Welcome: Can Movies Make Us Better People?

Stephen Simon by Stephen Simon | November 16th, 2007 | 1 Comment
topic: Inspirational Media

I decided very early on that I wanted to make the kinds of films I had grown up loving: spiritual films like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Lost Horizons,” and “The Portrait of Jennie.” The first film I made, “Somewhere in Time,” was written by Richard Matheson—who also gave me the galleys to his book “What Dreams May Come.”

It took me 20 years to get “Dreams” produced … but the week after it opened in October 1998 changed my life forever.

I learned of a distraught father in Milwaukee whose 17-year-old daughter had terminal cancer. She wanted to see the film, but could not get to the theater. I called the father, Chuck Weber, and had the film delivered to his home the next day.

Chuck’s daughter, Amanda, had been incredibly brave but had grown a bit afraid as the disease went into its last phase. When Chuck played “What Dreams May Come” in his living room that day, he watched Amanda watching the film, not the film itself. When the film’s painted world of the afterlife sequence ended, he saw Amanda become completely peaceful. She told him that, when she died, he would know where she would be … and she referred to that painted world. Two days later, she died at peace in her home with her father.

Chuck called me later to tell me he had no idea what the critics thought of the film, and didn’t care box office success it might have. “The film,” he said, “changed the last two days of my daughter’s life, Stephen, and that’s the only success you should ever care about.”

That conversation with Chuck gave me a whole new perspective. I soon left L.A. and the traditional film business behind. I moved to Oregon, wrote my book on Spiritual Cinema (”The Force is With You”) and co-founded The Spiritual Cinema Circle. That led me to direct and produce “Conversations With God,” the film of which I am most proud in my whole career.

Films like “Whale Rider,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Stranger Than Fiction” and “Reign Over Me” remind us of who we can be at our very best. They inspire us and help us feel better about being human. They touch the face of the art form in a deeply soulful way.

Somewhere, I hope Amanda Weber is pleased.

Welcome to my corner of the Gaiam Stream of Consciousness Blog. Here I’ll discuss movies that show us the potential of humankind. I’ll tell you about gifted people who are making incredibly inspirational films and have their own transformational stories to tell. And I’ll share more of my experiences as a filmmaker who was there, did that — and decided to start doing it differently.




  1. Stephen,

    I am just now coming across this because in a moment of melancholy I decided to google her out. Amanda was my best friend and I remember well that this movie meant the world to her as it now does to me. You did a wonderful thing with this and I know she’s out there smiling and laughing about it right now. She always laughed.

    Its been 12 years and I still miss her terribly but I pull out my DVD of What Dreams May Come from time to time and its hard to be sad. Thank you for everything and I know Amanda thanks you too.



    Cory Sovine | January 25th, 2011 | Comment Permalink

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