Monday, November 14, 2011

Spiritual Enlightenment – The Roundabout Path to Feature Film Production

I seldom post personal memoirs in this space.

But this one, I think, merits being shared.
And I usually post more than one photo to illustrate my posts.
But this time I cannot.
Because I don’t think The Guru would like it.

Here’s the story: back in the very beginning of the 1970’s I had a friend, let’s call him Roland, a transplanted American who lived in a big house facing Hampstead Heath.

I lived on the Continent in those days, but my business brought me to London with some frequency, and when I came, I often stayed with him.

He made his living by directing television commercials and was, in that regard, the most talented man I have ever known – a true artist who managed to turn thirty-second films designed to sell margarine, or diapers, into things of great beauty. I know that sounds strange, but believe me, it’s true.

He did it by taking great freedom with the scripts he was given, too much freedom, in fact, for many of the people who were bankrolling his efforts. Often, the films he made were rejected by the advertisers. Often, they involved costly re-shoots and re-edits in order to secure advertiser approval. It wasn’t long before his assignments slowed to a trickle.

Now, it is a characteristic of TV commercial directors that they harbor in their hearts the desire to do something “really worthwhile”. And by “really worthwhile”, they invariably mean a feature film.
Some, like Ridley Scott, go on to a brilliant career in Hollywood. Most never get the chance. Because as the great French director, René Clair, remarked back in the 1920’s, “Money is the master of film.”

Never heard of René Clair? Read about him here:

But I digress.

Roland, too, yearned to do a feature, but he was never able to secure financing for his projects.

Flash forward a couple of years.

Around about mid-1973, he went to Barcelona and took a job with a Spanish production company. Those were the days when Franco still ruled, and I think Roland regarded his voluntary banishment to the benighted Spain of that time as somewhat of a disgrace, but his work in the UK had practically dried up, and he had little choice.

He didn’t write to me, or to any of our mutual friends, but he did stay in contact with his wife – who was never able to tell me, or didn’t wish to tell me, what had gone wrong in their marriage.

She moved into a small apartment and stayed on, in the UK, with the kids.

And he dropped off the map.

Years went by without a word.

And then, one day, when I had long been living in Brazil, I got a telephone call from a person totally unknown to me. How she got my number I have no idea. “The Master,” she wanted me to know, “would be in touch with me sometime soon.”

The Master, as it turns out, was the guy I’d known as Roland.
He’d gone off to India, she said, had achieved enlightenment, and now had a considerable following as well as a number of spiritual centers on both sides of the Atlantic.

About six months after that, I got a call from an old mate of mine who’d also been a friend of The Guru.
The Guru, he told me, was going to Aruba, where the mate then lived, to scout the island for a feature film he was planning. The Guru would like to see me.

So I went.

And there was Roland, sporting a magnificent beard and so closely accompanied by his followers that it was difficult to get him alone for a talk.

But, ultimately, we found ourselves together in a hotel room. We talked about his spiritual journey, but I don’t feel it would be correct to go into the details of that here.
Suffice it to say it was a truly emotional night.

That was a number of years ago.

I haven’t seen him since.

There is little information about The Guru on the internet, but I have some recent pictures, taken by that mate from long ago, who has seen him quite recently.

I wish I felt free to share them with you. He really looks the part.

The Aruba project never came off, but The Guru’s acolytes have recently constructed a state-of-the-art film production center for him in a small country in Europe.

Where he is busily at work training a cadre of film technicians.

Knowing their dedication to The Guru, and the fact that they’re willing to commit their labor and their wealth to his greater glory, I’m sure that, this time, a feature film will result.

And, knowing his talent, I’m sure it will be brilliant.

It’s been a long time coming.

Leighton - Monday


  1. What a story! And I bet it ain't over yet. I see a non-fiction best seller out there waiting for you to write...although the movie might come out first.

    Remarkable what unimaginable things are out there waiting to be achieved.

  2. What a story!

    It really put a smile on my face.

  3. Ahh, such a peculiar experience when someone we know is suddenly transformed, especially spiritually. Jesus said that no prophet is honored in his own land, and I think that's because it's almost impossibe to reframe someone we've known as "just" a person into something larger and more mysterious. Great post.

  4. Very interesting. One could say that his creativity and unusual ideas needed a different framework. There is a book in there.

  5. Jeff:

    No, sorry, no book. This is all I'm gonna write on the subject. But next time we're together, I shall reveal all.


    I'm glad it made you smile.
    But I hope it was one of quizzical curiosity and not one of ridicule.
    I am absolutely convinced that The Guru deeply believes everything he's saying these days.

    When I think of the guy I've called Roland, those words of Jesus always come back to me.
    None of his friends from those long-ago days have elected to become his followers.
    And yet every one of us would certainly agree that he has become "something larger and more mysterious".
    Being exposed to the "before and after" has been a unique experience -- and one of the strangest things that has occurred to me in a life packed with strange things.

  6. Fascinating post Leighton. A friend of mine once went to India, discovered a hitherto unknown spiritual side, at one stage believed himself to be Jesus, disappeared for a few years, before eventually coming back a much changed, more peaceful, equable figure.

    That was ten years ago. It didn't last. Now he works at a hedge fund in the city of London. I'd take Roland's path any day.