Stephen Simon is a veteran producer/director whose distinguished career also includes the presidency of two major production companies and the development and production of a myriad of well-known films such as “Smokey and the Bandit,” “Somewhere in Time,” the Academy Award winning “What Dreams May Come,” and the Emmy-nominated Lifetime movie “Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story.” He is the author of two books: The Force is With You: Mystical Movie Messages that Inspire Our Lives and Spiritual Cinema: A Guide to Movies That Inspire, Heal and Empower Your Life. Simon is also co-founder of The Spiritual Cinema Circle and served as producer/director of the film adaptation of Neale Donald Walsch’s bestselling book, “Conversations with God.”
Interview with Stephen Simon:
In your words, what is The Spiritual Cinema Circle?
The world’s first and only home DVD subscription service that delivers 4 films per month that warm your heart, expand your mind, and stir your soul.
What was the inspiration behind The Spiritual Cinema Circle?
First of all, to create a distribution outlet for filmmakers who want to make movies that ask who we are and why we’re here—films that help us feel better about human beings.
Second, to make those films available to an audience that has grown weary of the cynicism and emptiness of most studio films. An audience that wants films which are focused on the lost art of the story.
We see Spiritual Cinema as the 21st Century version of shamanic storytelling—-with filmmakers as the modern day shamans, sitting around a celluloid campfire, passing down the myths and hopes of a culture from one generation to another.
What has the response been?
Beyond extraordinary. We have subscribers in over 70 countries around the world. Our subscribers are intensely loyal and seem to be as passionate about what we’re doing as we are.
How do you go about selecting your films? In other words, what makes a good
As to the process itself, Anna Darrah, our Director of Acquisitions, is in touch with filmmakers and film festivals around the world. We feel that our subscribers are getting a virtual ticket to every spiritual film in every film festival in the world.
As to the films themselves, while drama does require conflict and the resolution of that conflict, it does not require that the resolution come in a violent or dehumanizing package. We choose films that respect and illuminate the majesty and promise of our humanity, films that have a core respect for the truth that we are a species that can consciously love…and forgive. More simply put, these movies allow us to look at who we can be as a humanity when we operate at our very best.
Why do you think spiritual films are good for us? What impact can they have
on our health? What impact can they have on our consciousness?
As background, we need to first distinguish between spiritual entertainment and religious entertainment.
While religious and spiritual have much more in common than they are different, most mainstream media imply that they are synonymous, and they are not. “Religion” reflects the teachings of particular organized religions that commonly present specific rules, regulations, and rituals that must be followed in order to experience a connection with the Divine which is usually identified as male and outside of humanity. ‘Spirituality’ entails a more personal, inner-directed, and individual experience of the Divine, which is represented as an integral aspect of our own humanity. The Passion would be a classic example of Religious Cinema while Whale Rider would be a prime example of Spiritual Cinema.
As to the potential impact of Spiritual Cinema, these films remind us of the eternal nature of our soul’s journey. Regardless of what most mainstream media outlets would have us believe, humanity is NOT a debased species and these films remind us of that distinction. They encourage us to manifest the magic of our potential as the dreamers, lovers, and architects of a new reality where we truly can find peace within our hearts and minds.
What is your favorite film? Why?
It’s so hard to pare it down to one film. It all depends on what mood I’m in and what kind of experience I’m looking for. If I absolutely had to pick just one, I think it would be It’s A Wonderful Life. I ALWAYS feel so good about being a human being after seeing Clarence get his wings and the film is so exalting in its view of our basic decency as people that I never get tired of watching it.
What films would you recommend for a recovering cancer patient?
Perhaps any film that makes us appreciate just being alive? I particularly loved a film in 2003 called Love, Actually which is so upbeat and positive about the human condition that it always inspires and empowers me.
What films would you recommend for someone who has recently experienced the loss of a loved one, or is experiencing depression, grief, etc.?
I might gently recommend an underappreciated film like Cast Away which so eloquently reminds us of the promise of tomorrow’s dawn.
What is your vote for the Best Spiritual Comedy?
Groundhog Day would definitely be in my top 5–along with maybe Oh, God, Defending Your Life, and Heaven Can Wait.
But my favorite is Being There. To succinctly explain why I revere this film so much, I can just refer to the immortal line in its ad copy: “Life is a state of mind.”
If you could give an Oscar this year to any outstanding but under-appreciated film in the last few years for the merit of its spiritual content, which film would you give the honor to?
It would absolutely be the brilliant and underappreciated Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind.
The haunting question at its core relates to our memories of those we have loved and who have loved us. What happens to our experience of those memories if the love transforms, ends, transmutes into pain, heartbreak, sadness? Do we live in the sunshine of the love as it was when it shone most brightly or do we suffer in the darkness and pain of the aftermath of heartbreak and disillusionment? Would we erase those memories if we could? Or, perhaps, can we choose to experience both the light and the darkness, simultaneously and forever? The choice is always ours. If we could literally erase those conscious, and even subconscious memories, wouldn’t something still remain in the depth of our unconscious, waiting to be triggered anew at a particular moment? Most importantly, what indeed ARE those memories? When we know that time is an illusion, and that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, what do we make real and what do we render to our dream and other than conscious states?
One study by researchers at the University of Michigan discovered that
different films create different physiological responses in people. For
example, when men watched “The Godfather: Part II,” their testosterone
levels soared, making them less likely to be interested in cooperative,
social behavior. On the other hand, when couples in the study watched scenes
from the romantic drama “The Bridges of Madison County,” both men and women experienced higher progesterone levels–which are thought to combat anxiety.
I loved BOTH of those movies!!
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Can you hypothesize as to what effect spiritual cinema has on viewers?
Spiritual Cinema illuminates the landscape of our evolution and stirs us to remember who we can be when we reach beyond the seen into a realm where we engage the magical aspects of our human potential.