synopsis at: yahoo news
I found the film “My Scientology Movie” to be saddening. It evidences the degeneration of a once considerable talent, award-winning producer Simon Chinn. During my involvement in the movie’s creation I witnessed Chinn being sucked into the staged-news, infotainment vortex that seems to have consumed the erstwhile Fourth Estate. I will share a back story to the project to illustrate the concern.
In 2012 Chinn flew from the UK to my home in remote, South Texas. He and an associate producer spent an afternoon pitching my involvement in a proposed documentary. He said his film would break the cookie-cutter mold of Scientology projects to that date. That was, the lazy method of highlighting and rehashing what has been alleged before and doing some gratuitous baiting and button pushing of Scientologists to provoke aggressive responses. Chinn assured me the project would be closely supervised by him from beginning to end so that it would primarily serve as a vehicle to portray my insights into the philosophical basis of Scientology learned from practicing it for nearly thirty years within the organization and another several years outside of Church of Scientology control. He sold me on the idea of chronicling my evolution from fighting for the church, then against it and finally advocating that people transcend from fights about Scientology altogether.
Chinn effectively stalked me for the next two years while he secured funding for the project, repeatedly reiterating the purpose and nature of the planned work. That included sending Louis Theroux and the assistant producer to Texas the next year to spend two days beseeching me to stay committed to the project. Because of Chinn’s continual promotion of his previous serious documentary work and our original agreements, I wound up spending nearly one hundred hours on film explaining and demonstrating what Scientology is, its origins, its historical and philosophical context and its battles from both sides of the divide.
That extended filming was interrupted repeatedly by Theroux’s recurring attempts to use me as bait to incite the wrath of the Church of Scientology. When Theroux persisted with those efforts, his and director John Dower’s promises that none of that horseplay would make it into the film began to ring hollow. At that point I expressed my intention to cease work on the project.
Simon Chinn flew from London to Los Angeles to assuage my concerns and reassure me that his original representations would be fully honored, and that Theroux’s vanity theatrics would not make the cut in the movie. I informed Chinn, Dower and Theroux that the latter’s antics were not only unprofessional but they had already been performed twice by a BBC personality in the past couple of years. We discussed John Sweeny’s BBC Panorama ‘documentaries’ as consisting almost entirely of Sweeny attempting to poke sticks in Scientologists’ eyes to get them to react on camera. All three acted offended that I would compare their work to that of Mr. Sweeny whom they characterized as being more of a publicity hound than journalist. Chinn again warranted that that was not the purpose of his project and no hint of it would find its way into the film.
When nearly two years later I saw the product, “My Scientology Movie”, which clearly referred to being Louis Theroux’s personal movie, I came to the conclusion that Mr. Chinn had regressed into a tabloid hack, Mr. Theroux remained the ass clown Chinn had represented he would not be, and Mr. Dower was a rimless zero – a lackey assigned to pretend to ‘direct’ while he did nothing more than provide plausible deniability that ‘My Scientology Movie’ was something other than the latest unoriginal Theroux-shtick vehicle aimed at clowning with scientology.
More troubling was the promotional roll out and press junket behaviors of Chinn, Theroux and Dower. The three repeatedly flat out lied to the press on two scores. First, they represented that they genuinely undertook the mission of understanding the core of Scientology practice and its appeal and portraying it. The film does not even begin to attempt to do such. None of the dozens of hours I spent attempting to impart that understanding appeared. Significantly, my views on Scientology were as antagonistic to the subject as they had ever been during the filming. So, the mass editing cannot be written off as avoiding Scientology public relations or promotional pitches; clarity – no matter how non-partisan – could play no part in a movie purporting to bring clarity to the widely misunderstood subject. Second, they represented that they were stalked and harassed by scientology agents for doing nothing but attempting to carry out the mission they never even attempted to carry out.
