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Nectarball: The Story of Cannabis, a Brilliant Documentary

Nectarball: The Story of Cannabis, a Brilliant Documentary

cannabis world news media image of Mark Schulze and Patty Mooney

When I eMet Patty on the interwebs, we were discussing trees, specifically ancient oak trees. We started talking about the plant—not the oak tree—and the way that it heals many ills. As ironic as it may sound, the lives of creative people find themselves in the company of other creatives because of the social lubricant known as cannabis. I was immediately taken by the passion and compassion that Patty has for the plant, and I wanted to get a read on what creative things she and her husband, Mark, are working on. And how I could help them get the word out on their documentary film, Nectarball: The Story of Cannabis.

Ah… Here goes!

Warren Bobrow: Please tell me about yourself. Where are you from? Now? What do you do?

Patty Mooney: Mark Schulze and I are originally from the Midwest but have lived in San Diego since 1970 (Mark) and 1977 (Patty). We met on Valentine’s Day in 1982 and have been sharing adventures together ever since. We own and operate San Diego’s longest-serving video production company, Crystal Pyramid Productions (est. 1981 by Mark). Another company of ours is New & Unique Videos (est. 1985), a producer and distributor of educational special-interest titles.
Our latest project is a documentary called “NECTARBALL: The Story of Cannabis.”

cannabis world news media promo poster for Necterball: The Story of Cannabis documentary
Photo credit: Mark Schulze and Patty Mooney

Warren Bobrow: You mentioned filmmaking. Documentary filmmaking. A soft spot for me with a film degree from Emerson. Please tell me about what you have been working on. What is it about documentary film that evokes such emotion?

Patty Mooney: Mark and I produced the first educational videos of their genre back in the 1980s. As video production gear was super expensive, only a few brave souls – like us – invested in themselves and their ideas. we pioneered videos like “Massage for Relaxation” (1985), “The Great Mountain Biking Video” (1987), “The Invisible Ones: Homeless Combat Veterans” (2008), and several others. One of our earliest titles, “California Big Hunks” (1985), mystifyingly enough (to us) has earned cult status via appearances on Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Whose Line is it Anyway? And RedLetterMedia’s “Best of the Worst: Black Spine Edition #3,” which has now been seen by over 3.1 million viewers.

Our titles were successful because they were new and unique (thus, the name “New & Unique Videos”), and people were beginning to establish their personal VHS video libraries. In the late 1990s, as VHS sales began to wane, Mark and I returned to our earlier business model, shooting and producing video for corporate and broadcast clients.

All these decades of producing videos for Fortune 500 companies and shows like Inside Edition, Extra, Oprah, etc., have led us to now; the production of our latest documentary, “NECTARBALL: The Story of Cannabis,” featuring 52 cannabis luminaries (out of 165 interviewees). We traveled around the world to meet and interview them over a seven-year period. We went to North and South America, Europe, and South Africa. We asked all the questions we could think of regarding cannabis as medicine, building materials, food, and more. We received some important answers from people like Tommy Chong, Steve DeAngelo, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, Nurse Heather Sobel, RN, and so many more. The documentary is structured so that the interviewees tell the story of cannabis from its history, through prohibition, to now and the future, as we focus on the medicinal capabilities, usages, and effects of the plant on the human body. What is it about documentaries that evoke such emotion? People telling the truth from their perspective, reflecting the reality of the moment without embellishment.

Warren Bobrow: What is the topic? How long does it run? What is the premise?

Patty Mooney: The topic is Cannabis. “NECTARBALL: The Story of Cannabis” is 82 minutes long. It’s jam-packed with the wisdom of many. You can imagine that the state of Cannabis legalization varies from country to country and city to city. It has been interesting to check in on places where the plant has been freed and what some of the results are. For instance, in states where cannabis has been legalized for “Adult Use,” both opioid use and alcohol use have gone DOWN. Nobody wants to be comatose from opioids. The option of a gentle plant medicine to maintain and possibly arrest diseases such as arthritis, seizures, and cancer is a welcome idea, especially for seniors like us. It’s just a bit scary for older folks to let go of the stigma that has been pounded into their heads for most, if not all, their lives since the 1930s.

While in South Africa, we visited several social clubs where cannabis is the social lubricant that attracts a “mixed salad” of people with varied skin tones. Cannabis was decriminalized there in 2018 for personal use. You must be a member to enter these social clubs. Some of the most potent weed we have ever imbibed was at The Pottery in Port Elizabeth (now renamed Gqeberha), South Africa.

It was amazing to visit the Montevideo Cannabis Museum in Uruguay. It was the first country to legalize cannabis, abortion, and gay marriage. Ergo, Uruguay is far more progressive than the USA.

Warren Bobrow: Do you have a mentor? Who? And who taught you the craft of filmmaking? What about cannabis? What does outdoor cannabis represent to you?

