High Country: Student-made ‘Hemp: Colorado’s Next Green Rush’ premieres on PBS12

Produced by Colorado State University’s J-school, the documentary examines the economic potential of the plant

Katie Shapiro
High Country
“Hemp: Colorado’s Next Green Rush” premiered on Friday, May 13 on Colorado Public Television/PBS12, where it’s airing and online now.
Getty Images

“Hemp: Colorado’s Next Green Rush”

Colorado Public Television


For one group of Colorado State University students, the end of the school year was made even more memorable with the premiere of “Hemp: Colorado’s Next Green Rush” last Friday.

Produced by CSU’s Journalism and Media Communication department with support from the Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media (COFTM), the documentary celebrates Colorado’s newest boom crop while examining both its potential and its challenges for growers and producers. It ranges from Boulder for a visit to a farm with the state agriculture commissioner to Idaho for a look at use of hemp for construction.

“I hope the film will help educate the Colorado public, much as it did our film crew, on the tremendous potential of hemp on agriculture and manufacturing … and the effort Colorado agriculture officials and lawmakers have put in to its development,” shared Steve Weiss, special projects coordinator and instructor for CSU’s journalism school.

Hemp as a subject was recommended by the state film office for the first education project of the CSU media program’s ongoing partnership as a beneficiary of financial and production support up to $5,000 per film, including grant funding, crafting of concepts and providing editorial feedback. The film office has also organized and presented four career panels to CSU students featuring various Colorado-based filmmakers.

Originally scheduled for pre-pandemic production, the majority of filming took place prior to the spring of 2020 with JMC students producing a short documentary, “Hemptopia,” which won a prestigious Broadcast Education Association Festival of Media Arts’ “Award of Excellence.” The full-length feature debuted on Colorado Public Television and is currently available for viewing on PBS12 and online.

“These documentaries raise awareness about important topics that shape the lives of Coloradans and our economy,” said Donald Zuckerman, Colorado’s state film commissioner. “That’s exactly what this type of COFTM support is intended to do — highlight social impact stories that might not otherwise be shared.”

Weiss, who led the filmmaking team, said: “This film looks at the push and pull between the momentum and the hurdles that remain. What excites me personally is the huge potential for products like biodegradable packaging, paper, construction materials, clothing etc. — all addressed in the documentary. It’s a sustainable plant that can literally change the world if developed and utilized properly.”

“Hemp: Colorado’s Next Green Rush” on location near Boulder: from left, unidentified, hemp researcher Dr. Robert Sievers, CSU student filmmakers Claudia Murillo, Joy Enyinnaya and Dane Aragon, state agriculture commissioner Kate Greenburg, Isabelle Farms’ Paul LeBlanc and CSU special projects coordinator Steve Weiss.
Courtesy Steve Weiss

Student filmmaker Clara Scholtz credits her production experience on “Hemp: Colorado’s Next Green Rush” and “Tuning Out the Pandemic” — another CSU- and state-produced documentary, which was nominated for a Heartland Emmy Award for its coverage about the return of live music at Colorado venues — for helping her zero in on a career path.

“Steve has been the biggest mentor in my college and young professional career. It’s people like him that bring out the success in his students. Working on this documentary with him opened up huge opportunities for me and really made me realize that this is what I wanted to do long term,” reflected Scholtz.

Also an accomplished photographer, Scholtz landed in the video production department for the city of Loveland after graduating from CSU last spring.

She added: “The highlight for me (in being a part of two films in the program) was learning all of the ins and outs of telling a bigger story and working with a bigger team. I used to think that I was a one-woman band. Now I strive to be a team player, work with others and bring all of our creative juices together to create a beautiful, educational and real life story with real life people. It truly helped me become more of a ‘real professional’ in the industry I so love.”