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The Religious Affiliation of Movie Producer
(also credited as "Stephen Deutsch")
the producer of Somewhere in Time; What Dreams May Come and other films
Stephen Simon is a movie producer best known as the producer of Hollywood movies that became immensely popular with viewers after being released on video: Somewhere in Time (1980) and What Dreams May Come (1998). Both of these movies were adaptations of books written by Richard Matheson. Stephen Simon found these books so inspiring and so in tune with his own sense of spirituality that he put forth the considerable effort it took to get these projects greenlit by studios and made into films. Many of the events surrounding the making of Somewhere in Time seem almost miraculous (and certainly unusual), as Stephen Simon describes them.
Somewhere in Time and What Dreams May Come originally did not do particularly well at the box office and both received lukewarm critical response. Somewhere in Time, in particular, has become one of the biggest "cult films" in history, and has an organized, devoted fan following that exceeds that of probably any other movie except for the Star Wars series.
Midway through his career as a movie producer, right after he made the critically lambasted and spiritually bankrupt movie Body of Evidence (1993), Stephen Simon decided to change his life and get back onto the spiritual track he had been on when he made Somewhere in Time. He tried to change the direction of the production studio he was working for, and ended up getting fired by his boss, Dino De Laurentiis. Since then, Stephen Simon has been dedicated to the genre he calls "Spiritual Cinema." He gives lectures around the country on this topic, he published a regular column about it, and he heads up a website and a DVD subscription service, all for the purpose of promoting spiritual/religious films.
In 2002 Stephen Simon published a book about his ideas on spiritual films: The Force Is with You: Mystical Movie Messages that Inspire Our Lives. Below are some excerpts and notes from the book. But, of course, one of the best way to know about Stephen Simon's religious/spiritual beliefs and ideas in detail is to read this book itself.
In The Force Is with You, Stephen Simon does not identify any specific religious denomination that he was raised in, and possibly his Hollywood childhood did not include much exposure to traditional organized religious worship. But today Stephen Simon clearly sees himself as being on the forefront of promoting the inclusion of and awareness of spirituality in films. Stephen Simon states that he is not a "metaphysical missionary," although with his book and lectures he is clearly acting as one.
Simon's observations and beliefs, as expressed in The Force Is with You would probably be identified as New Age by most religious scholars, although this is not really a concrete, organized religion. Stephen Simon makes it clear in his book that he is a follower of Neale Donald Walsch, who is widely known as one of the best-selling authors in the world of New Age spiritual/religious publishing, with his series of Conversations with God books. In fact, it was Neale Donald Walsch himself that cajoled Stephen Simon into writing the book. Stephen Simon identifies Neale Donald Walsch as a close friend, and also his spiritual "mentor." Stephen Simon's book The Force Is with You was published by Walsch Books, which is run by Neale Donald Walsch and his wife for the purpose of publishing their Conversations With God books and theologically compatible books. At the time Stephen Simon's book was written, his film production company was working on creating a film adaptation of Neale Donald Walsch's Conversations With God books.
Although Neale Donald Walsch's "Conversations with God" is not usually thought of as an organized religious denomination in the traditional sense, there are (as of 2 September 2005) organized Conversations With God Study Centers throughout the United States in at least 25 states, 4 U.S. territories, and 16 foreign countries. Neale Donald Walsch is the founder of ReCreation and the Conversations with God Foundation, organizations which create study groups and sponsor other activities to promote Walsch's spiritual teachings.
Neale Donald Walsch and Conversations With God are typically identified as part of the New Age religious movement. Stephen Simon makes repeated references to New Age writers, books, art and philosophies that he embraces and admires (although he uses lower case capitalization, i.e., "new age"). Stephen Simon also discusses in a few different places his beliefs about the reality of the ancient civilization of Atlantis and the crystals that were used there as a power source. It would probably be accurate to identify Stephen Simon as an adherent of New Age religion, although, as with many New Age believers, it also might be overly reductionist to so. Stephen Simon makes it clear in his book that his enthusiasm for spirituality and religion does not exclude, and actually embraces, religion and spirituality as expressed in longer-recognized "traditional" religious denominations.
Notes about Stephen Simon's childhood, and why he has been known by two different names ("Stephen Simon" and "Stephen Deutsch"). From: Stephen Simon, The Force Is with You: Mystical Movie Messages that Inspire Our Lives, Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.: Charlottesville, Virginia (2002), page 185-186:
I grew up with movies. Literally and figuratively. I live in and through movies. Always have. To me, movies often represent a better reflection of the "real world" than this illusion in which we walk around each day. I see at least sixty or seventy new movies a year and have done so ever since I was a teenager.
Stephen Simon began his career as a movie producer using the name "Stephen Deutsch," the name he had lived with during most of his life. He was credited as "Stephen Deutsch" when he produced Somewhere in Time. He changed it to his original name when he turned fifty, and he was credited as "Stephen Simon" when he made What Dreams May Come. From: Simon, The Force Is with You, pages 191-192:
My oldest conscious memory is sitting in my father's lap at the age of three (1949) watching "dailies" (raw film footage shot every day) in our house. My biological father's name was S. Sylvan Simon and he was a producer, director, and studio executive. He made movies with Abbot and Costello and Red Skelton, so there was always a lot of joy around our house on Sunset Boulevard in West Los Angeles, until the laughter abruptly ended with my Dad's suddent death from a cerebral hemorrhaage at the age of thirty-nine in 1949. It was ust before my fourth birthday. My sister Susie was twelve.
My mother remarried a year later to a wonderful man named Armand Deutsch, who became Dad (that's why I referred to Sylvan Simon as my biological father) and raised me with all th elove, generosity, and dedication he would have had he been my biological father. He was also a film producer, so I was really born into and raised in and around movies. No matter where I was, I always went to movies at least twice a week and watched every movie on television that I could find.
In 1996, I decided to give myself a fiftieth birthday present and legally changed my last name from Deutsch back to my birth name of Simon. This was not a rejection of either my stepfather or anything else. It was, rather, an embracing of the name that my soul gave me in this life and a reawakening of the essense of the Stephen Simon who went into seclusion after my biological father died. As such, there was a deep spiritual significance in this decision for me, even though it meant a new name after my entire career up to 1996 had been spent as Deutsch. As a consequence, it has created a good deal of confusion and fortunately some humor as well. After the publicity started coming out for What Dreams May Come which also credited me with having produced Somewhere in Time, I got several concerned phone calls from fans of the latter to alert me that "some imposter" named Simon was going around claiming that he had produced SIT [Somewhere In Time], not Deutsch.
Aside from his role as "Superman" in four feature films, Christopher Reeve's most memorable film role as as the star of the classic and much-loved romantic time travel story Somewhere in Time. The producer of the film, Stephen Simon, was the driving force behind getting the movie made. It was Simon who optioned the book from author Richard Matheson and pushed to get the film made. Simon wrote a book about spiritual/religious movies titled The Force Is with You: Mystical Movie Messages that Inspire Our Lives, published by Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc. (Charlottesville, Virginia) in 2002. A blurb written by Christopher Reeve appears on the back cover of the book:
I share Stephen Simon's belief that we live in a culture of diminished ethics and morality, but there are resources within us we known little about. In this engrossing book, Stephen shares his conviction illustrated by a wide variety of films he has chosen as examples, that by searching for the best within ourselves we can create a better society and a better world. This book is fascinating, timely, and profound.