Patty Mooney: Mark gained his video production education at UCSD, majoring in Communications and Sociology. Both Tommy Chong and Rich “Cheech” Marin were mentors to him during the 1970s when the comedy duo frequently appeared at The Comedy Club in La Jolla. Mark would hang out with them at the age of 20, bringing them “offerings” of Nectarball (what he named the sativa cultivar he grew back then). One time Mark shared a photo of a tall, girthy bud. Cheech quipped, “The plant that ate Chicago!” The cannabis plants appearing in Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie were modeled after Mark’s Nectarball plants.

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When Mark and I first met at La Paloma Theater on Valentine’s Day 1982, I was about to appear as a singer in the chorus in a play entitled “Pandora or If Transformation is Supposed to be So Much Fun, Why Am I Gritting My Teeth?” There was only one performance to benefit The Hunger Project. Mark was setting up a video camera to videotape the show from the balcony. I was curious about his camera and walked over to meet him. I’d only seen one other VHS camera before. But with a mother who filmed every milestone moment of our family of eight on a Hi8 camera my dad had won from his sales prowess as a Chrysler Midwest district sales manager, I already knew I loved the medium. And what an entrée to “the business.” Beginning there and then, Mark began mentoring me in the video realm. And when I look back on that moment, I realize that our desire to perform philanthropic deeds throughout our life together began to bud then.

Several beloved and wise people have mentored us. Gina Powell has been a mother to us for decades. Her husband was Robert Powell (also a mentor), author of inspirational philosophical books including “The Blissful Life.” Recently, Keiko Beatie and John Salley, both of whom appear in the video sharing their wisdom, have been mentoring us.

Filmmaking was in its infancy when we first began producing, shooting, and editing video. There were a few manuals we consumed, including The Television Production Handbook by Herbert Zettl (now in its 12th edition). The first edition was printed in 1976, and that’s the one we used. Many we learned by doing. I am a proud graduate of the “Get Thrown to the Wolves” school of video production. On my very first gig as an audio mixer at the San Diego Comic Con, I bopped Lucy Liu on the top of her head with the boom pole. My life flashed in front of my eyes; my career ended before it began! “Oh, I am so sorry, Ms. Liu!” “Don’t worry about it!” she said. What a sweetie. Outdoor cannabis represents many things. Back in the 1970s, when Mark grew cannabis in various locations, there was always a chance that he could get busted by police, taken away in cuffs, and possibly losing home and livelihood. It was bad. Our Green Closet confinement continued into the 1980s. A thief with designs to steal Mark’s Nectarball Collection of buds he had collected since 1972 held us at gunpoint. (He did not get away with the collection.) I was once arrested by two roving cops on bicycles at the beach while I was sitting on the beach wall having a puff. They rifled through my butt pouch and found – gasp!!! – a bud in a film can. For that horrific crime, I was fined $100 (a lot of money back then.) Now, outdoor cannabis represents the freedom to grow a plant in your own backyard and use it for medicine AND as a social lubricant. Why not both? The scent of lolling, crystal-embedded buds near harvest time is so amazing. It’s all about the terpenes, man!

cannabis world news media image of Mark Schulze and Patty with Tommy ChongMooney
Photo credit: Mark Schulze and Patty Mooney

Warren Bobrow: What is your passion?

Patty Mooney: It’s nice that we share various passions since they aid in the enjoyment of life. Of course, cannabis is a big one. It’s the cornerstone of good health for us. Next comes mountain biking. We have been mountain biking together since 1986. Less than a year later, we got married with our mountain bikes in the local mountains of San Diego and even began racing for a while. We still ride together. Patty won first place in the Sagebrush Safari 20-mile race this past year in the women’s category at the age of 68. Mark came in second in his category. It’s a sport that takes us out deep into nature, where we can reach places of beauty. As often as possible, we ride to the “Wedding Spot,” lay out a blanket next to a spring-fed stream, share a bottle of wine and have a puff, watch the dragonflies and the butterflies, and enjoy the shade of an ancient old oak and a 120-foot pine tree. Travel adventures are so much fun. We don’t have children or pets, so we can fly away at a moment’s notice.

We have a passion for video production, aka filmmaking. A filmmaker can create a movie that touches, educates, and moves people you may never meet. And that is exactly what we hope to do with our film, “NECTARBALL: The Story of Cannabis.” We want people to understand the kinds of tools for the improvement of their health that are available to them. We want to eradicate the stigma about the plant. We want to help the world be a better place for all of us to live a “high-quality life.”

The film will enjoy its live virtual World Premiere on October 20, 2023, beginning at 6:30 PM (PT), when people can gather, enjoy a beverage, and smoke a bowl in the comfort of their homes. The 82-minute show begins at 7:30 PM, and then we’ll have a Q&A with special guests, including John Salley, Nurse Heather, and Keiko Beatie. Tickets for this exclusive showing are limited to the first 500 people who sign up and are going fast. So, purchase your tickets before it’s too late!

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