How to Make Money Selling Drugs

How to Make Money Selling Drugs

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How to Make Money Selling Drugs (2012/2013)

Opened: 06/26/2013 Limited

IFC Center06/26/2013 - 07/11/201316 days
Downtown Ind...06/28/2013 - 07/04/20137 days
Downtown Indep...07/12/2013 - 07/18/20137 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home

Genre: Documentary

Rated: Unrated

From producers Adrian Grenier and Bert Marcus.


A shockingly candid examination of how a street dealer can rise to cartel lord with relative ease, How to Make Money Selling Drugs is an insider's guide to the violent but extremely lucrative drug industry. Told from the perspective of former drug dealers, and featuring interviews with rights advocates Russell Simmons, Susan Sarandon, and David Simon (creator of "The Wire"), the film gives you the lessons you need to start your own drug empire while exposing the corruption behind the "war on drugs."

Director's Statement

This film is a childhood dream. Not because I thought the world would be served by more drug dealers. But from reading Howard Zinn's American history as a kid and being so moved by his approach: telling the story from the people's perspective, a point of view painfully missing from commercial news media.

Conversations with my Dad on spreading information in modern America lead to a belief that we must proceed-- to twist the Malcolm X quote -- by the most entertaining means necessary.

When Adrian Grenier and I became friends a decade ago, he saw the movie concept on my "idea board". Back in the day it was a 10-page "Cliff Notes" style treatment that hasn't changed much from the film you see now. Adrian was drawn in for the same reason I was. There is a hard honesty to what the "lessons" of the war on drugs teach our youth. The mission of the film was not to promote those lessons but to expose them. And to do so in a radically honest way.

It was fun. It was challenging. Armed with only a few assistants, the majority of the work was done by hand, from painting backdrops to squeezing in the back of a DEA van for days hurtling down the east coast looking for 200 kilos of cocaine... Over the years there were many forces which tried to change the style, approach and direction of the film. Even the title. It was too controversial. Possibly offensive. Fortunately I had enough support that I never had to compromise.

The title is HOW TO MAKE MONEY SELLING DRUGS because that's what the black-market offers those who see no other option. The film is an homage to the subjects of the film, many of whom became dear friends over the course of production. Their stories are for the most part untold. They're unique but universal. They are American stories.

I think we're lead to believe we're a nation of 2 types: criminals and citizens. But truly we are one people. If we are divided by anything it's by two conversations. The truth Americans speak on the streets. And the conversation between our commercial news and Washington elites, blasted across our media -- drowning the rest of us out.

The reality on the ground is the US is the largest consumer of marijuana and cocaine worldwide. At the same time we have the largest prison population on the planet. Looking at the facts it becomes clear that a SWAT team approach to solving social issues doesn't help drug addicts.

This is not a war on drugs. It's a war on people, waged particularly against minorities and the poor. It's destructive force bears down not only on our economy, our morality and the soul of this country but the entire world. So whether we've dealt, taken or bought an illegal drug at any point in our lives doesn't matter. US drug policy costs the lives of users, dealers, law enforcers and the innocent. We're all in this together.

I designed the film to be slick, stylish and speak to a youth audience, to a cynical audience, and to the politically apathetic. Real political change requires a broad coalition. And as long as we drive those most relevant out of the conversation we remain ineffective.

We all know our political representatives are by and large a selfish lot. But we too bear a responsibility -- by not speaking up while so many have fallen through the cracks of our broken drug policy. Perhaps we have been further silenced not just by selfishness, but a lack of confidence. My intention with this film is to empower the conversation we've been having on the streets. And to embolden viewers to challenge an issue that has long been taboo politically. I think the tides are changing. And we have a moment of opportunity.

In the wise words of MLK, "either we go up together or we go down together. Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness." That would be a dream come true.

-- Matthew Cooke

About the Cast

John E. Harriel Jr. (AKA: "Big John") -- Former cocaine dealer, growing up he felt like he needed to help around the house as there were often times no food in the house, so he turned to drugs and was soon making $100 an hour at age 15.

