Free your mind and surrender to 'The Source Family'
Maria Demopoulos I think, objectivity aside, we just focused on letting the Family members speak for themselves, and trying to go for as much authenticity as possible, hearing all perspectives. We worked hard to represent as many Family members as possible and really tell the story from an insider's point of view.
JW We tried to reflect the overall feelings that we were getting from Family members, because everyone had completely different experiences within the Family, and everybody had strong opinions about it.
And it's not really about being objective — no filmmaker or documentary is ever truly objective. It's just about being open and letting people come to their own conclusions.
SFBG Since you had access to all of that footage, what was the editing process like?
MD It was extremely difficult, but honestly, we hit the jackpot. It was just like an incredible gift and honor to go through the archive. We had a three-and-a-half-hour cut, and we just kept whittling it down. Often times, we just had to stay focused; even if we had some fantastic footage, if it didn't absolutely serve the story, we had to pull it out. It was difficult, but that's actually a great problem to have.
JW And I'd like to give credit to Isis Aquarian for preserving that archive. There were hundreds or maybe thousands of groups like this that existed. But most of them didn't document themselves, or if they did, they didn't hold on to the artifacts or preserve the documents. She's a true documentarian, even now.
SFBG Did you encounter any resistance from former members, or anyone who thought the documentary shouldn't be made?
MD From the Family members' perspective, no. They were extremely cooperative. [On the other hand,] since the Source Family existed in Hollywood, they had many connection to celebrities. We approached a lot of celebrities who were around at that time, and we had a tough time getting access to them.
JW The Source Family members all knew about the book, and they knew that people in their 20s and 30s had become fans of the Family. So I think that made them a lot more open to talking to us. But as far as people like Warren Beatty and Donald Sutherland, who were actually friends with Father Yod, I don't think they were aware of that phenomenon. They were still thinking about how the Source Family was perceived with a lot of controversy back in the '70s. I think it's possible that those people, besides being really busy, weren't quite sure what we were doing with the material, or if they wanted to associate themselves with it.
SFBG Also, now that decades have passed, when people hear "Southern California cult" and "the Family," they automatically think "Manson."
JW For me, that was an important inspiration to make this film. Again, when you speak with the participants, or even with scholars, you find it's a very different story. We have such a primitive understanding of what these radical, social, and spiritual experiments were really doing back in the 1960s and '70s, and the kinds of effects that they were having on the participants' lives.