In the "Acknowledgements" section of his book, Stephen Simon explained how his spiritual mentor Neale Donald Walsch convinced him to write this book. From: The Force Is with You: Mystical Movie Messages that Inspire Our Lives, Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.: Charlottesville, Virginia (2002), page xiii-vx:
Remember when you were a kid and your parents caught you and a friend trying to do some crazy stunt like a backyard science experiment? Taking responsibility for wild flights of fancy is not exactly one our strong suits when we're children... That's how "the dog ate my homework" got started. Not exactly an advanced spiritual practice but, then again, we were kids and most of us have grown considerably since those days; therefore, I just want to say from the onset here that NEALE DONALD WALSCH MADE ME DO THIS!
Stephen Simon's spiritual leader, Neale Donald Walsch (the author of the Conversations With God series of books and the founder of the Conversations With God Foundation) was the person who convinced Simon to write the book The Force Is with You. Neale Donald Walsch wrote the forward to the book. Some excerpts from Neale Donald Walsch's forward follow, from: The Force Is with You, pages xvii-xix:
Neale had been talking to me for weeks about writing this book and, frankly, I thought he had taken leave of his senses. I had never written anything more complicated than my mrketing list every week, and even that was constantly revised by my daughters--so it wasn't exactly a solid foundation on which I could bild. Neale was relentless. He really felt I should just sit down and write and, truthfully, he's a hard guy to turn down. Neale has been a friend and an inspiration to me for a few years now. Our company Metafilmics is working with Neale on filmed versions of his Conversations with God books, and I've come to know and deeply respect not only his work but also Neale as a really great guy.
Finally, one day, Neale wouldn't take no for an answer again, and I thought to myself that maybe I should pay closer attention. Who was I to challenge his "sources"? [meaning God] He gave me a schedule and some great writing tips... and I started to write. He told me the book would come out of me in two months. I started the first draft in April, and finished it slightly less than two months later.
Forget E.F. Hutton. When Neale talks, I listen. And so do a lot of other people. He inspires me, and he inspired this book, and for both, I am eternally grateful. Any tips on the stock market, Neale?
[Stephen Simon recognizes a number of other people, mainly family members and close friends and colleagues.]
[page xv] To my spiritual guide and dear friend, Richard Matheson, thank you for trusting me with your brilliant books and for giving me the opportunity to learn at the feet of a master.
If you love movies, you're going to love this book. If you love life, you're going to adore it... I call these the Stories of Stories. These are the stories of the making of stories, and of what some of our most popular stories have had in store for us--whether we knew it or now.
Excerpts from Stephen Simon's Introduction to his book, from: Simon, The Force Is with You, pages 1-7:
This particular story is going to be told by a wonderful friend of mine--who also happens to be one of the master storytellers on the planet--Stephen Simon.
Working with the wonderful tool of film, Stephen is responsible for bringing to the world two of its most special stories ever, Somewhere in Time and What Dreams May Come... these two are stories that the heart cannot forget, carrying messages that only old souls could imagine, but that all souls resonate with deeply.
When I first saw these movies I wondered whether their extraordinary messages were being sent consciously and deliberately, or arrived on the doorstep of my mind as mwere after-products of the movie-making process--unintended outcomes of what were simply commercial ventures. Then, as I traveled my own surprising life path, I chanced to meet the producer of these films... and I got to find out.
No, they were definitely not unintended outcomes.
Stephen (and his co-producer on Dreams, Barnet Bain) was very much aware of the incredible nature of the messages he was sending with these films, and made them for that reason.
Here was a conscious filmmaker, who was choosing consciously to help shift the consciousness of the planet with his life work. I am proud to now list Stephen Simon among my close friends. Not because he is a Hollywood producer (he allows that to impress you for about three and a half minutes), but because he is one of the courageous members of our human family: someone who has chosen to be a messenger, someone who has chosen to make a difference, someone who has chosen to see a brighter world and a grander truth and a wider vision, and who seeks to share it with all of us--not so that we can see how special his world is, but so that we may be inspired to bring that specialness to our own.
This is life-changing stuff I'm talking about here. These films have messages that change inner realities--and those kinds of changes alter outer experiences, and can shift the collective experience of the planet.
One day as I was talking with Stephen about all this, we began a quick thumbnail review of how many other movies we could think of that contained real mind-bending, consciousness-shifting messages, and before too many minutes had passed the list had grown very long.
Starting with Matrix (a very recent and vivid example) and moving right on to other contemporary films such as The Kid (one of my personal favorites), Pay It Forward, Field of Dreams, Cocoon, Frequency, Groundhog Day, Star Wars, The 13th Floor, Ghost, and many others, then on to older movies like Defending Your Life, Resurrection, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The Razor's Edge, and countless more, we impressed ourselves with the vastness of the inventory of truly meaningful movie messages we were able to catalogue with just a moment's thought.
Neither of us was particularly surprised by this, however. We both understood that important and timely messages are constantly being sent to life about life, and that the performing arts--including the high-impact medium of movies--were among the chief means by which the Universe was sending them. Entertainment, it turns out, is a great delivery system.
"You know, Stephen, you ought to write a book about that!" I suddenly blurted. "I'm sure that peopl are aware, as we are, that there's more to many movies than meets the eye. Wouldn't it be great to have an 'insider' from Hollywood reveal to us how this is being done. And maybe even point out to us some of the mystical movie messages we may have missed?"
"Oh, I don't know," Stephen hesitated. "I'm a movie producer, not an author. That's your stage."
"Hey," I insisted, "if you can talk, you can write! Besides, who better to tell this story than someone who's been making these stories and sending these messages?"
He thought about it for a moment, and I pressed the advantage. "Stephen, the world needs to hear about this. We need to have a compilation of what we've been telling ourselves--an all-in-one-place, entertaining, breezy but important look at the messages movies have been sending us. And you're just the person to do it. In fact, you're the perfect person to do it."
I believe that the universe is sending us messages through movies--or, maybe, we are sending those messages to ourselves.
Some idea of what Stephen Simon considers a "mystical" or "spiritual" film can be obtained from considering the list of films he describes in his book. These films, with categories in bold type, are: Reality and Time: The Matrix (1999); The Thirteenth Floor [The 13th Floor] (1999); A Beautiful Mind (2001); Vanilla Sky (2001); Mulholland Drive (2001); Waking Life (2001); Sliding Doors (1998); Somethere in Time (1980); Back to the Future (1985); The Kid (2000); Frequency (2000); Visionary Adventures: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968); Star Wars (1977); The Neverending Story (1984); Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981); Lost Horizon (1937); Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000); Floods, Fires, Earthquakes, and Riots: The China Syndrome (1979); Silkwood (1983); Fail-Safe (1964); The Terminator (1984); Terminator 2: A Judgment Day (1991); The Planet of the Apes (1968); Armageddon (1998); Deep Impact (1998); 1984 (1956); THX 1138 (1970); Soylent Green (1972); A Clockwork Orange (1971); Waterworld (1995); The Postman (1997); Life after Life: The Sixth Sense (1999); Ghost (1990); What Dreams May Come (1998); Heaven Can Wait (1978); After Life (1999); Field of Dreams (1989); Jacob's Ladder (1990); Flatliners (1990); Comedy: Dr. Strangelove (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) (1964); Dogma (1999); Oh, God! (1977); Defending Your Life (1991); Groundhog Day (1993); Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989); Aliens: Independence Day (1996); E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982); Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977); Starman (1984); Contact (1997); Cocoon (1985); Forbidden Planet (1956); Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001); Enhanced Powers and Sensibilities: Phenomenon (1996); Powder (1995); The Shadow (1994); Altered States (1980); Brainstorm (1983); Tube Fear: Network (1976); Being There (1979); The Truman Show (1998); The Power of Love: Cast Away (2000); Sleepless in Seattle (1993); Forrest Gump (1994); Family Man (2000); It's a Wonderful Life (1946).
