A feature documentary film piecing together the real story behind our global war on drugs

Latest news and production updates for the film 'Drug War'



The US War on Drugs – infographic

This infographic does a great job of giving you some perspective on the US war on drugs:


[Click on the graphic to see it full size ]

Filming update : Interview with Ross Bell

Ross Bell

Ross Bell

Filmed a great interview today with Ross Bell from NZ Drug Foundation. The interview went really well and it was great to talk not only of the global drug war abut also about some of the challenges faced and lessons that can be learned from what is going on in New Zealand at the moment, all great stuff.

For more information on Ross, his organisation or New Zealand drug policy in general, please visit their site: http://www.drugfoundation.org.nz

It went so well in fact that we lost track of time and Ross had to rush off to the airport and try and catch his flight out that afternoon. I hope he made it in time! A big thanks to Ross and to Michael Bird who was kind enough to provide the location and to host us while we filmed.

I know that the posts have been a bit few and far between of late but rest assured that things are ticking along very nicely and in fact there’s been a lot happening recently but (as is so often the case) until things are finalised, agreed or set in stone we can’t really make any public announcements about any of it! Trust me though, things are moving forwards and we look forward to being able to talk more about it in future.


Filming Update : Interview with Steve Rolles

Steve Rolles - Transform

Steve Rolles

Today we filmed an important (and extremely interesting) interview with Steve Rolles from Transform.

It was so interesting in fact that we could easily have gone on for a couple of more hours but sadly we had to wrap it up at just under two.

Nevertheless, we got some great material in the can and things went pretty smoothly (apart from some occasional noisy doors in the corridor outside our location) – the trials of independent filmmaking!

Pleasingly we managed to cover a great deal about the global drug war during our chat, and naturally also spent a decent amount of time talking about alternatives (such as decriminalisation and legal regulation), which is great because Steve literally ‘wrote the book‘ on these topics, so that was extremely valuable.

As you can see on the right there, we’ve also included a frame grab from the footage today to give you an idea of how it looked.

Stay tuned for more updates.


The more observant of you will have noticed that this news blog (and the film’s site) has a new look.


Drug War film

You may also have noticed that the small detail that the film has changed its name. Rest assured it’s still the same film, but has been refreshed so that it can be presented in a clearer and more representative form.

So what prompted this change?
Well, for a while now I’d been less than 100% happy with the old artwork that being used for this project as it dated back to the very early days when the film had a different title and a slightly different emphasis. So even before this new title the artwork was a generation behind in some ways. The idea of changing it had been something I’d been looking at for a little while but had yet to really hit on an idea that I felt really worked to convey the huge scope of both the issue and specifically this film, into a single cogent image.

The war on drugs, is so many things in so many places and yet it’s one joined up system. It’s multifaceted and in some ways like a giant puzzle whose pieces don’t fit the way they ‘supposedly’ should. With so many facets to it (and the film covering such a wide range of them) it was hard to create a visual identity that conveyed all this while keeping the image simple and easy to understand at first glance – while also retaining some interest for subsequent glances. The concept of the puzzle eventually arrived however and before long the image and theme you see on this site came into being.

The new artwork was just one aspect of this however as the end goal was to find a way to better and more clearly communicate what this film is and what it’s about.  The subject of a shorter, easier title had been raised a few times over the last few months but none of the new ideas really nailed it for me. The answer (as is often the case) was hiding in plain sight, and (while I was initially unsure because it’s just so simple and straightforward) I began to see that these was its main assets. “It says what it is on the tin” as it were. Most of all it’s a title that works well for people new to the issue.

Prohibition : A Modern Addiction’ was (like ‘A War On Ourselves’ before it) a strong title that I felt illustrated my increasingly sophisticated understanding of the issue, but it it’s not about me. It became clear that the title was slightly puzzling to many people who were not already knowledgeable about it. While preaching to the converted is fine, one of the primary objectives of this film is to introduce the wider public to this issue ‘from the ground floor’ as it were and take them through it all assuming little to no prior knowledge. So after much brainstorming I came up with what you can see here.

I think it’s strong, it’s simple and I hope that it could prompt questions from people  the first time they saw it somewhere as they passed by. “Drug War? What about it? What IS the real story behind it?” “Is there something I don’t know?” etc.

