a documentary about a ‘cult kid’s’ escape and healing after extremism
My documentary tells the untold story of the international “Scientology of Christianity,” alongside my personal journey of coming to terms with hard truths, my own healing, and the understanding that it’s not up to me to save my family: even as the eldest ‘second mother.’
I was homeschooled, dressed like a Puritan, and told The World was a separate, evil place. When I escaped – or rather was kicked out - I was still brainwashed but I began to ask myself: is it possible my ‘perfect’ past world was wrong after all?
I picked up a camera and embarked on a mission to explore the story of what was really happening behind this still-thriving, international cult’s closed doors.
Naively I thought family and friends I’d grown up with would support me. I thought that by exposing the truth and sharing what I learned along the way I could help and heal.
Instead I've learned that if people aren’t ready for your truth they can attack and even try to destroy you for trying.
But also in my search for truth and healing, friends came to my aid, believing I wasn’t crazy when everyone else said I was, and helping me to record this journey of exposing buried truths.
Over four years of professionally filming 150+ hours I created a #metoocult opposition movement and found others just like me, from my cult, all over the world. I also learned that the validation of being heard and finally believed is truly worth every challenge.
I am currently seeking funding to complete the international expose exploration (third Act) of my documentary and to hire a top editor to cut a (scripted) teaser and long-form trailer for submission to post-production funding grants. Ultimately I am seeking post-production funding to hire a full-length features editor and create and execute a distribution strategy.
In ACT I my nine immediate family members represent the often contradictory and dissociated views of both former cult members and the power struggles of those caught in cycles of repeat traumas. Although the audience will not yet know it since these characters are given free rein to express their most intimate and direct views on the story, what we are experiencing is the outsider’s challenge of making sense of the claims of a victim when the seeming witnesses – who happen to be in the power position found in numbers - present a different version of the same events. And so, the film seems to ask, is Heidi crazy after all, like the family and cult seem to suggest?
In ACT II we travel around the world and are introduced to other former cult members with similar stories to my own. Their stark testimonials and our mutual desires for validation, retribution and redemption abruptly cast my story in a different light.
In ACT III the power of numbers shifts in favor of my story as hundreds of former members come together at an international reunion.*
Here it becomes clear that this is a growing movement where only the sheer numbers, so similar to the #metoo movement, are what are finally allowing our stories to be released, both literally and figuratively.
*I am seeking immediate funding to film this final (and unprecedented) reunion scene in The Netherlands in September 2018.
Who are you when you are the only person who remembers your story? How do you live when everyone who was there is still alive yet deny your past? This was my experience after extremism. What has kept me going is knowing my story must be heard: and the hope that with acknowledgment can come change.
When I was little I wrote in a diary that when I grew up I would tell stories. And so I did.
I wrote for the LA Times and Huff Post, worked on TV and film sets as a producer, scripted a film, assisted famous screenwriters and worked as an executive in entertainment.
I’m now completing a memoir - thesis for a masters in creative writing. I’m also applying my narrative-driven work experience to bringing my hidden past and those conflicted characters to the screen.
Story-telling can operate as therapy and justice: and sometimes, might even change the rules of the game it exposes along the way.
I believe deeply that cycles can be broken and society can evolve when the mythologies we have internalized are superseded by truer, braver, fuller narratives.
I chose to tell my story to reveal the hidden world of cult kids, brainwashing tactics and soul abuse and also to help others understand that coercive societal tactics might affect us more than we think.
I believe we can fuse fragmented stories and shift malignant narratives through just listening. With this greater awareness, and in each of our own ways, society may be able to collectively re-script and evolve. But to do so, we must first be given a voice.
In the south of Norway, on an island intentionally remote despite its proximity to Oslo, rises a closely guarded, exclusionist center called Brunstad.
Once only a relatively small fundamentalist Christian sect – there were maybe twenty thousand members worldwide when my parents, American hippies in the 70's, first discovered them – today Brunstad isone of the wealthiest churches per capita in the world, with sixty-five ‘Fellowships’ on six continents and the largest private housing and conference center in northern Europe.
Brunstad Christian Church’s (BCC) eighty thousand or more members believe they are the ‘144,000,’ the only people who will not be destroyed when the world ends in Armageddon ‘any day now.’
Brunstad is worth billions today because Kare collects up to 40% of members’ paychecks and demands free labor at constant ‘Work Parties.’
He recently purchased a mansion in the Connecticut ‘Fellowship’ where I grew up. At that time Kare referred to the US as ‘ the new financial 'battle- ground’ for BCC.’
One internationally acclaimed cult expert I interviewed said he has seen no cult more destructive to families than BCC.
The tight circle of top ‘Leading Brothers’ around the world ruthlessly ostracize and destroy the families of those who do not ‘stay in the green’ on their financial requirements.
Leader Kare, who is currently on the run from arrest warrants around Europe, seized power in the early nineties, when I was a young girl. The leadership shift was marked by a worldwide ‘Revival’ where constant themes of personal death, destruction and warfare were abusively screamed at us in the congregations on locked, private conference grounds with security guards for up to twelve hours a day.
They hide the more violent and destructive messages in their internal doctrine but I have the visual and audio proof of what happens behind closed doors.
Some of my archival audio including me at the age of twelve saying I want to have my clothes soaked in blood can be heard on this video:
Expenses for Documentary:
The amount listed below is the minimum needed to allow me to apply for post-production grant funding.
Filming Final Reunion Scene in Netherlands
• Flights for Cameraman and Me: approx. 2k
• Cameraman: min approx fee / day: 150 – 3 days = 450
• Retreat costs for attendees: 250
• Sound Gear: approx 500
To cut a teaser trailer and a long-form trailer which will allow me to apply for grant funding to hire an editor to cut the entire film in post-production: approx 2K
Director: Heidi Hough
DP: Stephen St. Peter (Fog City, High Relief, Total Eclipse)
Consulting Producer: Alysa Nahmias (Unrest, No Light and No Land Anywhere, Unfinished Spaces)
Consulting Producer: Vincent Roullet (Les Films De L'Air)