Or both. It's a matter of perception. Some of you will feel more comfortable with the notion that the messages are coming from outside of ourselves and others will feel more empowered by perceiving their origin as coming from our own consciousness. As a collective consciousness, the human race from time to time reaches critical mass on certain issues or challenges. This point of critical mass is almost never a conscious one. Usually, we only recognize what has happened when we can look at it in retrospect.
Is it possible that before that critical point occurs, the issue gets expressed in a movie or a series of movies that act as beacons for our consciousness and, in fact, creates critical mass?
The movies discussed in this book reflect an emphatically affirmative answer to that question. These films, however, are not meant to be an all-inclusive list...
[page 3] I have organized the films in this book by category, rather than in chronological order because I believe that a chronological listing would imply an overarchign method to our collective consciousness in which I do not believe. I don't think that there is some kind of umbrella, worked-out plan here. I think that we are evolving as a species and working things out as we go. I believe in free will, destiny, and God. A paradox, yes? As a metaphysician, I find myself living more and more of each day in that powerful space in between the seemingly contradictory poles of paradox. The more determined I am not to solve but rather just to resonate in the internal conflict of a paradox, the more powerful the insights and ultimate resolution become...
[page 4] This is neither a scholarly work nor a scientific exploration. I am not qualified for either of those disciplines and I make no pretense about being able to "prove" anything. I do not delude myself into thinking that I am right and everyone who disagrees with me is wrong. I am not a metaphysical missionary; that is, I'm not out to convert anyone. I'm a film producer who loves movies and has made some movies in this genre, and I simply have a point of view about spiritual themes in films. I want this book to be fun, thought-provoking, personal, and, I hope, inspirational and empowering. I am personally sick and tired of all the doomsday scenarios that seem so prevalent in our modern world, and I think that the spiritual messages in movies are actually leading us to a bright and beautiful future. If the observations in this book resonate with you, perhaps they can be considered insights...
Chapter 16 outlines the way in which you can elaborate on your own expeience of the spiritual messages in the movies we discuss...
Why am I writing this?
We're at a crossroads both in society and in our industry. There is such a yearning for meaning and hope in the world, for stories that challenge us to be our best, to lift up our hearts to the skies and encourage us to become the people we were born and have evolved to be. Storytelling has always lifted our sights and our spirits. We have struggled long enough. We have died enough. We hve lived through enough pain. We want to be at peace with both ourselves and our world.
The spiritual experience of the arts can open wide the doors of perception. Unfortunately, the internal mechanics of our industry have become such that storytelling has all but faded from view...
[page 5] There is a great opportunity now to return to a classic type of storytelling in this unrecognized genre of spirituality. There is a new awareness and receptivity to stories that look into the very depth of how our souls can be awakened and nurtured. In so doing, we can create space for the recognition of the beauty and power of the messages i these films and then, to quote one of my favorite lines in The Lion in Winter: " . . . in a world where a carpenter can be resurrected, anything is possible."
So much of this is a matter of faith, of belief. For about four hundred years, Western society has generally placed its faith in science as the final arbiter of disputes. "Can you prove it?" has come to mean "Can you take it into a laboratory and scientifically demonstrate it?"
Just for fun here, let's look a little bit at scientific proof nowadays.
* Today, quantum physicists can actually prove that the chair you're sitting on, or the bed you're lying on, while you read this book is not "real." All physical objects are very loose amalgams of atoms that really defy space constrictions. Our consciousness orders that they be solid.
Now, does laying all that out necessarily mean anything to a skeptic? Absolutely not. Nor would a passionate theologian be able to make any better progress with someone totally committed to a scientific viewpoint. In fact, that is the point: We see what we want to see.
* You know the old question about whether or not there is a sound of a tree falling in the forest if there is no one there to hear it? Many quantum physicists today will argue that there is no sound and, in fact, if there's no one there to observe it, there isn't even a tree or a forest?
* Science has already proven to itself that the expectations of the observer actually influence the "objective" result of the experiment.
* Science today has proven that light itself is a wave pattern until it is observed, and then it becomes particles; that is, perception of it changes its form.
Before the "Renaissance" four hundred years ago, the pendulum had been stuck in the exact opposite direction. The church was the arbiter of what was "true" and people were expected to accept pronouncements from the church as "gospel." So it was absolutism at both ends of the spectrum--either total and blind faith in religious dogma or the same kind of faith in scientific methods.
Part of the fascination of modern life today is that the pendulum seems to have settled finally somewhere near the middle. There is still great faith in things spiritual, and deep respect for science, but neither has a dominant position in Western society as a whole, particularly in America. We are squarely in that paradoxical "space in between" of which I have already spoken. For those of us on spiritual paths, that "twilight zone" provides the ideal human petri dish for exploration.
So many of us today are less concerned with "proving it" to the world (our egos) and more concerned with journeys of discovery (our soul's call to adventure). This book is, I hope, a reflection of the latter. I started leading... seminars on this topic in 1995 because the subject matter fascinated me personally and I thought it would be fun and inspiring to examine it with a large group. It is said that we teach what we most need to learn. I've learned a lot from the last seven years of leading seminars on this subject matter. This book is an extension of that process. I find all this personally fascinating and, for me, there is great inspiration and wisdom in the movies mentioned in the book.
I do not delude myself into thinking that only spiritual/evolutionary messages are cointained within films. Films have a way of illuminating several different landscapes of our psyches...
While messages in films have indeed been a staple of Hollywood almost since the inception of movies themselves, spiritual messages have created a genre unto itself that has not yet been recognized as such. That is what's new here. We're not reinventing the wheel. We're recognizing a new brand name. While other genres have their own internal mechanisms and messages, the spiritual journeys of the last century of films have not been chronicled. Until now, the genre hasn't even been acknowledged as such. These spiritual, evolutionary whispers are the ones that fascinate and motivate me.
As of now, none of the studios or production entities in Hollywood acknowledges spirituality as its own genre. They are just flat-out afraid of it or they don't see it at all, often both. Perhaps this book can be the beginning of a collective conscious decision to bring these modern ships of Magellan into the public harbor and recognize them as their own genre. With that recognition, the issues of the new spirituality alive today in our world will be thrust powerfully onto a more international stage and will be produced with the internal integrity of the material intact.
I believe that spirituality is in and of itself a genre of film that has been around for decades but has never been recognized as such. "A Magellan Ship." This book is my attempt to share my belief in both the existence and viability of this genre; moreover, it is my belief that these films hold the key to the next century in entertainment.
After almost one hundred years of filmmaking, most of the outer world has been mapped. It is the new frontier of the inner world that provides the greatest opportunity for discovery, awe, and wonder.
What do all of these films have in common?
They contain illuminating aspects of the single most important question we can ask ourselves:
Why are we here?
Stephen Simon discusses how the movie industry has been slow to perceive the growing importance and popular acceptance of spirituality generally and New Age religion specifically. From: Simon, The Force Is with You, pages 11-12:
First of all, this kind of spiritual message [as found in The Matrix] is anathema to Hollywood movie studios, to both production and marketing executives. To mainstream Hollywood, these movies do not even qualify as a distinct category. Mention "spirituality" in a studio meeting and the executives' eyes glaze over. They quickly change the subject or just directly reject the notion as "non-commercial." I don't want to sound like a rant against these people. It's not. Contrary to a lot of public perception, most of the people who work in Hollywood are decent, well-meaning people who really would like to do the right thing on a daily basis. They are good people.