I think it works, what about you?

Filming update: interview with Mike Jay

Mike Jay

Mike Jay being interviewed

Today we filmed a great interview with renowned author and drug war historian Mike Jay in London.

Mike was kind enough to spare some time to talk to us and we had a great chat about many aspects of the drug issue, but got some great moments on camera in particular around the history of drug use in society, the history of the drug trade and also how we ended up where we are today.

If you you haven’t had a chance to read’s mike’s most recent publication ‘High Society’ I highly recommend it, it’s a genuinely good read. You can find out more about Mike and his work on his site: www.mikejay.net

Stay tuned for more progress.. much is afoot.

Approaching the tipping point

An update is long overdue. The gap has been due to a lot going on rather than nothing..

As is always the case with unfolding matters, it’s hard to gauge the ‘right’ time to announce anything as you’re always caught between not wanting to count your chickens before they’ve hatched and not wanting to wait until everything is a done deal and report after the fact by which time the news is past tense.

Striking a balance somewhere in between, I’m really pleased to say that Prohibition : A Modern Addiction has been fortunate enough to find itself attracting the interest and support of the Tipping Point Film Fund.




The first major group or organisation to really get behind the project, I am really pleased to be working with them and impressed at not only how well they ‘get it’ but also how committed they are to helping get this film made and in front of audiences.

It’s only early days, but we are working together to find funding and sponsorship partners for the film and will keep you updated as soon as we have some official news to announce on that front. Its never easy, and it’s particularly not easy in ‘the current financial climate’ but where there’s a will there’s always a way.

Tipping Point have gotten behind some other great documentary projects for social change and I urge you to visit their site and check those out.

You can see the project featured on their site here: http://www.tippingpointfilmfund.com/projects/prohibition-a-modern-addiction/

Stay tuned for more.





Ketamine reclassification debate in UK – users demand sensible debate

Below is a guest post from Paul (one of the part time volunteers on this project) who has recently been interviewed in regards to the debate on Ketamine reclassification in the UK:

“I was recently interviewed by the BBC, along with several others, regarding ketamine and its potential reclassification. Several people have recently called for its classification to be raised from C to B, their justification being the damage it does to people when compared with the harm of other drugs in the class system, they are also calling for more information and research.

The Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD) lead by Prof David Nutt is about to release a report on ketamine and the realities of reclassifying ketamine, now the 4th biggest party drug in the UK. So the BBC have interviewed ketamine users, drug workers, bereaved parents and medical practioners. Of course it remains to be seen what the content of the ISCD report will be exactly and it’s subsequent media reaction however  I think it could well be headline news for at least a day. I’ll therefore becontributing to the blog here as well as going out and commenting on articles online in order to highlight the issue and try and build our (steadily growing) base of supporters for this important film project – as it is needed now more than ever to help bring this issue to the attention of the public.

The medical profession know very little about the effects of ketamine abuse and how to treat the variety of symptoms it presents. People are actually having their bladder removed because it has been so badly damaged. Users often know very little themselves and their parents and friends often know nothing of the long term implications. I was lucky, I only spent 4 or 5 days in the most excruciating, agonizing pain I’ve ever felt, with the doctor telling me to take gaviscon and paracetemol. Trust me you need more than over the counter medication.

So what good is changing it’s letter in a classification system that is inadequate, confusing and has lost all credibility?  What doctors, parents and users need is information and proper health services.”

- Paul Harwood

Stay tuned for more posts from Paul and other members of the team in future.

Stay tuned for more..

Quick update

A few weeks having past since the last post, it seemed like a good idea to check in and let everyone know what’s happening in the background.

Among other work, we are busy planning out the fundraising trailer for the film. Why is this important?
Well as you may have gleaned from previous postings (and our recent crowdfunding appeal),  discussions with broadcasters, foundations and various others (so far) all lead us to the same place; namely “we want to see a glimpse of what the film will eventually be like”.

