The Secret (2006 film)
|Directed by||Drew Heriot|
|Written by||Rhonda Byrne|
|Produced by||Paul Harrington|
|Edited by||Damian Corboy|
|Distributed by||Prime Time Productions|
|Box office||$65.6 million|
|Part of a series on the|
The Secret is a 2006 Australian-American pseudoscientific documentary film consisting of a series of interviews designed to demonstrate the New Thought claim that everything one wants or needs can be satisfied by believing in an outcome, repeatedly thinking about it, and maintaining positive emotional states to "attract" the desired outcome.
The film and the subsequent publication of the book of the same name attracted interest from media figures such as Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and Larry King. It has also received a great deal of controversy and criticism for its claims, and has been parodied in TV shows.
The Secret, described as a self-help film, uses a documentary format to present a concept titled "law of attraction". As described in the film, the "Law of Attraction" hypothesis posits that feelings and thoughts can attract events, feelings, and experiences, from the workings of the cosmos to interactions among individuals in their physical, emotional, and professional affairs. The film also suggests that there has been a strong tendency by those in positions of power to keep this central principle hidden from the public.
Teachers of the law of attraction
The film includes interviews with individuals who describe themselves as professionals and authors in the fields of quantum physics, psychology, metaphysics, coaching, theology, philosophy, finance, feng shui, medicine, and personal development, who are called "secret teachers". Some of them, on their websites, promote the film and their connection to it. A few of the persons' brief appearances do not speak of the "law of attraction" in their interviews, so their support of the concepts is assumed by viewers.
People who focus on the law of attraction who are interviewed in the film and have later been featured on prominent American TV shows are John Assaraf, Michael Beckwith, John Demartini, Bob Proctor, Jack Canfield, James Arthur Ray, Joseph Vitale, Lisa Nichols, Marie Diamond, John Gray and Bob Doyle. Others involved in the film who have spoken of their strong belief in the Law of Attraction, include Esther Hicks and Jerry Hicks (original edition only), Mike Dooley, David Schirmer, and Marci Shimoff. Others interviewed in the film who voice very similar views without using the phrase "law of attraction" include Lee Brower (Board Member of WorldVuer), Hale Dwoskin, Bob Doyle, Cathy Goodman, Morris E. Goodman, John Hagelin, Bill Harris, Ben Johnson, Loral Langemeier, Denis Waitley, Neale Donald Walsch, John Gray and Fred Alan Wolf. NY Times bestselling authors of The Passion Test, Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood, are not featured in the film, but they arranged 36 of the 52 interviews done for the movie. The Attwoods are included in the credits at the end of the film.
Foundations in New Thought ideas
The New Thought book The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles, the source Rhonda Byrne cites as inspiration for the film, was preceded by numerous other New Thought books, including the 1906 book Thought Vibration or the law of attraction in the Thought World by William Walker Atkinson, editor of New Thought magazine. Other New Thought books Byrne is purported to have read include self-help authors like Prentice Mulford's 19th-century Thoughts Are Things; and Robert Collier's Secret of the Ages from 1926.
Portrayal of ideas preceding the New Thought movement
The Secret website cites the Emerald Tablet, said to be written by Hermes Trismegistus (purportedly a "secret teacher"), as... one of the most important historical documents known to mankind". Byrne posits that the earliest trace of "the secret" occurred in the Emerald Tablet, followed much later by the Rosicrucians — a "secret order that espoused many of the ideas of The Secret." Mention is made of Victor Hugo and Ludwig van Beethoven's supposed membership in the order as well as Isaac Newton's purported work in translating the tablet. However, no evidence has been shown to support these claims.
Carolyn Sackariason of the Aspen Times, when commenting about Byrne's intention to share The Secret with the world, identifies the Rosicrucians as keepers of The Secret. Neither the word "Emerald Tablet" nor "Rosicrucian" are spoken in the film; however, at key transition points the screen image rapidly zooms in on the word "Rosicrucian".
The film was created by Prime Time Productions of Melbourne, Australia with Rhonda Byrne, executive producer; Paul Harrington, producer; and Drew Heriot, director. Gozer Media of Collingwood, a suburb of Melbourne, is the design house responsible for the visual style and feel of the film and book. Byrne's company TS Production LLC, a Hungarian company, is responsible for marketing and distribution of the film and book. Byrne commented about the research she did prior to making the film:
So I sat down and did a huge list of everything I had read ... and when I finished the list I handed it to them [the film production team]. They said that's impossible, you couldn't read that many books in a year, two years, and I had read all of those books in two and a half weeks - and well, that's The Secret.