Bobby Carlton -- Became a successful drug dealer at 14 years old. By the time he was 18 years old, he was making $50,000 per day dealing cocaine internationally. Carlton has been clean for over a decade, and now runs a sober living house in LA helping other addicts come clean.

Barry Cooper -- Began his career in law enforcement and was very successful making over 100 drug arrests. After trying marijuana he decided he wanted a change of career - focusing on aiding to arrest crooked cops. He married Candy, a drug dealer, and became the go-to guy if the police had planted drugs on someone. Barry now dedicates his life to helping people beat marijuana charges and fight crooked cops.

Officer Neill Franklin -- Served 33 years on the Maryland State and Baltimore police forces. During his career he oversaw over 17 state drug task forces. He is now Executive Director of LEAP -- an organization of law enforcement that demands an end to prohibition.

Hamedah Hasan -- Was sentenced to 27 years in prison in 1993 after being found in her cousin's house when they were arrested for drugs. Because she was there at the time of the arrest, she was given the mandatory minimum sentence.

Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson -- Coming from a poor background, his mom "had to hustle" in order to provide for him, but was murdered when he was only 8 years old. He quickly learned how to "take care" of himself by dealing drugs and became self-sufficient at 12 years old. Now he is a famed rapper and entrepreneur.

Raymond Madden -- Worked with Barry Cooper to assist people who found drugs were planted on them. Raymond sent up his own sting operation and arrested many crooked cops.

Alexandra Natapoff -- Professor of Law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. Professor Natapoff is an award-winning scholar, a nationally-recognized expert on snitching in the criminal justice system, and a member of the American Law Institute. She clerked for the Honorable David S. Tatel, U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia, and for the Honorable Paul L. Friedman, U.S. District Court, Washington, D.C.

Brian O'Dea -- Started drugs because he was seeking escape from sexual abuse which lead to him becoming a dealer. He was once expecting a shipment of over 50 tons of marijuana. When the police tried to intercept him, he replaced the drugs with donuts and coffee. When he finally sold the shipment of marijuana, he made $200 million in gross profit. Brian is now out of the drug trade and now gives inspirational talks.

Patrick Reynolds -- His grandfather founded the RJ Reynolds Tabaco co and after several members of his family have died from cigarette related diseases he gives motivational talks to youth and adults, championing a smoke-free society.

"Freeway" Rick Ross -- An American convicted drug trafficker who made $1 million a day by the time he was under 30 years old from selling crack. He was sentenced to life in prison after he was found trying to purchase more than 100kg of coke from a federal agent, but his sentence was reduced to 20 years. He now also speaks out against drugs.

David Simon -- Writer/Producer of the TV series "The Wire" which was based on his observations as a Baltimore police officer.

Skipp Townsend --Was 10 years old when he joined the Bloods to protect himself from the Crips, where he was introduced to drugs.

Mike Walzman -- Grew up in the suburbs where he discovered one of the largest cocaine markets directly - Beverly Hills teenagers.

About the Filmmakers

Matthew Cooke (Writer/Director)

The formative years were split between Chicago, NY and DC -- at first in acting, then making music and fake IDs. After retiring from a life of crime, Cooke graduated from Pitzer College (1996) with a B.A. in Film, magna cum laude.

In 1999 Cooke raised 7 million dollars from AOL, Time-Warner and Intel to build the first and only patented broadband search engine. As Executive Creative Director, Cooke earned a "Best of the Web" Design Award from Print Magazine and a Webby.

In 2000, Cooke taught digital arts at Otis College of Art & Design.

In 2005, Cooke wrote the screenplay FALCON, the true story sequel to the cult hit THE FALCON AND THE SNOWMAN which attracted ICM to represent Cooke as a writer / director.

In 2006 Cooke produced and edited his first feature film. DELIVER US FROM EVIL made over forty critics' 2006 "best of" lists and received the Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature.