Simon, The Force Is with You, page 20:
The challenge is simply that the new spirituality that has become so prevalent in the world has not yet consciously penetrated the corridors of power in Hollywood. Magellan's ships are still off the radar in the film business... Our industry always seems like "the last to know."
The publishing industry has certain caught on. "Visionary books" are the fastest growing sector in the history of the publishing business. The growth rate in 1999 was twenty-five percent and the trend is continuing. "One Spirit" is the biggest and fastest growing book club in the history of the industry. The Celestine Prophecy, Conversations with God, Deepak Chopra's books, Richard Bach's books, etc. [all New Age books] are huge international hits. These books are not just successes. They are mega-best-sellers all over the world, selling by the tens of millions. Many of us remember the days when the only way you could get a book on this subject matter was in new age/metaphysical [i.e., New Age/metaphysical] bookstores. That is, if you even had a store like that in your city at all. Today, walk into any mainstream bookstore in any city and there are large sections--usually near the front of the store--exclusively devoted to visionary titles.
The music industry has also embraced this visionary/inspirational/new age [New Age] concept. Only a few years ago, finding this kind of music was a real challenge everywhere. Music stores often didn't carry the category at all and, if they did, it was in one bin at the back of the store, and you were lucky if anyone in the store could even tell you where that bin was. Today, huge companies such as Wyndham Hill and Higher Octave turn out best-seller after best-seller. Artists such as Yanni, Kitaro, and Enya (and even some artists with two names) are mega-million best-selling acts. Just in the last few years, albums from such mainstream artists as Madonna [a Catholic who embraced Kabbalah] and Jewel [a Mormon, although not a churchgoer] have been spiritually-themed and went platinum (more than one million units sold). Walk into any music store today and ask for the new age [New Age] section and every clerk knows where it is. Even much of the music for teenagers contains deeply spiritual themes. Acts like Staind and Linkin Park are recording and selling music that speaks directly to the souls of our kids. If you despair over much of the music for teenagers today, listen to lead singer/songwriter Aaron Lewis of Staind.
Everyone interprets Vanilla Sky in a slightly different manner. It was the subject of my first "MovieMystic" column back in March, 2002, and the comments I received on individual interpretations were fascinating--almost no two were exacly alike.
Simon, The Force Is with You, page 33:
Sifting through the history and mythology of humanity's past reveals the underlying reasons for this prevailing dystopian pespective.
In Stephen Simon's book, he concludes each discussion about a film with an italicized paragraph that encapsulates what he perceives to be the "mystical message" that the movie is sending to us. These paragraph's reflect Simon's own spiritual beliefs. Simon made it clear in the introduction to the book (page 2) that he did not include any films which did resonate with him personally. Below is an example of Simon stating a "mystical message," this one at the conclusion of his discussion of Star Wars, from: Simon, The Force Is with You, pages 44-45:
On Earth, we have undergone a series of natural disasters (usually involving pole shifts and massive meteor strikes) that, from time to time, have destroyed life on this planet as we knew it. In addition, our memories are seared with the self-destruction of Atlantis and the rise and fall of great empires such as the Romans, Greeks, Mayans, Sumarians, and Egyptians. Simply put, we have not "made it work out" yet. For hose of us who believe in the cyles of life, death, and rebirth, there are thousands of years of both sense and experiential memories stored in our cells of previous attempts that turned out disastrously.
It is interesting to not here that all the doomsday prognostications about the end of the world are at hand right now. For decades, if not centuries, Armageddon enthusiasts have pointed out that the Mayan Calendar ends in the year 2012. Most of the prognostications about our destiny from the great seers of antiquity, and also the more modern ones like Nostradamus, seem to come to an end in the next ten years. [More about this.]
As spiritual beings, we search now for the power within ourselves. The great paradigm shift that authors/philosophers like Neale Donald Walsch, James Redfield, and Richard Bach [prominent New Age writers] have brought to the forefront of world thought today is the notion that, while there certainly is a power in the universe we know outside of us as God, the power within us is the connective tissue to our core spirituality. The crux of the whole new age [New Age] movement of the past forty years has, in essence, been to recognize, acknowledge, accept, and tap into our inner connectiveness to the universe. There may be no more elegant way to phrase this new consciousness than "the force is with you"; hence, the inspiration for the title of this book.
Stephen Simon once again states his belief in Atlantis, from: Simon, The Force Is with You, pages 48-49:
Luke is being urged to close his eyes and trust his own inner connectiveness to the power of the universe and his unique places within it. This is a crucial distinction. It is not giving the power away and praying that the independent power outside of himself will smile benignly and grant his wish. It is saying you have the power within yourself, Luke, to allow this to happen by connecting with the forces inside and outside of you.
This powerful spiritual message at the end of Star Wars is, for me, what makes the message of the movie so inspiring.
The ark [of the covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark]... A perfect metaphor for nuclear power and weaponry, isn't it? The power of God, certainly. Can it not also be taken as a metaphor for the great powers that humans have attained in histories now almost forgotten? The misuse of the nuclear powers generated by the great crystals of Atlantis is mentioned often as the key ingredient for the last destruction of that civilization. (There has never been a movie that really addressed Atlantis. Sure, there were a couple of sword and sorcery attempts, but they were simply adventure films that used Atlantis as a background and enver really addressed it as the extraordinary civilization that it was. Disney's animated version Atlantis is very entertaining--and it portrays crystals as powerflu Atlantean images--but, as a children's film, it really does not pertain at all to the lost civilization that Plato introduced back into the modern world.)
Simon, The Force Is with You, pages 57-58:
As we will see in other films in this chapter, we have had an obsessive fear of nuclear destruction ever since the Enola Gay dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War Two. Once that genie was out of the bottle, we knew that we had invented (or rediscovered?) the ultimate power that oculd instantaneously annihilate the entire planet and everyone on it.
Simon, The Force Is with You, pages 79-82:
I put the word "rediscover" in there because it is my belief that most of us who are around in this period of time were also here at times of past cataclysmic destructions such as the devestation of Atlantis. It is not critical here that anyone accept the existence of Atlantis. The fear of nuclear destruction can certainly be justified by the mere existence of atomic power; however, I believe that a lot of us sense that we were around when Atlantis disappeared. I believe that most of us who do have that memory also feel that the destruction was self-inflicted; therefore, even though this is not the proper space for a detailed historic look at the potential causes of the destruction of Atlantis, it is important for me to at least note one of the predominant theories for the destruction of that ancient and advanced civilization.
As I previously noted briefly in chapter 3, Disney's animated Atlantis, released in the summer of 2001, is intended mostly as a children's adventure. As such, it posits that Atlantis still exists under the ocean and that it was destroyed by a tidal wave of unknown origin; however, it does contain one fascinating message about Atlantis that resonates with those of us who feel a strong affinity for the subject matter. According to the film, Atlantis was once a highly advanced civilization that was powered by an enormous crystal. The generating source of the power of the crystal was the collective consciousness of the citizens of Atlantis. That's an amazingly evolved concept in a children's film and a powerful message for us all.
If one reads Edgar Cayce's work on Atlantis or any of dozens of other perceptions of that ancient world, it is very clear that Atlantis had indeed discovered some form of immense "crystal" power. Cayce's readings in particular point to something akin to a nuclear episode. That kind of cataclysm would certainly explain how an entire continent could disappear beneath the sea. If a lot of us were indeed around for that destruction, it would certainly bring up some pretty intense sense memories when nuclear power again rears its head in our world, wouldn't it?
