Several years ago, I watched the short-lived IFC series Fishing with John, an early reality show in which actor and indie icon John Lurie goes fishing with a different celebrity in each episode. The celebrities on that show were Jim Jarmusch, Tom Waits, Matt Dillon, Willem Dafoe, and Dennis Hopper. It occurred to me that it would be fun to do a TV series called Tripping with Caveh, in which fishing with celebrities would be replaced by tripping with celebrities.

I asked every celebrity I had even the remotest access to but the only person who agreed was singer/songwriter Will Oldham. I had only met him very briefly once or twice, but he liked my films and he liked to trip. We met in Austin, Texas and spent the next day on mushrooms with two cameras rolling. The resulting film, Tripping with Caveh, was the pilot episode of a would-be TV series.

The only problem was that no television station was willing to broadcast the show. It was pointed out to me repeatedly that psychedelic mushrooms are illegal and that any station airing the series would be vulnerable to criticism that it was thereby endorsing the taking of illegal drugs.

Many years later, it occurred to me that a less threatening and therefore more commercially viable version of the series could be made called Getting Stoned with Caveh. The recent decriminalization of marijuana in certain states meant that the gatekeepers of culture might finally be willing to air this less controversial version of the series. For the sake of simplicity, I decided to limit the guest list to independent filmmakers whose work I admire and for whom I have contact info.

I was surprised by the number of people who said they don’t smoke pot or, if they do, that they wouldn’t want to be filmed smoking it. A friend suggested that as long as I got stoned, the guest wouldn’t have to. And so the idea was born to create not one but two shows: Getting Stoned with Caveh and Not Getting Stoned with Caveh. Indie filmmaker Andrew Bujalski was the first person to agree to be a guest on Not Getting Stoned with Caveh and actor and indie filmmaker Alex Karpovsky was the first person to agree to be a guest on Getting Stoned with Caveh.

Getting Stoned with Karpovsky from Caveh Zahedi on Vimeo.

Once again, I was surprised by the number of venues that said they wouldn’t air the show because they were worried about how their sponsors would react. If you’re in Brooklyn today, you can check out the premiere at Union Docs!

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