Byrne's inspiration for creating The Secret came from reading the 1910 book The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles. The film was done as a project for Australia's Nine Network. Nine put up less than 25% of the $3 million project with additional funding from mortgaging Byrne's home and from an investment by Bob Rainone, "a former Internet executive in Chicago". Rainone became the CEO of one of Byrne's companies, The Secret LLC, and is described by Byrne as "delivered to us from heaven".
Shooting of the interviews was done in July and August 2005 with editing "effectively completed by Christmas time". About 55 teachers and authors were interviewed at locations including Chicago, Aspen, Alaska, and a Mexican Riviera cruise (interviewing Esther Hicks). The film uses 24 of these teachers in the "Extended Edition" of the film. The first edition featured a 25th teacher, Esther Hicks, known "as the most prominent interpreter of the Law of Attraction". Since the first release of the DVD, Esther Hicks declined to continue with the project. Her 10% share of sales netted the Hickses $500,000. As a result of this, scenes with Esther Hicks, are instead narrated by Lisa Nichols and Marci Shimoff. No other "secret teachers" received compensation for their appearance in the film — revealed by Bob Proctor in an interview on Nightline.
Betsy Chasse, one of the producers, directors, and screenwriters for What the Bleep Do We Know!? interviewed Paul Harrington, the co-producer of The Secret. In the interview, Harrington gave this description of Byrne's production methods: "We used the law of attraction during the making of the program. We went very unconventional, in terms of scheduling and budgeting. We allowed things to come to us... We just had faith that things would come to us."
Channel Nine, after viewing the completed film, chose to not broadcast it. A new contract was negotiated with all DVD sales going to Byrne's companies (Prime Time and The Secret LLC). In hindsight, Len Downs of Channel Nine commented, "we looked at it and we didn't deem it as having broad, mass appeal". The film was eventually broadcast by Channel Nine at 10:30 pm on Saturday, 3 February 2007. Downs reported that "it didn't do all that well". The film was sold on DVD and also broadcast online through streaming media.
The film has been described as a "slick repackaging" of the Law of Attraction, a concept originating in the New Thought ideas of the late 19th century. In producing the film, the law was intentionally "packaged" with a focus on "wealth enhancement" — differing from the more spiritual orientation of the New Thought Movement. One of the film's backers stated, "we desired to hit the masses, and money is the number one thing on the masses' minds". A review in salon.com described the packaging of the products related to the film as having "a look... that conjures a 'Da Vinci Code' aesthetic, full of pretty faux parchment, quill-and-ink fonts and wax seals.
Choosing to package the film's theme as a "secret" has been called an important component of the film's popularity. Donavin Bennes, a buyer who specializes in metaphysics for Borders Books, stated "We all want to be in on a secret. But to present it as the secret, that was brilliant." 
The movie was advertised on the Internet using "tease" advertising and viral marketing; techniques in which the specific details of The Secret were not revealed. Additionally, Prime Time Productions granted written permission to individuals or companies, via application at the official site, to provide free screenings of the film to public audiences. Optionally, the DVD could be sold at these screenings.
A companion book by Rhonda Byrne was published called The Secret (Simon & Schuster, 2006). The Secret was featured on two episodes of Oprah — and as the film reached number one on the Amazon DVD chart in March 2007, the book version of The Secret reached number one on The New York Times bestseller list. For much of February through April 2007, both the book and the DVD versions were #1 or #2 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders. Simon & Schuster released a second printing of 2 million copies of The Secret — "the biggest order for a second printing in its history," while Time reported brisk sales of the DVD through New Age bookstores, and New Thought churches, such as Unity and Agape International Spiritual Center. Like the movie, the book has also experienced a great deal of controversy and criticism for its claims, and has been parodied on several TV shows.
The estimated domestic DVD sales in the US in 2007 exceed $56 million, and eventually topped $65 million.