Looking back, I'm sure that [by studying and reading about death and the afterlife, including Elisabeth Kubler Ross's works and death and dying] I was just preparing myself for the moment when I would read "Bid Time Return" (later retitled Somewhere in Time) and discover the true path of my life. When I read that book, it all just clicked in for me. Even though the two lovers [Richard Collier and "Elise McKenna", i.e., Maude Adams] do not actually get together after life in the book, I knew that was the way the story had to end and I knew that dealing with this life/death challenge in the realm of movies was one of my life's purposes.
Simon, The Force Is with You, pages 103-104:
It is, then, not "accident" that I produced both Somewhere in Time and (with Barnet Bain) What Dreams May Come. I believe with all my heart that our traditional attitudes about death are no longer viable if, indeed, they ever were.
This is not the appropriate forum for a lengthy argument about what is to me the irrefutable proof that death is only a transition to a new form; morever, this is another one of those situations where one can only authoritatively speak from one's own belief. The continuum of life, death, and rebirth can neither be proved nor disproved. Passionate arguments can be made on both sides, and every individual must make up his own mind. I only want to make one "point" here about all of these beliefs. Life-after-life researchers have actually indeed "scientifically proven" at least one thing: People who are declared clinically dead and are then revived (or just return) have for centuries related a universal experience. A comforting white light, seeing a tunnel, relatives and friends who have died, and a sense of peace. These stories are told in every culture in every society in the world, even primitive ones where there is no contact with outside culture of any kind. Even skeptics acknowledge the phenomenon but call it a mass hallucination. Funny. That's how some of us look at this experience we call "life."
Interestingly enough, there is one group of people who relate a very different afterlife experience from what we have just described. In Richard Matheson's research for What Dreams May Come, he discovered that those people who have tried to commit suicide and are subsequently revived tell a very different and frightening story. This discrepancy is what motivated him to write Dreams.
For me, there is no doubt that I have been here for thousands of years. I have done variouis versions of past-life regressions, and I know that those experiences were real. I feel them on a cellular level. I also know that I have lived several lifetimes with my daughters, my friends, my partners, and other intimates in my life. In fact, it is part of my belief system that we do travel through the ages in soul groups. We have karmic bonds to one another, and we help each other grow and learn through a myriad of lifetimes. We change roles and relationships to each other but always help each other learn and incorporate whatever lessons we have chosen to experience in a specific incarnation.
When we meet someone with whom we have one of those pacts, we resonate immediately to them, often for reasons we either don't understand or even misinterpret at times, but we just know.
One of the most wonderful examples of this kind of encounter was related to me a few year ago by a friend of mine from Northern California. She was driving in New Mexico, a state in which she had not previously ever been. As she was driving through a small town, she stopped at a traffic light just as a young man was crossing the road in front of her. She had never seen him before, but she knew him and he knew her. He walked up to her car, smiled at her, and simply said "We're only supposed to say hello this time." He then smiled and walked off. She knew that he was someone within what James Redfield defines as her "soul group," with whom she was not going to have any other contact in this incarnation other than that single moment of saying hello. That was their deal. Just check in with each other once and say hello.
Going even further, I believe that we actually choose who our parents are going to be, too, for both the lessons that we can learn from them and for the lessons that they can learn from us. Those roles can switch from lifetime to lifetime. My father now could have been my daughter before, etc. It's like there's a big "boardroom" meeting in the afterlife. All of us who go between lives and who have soul group relationships sit around a big table (well, at least a virtual one) and discuss what we need learn and how best we can help each other learn whatever those lessons might be. Then we're born. Part of the experience is that we lose all conscious connection with those bargains that we made, so we have to discover them as we go along in our lives, and sometimes that's very aggravating, right?
...If you follow this kind of philosophy, you eventually understand that everything that happens to you in life is your own responsibility and that acceptance, in turn, erases the concept of "blame." Neale Donald Walsch wrote a wonderful book called Little Soul and the Sun, which takes this concept a step further: even the people who cause you heartache in life are seen differently because you come to accept that they are only playing roles that you both agreed to before you were born.
Anyway, it is issues like those contained in this bit of a digression that I've allowed myself here that have convinced me and millions of others that death is but a passage into another existence. Skeptics often say that such a conviction is based solely in wish fulfillment; that is, because we fear death, we create the illusion that death is only transitory, so as to allay our own fears. Okay. Fair point. I can't "prove" that those skeptics are wrong. On the other hand, they can't "prove" that they're right either...
[page 82] Even if we can't "prove" any of this, the world seems a kinder, gentler place with this philosophy than without it.
The significance of Dogma is simply that it exists at all. Yes, it is outrageous and outrageously funny but that is way beside the point. The fact that the film came into being speaks volumes about where we are today as a humanity.
About the movie Oh, God! in which George Burns played the part of God. From: Simon, The Force Is with You, pages 104-105:
Organized religion (translation: the Catholic Church) has traditionally been considered one of the sacred cows in film. Don't touch it, don't discuss it, and certainly don't lampoon it. We can joke about death, race relations, and even the Holocaust. Mel Brooks' Broadway version of his earlier film The Producers won a record twelve 2001 Tony Awards... and its centerpiece sequence is "Springtime for Hitler"! If a Jew can make fun of the Holocaust, it's way past time that we can also have some fun with the Catholic Church, isn't it?
[What Stephen Simon does not mention here is that, yes, Mel Brooks, the Jewish writer of The Producers, makes has humor in this film/Broadway play related to the Holocaust, but he is in this work making fun of the Nazis who slaughtered Jews. Brooks is certainly not making fun of Holocaust victims, nor is he making light of the Holocaust itself. Dogma does indeed "make fun" of the Catholic Church; it is not making fun of people who attack the Catholic Church or people who have killed Catholics. The closer parallel, one that Simon does not mention here, is that Kevin Smith, the writer and director of Dogma is a self-described practicing Catholic. Had a non-Jew written a humorous film about Hitler and the Holocaust, or had a non-Catholic written Dogma (which lampoons Catholicis, yet also portrays the dogma of the church as literal reality), this would be a different matter indeed. Also, Stephen Simon here is simply historically incorrect in suggesting that the Catholic Church has been a "sacred cow" in film and that it has not previously been discussed or lampooned in film.]
The fact that we have reached a point of openness on some of these qustions is a sign that we are indeed questioning whom we are, wondering why we are here, and looking deeper into some of the answers to those questions that have heretofore been off limits.
This is not to say that we are rejecting religion. We are simply looking at it with new eyes. In fact, Bethany asks in the film [Dogma] what she is supposed to do about these new answers to old questions. Is she just supposed to forget who she was and al that she knew? The asnwer and the message of the film is very simple: "Continue to be who you have always been. Just be this as well."
As God leaves at the end of the film, Bethany asks her why we are here--and God just smiles and tweaks her nose, winking as if to say that the asking of the question is the answer to it.
George Burns playing God. Who else possibly could have played that part in this film? Actually, there may not have been another person in the world who could have played this part at that time other than George Burns because Oh, God is a textbook example of delivering a message in a comedic vehicle that just would not be digestible in a drama. If you're going to actually personify God in a film, it better be with humor and be played by someone who has such a deep well of good will as a personality with the audience that they will suspend their disblief and enjoy the journey... Try that in a drama and see how it works. (Actually Metafilmics [Stephen Simon's production company] is taking on that subject matter in a dramatic filmed version of Neale Donald Walsch's Conversations with God series of books. Our films, however, do not try to personify God in a separate being. The God in Neale's books is within all of us and personified by each of us.)