In fact, I witnessed Theroux and Dower stalk and harass Scientologists repeatedly with no sign that the Scientologists were interested in the bait. Theroux went so far as to relocate to Los Angeles from London for an entire year, residing near to Scientology premises and regularly and loudly cavorting with Anti-Scientologists. When I pointed out to him his failure to provoke the Church of Scientology notwithstanding such extraordinary efforts, he acknowledged that that was his intent and that the effort had been made in vain.
The jiggery-pokery Theroux and Dower attempted in provoking Scientologists – and were called out for in real time as I witnessed it – was legion. For example, on my first of several visits to Los Angeles, they put me up in a motel that was less than a block from the office and apartment of Scientology leader David Miscavige. I chastised them for obviously attempting to use my unnaturally close proximity to bait scientology. Theroux’s response was his trademark impish smirk. Dower profusely apologized for Theroux’s obvious childish shenanigans. Over the next several months of filming sessions, Theroux repeatedly attempted to convince me to do drive bys and walk ups to scientology facilities. On each occasion I noted that such pranks violated Chinn’s original agreements – the provocation route had been done several times before by tabloid types posing as journalists and he expressly guaranteed this project was not going there. After I refused on a number of occasions, Theroux and Dower found other ‘talent’ who was willing to partner with Theroux during his spates of juvenile delinquency.
The Scientology encounters that Theroux himself initiated were so weak in terms of peculiar scientology behavior that he and Dower resorted to creating and acting out a scene where they discussed the possibility that scientology agents were following them. The basis for the suspicion they discussed in the film had already been admitted by them to me as no basis at all for suspicion. That admission of course was edited out of the film.
Late in the project I learned that Theroux and Dower had made gratuitous representations to Church of Scientology lawyers detailing my involvement in the film. There could be no other purpose to the correspondence I reviewed than to incite the Church of Scientology to look into what I was up to. Several years into the project Theroux and Dower finally got their wish. They were able to capture Scientologists filming and confronting me during my trips to Los Angeles. Theroux and Dower reacted with a mix of relief and glee. Chinn even referred to the confrontations and their fallout as the saving grace of an otherwise potentially failed project. He effectively stated to the press that every representation that he made to me over a four-year period about the purpose and substance of the film was false and fraudulent. He stated the film was salvaged by the Church of Scientology finally taking me as bait and my venting on Theroux on film for his having used me as bait. The latter was carefully edited to ensure that the truth of Theroux’s duplicity was not included, and instead paint me as somehow duplicitous.
In the light of these facts, I find it pathetic that media positions Theroux and Dower as exhibiting some level of bravery for having incurred the wrath of scientology. They never did incur such wrath despite years of attempting to through sophomoric capers.
All of the infotainment play-acting by Theroux diverts attention from perhaps the greatest fraud perpetrated by Theroux and company. The film centers on a purported re-creation of a scene where Scientology leader David Miscavige blows his top in a conference room. The ‘re-creation’ was in fact a creation. Even though they worked with me for a year on that scene, I was not able to submit a script for an actual past occurrence to ‘re-create’ that could pass Theroux’s standards for lurid and shocking theater. The ‘re-creation’ portrayed is an ad lib by actors who had been conditioned for months by Theroux to disdain and fear Scientology.
I did have input on the final scene. Upon reflection however, perhaps I had too much input. Viewing it as objectively as possible I see the final edit containing quite a bit of me projecting my own behavior on Miscavige. That my own personality would rub off on the principle actor is not surprising given the extraordinary amount of hours Theroux and Dower had him spend with me over a year-long period.
At the end of the day, My Scientology Movie brings nothing intelligent to public discussion on Scientology. If you have shallow, preconceived and perhaps bigoted notions about Scientology and are the type who loves laughing out loud at the misfortunes or perceived imperfections of others, then you may get a kick out of ‘My Scientology Movie.’ If you wish to learn anything about the subject the movie will be an utter waste of your time, as much as I consider that my participation in the project was a waste of my time.