Lady Buds

Women are blazing the trail...

Project type: Nonfiction Feature
Project status: Post-Production
Director/Producer/Writer: Chris J. Russo
Consulting Producers: Sarah Olson, Stephen Israel
Producer: Michael J. Katz
Executive Producer: Shauna Harden
Cinematographer/Producer: Christian Bruno
Editor/Writer: Tamara Maloney
Instagram: lady.buds
Twitter: @ladybudsmovie
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Six women emerge from the shadows of the California cannabis industry to go legal. As farmers, entrepreneurs and activists, these modern-day superheroes battle government bureaucracy, corporate interests and risk financial ruin in order to fight for the industry they helped create and for the survival of their community.


Lady Buds is a character-driven story that follows six courageous women transition from the illicit market to the newly regulated market in California cannabis industry. But the new legislation, with regulations that favor deep pockets and corporations, has replaced their initial optimism with uncertainty and fear. Those who shaped the foundations of the cannabis industry in the shadows for decades soon find themselves unable to keep up with the stark changes and the influx of big money, leaving many legacy farmers, medicinal patients, and marginalized communities unprotected and unacknowledged.

The diverse voices in Lady Buds include: Latinx cannabis activist Felicia Carbajal, 70-year of African-American retired Catholic school principal Sue Taylor, New York to Humboldt transplant Karyn Wagner, second-generation cannabis farmer Chiah Rodriques, and OG elders The Bud Sisters. They touch upon the history and rich narratives that make up the cannabis community— from the LGBT activists who fought for legalizing medical marijuana, to advocacy to educate seniors about the medicinal benefits of cannabis, to the fight for social justice for those affected by the War on Drugs, and to raising children living on a cannabis farm — these women’s stories and mission challenge stereotypes to reveal that cannabis is much more than a plant, it’s a world of compassion.

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Meet the Filmmakers

Chris J. Russo — Director/Producer

Chris J. Russo’s award-winning short films have screened all over the world, including the Sundance Film Festival, broadcast on Showtime, PBS, IFC, LOGO and NETFLIX. She is a 2018 fellow of the Sundance Institute/WIF Financing Intensive with her documentary, Lady Buds, and is also a fellow of Film Independent’s Director and Screenwriters Labs, with her project, Directed By Dorothy Arzner. Some notable short film credits include, A Woman Reported, about the moments before a hate crime occurs; Size ‘em Up, a coming of age story; and Straight Down The Aisle: Confessions of Lesbian Bridesmaids, winner of Outfest’s Best Short Documentary Award for its view on marriage non-equality (pre-Prop 8). Russo has worked in management positions at Kodak and Arriflex, and as a Post Production Supervisor on 15 feature films. In 2016, she founded Paceline Pictures, a boutique production company focused on producing female-driven content that empowers and inspires.

Sarah Olson — Consulting Producer

Sarah Olson is a producer of the award-winning documentary Knock Down the House which premiered at Sundance 2019. The film took home the Audience Award for US Documentary, as well as Festival Favorite and was acquired by Netflix Original Documentaries. Prior, Sarah developed and produced the highly acclaimed documentary Fed Up, which premiered at Sundance in 2014, for Atlas Films. Named as a NYT Critics Pick and “a movie that matters” by Rolling Stone, Fed Up was acquired by Radius/TWC and received a broad theatrical release. Sarah line-produced the 2009 award-winning documentary Tapped and developed and produced short films and viral campaigns for Environmental Working Group and Food and Water Watch. She is also mother to her five-year-old daughter, Finley.

Christian Bruno — Cinematographer/Producer

Christian Bruno is a cinematographer and director whose work includes Brian Davis’ feature-length doc, The Million Dollar Duck about wildlife painters, the Federal Duck Stamp and the American Dream, which won the Audience Award at Slamdance 2016. As a director, he co-directed the Sundance Award-winner, Pie Fight 69 with Sam Green. The short documentary, Ed & Pauline (co-directed with Natalija Vekic), a portrait of the early years of film critic Pauline Kael, premiered at the Telluride Film Festival. His upcoming feature-length doc, Strand: A Natural History of Cinema, is a meditation on movie going.

Tamara Maloney — Editor/Writer

Tamara Maloney has worked closely with Academy Award winning cinematographer and director Haskell Wexler on his critically acclaimed feature documentary, Who Needs Sleep? (Sundance 2006), released by The Sundance Channel. She has produced the narrative feature film, A Quiet Little Marriage directed by Mo Perkins and released by IFC. As an editor Maloney has worked with veteran directors, Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and Trish Sie (Pitch Perfect 3) she has cut scripted features for director Christopher Monger, A Sense of Wonder (PBS 2008). Grace Lee’s mockumentary American Zombie (2007) and Chopper Bernet’s The Twenty. Her feature documentaries include, Lady Buds, Everything Must Change, Fallen Star and Joan Churchill’s documentary on Haskell Wexler, My Dinner with Haskell.


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