Several critics wrote about the Secret in relation to self-help in general. Julie Mason, of the Ottawa Citizen, wrote that word of mouth about the film spread through Pilates classes, "get-rich-quick websites" and personal-motivation blogs. Jane Lampman, of the Christian Science Monitor, described The Secret as a brand promoting Secret-related teachers, seminars and retreats. According to Jill Culora, of the New York Post, fans of The Secret have posted on a wide range of blogs and Web forums accounts of how shifting from negative to positive thoughts made big improvements in their lives.
Jerry Adler of Newsweek called it "breathless pizzazz" for a tired self-help genre; "emphatically cinematic" and "driven by images and emotions rather than logic"; a blend of Tony Robbins and The Da Vinci Code; and "the Unsolved Mysteries of infomercials".
American TV host Oprah Winfrey is a proponent of the film and later the book. On The Larry King Show she said that the message of The Secret is the message she's been trying to share with the world on her show for the past 21 years. Author Rhonda Byrne was later invited to her show along people who vow by The Secret.
Some critics were bothered by the film's focus on questionable wealth enhancement, including promises that the universe will give you material goods "like having the universe as your catalog."
According to a March 2007 issue of Skeptical Inquirer, the central idea of the film "has [no] basis in scientific reality", despite invoking scientific concepts.
UFC former champion Conor McGregor claims The Secret played a role in his rise to fame. McGregor has said his first reaction on watching the DVD version was: “This is bullshit — but then something clicked for me.” He and girlfriend Dee Devlin, who manages his finances, started focusing on small things they wanted, such as a parking space closest to the doors of a local shopping centre. He said: “We would be driving to the shop and visualising the exact car park space. And then we’d be able to get it every time.” They then began visualizing wealth, fame and championships.
The Australian Nine Network's A Current Affair—an Australian TV tabloid show—on 14 May 2007 segment titled, "The Secret Stoush", interviews Australian author Vanessa J. Bonnette. In the interview, Bonnette—when referring to the book version of The Secret—asserts, "that is my work and Rhonda Byrne has stolen it". Bonnette and a reporter compare her book to Byrne's on the use of the "TV transmission" analogy. Bonnette's book, Empowered for the New Era was released in 2007 as a second edition. Bonnette, at her website, claims 100 instances of plagiarism. Byrne's marketing company, TS Production LLC, has responded with a lawsuit to restrain Bonnette. From the statement of claim:
Analogy between frequency transmissions, including a television station transmission via a frequency, and humans and human thought is used by many persons in the field of self-help and motivation.
David Schirmer, the "investment guru"—and only Australian—in the film, has his business activities under investigation by the Australian Securities Investment Commission (ASIC). This was reported on 1 June 2007 by A Current Affair in a segment titled "The Secret Con" with those words and The Secret logo appearing in the background behind the newscaster. The show initially confronted Schirmer in a segment titled "The Secret Exposed", aired on 28 May 2007, with complaints from people who say Schirmer owed them money.
On 12 February 2008 Bob Proctor's company, LifeSuccess Productions, L.L.C. successfully sued "investment guru" David Schirmer, his wife Lorna, and their several companies (including LifeSuccess Pacific Rim PTY LTD, Schirmer Financial Management PTY LTD, LifeSuccess Productions PTY LTD, Excellence in Marketing PTY LTD, and Wealth By Choice PTY LTC) for "misleading or deceptive conduct".
Film footage featuring Esther Hicks was removed from the later "Extended Edition" of The Secret after the film's creator Rhonda Byrne rescinded the original contract covering Hicks' participation.
Paul Harrington, the producer for the film, reported that broadcast TV—instead of the Internet—was initially planned as the medium for the first release:
...we had as our vision to go out to the whole world in 24 hours on television. It was a grand vision, which we weren't able to pull off for various reasons. We were trying to force, to control the "how" of the universe, when what we were supposed to do was just focus on the vision...
The Secret premiere was broadcast through the Internet on 23 March 2006 using Vividas technology. It is still available either on a pay-per-view basis via streaming media (or on DVD at the official site for the film). A new extended edition of The Secret was released to the public on 1 October 2006. The Australian television premiere was on Nine Network on Saturday, 3 February 2007.
Future releases and spin-offs
Plans were announced in 2007 to produce a sequel to The Secret and a spin-off TV series. The drama film The Secret: Dare to Dream, starring Katie Holmes and Josh Lucas, will be released on July 31, 2020.
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