‘One Good Year’ highlights local filmmaking at Central Wisconsin Film Festival

The drive from Madison to Humboldt County, California is approximately 2,200 miles, but that distance seems a lot shorter today with the help of computers and stuff. The “power of the internet” was all that California-based director Mikal Jakubal needed to enlist the services of Madison studio Downtown Dailies for his new film.

One Good Year, which plays this weekend as part of the Central Wisconsin Film Festival, details the trials and tribulations of cannabis farmers in California. As its title belies, the documentary takes cross-sections of the cannabis harvest cycle, picking up pieces of biography and personal anecdotes along the way. Jakubal forgoes psychological effects and commits to the farm work first, showing his farmers trimming cannabis buds or worrying over upstart patches of mold.

Jakubal, who lives in California, first hooked up with Downtown Dailies through a documentary filmmaker’s forum called D-Word.com. Their collaboration started when Gretta Wing Miller, one of Downtown’s co-founders, cut together a trailer using some of Mikal’s footage with the intent of using the trailer for a fundraising campaign.

“I had simply offered to cut a trailer for a fellow D-Worder,” Miller said in an email, “but became enthralled by the details, the how-to that he had captured, and the folks who are so much like people I know: vegetable farmers, dairy farmers, suburban master gardeners. The amount of work they put in is amazing. Not to mention the gigantic plants which I had never seen before. I love films about ‘process’ and this was the ultimate [sic] for me.”

One Good Year emphasizes process, but it also touches on the awkward legality of the drug’s current status in the United States. At one point, a Humboldt County sheriff muses on how law enforcement makes almost as much money through federal drug grants — and even in the face of declining police work. “Busting planters, ripping out plants… that’s not really my game anymore,” he says at point.

A stigma obviously still remains with marijuana farming and many “trimmers,” who often contract their bud-trimming services out to farmers during harvest season, elected not to have their faces shown in One Good Year. In Miller’s estimation, the stigma’s a big reason why the film’s fundraising campaign was so unsuccessful. “As far as I could tell from the disastrous Kickstarter campaign, no one wanted to put their name or credit card info on a marijuana movie.”

Still, that didn’t stop Miller and her partner Aarick Beher from pursuing the project and using technology as a collaborative resource. “In this digital age, it is fairly easy to collaborate long-distance,” Miller said. “High-speed internet, a powerful computer, and Vimeo, which allowed me to replace a clip but retain the URL (something you can’t do with YouTube) were really all I needed on my end. Mikal needed to be able to watch the videos and email me back.”

A documentary on cannabis farming fits nicely into Miller and Beher’s portfolio, which already includes documentaries on sustainable organic farming in Wisconsin and the state’s precarious relationship with coal-burning.

In addition to One Good Year, this year’s Central Wisconsin Film Festival features work by other local filmmakers including 2014 Wisconsin Film Festival alum “Strings of Colors” and John Pata’s “Pity.”

  • The Central Wisconsin Film Festival runs from October 24-25 in Amherst and Marshfield and again from November 7-8 in Wisconsin Rapids. One Good Year plays Saturday October 25 at 7:00p in Marshfield’s New Visions Gallery. Gretta Wing Miller will appear in person to give a talk about the film. For directions and ticket information, head to cwfilmfest.org.