In 2007 Cooke wrote, directed and starred in sketches for Fuel TV's variety show, "StupidFace". Cooke's guest-starred a variety of recognizable cast members from Mr. Show, The Sarah Silverman Program, Arrested Development, The Drew Carey Show, and more.

Over the next few years Cooke and Adrian Grenier made TEENAGE PAPARAZZO featuring Matt Damon, Whoopi Goldberg and Lewis Black. The film premiered at Sundance in 2010 and was released on HBO. Immediately following TEENAGE PAPARAZZO, Cooke and Grenier switched Producer and Director roles and sought financing for another documentary.

In 2012 Cooke brought his directorial debut HOW TO MAKE MONEY SELLING DRUGS to the Toronto Film Festival -- to be distributed to audiences in 2013 by Tribeca Film.

Today Cooke is continuing to write and direct documentaries with Grenier and his production company Saturday Entertainment with Emmy Award winning producer Steve DeVore where he is currently developing a science fiction thriller.

Cooke is represented by Mike Esola at William Morris Endeavor and managed by Julian Rosenberg and Adam Marshall of Caliber Media Co.

Bert Marcus (Producer)

Bert Marcus Productions ("BMP") is a fully funded independent film company founded in 2007 by chief executive officer, Bert Marcus. BMP has excelled in creating thought-provoking feature documentaries with innovative technology to share socially impactful stories through an entertaining lens.

The company's first two projects TEENAGE PAPARAZZO and HOW TO MAKE MONEY SELLING DRUGS have yielded instant success. TEENAGE PAPARAZZO was financed and produced by BMP and acquired by HBO immediately after its premiere at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and aired on HBO the following year. Subsequently, BMP financed and produced HOW TO MAKE MONEY SELLING DRUGS.

Up next, Marcus makes his directorial debut with the feature documentary, CHAMPS. Produced by Marcus and boxing icon Mike Tyson, CHAMPS delivers a never-before-seen look into the mind, heart and soul of a champion. Currently in post-production, the documentary features Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Denzel Washington, Ron Howard, Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Manny Pacquiaio and more.

Marcus was recognized by Variety's prestigious "Dealmakers Impact Report" that celebrates the entertainment industry's future media mavens and people to watch. Through their film fund, BMP is venturing into the feature narrative world to fully finance and produce projects in the $15-million and under range, while continuing to grow their brand of commercially viable feature documentaries. Additionally, the company is in the works on several projects for television, including partnering with Jeremy Piven on "Close." Created as a docuseries, "Close" takes the viewer on a deep, yet entertaining journey that showcases the hidden passions of the most popular celebrities and sports figures of today. ADRIAN GRENIER (Producer)

Graduating from New York's school for the arts, Laguardia, Adrian began acting in 1997 making his film debut in the independent film, "The Adventures of Sebastian Cole". From there, he went on working with esteemed directors such as Steven Spielberg and Woody Allen until landing the lead role in the HBO series Entourage.

Transitioning to the role of director, Adrian's first films, SHOT IN THE DARK, chronicles his journey to reconnect with his estranged father. The film premiered on HBO and had a strong impact among its viewers. In 2007 Adrian teamed up with producer Peter Glatzer to develop the television series "Alter-Eco," a sustainable lifestyle series produced for Discovery Communications channel Planet Green. Recognizing the need for a multi-platform communications platform after the series ended, Adrian launched's mission is to convey a more sustainable approach to the way we live through video, design, art and culture.

In 2010 Adrian's Production company completed TEENAGE PAPARAZZO which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The film focuses on 13 year old Austin Visschedyk and the celebrity obsessed world in which he operates. TEENAGE PAPARAZZO premiered on HBO and 40 outlets around the world.

Adrian surrounds himself with music when not exploring the medium of film. In 2012, he started Wreckroom Records a gathering place for bands, friends and fellow musicians to write, record and play and making the content available via the website for fellow music lovers to share and delight.