Stephen Simon evidently thinks, at least subconsciously, that if benign aliens visited humans, they would first want to go to Utah. In Close Encounters, the aliens meet the humans at Devil's Tower in Wyoming, but Simon incorrectly recalls this meeting as having taken place in Utah. From: Simon, The Force Is with You, page 118:
In Oh God, God appears to Jerry, a grocery clerk (John Denver) and then personifies himself so he can speak to him about the way humans are handling their lives... This movie is not, however, about plot. It is about George Burns playing God and delivering messages about God's observations of humanity in his inimitable and gentle manner. Much of the dialogue reads like a new age [New Age] manifesto in the seventies (the film was released in 1977). They might have called the film Oh, God, but this God doesn't talk like any traditional deity. He talks with humor and wisdom in a way that would be totally off-putting to most traditionalists if it weren't for the gentle manner in which Burns works and the simple clarity of the dialogue.
[Stephen Simon proceeds to quote 9 lines spoken by George Burns' "New Age" God character in the movie.]
[Steven] Spielberg's first foray into this arena [movies about aliens] came with the 1976 release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, in which aliens begin planting visions in the minds of ordinary people, personified by Richard Dreyfus... As a telephone lineman, Dreyfuss has a close encounter of the second kind when he experiences an alien craft. From that point forward, he is obsessed with the image of a mountain that he knows is important but can't identify. Even as his marriage begins to collapse around him, he feels compelled to leave home and travel to Devil's Mountain in Utah, which he recognizes on television as the mountain of his obsessions.
Speaking about the movie Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within, from: Simon, The Force Is with You, page 127:
Just the recognition that the Earth has its own spirit is a quantum leap for movies.
Simon, The Force Is with You, pages 130-131:
I know so many people who have deep feelings of spirituality and even more extraordinary experiences with profound powers within themselves that have materialized in amazing ways. So many, however, are afraid to "come out of the closet," so to speak, for fear of being laughed at and branded crazy or delusional. I know this one very well myself. I lost several friends and acquaintances that I had before I became an outspoken member of the spiritual community.
Talking about the power of television, from: Simon, The Force Is with You, pages 146-147:
One of the great services that have been performed by the courageous authors in the field of visionary books and novels is that they have helped these kinds of experiences become more mainstream occurrences. When Larry King devotes whole hours to this kind of subject matter, you know a shift has occurred.
Those of us who are on this conscious path owe a deep debt of gratitude to those who have blazed the path and, in the film industry, the key person who deserves a special place in our hearts is Shirley MacLaine. When she wrote Out on a Limb in 1983 and went on talk shows to bravely state who she is and whast she believes in, she was absolutely crucified in mainstream media. Undaunted, she stayed the course and really opened the way for all of us who have followed her lead, and, for that, she deserves a very special heroic status. Thank you, Ms. MacLaine for your courage and dignity.
The universe doesn't always need movies to deliver a powerful message.
After his introduction to the topic of television and its pervasive power in our lives, Stephen Simon then discusses three films in detail, along with their mystical messages to us. These movies are: Network (1976), directed by Sidney Lumet; Being There (1979), which was directed by acclaimed Mormon film director Hal Ashby; and The Truman Show (1998), directed by Peter Weir. Stephen Simon's choice of a Latter-day Saint film director's movie, Being There, to illustrate the power of television (and other mystical messages) is slightly ironic, considering the fact that television was invented by a Latter-day Saint inventor: Philo Farnsworth. Here is Stephen Simon's discussion of Hal Ashby's Being There, pages 149-152:
We watched the Challenger explode; the triumphs of the U.S. womens' soccer and men's hockey teams win against impossible odds; Robert Kennedy; Lee Oswald, and Jack Ruby shot; Neal Armstrong walk on the moon; Chinese protesters murdered; the 1968 riots in Chicago; Kennedy debate Nixon; and of course the trady of 9/11. All live.
Instant villains and heroes are created before our very eyes. Joe McCarthy, Tiger Woods, Sirhan Sirhan, Oprah, the Palestinian terrorists in Munich, O. J., Michael Jordan, Brandi Chastain [the femal Olympic soccer player], Gary Condit [the villainous Baptist congressman from Modesto, California who was connected to the disappearance and murder of his intern/lover, Chandra Levy], and infinite numbers of others.
Politics has become a whole different business under the searing eye of the tube. Could Ronald Reagan have been elected president without television? Could Franklin Roosevelt have been elected with television?
Perhaps, most crucially, the entire family structure of our lives has ben changed by television. The average American teenager watches at least four hours of television per day, much more time than any interaction in their lives other than school.
Simply put, almost everything in modern day life has been either changed or at least seriously affected by television. Some for the better, some for the worse. But changed nevertheless.
Anything that pervasive has the threat of controlling our lives and, in fact, that very observation has often been advanced about television--that it has indeed become the tail that wags the dog. As such, it is not surprising that films have looked at the phenomenon of television with a very wary and sometimes even frigthened eye.
This whole book could be devoted to looking at the phenomenon of television and the personalities it creates (A Face in the Crowd, Quic Show, etc.); however, I have chosen three films that I think are the most illustrative of our love/hate relationship with television and the messages we receive both through it and about it.
Another prophetic and very funny movie that both accurately reflected our growing obsession with television and also foresaw the current political age of image being dominant over substance, Being There was released three years after Network.
Simon, The Force Is with You, page 156:
Based on a novel by Jerzy Kosinski, Being There is a whimsical but biting commentary on our American obsession with image. Even more important, its spiritual message is succinctly conveyed in both the ad copy for, and the last line, of the film:
"Life is a state of mind."
Everything that Chance (Peter Sellers) does comes from a Pure naivete of spirit and, with absolutely no conscious intention except his love of gardening and television, he becomes a famous and important man.
Peter Sellers gives one of his best, and certainly calmest, Performances in the film. He plays a gentle gardener who has lived his entire life caring for the garden of a very rich benefactor, who has allowed Chance to completely retreat from any sense of contact from the outside world except for his television. Chance either gardens or watches television. That's all.
When his benefactor dies, Chance is forced out into a world for which he is completely unprepared (to an amusing jazz version of "Thus Sprake Zarathtustra," the 2001 theme music, a nod of the head to Kubrick from director Hal Ashby).
Chance is so separated from any sense of the "real" world that, in a classic scene, he actually tries to prevent himself from being assaulted by pointing his television remote control at his potential attackers, believing that he can just switch the channel. If ever there was a searing image of the potential power of television to alter our perceptions of reality, that was it.
Mere "chance" (a very intentional pun) finds him being slightly hurt by the car of a wealthy woman named Eve (Shirley MacLaine) who takes Chance home to her palatial estate so that the doctor who is caring for her critically ill husband Ben (Melvyn Douglas) can look at Chance's injured leg. On the way, she gives Chance a drink and at the same time asks his name. Sputtering over his first-ever drink of liquor (in his first-ever car ride), Chance coughs out that he is Chance the gardener, but Eve hears Chauncey Gardner and the name sticks.
Once at this new home. Chance only wants a place to stay and work in the garden but everyone around him takes his gardening comments as metaphors, not pure intent. Ben is a powerful man, who is close to the president of the United States (Jack Warden). Chance's comments to the president on the seasons of planting ("as long as the roots are not severed, all is well in the garden") are construed again as metaphors on the economy and Chance is thrust into the limelight, even finally appearing on his beloved television.
Chance spends every waking moment watching television, if he can manage to do so. Even when Eve tries to seduce him, he can only relate by saying his favorite line, "I like to watch," She mistakes this for his desire to watch her and she obliges by "pleasuring" herself while Chance serenely watches an exercise show on television.
