Scientology International Base, Gilman Hot Springs, CA.
July - September 1997
Well, this story starts off in July of 1997. This is story of the Cine Shoot Crew. This crew is responsible for shooting all of the educational films for the Church of Scientology. They are based at Golden Era Productions in Hemet California. This story is 2 months in the life of a Cine Shoot Crew staff member. These are Sea Org staff, which at the time were paid about $40 week. I am going to go into detail about life and the things that these people had to go through and maybe some of these experiences will answer questions you all have asked as to why people would go through what they do there.
Once you see how things are set-up, you will realize why more people do not leave. At the end of THIS incident at least 5 people DO either immediately blow or leave the church due to the severity of the physical and mental torture involved.
Here we go.
We had to shoot a film so that it could be released at the Auditor’s Day event coming up in September. The film that needed to be shot was Technical Training Film #1 - TR’s in Life.
Mitch Brisker was a Professional Director that was hired on to direct the films and all other staff that produced the films were Sea Org members. Mitch Brisker had been a Scientologist for many years. The story went that years back he used to routinely do drugs and one day he woke up with his dead (cocaine overdosed) girlfriend next to him in bed. He ended up doing the Purification Rundown and years later he would become a commercial director and then somehow he ended up at Gold directing all of the Tech films that needed to be re-shot. They needed to be re-shot because the ones that were shot previously were so low quality as to be completely unwatchable and embarrassing. Note: (Dave Miscavige was on the crew that shot all of the OP films and no films that he shot are available today.)
The rest of the Shoot Crew were Sea Org members. There were about 25 of us. This was the Camera, Lighting, Make-up, Costumes, Props, Sets & Talent. An equivalent Hollywood crew doing the same type of film shooting would have had at least 3 times the amount of people we had.
We had 4 vehicles that all staff and equipment had to fit in. We had a 1979 GMC lighting truck (that routinely was broken down somewhere) we had a 1979 camera truck, And Chevy dually with trailer and a white 15 passenger van. There were only 5 staff of the 25 staff that could or were allowed to drive these vehicles. In the Sea Org at Gold, there are specific requirements that have to be in place for you to be able to drive. Very few staff fall into these categories.
1. You have to have done Car School. A course that requires that you attend study time for a full month at 2.5 hours per day so that you can learn about how a car works and learn how to drive.
2. You have to have current valid driver’s license. 1 out of 20 Gold staff have a current valid driver’s license.
3. You have to NOT be on the PTS list. This is a list that is generated by Perimeter Council. Since all mail going to and from Gold is opened and read by Security, any Bad Indicators or critical remarks towards Scientology by any relative or friend will land you on the PTS list. Until you formerly handle or disconnect from this person, You will remain on the PTS List. Also if you get sick in any way, you will be added to the PTS list until the person who is suppressing you is located and handled or you formerly disconnect from them.
4. You have to have read the manual for the vehicle you wish to drive and another person has to quiz you on specific points of the manual until you are able to answer any question that they pose.
5. You have to not have any accidents or tickets on your driving record. If you had an accident or ticket, you have to re-do Car School and pay for the accident or ticket fees to get back “on the road.”
6. You have to be insured on the vehicle you wish to drive. If it is a personal vehicle, then you yourself have to cover the insurance costs out of your $40/week. If it is a org vehicle, you must get approved and added to the overall insurance plan.
Like I said, very few staff make this list, out of 25 of us, we had 5 and that was doing real well. In some parts of Gold, out of 50 people only 1 or 2 people could drive.
The vehicles were mainly needed to transport the crew when on location shooting and to and from the studio. You see, during this time period Gold did not have it’s own film studio and the one that was used in prior years was tiny and barely big enough to shoot videos in. Gold actually did a majority of the film shooting in a abandoned nuclear bunker at the Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino. The Air Force had just moved out and actually gave a portion of the base to the local San Manual Indian tribe as part of some government deal. So Scientology actually paid rent to the Indians and they used the money to build themselves a Casino.
So each day we would load up and travel 40 minutes from Gold to an abandoned Air Force bunker located in the middle of nowhere. At the end of the day we would pack up and head back to Gold. There was no operational air conditioning in the building that was used and on some days during the summer it would be over 110 degrees in the studio and there were portable air conditioning units that were hired in to direct at the actors in between takes so that their make-up would not melt off of their faces. Yeah, this is the place where 90% of the Scientology Tech films were shot!
Now if we were shooting on location, we would have to usually get up around 3-4 AM so that we could pack up all of the equipment and travel to a location, set-up and shoot. Then pack everything up and travel to back to the studio.
