A filmmaker has set his sights on casting Sam Neill and Jacki Weaver in the starring roles of a movie that will tell the powerful story of the Australians who faced the “absurdities” of cannabis prohibition.

Mary Jane is the first feature-length film from independent production house, Space Between the Gaps.

Eugene Gaffney

It will follow the fictional lives of Norm and Beryle, retired dairy farmers from the Northern Rivers region of NSW, as they head into old age.

But their world is turned upside down when Norm is diagnosed with bone cancer.

Set in 2012, the emotional drama depicts the couple’s journey during which Beryle is forced onto the illicit market – and into a life of crime as it is perceived – in order to source the medicine her husband needs.

While a fictional story, it will resonate with thousands of Australians who, before medicinal cannabis was legalised in 2016, faced the same heartbreaking scenario of being branded criminals for helping the people they love.

Screenwriter and filmmaker Eugene Gaffney, who goes under the moniker Eugene E-NRG, said the foundations of the story are embedded in truth, with Beryle and Norm representing the many people faced with the same dilemma.

“This is not picking up on any one story, but based on many true stories. It’s a beautiful love story, a romance in the final years of Norm’s life,” Eugene told Cannabiz. “We’re focusing on a time when it was really absurd, when no-one could be prescribed medicinal cannabis.”

“It’s still absurd today of course. When you have dozens of police officers at peaceful 4/20 events, and when there’s a ring of police around the roads leading to Nimbin for MardiGrass, the absurdities are still present.

“We feel the movie could be a watershed moment, one that opens hearts and minds and where those in government say ‘look, let’s change the law’.”

For Eugene, the founder of Space Between the Gaps, it will be his first feature-length movie. Efforts to secure funding for the production will begin soon, with the cannabis industry in Australia and North America among potential backers.

“We’re a small, independent film company, we’re not doing big-budget films, A$5 to 6 million will the minimum,” he said. “We’ve already raised half-a-million dollars so we have people out there already who are interested, there is traction.”

The search is also underway for an executive producer.

Asked who would be his ideal lead actors, Eugene named Sam Neill and Jacki Weaver.

“Sam has the right temperament and Jacki would bring comedic and dramatic abilities. They would be ideal for the roles,” he said.

While the movie itself is some way off, an idea that emerged from the script is already taking shape.

As Eugene developed the story, he sought ways to “connect” Beryle to the cannabis plant. What emerged in the script were dream sequences which see Beryle meet Mary Jane, a goddess of cannabis.

Mary Jane has become a character in her own right

Mary Jane has now become a character in her own right who is set to be unveiled to the wider world at MardiGrass in Nimbin this weekend.

“I became really excited by the idea of the plant itself becoming a character,” said Eugene.

“We’ve worked with a voice artist who voices Mary Jane and a brilliant animator. The idea came from the writing process where a little steam becomes a river and the river opens up into the ocean.

“We’re going to Nimbin, which will be an experiment for us, a test to see if people will connect with her.

“Her vision is global emancipation. There’s a disparate narrative around cannabis, and a lot of disinformation and misinformation, and negativity.

“We see Mary Jane as a character who can tell the story of the plant authentically.”

Steve has reported for a number of consumer and B2B titles over a journalism career spanning more than three decades. He is a regulator contributor to health journal, The Medical Republic, writing on...

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