Chance is soon chosen by a dying Ben to watch out over both his business and Eve. At Ben's funeral, the president gives the eulogy while members of his own party are talking about Chance being a potential candidate for president, as they act as pallbearers.
While the president is speaking, Chance wanders off into what I believe is one of the most memorable final shots ever in a movie. He is walking toward the estate, and there is a pond before him. Having no concept of walking around it, he walks out into the pond. Instead of sinking, he seems to be walking on the water. He even puts his umbrella down in the water to test its depth. Right next to him, the water is very deep but he continues walking as we hear the last line of the president's eulogy: "Life is a state of mind."
There has always been a lot of controversy about that final sequence because, I believe, the walking-on-water aspect was misunderstood to be a reference to Jesus. I never saw it that way. "Life is a state of mind" is the way Chance lives. He literally lives in a separate reality from all those around him. His life has always been stress-free. Someone and something has always protected him from adversity, so much so that he has a pure and complete expectation that he will be protected no matter what. There is nothing in his experience that would cause him to think otherwise. He is serenely unaffected by anything around him that could connote danger to anyone else. He just expects things to be "fine."
When Chance walks out into the water, he just wants to get to the other side and his instincts tell him that he can go through the water. It is apparent that he is actually walking in shallow water, not on the water. His intuitive sense tells him there is a safe way across the pond and he finds it. Period. If the water had been deep all the way through, he would have known to go around. Expectation creates reality. After all, "life is a state of mind."
Now that is an amazing and exhilarating message in a movie made in 1979.
Richard Matheson gave me a beautiful framed line etched in calligraphy from the novel of What Dreams May Come (which he wrote in the same year that Being There was released) that says That which you think becomes your world.
If you haven't seen Being There for a while (or if you've never seen it), look at it again in that context, and I beelive you will see the breathtaking beauty of its message in perhaps a new light.
The films that we might remember as being about angels really neve are about the angels at all. These movies are always about the subject of the angel's focus, rtaher than about the angel itself. It's kind of a heavenly version of the old vampire legend of now showing up as a reflection in a mirror. Angels seem to be like invisible ink on cellulois. Now you see them, now you don't.
Stephen Simon discusses in some detail how the transition from celluloid to digital filming will significantly change the film industry. He says that the next step will be total immersion movie/virtual reality computer experiences. After that, he expresses hope that "real" movies about Atlantis and Lemuria will be made, further illustrating the importance of his beliefs about Atlantis. Simon, The Force Is with You, page 181:
Even the television series Touched by an Angel [which was filmed entirely in Utah] focuses on the week's human challenges, rather than on either Roma Downey or Della Reese, and that's not easy to do when they're the only continuing characters, week in and week out.
As to creative content, what adventures await us in this virtual world?
Stephen Simon discusses how his disappointment at the experience of producing the movie Body of Evidence was a turning point in his life, that led to his focusing entirely on Spiritual Cinema. From: Simon, The Force Is with You, pages 189-191:
The first real movies about Atlantis and Lemuria, perhaps? What really is the secret of Oak Island? (Never heard of it? You will.) New versions of the story of Jesus seem inevitable. The entire world of our night dreams and what they signify will be available. our inner visions of worlds past and future will take shape. What really is space and time travel all about? How did the universe begin? Where is it going? Aliens in a new light. Guided meditations in virtual space. Evolution itself.
Another exciting aspect of the future will come from the almost untapped reservoir of books that have been written on the subject of spirituality. Look at your bookshelves and imagine that all those books that you have loved in this genre will some day become filmed entertainment. Because they will. Movies, television shows, internet downloads, direct-to-consumer products--all will be available to translate the wealth of literature that already eistst and that will be written by the thousands of volumes as the new millennium unfolds.
Body of Evidence was slated to open in late January 1993, and we took it to New York for its press screening on January 12, 1993, another dtae on which my life would change forever.
Stephen Simon's discussion of mystical messages from Somewhere in Time, a movie he produced himself, from: Simon, The Force Is with You, pages 25-27:
Without going into extraneous detail, the film [which stars Madonna] was received very poorly; in fact, people even booed. It was a defining and humilitating moment. I was dating a woman at the time who was with me in New York that fateful night. In the wee small hours of the morning, she told me to "get back to your heart, Stephen. The guy who started off making Somewhere in Time should not be making movies like Body of Evidence. Not that there's anything wrong with movies like that, it's just not you. It's not what you came here to do, and it's not who you are." She changed the course of my life that night and, even though we didn't stay together, we're stillf riends, and she knows how eternally grateful I am to her for guiding me back to the place that Enigma calls "the rivers of believe."
In that moment, I knew that I couldn't go on with my life the way it was. Unfortunately, I didn't handle the next few months with Dino [Dino De Laurentiis] very well. I had changed and wanted to change the direction of the company accordingly. DIno had been doing things his way--very successfullly--for fifty years. We fought. He finally got tired of the conflict. In August 1993, he fired me... I was no longer doing what was best for him and his company. I've always regretted that things ended that way. DIno is a fantastic man and I was very happy for him when he received the 2001 Thalberg Award at the Academy Awards.
I went into seclusion for a year, becoming, in fact, a complete recluse, interacting only with my beloved daughters, who by that time were living with me. During that year, I spent weeks browsing for metaphysical material, read voraciously on the subject, and began to meditate daily. The whole focus of my life shifted from an external view to an internal one. I found a particular spiritual path that resonated with me and dived in. I knew I could no longer do what I had been doing in my life. Even though I did try to find work, I knew that I couldn't stay in the mainstream movie life from which I had felt alienateed for a long time anyway. Not that there is or was anything intrinsically wrong with that life. I just didn't fit into it and, in retrospect, never really did. To quote a wonderful old comedian named George Gobel, "I felt like th eworld was a tuxedo and I was a pair of brown shoes."
By this time, I wanted to make only metaphysical movies. I wanted to make What Dreams May Come
In late April 1994, I attended a metaphysical seminar where I found myself seated behind a very tall man who had his arm around the shoulders of a very beautiful woman. Not only couldn't I see very well, but I also found myself feeling vey jealous of the obvious love between them. I resolved that, at the first break, I would try to find another seat. During that break, I was talking to an acquaintance who saw someone walk up behind me. Smiling, she said, "Stephen, turn around, I want you to meet a writer who shares your interest in metaphysical films." You guessed it. The tall guy, Barnet Bain. We met. We shook hands, and instantaneously became best friends and partners. No exaggeration. We just knew at the moment that we had found each other and could begin our business.
Barnet and his wife Sandy had been absorbed in metaphysics for the previous ten years and had used a name for a corporation that handled their personal affairs. The name was Metafilmics. As soon as I heard it, I requested that we be able to appropriate it for the name of our new business. They graciously agreed, and the new Metafilmics was created--but the inspiration and original idea for it was theirs.
Barnet had been a writer for many years. The only film that had been made of one of his scripts was the Royal Shakespeare version of Jesus which was released in 1980. Unbeknownst to many, Jesus is one of the most successful films ever released. Warner Brothers has a special division devoted only to the film; moreover, it's also fascinating that this amazingly metaphysical man [a New Age believer] wrote a traditional version of Jesus.
Barnet also developed several studio projects over the years and was way ahead of his time as a writer. His scripts were inventive and spiritual, and he was as frustrated as I was with the traditional business when we met...
With the synergy of Barnet's resonance, we finally found a way to get What Deams May Come off the ground, and it became the first film to carry the Metafilmics banner.
