I first heard about Grow Op, the locally produced web series about weed, from membership-driven streaming service IndieFlix. In a friendly e-mail, an IndieFlix publicist asked if I, a weed-themed columnist, might be up for writing about Grow Op, a weed-themed show? I sent the reply I send to all PR folks who pitch something interesting: "Sure—so long as my interview subjects agree to get high with me."
Unlike the press concierge for McCaw Hall's forthcoming Cheese and Meat Festival, the publicist for IndieFlix responded with enthusiasm, and eventually I found myself in a well-appointed Fremont loft with three members of Grow Op's creative team—creator/director Matt Skerritt, producer Hans Altwies, and cocreator/camera operator/stoner spirit guide Jordan Myers—all of us inhaling bubble hash from a vaporizer.
About the show: As of now, Grow Op consists of six episodes, each of which runs from three to five minutes and chronicles the transformation of an old-school street dealer into a legal-weed entrepreneur. In standard mockumentary style, Grow Op introduces its characters and spools out its plot. Where the weed-themed shorts of High Maintenance found rich, painfully funny slices of life between a dealer and his clients, Grow Op is a shaggier affair, aiming for loose and goofy over sharp and funny.
It's also proudly Seattle-centric, drawing on top-grade Seattle talent to fill its cast and soundtrack. Among the luminaries: Seattle theatrical forces Todd Jefferson Moore and Bhama Roget, and Champagne Champagne's Mark Gajadhar, who wrote the theme song and serves as music supervisor for the series. Grow Op's creators hope the strategically short episodes prove shareable enough for the show to flourish online, enabling them to bypass the maze of FCC regulations on subject matter and advertising that comes with broadcast TV.
I learn these Grow Op specifics as our heads expand toward the ceiling. The bubble hash—a sativa-dominant hybrid that our host Matt heated and pressed himself (using his daughter's flattening iron and a spice press) and served up in a Vuber vaporizer—makes its effects known almost instantly. By the time I remind Matt, Hans, and Jordan to alert me when they feel high, we're already glassy-eyed and tingly-brained and ready to gab.
Show talk comes first. I gush about the wonderful performance of Ramon Isao as the marijuana-hustler-turned-entrepreneur Kevin, who shows up in episode three to take the whole endeavor to another level, comedy-wise. "We needed someone with weird comic thing for that role," Matt tells me. "We meet this guy, he's a writer and he's brilliant. At his audition, he just came in and started talking, and we were rolling on the floor." I also learn that the show is 100-percent improvised—a fact that makes Isao's turn as Kevin all the more impressive.
Eventually I force all three men to tell me tales of being high. Matt shares his favorite high experience, which involved getting baked, playing improvisational music on a piano in a dark room, and looking up to see his dad in the corner with tears in his eyes. (Fun fact: Matt's dad is Tom Skerritt, an actor who, among many other achievements, worked with Robert Altman in the 1970s—and thus knows a thing or two about the connection between weed and creativity.)
Hans shares his worst high experience, when he was understudying a theater role and, after carefully waiting until the 90-minutes-to-showtime deadline, allowed himself to smoke some weed—only to get a late-breaking call that he was immediately needed onstage. "It was a nightmare," Hans says. "I was so freaked out... I had the most terrible smell coming from my armpits."
Finally, Jordan holds forth on his greatest stoned experience—a trip to Nepal that involved 10 grams of hash purchased for two American dollars and rolled into a leaf chillum by a Nepalese stranger, with whom Jordan spent the next several hours silently watching monkeys eat corn in a field.