For the TR#1 film, we had around 30 sequences that needed to be shot. Most sequences would take a full day to shoot. Mitch, the Director had decided that about half of these sequences he wanted to shoot on location as opposed to in the studio.
This meant that we would have to stagger the shooting so that one day we would shoot on location, the next day we would shoot in the studio. This would allow for the sets crew to switch out sets while we were on location and so on.
Well Dave Miscavige had wanted to release the TR#1 film for Auditor’s Day and that was in September. It was the end of June, and based on how much time it would take to edit the film, get the music and final mixdown done, he had arbitrarily decided that the film had to be shot by Sea Org day. That gave us about a month to shoot 30 sequences. Every day that passed was a lost day and getting shooting started right away was a must. We pretty much started within a few weeks after location scouting, budgets and designs were all done and approved.
Our daily shooting schedule went something like this:
DAY 1 - We would get up at 6AM and leave for Norton, we would shoot all day and get back to Gold around 10PM. We would then have our meetings and go over the next day’s shoot which was a location. We would go home around 11PM.
DAY 2 - We would get up around 4AM to leave for Norton. Pack up the gear and get to our location. Shoot all day and get back to Gold around 10PM if we were lucky. Have our meetings, and go over the next day’s studio shoot. Go home around 11PM. At least we get to sleep in until 6AM!
DAY 3 – Repeat DAY 1 schedule….
DAY 4 - Repeat DAY 2 schedule….
And so it went for a full month like this. By the time we got to the last week of the film, crew were falling asleep standing up, driving, you name it. Most crew would get to sleep whenever we were traveling. But as there were only 5 drivers and 4 vehicles, most of these driver people slept 2-5 hours a night on a good day. Some nights we would get back from a location shoot at 1AM and have to be at the studio at 7AM the next day.
Well, we get to the end of the film and this is where things get a bit tricky.
The end sequence of the film contains all of the actors that appear throughout the entire film. So you have 30 plus actors that all have to be available to drive out into the middle of nowhere and spend 6 hours on a set that is 100 degrees. Add to that, a camera move described in the script from LRH that is nearly impossible to achieve and was not even done on the previous version of the film shot.
This sequence was re-shot 3 times as each time it was reviewed; Dave said that it was not okay and that it would not be okay for the film.
So we would shoot it one last time.
We finished very late that night at the Studio and dropped the film off at the base. It was Sunday night and Tuesday was Sea Org day. We were finally going to get a day off and the film was done! We came in Monday and the shots were reviewed. They were not okay. Dave was pissed. His plan was foiled and the film would never get done in time now.
What did this mean? What were we going to do? Organizing another shoot was out of the question as we had actors out of town, on other projects, etc. we had already shot the sequence 4 times and some actors refused to come back again no matter what. And those were the Scientologist actors!
We demanded that amongst the 4 times the end sequence had been shot there must be enough footage to be able to cut together a full sequence and be able to finish the film. No, this was not an option. Dave Miscavige himself had stated that without the end sequence properly shot, the entire film was a bust and could not be completed.
We did not know what was going to happen, but we knew it could not be good. We were basically puppets waiting to put into motion. Well, no matter what happened, we knew that Dave Miscavige would be pulling the strings. That first tug happened soon enough.
First on the list was for all of the Dept Heads to get heavily Sec Checked by RTC staff. This would include any and all suspected activities that we could be involved in. Hookers? Theft? Sex with the actors? Goofing off? Sex with each other? Gambling? You name, we were asked it. We were asked the exact same questions over and over again, worded differently, anything and everything was thrown at us. This went on for at least 8 hours straight.
We had screwed up the filming of the one sequence 4 times and there must be some real crimes below this. No one wanted to hear about us not sleeping for a straight month. No wanted to hear about the crew pooling their own money to pay for gas for the org vehicles.
No. The only thing that was wanted was for us to admit to the committing most heinous crimes imaginable and then it would all make sense. Dave Miscavige said we had crimes, so until we admitted to those crimes, it would not stop.
After hours and hours of sec checking, it was around 1 AM at night. It was now that we would realize that up until now we had never experienced anything that would compare to what was to come.
We were told to muster outside on the road that was next to the dining room. We were told that where ever we went, we were to run, that we would not speak unless spoken to, we would be on a strict military schedule and that we would not be leaving the property to return to our own berthing until all of us had admitted to all the crimes we were involved in.
The 6 of us lined up on the road. There were 4 guys and 2 girls. We were all tired and had not really got more than a few hours of sleep in at least one month. It was July and we were not only skinny from not eating much, but the heat and lack of sleep had really taken its toll on our overall energy level. It was now about 1AM. Most staff on the property had long since gone home. Most of the lights on property had been turned off and it was very dark out. Here we were, just having spent hours being grilled about what crimes we had been committing and all we wanted to do was get some sleep.