While this is entirely reasonable – and completely expected – it does leave us in a rather tricky situation. We can’t effectively raise money to shoot where, what and how we want to because we have nothing substantial already shot to show people. No trailer = no money and no money means no trailer.The classic catch-22. Any discussion started eventually leads back to wanting to see something – which is fair enough. We’d love to be filming a subject which was  ‘just around the corner’ and thus easily accessed but unfortunately we ended up being passionate about a huge global issue that manifests in some of the ‘trickiest’ areas in the world. This kind of filming requires a little more preparation and support.

The crowdfunding appeal was one effort to break out of the stalemate and go forth independently and shoot some screen worthy footage of our own (rather than just ‘borrowing’ it from other sources), however the sums raised were not quite sufficient for us to get out there and achieve what we want to just yet. The main reason for this was poor timing for the appeal – and I also suspect (ironically), because we didn’t have a strong trailer to get new people into what we were doing quickly.

The next step therefore is to plan out a strategy (for where we are now) to get this trailer made. That includes exactly what goes into it, establishing what we have already that’s been collected along the way, where the gaps are, recruiting the talents of some clever visual artists (like animators, Motion Graphics artists etc) to help show what the film’s eventual style will be and of course finding ways to finance this.

So, in short ‘we are on the case, and we’re busy’.. but just saying that wouldn’t have made for a very exciting blog post now would it?

Stay tuned for more..

Ramping up 2011

Back in London this week after an extended break overseas.

It was mostly family commitments and holiday but there was a bit of filming done here and there as well.

Interview with Dr John Marks

Dr John Marks

Most notably, a couple of very interesting interviews in Gisborne, New Zealand where I got a chance to speak on camera with Dr John Marks and Chris Ball who were both involved in the little known but (somewhat controversial) Chapel St clinic in Liverpool, UK during the 90′s.

The clinic operated under what used to be called ‘the British system’ which proscribed drug addicts with their substance of addiction (usually heroin) rather than a substitution. The clinic (and several like it) ran for a number of years, and during it’s time it achieved some unexpected results – massive drop in; local property crime, HIV infection rates & creation of addicts among others. Dr Marks helps explain how and why in the interview.

I’ll post up some more pics of the shoot and some clips from the interview in the net couple of weeks once I’ve got some time to sort through it all – it should be very interesting viewing.

For now, I’m wading waist deep back into the various things left running, unattended or parked to one side during my leave (including this site) and will continue to keep posting up as much as I can (time permitting) so stay tuned.


Drug War Film – The web site goes live!

It’s been a little while in the making, but here we finally are!

Prohibition : A Modern Addiction now has it’s very own online home, a place where you can follow the odyssey that is making a cinematic feature documentary on a huge global social issue (the war on drugs) and live through all the thrills and spills along the way.

This site will go through many more iterations before the film is released, both in look and content and we hope you enjoy the ride.
We have big ideas, but yet no idea exactly what form all this will take. but that’s ok – the journey of discovery is the fun part!

We are planning to use this blog as a production diary of sorts, giving you a window into the life of an ambitious project from beginning through to the end. We’ve never done this before in this way and so it’s sure to be eye opening for all concerned. We not only want to chart the progress of the film getting made but also start sharing with you some of the interesting things we come across, and thoughts we have in our ongoing research and development of the project. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it, as ultimately we are doing it for you – the film’s audience.

The site will also soon start to feature other content – like excerpts from the footage we are shooting, stills taken on location, discussions about the equipment we are using and no doubt much more..  It’s an open door really, so feel free to let us know if you have any questions about the project or if there is anything in particular you would be interested in hearing.

Not everyone has time to follow a blog religiously of course, so in addition to the blog, we have started an email newsletter, so make sure you sign up to it as it should be pretty cool. The aim with this is to make it a regular – but not too regular – update on the latest and greatest news of what we’re up to, a kind of ‘best of the best’ for people who might not necessarily be able to find the time to keep coming back to the blog, or follow u son RSS etc, but still want to know when exciting things are happening.

It’s highly recommended so please sign up (we promise to NEVER sell or pass on your details to any 3rd party, or send you lots of spam like rubbish – we hate that too!). You can see the form on the front page of: http://www.drugwarfilm.com/

Without further ado, let us just say welcome and that we hope you enjoy the ride. We are going to get on with collecting lots of goodies to put on the site for you. Stay tuned.