We all know that Scientology has a thing for Hollywood. Its hunger for celebrity followers is as famous as that of politicians. And it has nabbed big game like Church of Scientology's most famous followers Tom Cruise and John Travolta. The Travolta co-produced disaster Battlefield Earth from 2000 adapted founder L. Ron Hubbard's sci-fi epic to the screen and earned a rightful permanent place on most lists of worst films of all time.
But even after a super-sized turkey like that, these guys don't give up on their dreams of film success. The Church of Scientology recently acquired one of the oldest working studios in Hollywood, the KCET lot that was established in 1912. Thankfully, they do not plan on finishing the Battlefield Earth trilogy Travolta originally envisioned. But they do intend to use the studio and its broadcasting facilities to add to an already impressive library of digital media supporting the Church and its social outreach programs.
They have a good head start. Scientology.org claims more than 400 video pieces housed in an interactive video channel. Part of that library is a trove of Church ads, extremely slick showcases of the vaguest of terms and concepts. "To know life, you must know yourself." "Body," "Mind," "Spirit." These are the "Parts of Life." Okay. Check. Got that. "You are your own soul." "You are immortal." "You can be free." There is even a Golden Era production house that oversees this ambitious video making program.
Of course there are all of the usual Scientology demons in here, including the famous bugaboo of psychiatric drugs. There is the persistent mention of the religion as a tool set and a technology rather than a faith. And there are videos upon videos about Hubbard, Dianetics and reform programs such as Applied Scholastics (education) and Criminon (criminal rehabilitation). Of course it is hard to find hard examples of these programs in specific cases. The videos have this ethereal, over-produced quality that feels as if all of the footage is taking place on a sound stage and with paid actors. The lack of specificity to most of the clips I watched has the creepy vagueness of dystopian parody - a touch of RoboCop.Whatever one thinks of Scientology - as a faith, a cult, a scam or just another sliver of good old American homegrown eccentricity, clearly it is a group that believes in the persuasive power of video. And now they have full-blown sound stages.