It was at that moment when 3 off road motorcycles pulled up. Jon Stumbke, IG MAA RTC was on one and the others were driven by Gold Security guards. “Run” they said. “Stay in the headlights and run until we say stop!” We started to run. Where were we going? What the hell was this? I had heard of some crazy shit going on at the Int base but this was beyond anything I have ever seen or heard. Motorcycles driving behind us in the pitch black while we were made to run ahead of them like dogs. With them yelling out at us every few seconds to keep going or scolding us for slowing down.
They kept driving and would yell out to go left or right at certain points and we were just running all over the property. The property at the Int Base is over 500 acres and some parts were fairly undeveloped. We ran all over the property and kept on running. When one of us would slow down or stop. The others were ordered to grab that person and force them to keep going. No matter what, we were not allowed to stop for any reason. We ran across grassy areas, dirt, pavement, through trees, and anywhere else the guys on the motorcycles decide to drive. It was almost as though we were not anywhere in specific, but that we were just going to run until someone had decided we had run enough.
Finally one of the girls just collapsed. She could not run any more. She was tired and was crying. The rest of us were made to do push–ups while she was yelled at and made to get up and get running again. She cried and ran at the same time. It was horrible to watch. It was horrible to experience. It was just plain horrible. That sick felling you get when seeing something awful and wrong. This moment would be burned into my existence forever. I knew then, that I would never forget this for the rest of my life.
2:30 AM comes and we were told that we were now going to run where we would be sleeping. Thank you. Finally the torture was over. We were told to run out to the Southside of the property. This did not make sense, as there was NOTHING out there. No buildings, no shelters, nothing. Just some trees and grass fields. But as the motorcycles roared behind us, we ran and ran until we reached the Southside. Finally, we were told to stop. We were told to stand at attention in the dark. Most of us used this time to catch our breath. The one girl was still weeping and would sniffle from time to time amidst her crying. About 10 minutes would pass before we all saw a pair of headlights coming towards us.
It was a pick-up truck. It pulled up, someone got out and climbed into the bed of the truck. They proceeded to kick a large bundle out of the back of the truck and throw some poles down on the ground. The person got back into the truck and drove off. It was pitch black out and if there was any moon out it was a sliver. We could barely see each other a few feet away. The only light was from the stars themselves and a faint glow from the nearby town of Hemet.
Jon Stumbke told us that we would be sleeping out here tonight. Two tents were provided for us and that was all we got. We were told that we would be marched back to our next assignment at Sunrise and that by that time, we had better have our tents packed up and ready to go by the time the sun was up over the mountain.
He got onto his motorcycle as did the two security guards that so happily drove after us with him for the last 2 hours. They drove off and with them left the only light we would see for the rest of the night.
Until this moment in my life, I had never appreciated the Coleman camping tent that I had enjoyed as a child. You put two poles into a fabric sleeve and poof you have a tent! The tents we were given on this night, were no Coleman tents. That were what appeared to be very old musty canvas tents from the army. They could not have been less than 30 years old, and the poles that went with them were very old and worn down. It took us at least 45 minutes to even figure out how the tent and poles went together. It was pitch black and we have never even seen these tents much less set one up previously. By about 3:30 AM we had the tent set-up. Turns out that old style tents did not have bottoms like the new nifty Coleman tents either. We had tents, but no blankets, or tent bottom to sleep on. The grass was still a bit wet from earlier that night. Most of the grounds at Gold have sprinklers that are timed to go off around 11PM. 4 hours later and there was still a bit moisture left. Most of had to just rest our head on our hands or just sleep directly on the grass. Luckily it was summer and it was not too cold outside.
That was about as lucky as we would get. At 4:30 AM the sprinklers went off. Not all of the sprinklers on the Southside went off. ONLY the ones where we were sleeping. Most of us jumped up and ran out of the area where the sprinklers went off. It was a dirt area not fifty yards from where we were sleeping. Now our clothes were most definitely soaking wet and we had nothing to dry off with. A few of us managed to just lay down in the dirt and go back to sleep, while one or two would just sit there until the sun came up an hour later.
After dragging the wet tent out of the grass and packing it up, we were greeted by another security guard on a motorcycle. Of course, Jon Stumbke and the other two guards were sleeping in their warm beds somewhere and would not be here to rouse us this early in the morning. I am sure each of us was thinking that exact same thought as we saw the new guard pull up. Anyway, he told us to run over to the garage, and we could take showers there.
