenes in the movie, there are no spoilers because … hey, it’s a documentary; there’s no plot to be spoiled.
CLAIRE WOLFE: Why did you make this film? What are you hoping to achieve with it?
MICHAEL DEAN: Well, it came from a few different directions, over a few years’ time. But it all came together very quickly once I met Neema. I had a plan five years ago to write a book called “Politics for the Rest of Us” with an uber-liberal FAR-left progressive Ivy League college professor friend of mine. (He’s in David Horowitz’s book “The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.”) This professor played in a punk rock band with me about 25 years ago, and we’ve kept in touch. But as I became more of a vocal gun nut, he lost interest in being associated with me publicly. That book was going to be a “find the common ground” study between “left” and “right.” But as I began to see more and more that both left and right (and especially the left, lately), steal from people, I lost interest in working with him too. But some of my bullet points for that book became the basis for some parts of “Guns and Weed.”
Later I wrote a “libertarian self-help book” called “A User’s Manual for the Human Experience.” It applied the non-aggression principle to getting bad people out of your life. The politics in it weren’t quite fully formed (hey … we’re all on a journey, ya know?), but it helped a lot of people get out of abusive relationships, so that’s a good thing, and it was also a stepping stone to making this film.
Many libertarians agree 99 percent and spend a lot of energy screaming at each other about the other 1%. I got sick of weenieing with people on Internet forums, and figured it would be a more productive use of my time and skills to get off the forums and work on something that was a complete statement of my world view, wrapped inside a tasty delivery mechanism. Something I could hand to people and walk away.
I met Neema through our mutual buddy Shepard Humphries. (Shepard is in the movie, playing the team leader in the “government self-defense class” skit.) It was a wonderful, fast and true friendship. I suppose I see Neema as a smart younger brother, he’s 26 and I’m 46. He calls my wife and me his “Casper (Wyoming) parents.” But he also taught me a lot, basically taking me from minarchist to anarchist.
An interesting aspect of this film was that the entire project, as well as my and Neema’s in-person friendship, had an expiration date. He’s a TV anchor/reporter, and I knew that six months after we met, his two-year contract was up and he’d be moving out of state for a new job. We spent the first two months just hanging out, talking about liberty, me teaching him to shoot guns, and dabbling in making music together. Then we decided to make a movie and went into laser-focused overdrive and did the whole thing in four months. Neema practically lived at our house and ate dinner with my wife DJ (Debra Jean) and me most nights. Sometimes Neema and I would work in 24-hour shifts, with one of us editing while the other took catnaps, then we’d work together for eight hours, then the other guy would nap for an hour. It was a really great season and I hated to see him leave town. I actually cried when he left. “No homo.” (Inside joke with Neema.) I probably cry less than twice in the average year.
CLAIRE WOLFE: How did the idea of coupling guns and weed come to you? And why that rather than, say, taxes and sexual freedom or some other “right-left” combo?
MICHAEL DEAN: I am interested in sexual freedom. My wife and I wrote a book about BDSM under the names Dollie Llama and ThornDaddy. A basic credo in BDSM is “Safe, Sane and Consensual,” which shares some aspects with the non-aggression principle, even if you’re doing things that could seem “aggressive” if vanilla types walked in on ya. I actually thought of making a documentary film called “Sex and Guns” a few years ago. I even had the domain name sexandguns.org for a couple years, and wrote a proposal and detailed outline for that movie. But it didn’t really resonate enough to drive me to finish it. I’ve worked hard on outlines for many projects I’ve never finished. But sometimes doing a lot of work on an outline that I throw away is part of the early process for a later, better project. It’s just part of my dance.
Neema and I originally went through a few ideas for names/topics for this film before the light bulb went off and we settled on “Guns and Weed: The Road to Freedom.” The list of titles is a little embarrassingly quaint, but it kind of shows the progression we went through: “Libertarianism 101,” “A Young Person’s Guide to Changing the World,” “I Own Me,” “Hustlin’ for Freedom,” “A Young Person’s Guide to Liberty,” “A Dope Guide to Liberty,” “Guns and Weed: American Freedom,” and finally “Guns and Weed: The Road to Freedom.”
