'The Hero' Puts Weed In Hollywood Limelight

We spoke with David Wilfert, who marketed the film, about the weed world colliding with the film industry.

The portrayal of marijuana in film has changed since the Reefer Madness days––even since Half Baked and Pineapple Express. That’s because weed culture at large is changing and so are the people consuming the drug openly. I mean, everyone smokes weed. Which, yeah, sounds kind of like something someone might say at a party in an attempt to peer pressure someone else into blazing down, but I mean the phrase in purely demographic terms. Also, like, everyone I know smokes weed.

Don't get me wrong, the data is also there to back up my claims. The face of the cannabis consumer is dynamic, and the lines between weed culture and the mainstream grow even blurrier as legalization and normalization efforts make marijuana more relevant to the general public. The media reflects this. 

“I feel like the more something is out there the less stigma it can carry with it,” says David Wilfert, who works to bridge the gap between mainstream movie culture and cannabis. He recently worked with film production company The Orchard on advertising The Herowhich saw an early June release and features prolific weed-usage. The goal? To market the movie to a more cannabis-inclined audience.

"So the more everybody is actually comfortable seeing pot used and having it come out of the closet into the mainstream," says Wilfert.

As The Hero hit theaters in June, KINDLAND reached out to Wilfert to learn more about closing the gap between the legal weed world and the film industry. 

KINDLAND: How did the idea to spread awareness of the film in this medium come about?

David Wilfert: The distributor of the film is a company called The Orchard, and back in April they contacted me to look at one of their films, The Hero. Their normal marketing was reaching a pretty broad audience, kind of skewing a little older and more conservative, and they wanted to see if I could think of anything that would basically skew toward a cannabis-consuming audience.

So the film stars Nick Offerman and Sam Elliot, and basically they’re sitting around smoking pot everyday––their characters are out-of-work actors. They knew they had all this great [weed-related] material and none of it was evident in any of their advertising. So I brought them a couple of ideas, and one of them was basically to recut the entire trailer, focusing on this stoner buddy relationship between Nick and Sam, and take it into dispensaries in southern California where we could just play the trailer to an actual cannabis-consuming audience.

KINDLAND: How difficult was it bringing this idea to life?

David Wilfert: It wasn’t difficult at all. The Orchard was completely on board with the idea, so they basically just gave us the keys, said, "Here’s the film, recut [the trailer,] show it to us, if everything is good we’ll just take it into dispensaries," and it worked out perfectly.

KINDLAND: The dispensary showings started on June 5, the film premiered on June 9. How have people responded to the new form of advertising?

David Wilfert: Everybody’s been really on board with it. I’ve spoken with some people and, strangely, they prefer that trailer to the original trailer, and these people aren’t even pot smokers.

"This is for everybody. You know, moms smoke pot, dads smoke pot, grandpas smoke pot, uncles––it’s everywhere."

On the new trailer:

David Wilfert: We were really trying to play up those [weed] moments. There’s a lot of pot being smoked in the film, and it’s nice to see characters like that also enjoying weed as opposed to a young burnout; there’s always a stereotype involved. When you see these two guys, you go oh, alright, this is for everybody. You know, moms smoke pot, dads smoke pot, grandpas smoke pot, uncles––it’s everywhere. And I feel like the film is very representative of that.

KINDLAND: When did you begin working as a liaison between Hollywood and the marijuana industry?

David Wilfert: I started working with movie companies in 2014. I was working with a distributor called A24 on a film called Tusk, which was by Kevin Smith. With that, Kevin Smith, in the press for that film, basically said it was "born in a blaze," so he wrote it while he was pretty high. I worked with A24, gave them some ideas, and said, "Why don’t we create some specific pot strains for the film to promote it?" 

So, I contacted Aaron Justice over at Buds and Roses, we worked together to make an indica and sativa, branded them Mr. Tusk and White Walrus, and actually sold them through Buds and Roses through the month of September back in 2014. That was how I got into the weed marketing world, selling movie pot almost. Some publications said that was the first official medical marijuana tie-in in motion picture history and nobody could find proof that it wasn’t. So that had a small little milestone in it, which was fun. Normally I’d say I get one to two projects a year from companies that want a pot angle, but besides that, it’s just traditional marketing within entertainment.

KINDLAND: Where do you see marijuana advertising heading?

David Wilfert: The cannabis consumer should never be overlooked; it’s everybody, it’s so vast... If everything is headed in the direction it [currently] is, I think in five years it’ll be completely broad and mainstream. Right now, if you’re advertising, 75 percent of your consumers have to be over the age of 18. I’m not sure if you’ll be able to see it as much in your face on television. It’s the wild west out there as far as that goes. One can only hope that we’ll be able to see it everywhere. In Southern California, you see billboards advertising marijuana dispensaries. I think that’s only going to grow as the margins grow.