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Production   /  Kate Separovich

Growing the Pot

A coal mining town is transforming from black to green, but not everyone agrees on cannabis being one of the industries.


Impact areas




  • DIRECTOR Claire Leach

  • PRODUCER Kate Separovich



Growing the Pot is a documentary film about the town of Collie in the South West of Australia. This film will explore the impact and complications over a year on the townspeople’s lives as the town changes from black coal to green cannabis. There are a wealth of intriguing stories. From the generational coal mining families worried about their financial survival to a new wave of careers available to struggling country teenagers and the vocal anti-cannabis townsfolk who are concerned about the people that “drugs” will bring to town to those that are sceptical but may end up benefiting from cannabis-based medicine.

For more than 90 years, the coal mining town of Collie has been helping power Western Australia. The town's two mines produce WA's entire coal supply and fuel the state’s three power stations which churned out 70 per cent of the state's electricity. The demand for coal is plummeting and with the clock ticking on the future of Collie the state government has stepped in with a $20million Collie Future fund to transition the town into the 21st Century and beyond.

There’s “healthy scepticism” about making the transition to clean energy and diversifying into new industries like tourism. A boilermaker in a coal mine is going to have trouble picturing themselves in making coffee for people on bike trails, for instance. Surprisingly, there is one niche industry that has the potential to transform the town entirely – Cannabis.

Within the town of Collie, the company Cannaponics is pinning its hopes and dreams that it too has a horse in this race. The film follows founder Rod Zakostelsky as he navigates moving from the city to Collie to create the company and the obstacles he comes up against. Will Rod successfully manage to open a completely sustainable medicinal cannabis facility in a town that doesn’t move as fast as him?

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Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

Collie is a town of 7000. Like many industry-based towns around Australia (and the world) multi-generational families who have worked in the industry are fearing their future when the mines close.

In a coal mining town and a regional location the move to going green and running a sustainable business is seen as a challenge that is not worth the effort.

Cannabis has the ability to treat many illnesses and body functionality. Yet its reputation is still tarnished. Collie has had many issues with drugs in the past and there is a misconception that opening a medicinal cannabis facility will bring more drugs and related issues such as crime to the town.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

Growing the pot will show how a business can be successful by focusing on sustainability. It will show how cannabis is a game-changing plant for humans and the planet. It will create empathy for people who are having to change careers.


What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

During making this film there will be a positive attitudinal shift in Collie, around welcoming the cannabis plant into town and further awareness around the stresses caused by the coal industry closing.
After viewing that people will consider speaking to their doctor about including CBD oil in their treatments

That the film will encourage businesses to investigate improving their sustainability and bring the conversation around CBD/Cannabis to the mainstream media.

The film will encourage more doctors in Australia to be open to prescribing medicinal cannabis, through patients enquiring about it, and assist in changing the laws within WA (and Australia) to move CBD oil from a Schedule 4 to Schedule 3 drug.
That we will be able to track an increase in the number of the sustainable business’ in Australia.
And as the coal mines transition to closing, we hope that the film will help with changing work roles for individuals to other industries smoother.


How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

Short Term is engagement with the town through ‘how to film’ workshops and social media classes. Integration into the community is very important to us. During the making of the film we will work with partners who already have information about how to make your business more sustainable. In the longer term we will partner with advocacy organisations that are trying to make changes in law to cannabis growth and schedule status, using screenings of the film as an event platform to spread the message.


How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

Kate is one of the Screen Producers Australia One's to Watch and this project is one I am developing through that initiative to pitch to broadcasters and distributors at the conference.

We are in discussions with some great Executive Producers to come on board.

Screenwest was also involved in the early-stage development of the project and we hope will be involved in the post-production.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

The one thing we would really like people to do after viewing the film is to look more into Cannabis use for themselves or mention to others that cannabis might be helpful and to speak to their doctor.

Secondary action is that viewers will ask the companies they work for about their sustainability practices and refer to the film as a source of information about how it can be financially worth investigating and making changes.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

That we will be able to track an increase in the number of the sustainable business’ in Australia.

An increase in the numbers of people enquiring about medicinal cannabis with their doctors.

A change in Australia where CBD oil moves from Schedule 4 to Schedule 3 within the TGA.
We will do this by running focus groups within in various different regions. Tracking people who have seen the film (via a prize draw) and then following up with them a year later to ask them what their thoughts are about Cannabis and the sustainability practices in the business they work with.