Using power to create a cult

Stolen reels of film, numerous espionage attempts and general protests are among the many things that plagued the film The Profit.

Filmed in the Tampa Bay area and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in France, this independent movie captured the attention of the Church of Scientology.

?This is not a movie about Scientology,? said Peter Alexander, director and writer of the film. ?It is about the rise of the power of a man who creates his own cult.?

But the movie ironically parallels many aspects of the fairly new religion, Scientology. The religion was started by L. Ron Hubbard during the 1950s and has a reputation for being a cult solely interested in its followers monetary donations. Scientology?s list of members include actors Tom Cruise, Lisa Marie Presley and John Travolta. It was from the comparisons to this religion that the under-publicized Florida film met so much controversy. Aggravated by the protests but not discouraged, the Florida director Alexander was determined to have the film premiere in the United States.

The inspiration

?The film was a motivational cause,? Alexander said. ?I wanted to show people how a cult brainwashes people. The movie is not directed at Scientology, but at cults in general.?

Alexander?s motive had good reason. Being introduced into the religion 30 years ago by his ex-wife, he was thrown full force into climbing the ladder of Scientologist ranking. Having reached the rank of ?OT7? (meaning the person has attained the state of no emotional problems and is striving to be all-powerful), Alexander had no idea of the negative effects Scientology was having on him and his life.

Patricia Greenway, who was Alexander?s secretary and is now the producer for the film, brought to Alexander?s attention what was occurring at his office when he was away. She said many Scientologists were calling his office in hopes of his financial support. The repetitive phone calls encouraged Greenway to find out exactly what was going on with the religion.

After some research, Greenway stumbled upon what she said were the brainwashing aspects of Scientology, which is when Alexander decided he wanted out of the ?cult.? But getting out was harder than climbing to the top.

Once on the outside, Alexander remembers walking through downtown Clearwater, where the headquarters of Scientology is located, and having ?men on the corners shout personal anecdotes to him .? Alexander quickly realized what was private while one was in the religion was made public after one left the religion.

The movie

The main character in The Profit, Leland Conrad Powers, a failed science fiction writer similar to L. Ron Hubbard, uses a number of manipulation techniques to create his own religion. In his search to fulfill a greedy nature, Powers manipulates everyone who comes before him.

After being transferred to a desk job in the Navy due to mental instabilities, Powers decides to find wealth in other forms.

Answering an ad in the newspaper and using his adaptable personal nature, Powers maneuvers himself into a satanic occult. There, he discovers a method of hypnosis from cult leader Zach Carlson. Using Carlson?s technique against him, Powers cons Carlson out of $20,000, a sailboat and his girlfriend, Helen.

After a yearlong romp on the seas, Powers and Helen are caught by Carlson and the police. Since the $20,000 had run out, Powers was in need of another scam. Powers attempts to claim fraudulent disability from the military but is declined. Although he failed at that angle, he managed to steal a hypno-therapy manual from a local Veteran?s Administration psychologist.

Once again using a ?borrowed? technique, Powers legates the therapy method as his own and markets it in a book titled SciMind.

Introducing SciMind to the public brings about positive feedback. But shortly after, Powers promotes a false SciMind case in a woman named Babs. When presented, the facade falls apart.

After a period of hibernation and running from the IRS, Powers had the time to recollect SciMind and deliver it as SciSpirt, his own church. The church?s focal points were hypnotic ?cleansing,? the process of this cleansing and financial donations. The public accepted this new church even more than SciMind, and the religion continued to grow.

Powers, at this point named ?Dr. L. Conrad Powers,? was a great religious figure with thousands of people at his fingertips. With this strength, Powers had a fleet of SciSpirit missionaries who would carry out his word to the willing. But after many years of growth and greatness, Powers couldn?t manipulate his way out of old age.

After reaching his goal of ?bursting into history,? Powers dies with paranoia on his mind and money at his hands.

The opposition

Choosing his hometown area of Tampa Bay for the film?s premiere, Alexander and his crew were ready for opposition from the Church of Scientology.

?I had never met Peter Alexander before, but I was willing to screen the movie,? said Larry Greenbaum, owner of the Cinema Café at 24095 U.S. Highway 19 N. in Clearwater.

After a private screening, Greenbaum decided to postpone his showing of the movie Shrek in order to have an opening for The Profit. Greenbaum said the movie had something to say that most people are afraid to admit.

Debuting on August 24 at the Cinema Café, Alexander was pleased at the film?s turnout. Excited at how many people arrived, he sent Greenway to take a picture of the line of patrons waiting to enter the theater.

The purpose

Still playing at the Cinema Café, the purpose of The Profit is not to prove a point. It is to simply stir thoughts people previously had but were never fully educated about, said Greenbaum.

After being surveyed, 80 percent of the viewers had a positive response to the movie and said, ?I wish you had told us more.?

?This movie is for entertainment,? Greenbaum said. ?If people happen to get a little education from it, good for them.?

Contact Danielle Sipple at