We were given 10 minutes to take a shower and be back outside ready for our breakfast. Most of us just, washed our hands and face and went back outside. The water in the garage was freezing and by the time the water got hot enough, it would be time to go. We were told to run over to the galley and see the cleaner in the kitchen. She would give us breakfast and tell us what was next.
We got over to the galley and there was the cleaner. It seems everybody loves it when they are the lowest person on the totem pole and they get to boss someone around. The cleaner tells us that she has some bread and water for us. We are supposed to eat in 5 minutes and then get to work. It seems no sooner than we see her leave, she is back telling us that breakfast is over and hands each one of us a toothbrush. She informs us that she and the rest of the galley staff are taking the day off as it is Sea Org day. We are supposed to spend the entire day scrubbing the galley floor tiles with our newly acquired toothbrushes.
You have never felt pain until you have spent 16 hours on your hands and knees scrubbing floor tiles with a tiny toothbrush. Lucky for us, we got a 10 minute meal breaks for Lunch and Dinner. Luckily for us as most of the Int Base crew were off for the day and not that many people were around to see us scrubbing the floors. It was humiliating enough that we had the cleaners bossing us around. We looked like utter shit, from not having slept or showered.
By the end of the day, we were all nearly physically incapable of doing anything besides sleeping. We were made to run out to the area where we had slept the night before. Knowing full well that the sprinklers had been reprogrammed to coincide with our sleep time. We moved our location out of their range and all of us had smuggled large plastic trash bags out of the galley to use as sheets to sleep on. We at least knew how the tents went together, so setting them up did not take as long. We were able to get to sleep around midnight.
For the first night in many nights we would get a full night of sleep, so we thought. At around 3AM, we awoken by another security guard. We were told that we were not allowed to sleep on the grass as we were supposed to be being punished and making amends and did not deserve such luxury. We were told that we had to break down the tents, carry them over to OGH and rebuild them there. It took 20 minutes to walk to OGH from where we were with no tents in tow. Getting over there with the tents took a good 45 minutes.
Everything around OGH was dirt. There was no grass anywhere around. We looked at the bright side, no grass = no sprinklers. By the time we got over there, we opted to just lay the tents on the ground and sleep on top of them. This would give us a little more time to sleep as we would not have to break it back down in the morning either.
Day after day, week after week. We would do the same routine. Not allowed to talk with other staff, not allowed to go back to our own homes or berthing. Not allowed to see our spouses. Out of the six of us, four were married and had spouses that also worked at the Base.
2 weeks in, we did get a surprise; the entire rest of the shoot crew would join us. Another 20 or so people sleeping in the dirt. None of them even knew why they had joined us out in the tents, scrubbing dumpsters all day, or toilets, or floors again with toothbrushes. They just ended up out there and who know how long they would stay.
It would be about two months before we were allowed to return to our normal duties or return to our own beds to sleep. Not one of ever did admit to any crimes and nothing ever came of anything. The TR#1 film was completed and Dave Miscavige himself sat in the editing bay with the Chief Editor and used all of the shots we shot from all four times we shot that last sequence and managed to do what we had suggested before any of the bullshit mental and physical torture would take place.
We were given no explanation as to why we were allowed to go back to post, no nothing, just go back to your life as if nothing had happened. Oh but something had definitely happened. Several individuals had been emotionally scarred for life. To this day I think that the night we were being chased around the Int Base by motorcycles in the dark is the only time that I have even entertained the idea of suicide in this lifetime.
Years later, after I myself had become one of the highest executives at the Int Base, would I find out what had happened and why we were eventually allowed to return to our normal lives. It turns out that after Dave Miscavige had ordered us out into the tents and for the guards to run us all over the property and so forth, he got involved in some big legal suit and totally forgot about us. He went off to LA and was working on other matters. As he never ordered us to go back to post, we never went back. Some weeks later, the subject of the shoot crew came up in some meeting and to his “supposed” amazement; we were still out in the tents and scrubbing toilets all day. We were then ordered back into production like nothing had ever happened.
The story above is one of hundreds. The amount of staff that have been through a similar experience would fill volumes and volumes.
Out of the Cine Shoot Crew that were there in 1997, at least 18 of the 25 staff are no longer there today. Blown, offloaded, RPF’d or just plain disappeared without explanation, they have moved on.
There is no happy ending to this story. It happened. I wish it hadn’t, but it did and I cannot change that. I can however, make an attempt to make it so it does not happen to someone else in the future. It is for that reason that I have chosen to post these and other incidents that occurred during my 15 years at the Int Base. Ultimately all of these years will be fully documented in book form.
Until next time…
If you knew what I know
And I am sure you would
You would do what I did
And be BLOWNFORGOOD!
Last edited by blownforgood on Mon Feb 25, 2008 12:01 am, edited 3 times in total.