Lady Buds

Women are blazing the trail...

Project type: Documentary
Project status: Production
Director/Producer/Executive Producer: Chris J. Russo
Producer: Michael Katz
Producer: Steak House
Co-Producer: Jaime DeLaCruz
Consulting Producer: Stephen Israel
Cinematographer: Christian Bruno
Instagram: lady.buds
Twitter: @ladybudsmovie
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Six women emerge from the shadows of the California cannabis industry to go legal. But with corporate weed booming, who will survive legalization?


Lady Buds follows six women as they transition from the illicit market to the regulated market in the California cannabis industry. Cannabis has a complicated history in the U.S. and the process of legalization brings some of America’s oldest traumas to the forefront after years of neglect. With the influx of big money being dumped into the newly public cannabis market, the mission that ignited the cannabis movement over 20 years ago in California — compassion — is in jeopardy.

Karyn Wagner is a former New Yorker who put her roots in Humboldt 21 years ago. Bringing city and business smarts to small farmers, her goal is to help cultivators survive legalization by marketing the biggest brand in cannabis: Humboldt weed. A Latina lesbian activist in Los Angeles, Felicia Carbajal is dedicated to ensuring all marginalized communities have equal access to medicinal cannabis by holding new industry players accountable.

As a second generation cannabis farmer, Chiah Rodriques co-founded a Mendocino farm alliance that fights to maintain the community and values she grew up with. With the price of weed dropping and a leap of faith into the unknown, Chiah must find balance between working on the farm and parenting her two sons amidst the harsh financial pressures of legalization. Sue Taylor is a 71-year-old retired Catholic school principal whose mission is to open the first cannabis dispensary for seniors. As an African-American businesswoman in a white and male-dominated industry, Sue pushes forward despite the city’s attempt to hold up the construction of her Berkeley dispensary. As “OG” cannabis farmers, Emerald Cup Judges and best friends, the Bud Sisters have seen it all. Rich with colorful anecdotes about operating in the black market, Pearl and Dr. Joyce shed light on the more serious implications legalization has on the farmers who have lived in the Humboldt hills for decades.

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Meet the Filmmakers

Chris J. Russo — Director/Producer/Executive 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.

Christian Bruno — Cinematographer

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.

Michael Katz — Producer

Michael Katz, co-founder of The Emerald Exchange and President of Evoxe Laboratories, entered the cannabis community from a 15+ year career in the entertainment industry. He has produced content for some of the most recognizable brands in the world, including Apple, the NFL, Hewlett Packard, Tylenol and many others. For three and a half years he ran the Design, Motion Graphics and VFX departments at Ant Farm, one of the most-awarded entertainment marketing agencies in Los Angeles, producing branded content for Google, YouTube, Activision titles including Call of Duty, and theatrical trailer campaigns for every major motion picture studio. Katz is a member of the Producers Guild of America, ASCAP and serves on the Board of Directors of the California Growers Association.

Steak House — Producer

Since 2000, Steak House has produced 20 films and countless media projects including Documentary, TV series, web series, branded content, commercials and music videos. Documentary features include For the Love of Dolly, Sunset Strip and most recently their mockumentary Drib premiered at SXSW and Copenhagen Docs in 2017. Her films are currently in distribution with NBC/Universal, Disney, Magnolia, Syfy, IFC, Showtime and many more. Prior to distribution, many of Steak’s films had prestigious festival debuts including, Toronto, LA Film Festival, Tribeca, SXSW, Outfest and Sundance.


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