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First look at Louis Theroux’s BBC film on Scientology: ‘Stairway to Heaven’


Operating teatime
Tech specs: Sony F55, Angenieux Optimos 15-40mm, 28-76mm / Zeiss CP.2 135mm / 24fps / 1.185:1 / 2K

That looks like an aspect ratio. If it's for cinema release, why not 1.6:1 ?

However I really look forward to this. Louis Theroux does very natural interviews that make you as the viewer feel part of the action.


Formerly Fooled - Finally Free
It's being produced by Red Box Films founded by Simon Chinn, one of 3 producers of 'Searching for Sugar Man', for small theatre release (i.e., film festivals). It is not going to be a feature film.


I recently started work in Los Angeles on a theatrical feature documentary for BBC Films, produced by double Oscar-winner Simon Chinn. Directed by John Dower, the film is fronted and co-written by Louis Theroux on the subject of Scientology. Louis has wanted to make a film about Scientology for many years; finally it is happening and on a much broader canvas than his television programmes. When the project was first mentioned to me in August last year, I was of course interested (who wouldn’t be?) but I did wonder how on earth you would go about tackling such a difficult, thorny and in some respects well-worn subject. Now I can say, having completed the first block of shooting (with some notable Theroux moments), not only is it possible but it also has the potential to result in a great film.

Due to the nature of the subject matter I am not going to post stills or writing on the filming process but, from the camera dept's point of view, the main challenge for me is to shoot the film in such a way that does justice to the big screen, whilst also giving Louis the freewheeling space he needs to do his thing. As so often the case on single docs, the development of the style is something of an organic process but we are making significant use of car mounts and very much using LA as a character in itself.

Given that access to the Church of Scientology is out of the question, John & Louis have devised an interesting approach to shedding light on this most secretive of organisations. Louis is also keen to take a neutral approach; much has been made of the negative experiences of those who have left but he is equally interested in what attracted them in the first place. Scientology is not a black & white subject; it is an extremely complex story - with no access! However I am confident in the film makers and, whatever the outcome, it’s going to be an interesting ride…

Tech specs: Sony F55, Angenieux Optimos 15-40mm, 28-76mm / Zeiss CP.2 135mm / 24fps / 1.185:1 / 2K



This is very helpful, Smurf! I'm glad Louis is taking the neutral position because I suspect that whatever he was able to access on the pro-Scientology will help explain to the public why Scientology is so enticing and worth disconnecting from ones loved ones for.


Gold Meritorious SP
Searching for Sugar Man was actually a movie, released on DVD.

If I hadn't made it clear, that's what theatrical feature documentaries are.. they are made for small theatres & film festivals. All of them are made into DVDs for the extra revenue.

There are alot of "feature" films made where the production values are so poor and/or the movie critics panned as "horrible" before general release to movie theatres that they go straight to DVD. There are a few low budget, amateurish productions that went on to make alot of $$$. 'Blair Witch Project' & 'Paranormal Activity' are two of them.


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