Owen Durr seemed like a perfectly healthy toddler until his first grand mal seizure shortly after his third birthday, when his parents found out that he suffered from a rare form of epilepsy. Two years and multiple medications later, his condition hadn’t improved.
Ryan Durr, his father and an associate creative director at ad agency Team One, said he and his wife were “desperate to try some out-of-the-box thinking.”
Research led them to medical-grade CBD, and a neurologist’s prescription took them to the only licensed cannabis dispensary in the state of Texas, nearly 200 miles from their Dallas home.
Even getting to that point in Owen’s treatment had been a protracted, expensive battle. Paying for the high-potency CBD oil, which runs several hundred dollars a month and isn’t covered by insurance, would be another matter entirely.
Durr knew there were more families like his, facing the stigma of giving their children medical marijuana and the prohibitive cost of the life-changing and potentially life-saving products.
He’s documented five of those families in a short film, Chasing Hope, meant to highlight the legal issues and, equally important, raise money for those in need. The mini-doc debuts this week as part of the agency’s annual “Launch an Idea” initiative.
“We had been so taken aback by all the regulations and hoops you have to jump through to get this treatment,” Durr told Adweek. “Other people were experiencing the same pain points, not to mention the judgment.”
A 13-minute drama with a happy ending
“Chasing Hope” profiles several youngsters whose lives have completely changed since being treated with CBD-filled capsules which, because of their THC content, are considered a Schedule 1 (federally illegal) drug. (The meds can be prescribed for conditions such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, per the Texas Compassionate Use Program.)
Durr, who spent about six months working on the film with several Team One colleagues, said he wanted to capture a range of situations and success stories.
After debilitating seizures for years, a teenager named Julia graduated at the top of her high school class and plans to go to Texas A&M University. Additionally, children in the documentary have been able to stop taking pharmaceuticals and start living like regular, active kids.
However, their parents discuss the challenges they’ve faced, like choosing between paying their mortgages and buying their children’s medicine. One mom, addressing the conservative attitudes in her small town, says she has always feared a visit from child protective services. Others have privately told Durr they were concerned about losing their jobs because of the treatment.
A post-pandemic premiere
The public health crisis put a damper on Chasing Hope’s premiere plans, said Durr, who had wanted to take the short film on the festival circuit and hold live screenings, Q&As and fundraisers in various cities.
Instead of delaying its launch further—the film was edited and locked in February—the team decided to post it on Vimeo and a dedicated website where viewers could find more information and donation links.
“We were hearing from some nonprofit groups that patients had lost their jobs because of Covid and couldn’t pay for their medication anymore,” Durr said. “We realized we had to release it now so it might be able to help even a few people.”
A low-key Shark Tank
The film, which Durr described as “a passion project,” came about because of “Launch an Idea,” which began at Team One in 2011 as a way to encourage agency employees to solve problems in their communities.
The program awards $25,000 to turn a concept into a fully-realized project, with access to the agency’s internal resources, studios and staff.
In addition to advancing a cause, the program helps “sharpen our skills for creating and executing ideas,” said Chris Graves, chief creative officer. “And it reminds people to be entrepreneurial.”
Previous winners of “Launch an Idea” include a small business accelerator in the Crenshaw district of South Los Angeles, a hackathon that came up with prototype products for people living with disabilities and a 5K race supporting Best Buddies International.
Graves said there are usually about a dozen pitches each year, and they’ve evolved over time to become “more personal, more meaningful and even more rewarding.”
Instead of company leadership picking the winner, as in the past, Graves said he threw it out Shark Tank-style for agency employees to decide this time, with “few dry eyes in the house” when Durr’s project came out on top.