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Karla Zamudio on Scientology, and capturing Marc and Claire Headley in the short film ‘Escape’

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[Alexandra Bayless and Karla Zamudio in ‘Escape’]

On Saturday, Karla Zamudio and Rachael Meyers screened their 15-minute student film, Escape, for a private audience in Los Angeles that included Spanky Taylor, who had been featured in Alex Gibney’s documentary about Scientology, Going Clear.

Escape is also about Scientology, specifically the story of how Marc and Claire Headley managed to get away from the church’s secretive International Base in 2005, a story that Marc told in his thrilling 2009 book Blown for Good.

We’ve seen the film, and we talked to Claire Headley and Karla Zamudio about it. We hope you get to see this intense short movie soon, perhaps at a film festival later this year.

Karla is a former Scientologist and a working actor. She made the film with Meyers as part of an assignment at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, which has its own lengthy history with Scientology.

Karla explained to us that she was in her early 20s when her boyfriend at the time encouraged her to take courses at the Hollywood Celebrity Centre. By 1997, she says, she was deeply into the church, and that’s when she began taking acting classes at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, which was known for being a haven for Scientologist actors and was run by the legendary acting coach Milton Katselas.

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When she joined the Playhouse in 1997, it was at its peak as a Scientology magnet, with Jenna Elfman, Jeffrey Tambor, Catherine Bell, and Vonni Ribisi all doing strong work and winning awards after having studied there. (Tambor is no longer associated with Scientology.) But then, current Playhouse owner Allen Barton told us for a story five years ago, things changed after Elfman won a Golden Globe award in 1999. Katselas began to lessen his involvement in Scientology, and that caused him problems with the church.

Karla left the Playhouse in 2002 to pursue classes elsewhere. She says she didn’t come back until 2011, and only after she checked with Barton to make sure that there was no longer a connection to Scientology.

“I was out of the church by 2008,” she says. And after she began telling her Scientology friends about it in 2009, they “disconnected” from her in the usual way.

A lot had changed at the Playhouse since her previous involvement. Barton told us that in 2003, after it was clear that Katselas no longer wanted to be associated with David Miscavige’s brand of Scientology, the acting coach found himself the subject of a “church jihad,” as Barton described it. Katselas was targeted by wealthy Scientology donor Grant Cardone, who sent out emails smearing Katselas in 2007, the year before Katselas died.

Barton, who had been the Playhouse CEO since 2003, became its majority owner after the death of Katselas. We’ve written about Barton’s relationship with his own musical coach, which was severed by Scientology, and that Barton wrote a play about Scientology, “Disconnection,” which ran in Los Angeles in 2014.

Several years ago, Karla tells us, Barton started a film festival at the Playhouse. “All the advanced level classes at the Playhouse are required to produce short films. At the time, I was reading Marc’s book, Blown for Good. And Allen had made the point that our film had to be something with substance,” she says. “I wanted to write something about my life in Scientology.”

But then, rather than write about herself, she thought it might be better to try to dramatize what she was reading in Headley’s book.

“I love Marc and Claire. I knew them when they were in the Sea Org because I was involved in the making of the tech films,” Karla says. She acted in several of the movies that Scientology shot at its “Gold Base” near Hemet that were for internal use. And even though she wasn’t a Sea Org member herself, during those working trips to Hemet — one as long as two weeks — she got a strong impression of what life was like there for people like the Headleys. “We were in the trenches of that whole Sea Org mentality working for Golden Era Productions. I was in it, experiencing it with them.”

Karla took her idea to another student, director Rachael Meyers, who she’d been taking classes with since she returned to the Playhouse in 2011. “I liked her short films, and I told Rachael that I would love to do something on Blown for Good. It was my first attempt to write and produce something. I felt I had a connection with Marc and Claire, and I empathized with what they went through.”

They decided to focus on the later chapters of the book, and a crucial moment: After Marc had escaped from the base, and he didn’t know if Claire was going to follow him or not.

For the film, Karla and Rachael have given their characters new names (Frank and Karen), and the creepy organization they belonged to isn’t identified. But if you know Marc and Claire’s story, the situation is very recognizable. Intense and well acted, the short film packs a lot into a short time, using black and white flashbacks to help lay out the story.

Claire Headley reminded us of how things actually went down, and how the film changes a few things around, but simply to make the tale manageable. “There’s so much that actually happened, you could never put it all in a movie,” she says. But the film does capture what they went through, and it even reminded her of a few things she had forgotten that were in the book.

Bryan McKinley and Alexandra Bayless play the young couple in the film, and we also want to give a shout out to Mark Gadbois, who plays Frank’s father and reminded us very much of Marc Headley’s own dad, Bernie.

Karla also appears in the film, playing one of the tough militants in the Sea Org analog of the film. She tells us the scenes were shot about two and a half years ago, and it’s taken that long to get the film ready for release because the rest of the people on screen were students, as was the crew, and no one was getting paid for all the work that went into it.

“It was a labor of love. So it took time to get it completed. We really didn’t have a budget,” she says.

Now that it’s complete, Karla says that Rachael has submitted it to ten film festivals, and she says they should start hearing if it’s been accepted at them beginning next month.

We asked her what she’s hoping might come from Escape getting play in festivals.

“We’d like to see the director get out into the public eye, for the book to be better known, and perhaps for someone to approach Rachael about making a feature film,” she says.

As for Karla, she’s pleased with the result. “I’m happy. It’s meant a lot to put it together. It takes time to re-enter the real world after Scientology. It’s a process, and I’m still going through it. I was so indoctrinated. When you get out, you realize that not everyone thinks the way Scientologists do. It’s crazy.”

Here’s the trailer for the film…

 

ESCAPE Official Trailer from Rachael Meyers on Vimeo.

 
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More praise for Cathy Schenkelberg

We’ll just put this right here…

 
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John P on breaking news from Australia

Aussie WISE guys get crosswise with regulators Down Under…

 
JohnPAustralia

 
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Narconon in Netherlands on verge of collapse, documents suggest

From our correspondent in Holland…

The Dutch Narconon has published their financial statements on their website. I think they are very telling of the dire situation that Narconon is in. The numbers over 2014 are as follows:

Turnover: € 118,000
Costs: € 210,000

Operating loss: € 91,000

Total debt: € 675,000

They admit in the report that they are on the brink of financial collapse and that the current ED wants to quit.

When we asked for more information about the Executive Director, we got this…

From the 2014 report…

2.4 Continuity

During the preparation of the year report 2014, the Foundation (eg. Narconon) is still in liquidity problems. The management of the foundation is organizing several fundrasing actions to solve this. Morever, a successor is being sought for the current Executive Director, who wants to be replaced due to her age.

 
HollandED

 
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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on June 13, 2016 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield

 

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