Provided to Edge Life by Phil Bolsta
Stephen Simon has produced or supervised the production of nearly two dozen films, including Somewhere in Time and What Dreams May Come, as well as Indigo, an independent film about spiritually gifted children. He is currently producing and directing the film version of Neale Donald Walsch’s bestselling Conversations with God, which will be released in October. Simon is a cofounder of The Spiritual Cinema Circle, which delivers meaningful, spiritually themed movies to its members every month. He expresses his passion for the emerging category of spiritual cinema in his book, The Force Is With You: Mystical Movie Messages That Inspire Our Lives. For more information, visit www.cwgthemovie.com and www.spiritualcinemacircle.com.
By October 1998, I had become incredibly disenchanted with the Hollywood film industry. It was beginning to dawn on me that I needed to do something different. It had taken me a long time to come to this point – I had been involved in more than 20 films as either a producer or as an executive during the last 25 years.
We had just released What Dreams May Come, a film that had literally been a 20-year odyssey in my life. That’s how difficult it was to get spiritual films made in the Hollywood system. Yet, films that were of the heart and of the spirit were the only kind I wanted to make.
From a production standpoint, What Dreams May Come was an incredibly painful experience. For example, I would up having a six-week argument with PolyGram, who had financed the film, about the word "consciousness." They didn’t want the word "consciousness" In the film. They wanted to change it to "awareness." I finally won that battle.
Right after the film was released, I got a phone call from PolyGram. They had been contacted by a theater owner in Milwaukee, Wisc., who had in turn been contacted by the father of a terminally ill teenage daughter. She was too ill to get out of the house to see What Dreams May Come but desperately wanted to see it. The father wanted to know if it was possible for a videotape to be made and sent to him.
To their credit, the people at PolyGram were incredibly gracious about being willing to do it. We got a videotape made and couriered it to this gentleman’s house. His name is Chuck Weber, and he was and still is a contractor in Milwaukee. I called his home number and left a message that we were sending him the tape and that we hoped it would do everything he wanted it to do.
I didn’t hear anything back for a while. But a week or two later, I got a phone call from a friend of Chuck’s who told me that Chuck had received the tape and that Amanda, his daughter, had passed away a couple days after that, but that she did see it.
One day, a week or two later, I picked up the phone, and a really nice guy on the other side of the phone said, "This is Chuck Weber, is this Stephen Simon?" We wound up having a conversation that changed the course of my life forever. Chuck had been a single father. I had been a single father for many years myself, so we had an immediate connection there. I had four daughters, but Amanda had been Chuck’s only child.
Chuck told me that Amanda was 17 years old and had been diagnosed with a very rare combination of two different forms of cancer, and that she had been very brave about her illness right up until the end. But she had gotten very frightened as the time came for her transition, because she didn’t have a frame of reference as to where she was going to go. After seeing the ads for What Dreams May Come on television, she told her dad she really wanted to see the film, and that that’s why he had called.
Chuck said that when the courier showed up with the film, the courier told him that PolyGram had instructed him to stay in the house while they watched the film. But when the courier saw what the situation was – Amanda in a hospice bed in the living room – he was gracious enough to say, "Listen, here’s the video. Call me when you’re done with it, and I’ll come back and get it tomorrow."
The courier left, and Chuck showed the film to Amanda and some of her friends.
Chuck said to me, "Stephen, I have to be honest with you. I didn’t watch the film, and I may never have the courage to watch the film. But I watched Amanda watch the film. And when it got to the painted-world sequence, I saw all the fear disappear from my daughter’s eyes. She became completely peaceful. The next day, she asked me to take her out to a park. She wanted to see the fall colors one more time. And the day after that, she died very peacefully."
He then added, "Listen, this is what I need to tell you. I don’t know if this is a good film or not. I don’t know what the critics think of it. I don’t know if it’s doing any business or if it isn’t. And I don’t care. What I need to say to you is that it changed the last two days of my daughter’s life. And that is the only success that you should ever strive for."
As Chuck was talking, everything crystallized for me. Right then and there, I committed myself to only making films that deal with the experience of who humanity can be when we operate at our very best. It was a deeply emotional and spiritual experience for me. And everything I have done since then has been dedicated to the memory of Amanda Weber.
The connection I felt with Chuck turned out to be a lasting one. He became a very dear family friend, and is now known in our family as Uncle Chuck. My daughters have a lot of Amanda’s clothing, as well as her record collection and her crystals. And Chuck has become a very dear and very close friend of mine.