My wife actually came up with the final title. Like I’ve always said, “Behind every great man is a good woman he steals all his ideas from.”
The combination was a hit with us once we figured out where the film wanted to take us. It’s a good introduction to libertarianism but we did not use the term “libertarian” anywhere in the movie.
I don’t do drugs, but I think the War on Drugs is incredibly unethical. We noticed a lot of parallels between the War on Drugs and the War on Guns, and this formed the genesis of the final product. The sheer number of topics we covered (guns, drugs, freedom, taxes, public schools, government regulation, cops, war, marriage, nanny laws, labor unions, American history, the Bill of Rights, Natural Law, non-aggression principle, self-defense and much much more) is why the movie is so long, and also why it jumps around a bit. But most people who see it think it’s solid and compelling, with a lot of variety in the presentation, which means it is not “a long movie.”
NEEMA VEDADI: In one of the first songs Michael and I collaborated on I wrote this lyric “I want my guns and my weed/who are you to say what I do or don’t need?” If you boil down the issues of guns rights and pot legalization you are left with the most fundamental and easy to grasp concepts of liberty: the right to defend yourself, and the right to own whatever you want and put whatever you want into your body. If you take that even further it boils down to simply “you are the rightful owner of yourself and are responsible for your own life.” Once you realize that, then any attempts to usurp your self-ownership are readily noticeable as immoral.
CLAIRE WOLFE: Your intended audience is obviously younger than the usual libertarian activist crowd. What techniques are you using to reach this audience?
MICHAEL DEAN: Basically we made this film as an educational primer, but also as an entertaining anti-indoctrination film. I think the weed part will make college liberal folks watch it and maybe help them realize why supporting “progressive” ideals that involve theft or aggression just might not be a good thing. It will also teach them that owning guns doesn’t make you a bad person. Both concepts undo some of the damage done by government schools (K-12 as well as state colleges), and without the weed part, victims of those schools would not likely ever watch it to find out about the gun parts and the liberty parts.
We originally thought the film would “unite the left and the right,” but that was wishful thinking. A lot of conservative Republican NRA types HATE this movie, and I’ve gotten actual threats via e-mail from them, and have seen a lot of online bashing of the movie by old gunnies, even just based on the trailer, or even just the title. They think this film is a really BAD idea and counterproductive for Second Amendment preservation. A popular rifle instructor who’s never seen a single frame of my work said “We don’t need some B-list producer promoting pothead agendas.” A moderator on CalGuns.net said of the film “Why not just have a NAMBLA cuddle-‘n’-shoot event instead?”
But folks like that usually think the Bill of Rights created the Right to Bear Arms, which is just silly. And the movie explains why, culminating with the last thing I wrote and added in. It’s a line aimed directly at them, inspired by reactions to the trailer before the movie was even done. The line is “The Second Amendment did not yet exist on April 19, 1775, but the patriots at Lexington and Concord knew they didn’t need permission.”
Some older folks actually do “get” it. I got a glowing letter from a Vietnam vet yesterday who loved the movie and thanked us for making it.
So this film is really for people who think like I did when I was 20 or 21. When I was young I voted Democrat but didn’t know why. I thought guns were bad but didn’t know why. I always hated authority but still thought the government was there to help us.
If I’d seen this movie at age 20 it would have been a life-changing experience for me. We’re hoping it will have that effect on more than a few young people, and judging from early feedback, we think it will. Younger weed people like this film a lot. Older right-wing gunnies tend to hate it. A lot of them even support the War on Drugs! But anyone who hates even the IDEA of this film is beyond redemption, and they’re more a part of the problem than a part of the solution. Their minds are permanently closed, so this film can’t be an eye opener for them. It’s like Boston T. Party said, “The problem isn’t Democrats. The problem is Republicans who aren’t willing to become libertarians.”
NEEMA VEDADI: I’m a young guy and I have five younger siblings. From my experience I’ve seen a lot of young people who feel something is very wrong with their world. We wanted this movie to give them a principled yet accessible viewpoint. Most kids think that guns and weed are “cool.” We wanted to say guns and weed are just things; Freedom is what’s cool.