Nestled amid the notorious madness up and down Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival, this year’s attendees could duck into a dedicated space to take a chill pill, literally. Wellhaus, billed as the festival’s first-ever “fully integrated health and wellness and CBD-focused concept house” was sponsored by Charlotte’s Web in partnership with Axcess Entertainment.
For the record, Wellhaus is not the first-ever cannabis-related pop-up Park City, Utah has seen during the annual event. The Arcview Group hosted a “Future of Cannabis Summit” featuring three days of programming with investor-focused panel presentations, receptions and dinners over the opening weekend of Sundance in 2017.
But at Wellhaus, which set up shop in Crystal Park Cantina from January 25-27, guests were able to experience the products and panel presentations from pioneering, Colorado-based CBD brand first-hand in the Charlotte’s Web Retreat. Open to the public on the ground floor each day, the founders themselves were on-site to share expert knowledge and insight into their award-winning, hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) oils, capsules and topicals — infused with the non-psychoactive derivative of cannabis plants. Upstairs, a fully integrated CBD-infusion cocktail bar and Gastropub was manned by renowned CBD culinary guru The Herbal Chef, Chris Sayegh.
Wellhaus founder and Axcess Entertainment owner Ryan Heil explains,“Festivals can be hectic with back to back events and jam-packed schedules, so we wanted to create a place that promotes a sense of wellness in the midst of all the craziness. It also provided a place for storytelling, which is the foundation of the film industry itself. The ultimate goal is to grow this concept at events across the globe and to continue to increase awareness of the benefits of CBD in mainstream culture.”
Charlotte’s Web, whose founders are collectively referred to as the Stanley Brothers (also the name of its sister company), was born out of a very powerful story itself. Named in honor of five-year-old Charlotte Figi, who suffered from serious seizures, Charlotte’s Web gained national attention when Dr. Sanjay Gupta featured her effective use of its CBD oil on CNN in 2013. Now 11, Figi is 99.9% seizure-free according to the Stanley Brothers.
“Storytelling is in the DNA of our company. The story of one revolutionary little girl has helped to change the world, and in turn, has brought awareness about non-intoxicating cannabis like CBD to millions of people,” says Joel Stanley, Charlotte’s Web co-founder and chairman of the board. “This story has also influenced the change of social stigma around hemp, hemp laws, and even how we view plant-based health and wellness. Now, we’re seeing gateways of science opening up for research that we believe will help humanity.”
While most major events are still shying away from cannabis sponsorships, the doors are finally opening for partnerships in the CBD-only space.
Stanley adds, “CBD’s relationship with media and entertainment is going to evolve in many different ways, especially with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill. A new type of cannabis audience is reshaping culture by moving away from old cliches and stigma. These are people looking for trusted plant-based heath and wellness options.”
Charlotte’s Web seeded its involvement at Sundance in foraging an official partnership with “Before You Know It” after a chance meeting with Josh Hetzler, a producer on the film. While on set, Charlotte’s Web’s suite of CBD products were made available to the cast and crew.
“Learning to take care of yourself is a central theme of our film, and we know it’s central to Charlotte’s Web, so this felt like a natural collaboration,” says “Before You Know It” writer and director Hannah Pearl Utt. “Film sets can be very stressful places, and as much as possible, we wanted our set to be a calm place- everything in the production was built to support that and making Charlotte’s Web available to the cast and crew was part of that.”
With a world premiere in Sundance’s U.S. Dramatic competition, the Wellhaus activation came together to also serve as the host venue for the film’s invite-only festivities throughout the weekend.
Each night, Wellhaus was transformed into an all-encompassing fine dining experience featuring a 10-course meal with wine pairings and a presentation by The Herbal Chef, Chris Sayegh before service where he welcomed the “Before You Know It” cast and crew for an exclusive dinner and premiere after-party.
“My drive for doing this is to de-stigmatize cannabis and allow people to broaden their perspective on what the plant can do,” says The Herbal Chef, Chris Sayegh. “I infused my love for film and creativity into all of my Wellhaus dishes. For the 10-course dinners, I wanted to make it a journey — much like the storytellers and filmmakers do with their work.”
Highlights from the dinner menus included caviar on brioche toast; mussels with caramelized green onions, cayenne, and lemon butter sauce; cured black cod with buttermilk caviar sauce, confit leeks, burnt black sesame oil, fried julienne potatoes; a creamy peas risotto with morels, burnt broccolini, pork sauce, and confit garlic puree; and for dessert a “Cracker Jack” corn custard with toasted peanuts and lavender caramel. All dishes were infused with 10 milligrams of Charlotte’s Web CBD oil.
Reflecting on a groundbreaking weekend, Heil shares, “Wellhaus was a huge success. In meeting the many people who came through and hearing their stories, which ranged from inspiring and funny to truly heartbreaking, I found that the connection to CBD is quite powerful and life changing for so many. It’s made me realize the importance of building something that provides access and education to people who might not usually be exposed to it.”
Now that Sundance is a wrap, look for Wellhaus across North America with additional events planned for SXSW, Coachella, Miami Music Week and more in 2019.