So, twenty years elapsed between Somewhere in Time [also produced by Stephen Simon] and What Dreams May Come. These are the two films of which I am the most proud, and the films that have struck the deepest chord in both myself and the audiences for whom they were made.
Somewhere in Time
In addition to his discussion of some of the mystical messages in Somewhere in Time in the main body of the book (pages 25-27), and other comments about the movie mentioned in autobiographical contexts, Stephen Simon spends an entire chapter (Chapter 14, pages 198-217) discussing the making of Somewhere in Time in detail. An excerpt is below, from: Simon, The Force Is with You, page 202:
Using films that I have produced as examples in this book presents an interesting challenge. I do not want this to be a self-serving, ego-centered exercise, yet, at the same time, I feel that I would be remissif I did not include discussions of these movies where I honestly believe that they deserve to be included.
What is reality anyway? What supposedly is "now"? How many times have you awakened from a dream and just known -- not felt or hoped -- actually known it was more real even than a waking state? If reality and time are subjective, can you time travel simply by "hypnotizing your mind?" To quote Professor Finney in this film,"now that is a question." Einstein's answer would, I think, be a more unequivocal "yes." If consciousness is all that determines our perception of time, it only stands to reason that our consciousness can bend time as well. As I've already mentioned, even "science" has proven that time is an illusion, so it is entirely possible that time travel can take place by utilizing no more than one's mind. For those who have experienced a past life-regression, for instance, that is precisely the experience that it enables.
In Somewhere in Time, Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve) falls in love with the portrait of an enigmatic young woman named Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour) that he finds in an old hotel. ["Elise McKenna" is the name used in Richard Matheson's book for real-life Mormon actress Maude Adams, the actress whose photograph Matheson actually saw in an old hotel, the actress which stirred such feelings of love and obsession within him that he wrote the book that became Somewhere in Time.] Finding out that she was an actress who played in the hotel theater in 1912, he becomes obsessed with her and researches everything about her. He soon sees a picture of Elise as an old woman and realizes that it was this old woman who gave him a watch many years before and mysteriously asked him to "come back" to her. He also finds out the old Elise died the night she gave him the watch. Further research at the hotel uncovers a 1912 hotel register, where he discovers that he indeed was there in 1912 at the hotel.
Richard Matheson came up with the notion that Richard Collier could remove all reminders of the present from his room, dress in 1912 clothing, carry 1912 money (except for one damn penny), and hypnotize his own mind into a journey to 1912.
Who is to say that time travel could not happen in such a simple manner?
Richard finds Elise in the past, where he discovers that she has indeed been expecting him. ("Is it you?," she asks when he first approaches her.) They fall in love despite the meddling of her overprotective manager (Christopher Plummer), and are sure they are facing an idyllic future when he finds a 1979 penny in his 1912 suit, which he inadvertently left there when
he hypnotized himself into the past. As Elise is left holding his watch, he is then hurtled back to 1979 where, in a weakened and heartbroken condition, he literally dies of a broken heart and is reunited with Elise after death.
Some have observed that Richard's journey to 1912 was all in his mind, a dream state from which he is awakened by the jarring discovery of the 1979 penny. Could be. Also could it not be that his 1912 experience was the "real" one and that everything else was a dream?
One of the great mind teases of the film is the question of where the watch originated in the first place. Did it begin in 1979 and get taken to the past or did it begin in the past and get brought by Elise into the present?
Our ability to find a soul mate wherever they might be, either in time or in the life-after-life continuum, is the underlying message of the film.
For more insights into that issue and the rest of the Somewhere in Time story, please refer to chapter 14.
The first step [in preparing to film Somewhere in Time] was location... First stop was a perfunctory visit to the grand Hotel del Coronado in San Diego where Matheson had set the book. Richard had been inspired to write the book while perusing an historic photo exhibit while staying at the Coronado. He saw a photo of the great turn-of-the-century actress Maude Adams [a Mormon actress from Salt Lake City, Utah] and wondered what might happen if a writer fell in love with the portrait and willed himself back in time to meet her. (Richard's delightful and brilliant psychologist wife, Ruth, has enjoyed a couple of decades now of teasing him over that fantasy.)
Eventually, Stephen Simon found the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan. The Grand Hotel the perfect location to use for filming Somewhere in Time. The architecture was perfect for the story. The look was appropriate for the time period. The entire island had a total ban on any mechanzied motor vehicles. Horse-drawn carriages were still the only mode of transportation there. Not only that, there was - miraculously and against all logic - a full-sized, abandoned sound stage inside the hotel! From: Simon, The Force Is with You, page 205:
We knew that the Coronado would not work for us because it had become too modern over the years...
Just as we were explaining to our hosts our dilemma of not having stage space, they flipped on the lights. We were standing in the middle of a completely equipped sound stage! On a small island in the Great Lake! Huh? It turned out that the Moral Rearmament Crusade had built this stage to use as a television studio. They went out of business and just left the stage behind, completely equipped.
Stephen Simon also spends an entire chapter (Chapter 15, pages 218-240) discussing the making of his other major "Spritual Cinema" movie: What Dreams May Come, which was also adapted from a novel by Richard Matheson. From: Simon, The Force Is with You, pages 220-221:
That was it. Everything we needed was on this island.
The [movie] industry scoffed at me for thinking it [Somewhere in Time, soon after its initial release] was so special and nobody--nobody--understood WDMC [What Dreams May Come]. At least, most people recognized that [Somewhere in Time] was a time travel movie and acknowledged the concept as a device that audiences would buy. [What Dreams May Come] was all set in the afterlife experience of the main character. How were we going to visually executive that? And, the conventional wisdom continued, the story was too depressing...
From: Simon, The Force Is with You, page 245:
Not only did no one care, my contemporaries started to look at me as being a "bit weird" for caring about all that "crap." In this industry, the rule is that it's okay to be different, just not too different.
A note here about 1980 and spirituality. Shirley MacLaine's Out on a Limb was still three years away from being published. If you wanted a "new age" book [i.e., a New Age book], you had to go to a specialty bookstore.
About the Author
From: Simon, The Force Is with You, page 247:
Stephen (Deutsch) Simon has been a film producer and executive for twenty-five years. He has produced such films as Somewhere in Time, All The Right Moves, and What Dreams May Come.
Stephen has also been the president of production of two major production companies, where he supervised development and production for legendary producers Ray Stark and Dino de Laurentiis. In this capacity, Stephen was involved with such diverse films as The Goodbye Girl, Smokey and the Bandid, The Electric Horseman, California Suite, and Madonna's Truth or Dare.
In 1995, Stephen and Barnet Bain formed Metafilmics, a production company that exclusively develops and produces spiritual projects.
Stephen teaches seminars in several maor U.S. cities entitled "Metaphysical Movie Messages" and authors a monthly column "The MovieMystic," which runs in dozens of magazines and Internet newsletters.
Walsch Books [which published Stephen Simon's book The Force Is with You] is an imprint of Hampton Roads Publishing Company, edited by Neale Donald Walsch and Nancy Fleming-Walsch. Our shared vision is to publish quality books that enhance and further the central messages of the Conversations with God series, in both fiction and non-fiction genres, and to provide another avenue through which the healing truths of the great wisdom traditions may be expressed in clear and accessible terms.
From: Simon, The Force Is with You, page 248:
Hampton Roads Publishing Company . . . for the evolving human spirit.
Hampton Roads Publishing Company publishes books on a variety of subjects including metaphysics, health, complementary medicine, visionary fiction, and other related topics.
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