Thursday, May 01, 2008

Maybe they figured they'd keep the profits a 'Secret' too?

So now comes word that Drew Heriot, the director behind The Secret DVD, has filed suit against Rhonda Byrne et al, alleging that he was denied his fair share of profits from the project's otherwordly success. It's too soon to know what's really going on here—and it might be a mistake to assume automatically that Heriot's legal claims represent the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This wouldn't be the first time someone signed on to a project for a negotiated fee, saw the project take off beyond his wildest dreams, then decided he'd sold his soul too cheaply. I knew a struggling writer some years back who agreed to accept a $25,000 flat fee to ghost a book for a Certain Middling Celebrity. After the book became a New York Times bestseller, the ghostwriter filed suit claiming that he'd had a "gentleman's agreement" with the Certain Middling Celebrity that there'd be more money coming—a whole lot more—if the book took off. The case never went very far in court, but the writer did manage to wring a few more bucks out of the deal.

But if Heriot is telling the truth, it's quite a plot twist in the long and chronically strange saga of The Secret. Here's how he puts it—rather cleverly, I thought—in a prepared statement: "To all who have been inspired by The Secret, please know that I am not suing the universal principles of The Secret. Rather, I am suing the corporate principals behind The Secret, who promised at the outset that profits would be shared, and who have not kept faith with The Secret's tenets of gratitude and integrity."

If I read the suit correctly, Heriot alleges that Byrne and her partners used a confusing "maze" of shell business enterprises to disguise profits and thereby withhold his deserved stake in the estimated $300 million The Secret has raked in to date. Heriot also challenges Byrne's implication that she was the sole creative genius behind the project. He contends that the genesis of The Secret was a collaboration in which he played a material role. As his attorney puts it, "The Secret franchise would never have existed if it weren't for Drew, and all he's asking is to be compensated for his work and creative contributions." In his pleading, Heriot claims that he gave the DVD "its distinctive approach and style"; that he "created the structure and order for the film, conducted the vast majority of those interviews, worked for months on the screenplay, directed the most important dramatic scenes and supervised the editing and post production." Further, because the book is "essentially a transcript of the movie," Heriot feels that his profit participation should extend to the book as well.

You gotta wonder what Byrne did to "attract" this.

Also today, on a related note, I present this outreach from John Curtis of
Notice - Seeking Potential Self-Help Fraud Victims

Seeking credible individuals who are concerned they may have suffered financial, physical and/or emotional harm by following the principles and practices known as the "Law of Attraction" as detailed in the book The Secret!

You will need to be able to demonstrate real, discernible and catastrophic harm. Information needed will include but not necessarily be limited to the following. (You will be able to tell your story while remaining completely anonymous):

1) Name or Personal Identifier of your choosing
2) Email address
3) Form of The Law of Attraction/The Secret: (book, CD/DVD, seminar, coaching)
4) Cost: (how much did you pay?)
5) Self-help provider source/website

Incident Details

6) What happened?
7) What harm do you feel you suffered?
8) Where, if at all, have your reported this harm?
9) What, if any, action have you taken to reconcile this harm?
10) Do you have concrete proof of actual financial, physical, emotional or psychological harm?
11) What resolution do you seek?


Steven Sashen said...

I've said it before (on Connie's blog) and I'll say it again.

The REAL secret to success:

Sue, believe, receive

Cosmic Connie said...

I don't know the whole story either, Steve, but I think Rhonda is keeping herself as far removed from the legal dealings as possible. I also suspect that a great deal of credit/blame for the shell companies and other maneuvering must go to her American bidness partner, Bob Rainone. You don't see much in the media about ol' Bob, but he's definitely a presence.

The saga of The Secret's original Internet marketing strategist, Dan Hollings, isn't over yet either. The lawyers are still playing games, but word has it that Rhonda is due in LA May 6 for a deposition regarding this case. Anyone taking bets on whether she'll show, or continue to keep herself removed from the fray?

By the way, Steve, that's a good choice for Rhonda's photo. This was the very pic that was used when "Time" Magazine chose her as one of their 100 Most Influential People of the Year last year (what WERE they thinking?) -- and also, not coincidentally, the pic that a certain PhotoShopper used on her own blog post regarding some "Secret" lawsuits a few months ago. :-)

Elizabeth said...

"To all who have been inspired by The Secret, please know that I am not suing the universal principles of The Secret."

He may not be suing the "universal principles," but by suing Byrne he acknowledges that the "universal principles" have not worked for him. (What happened, one wonders? Not enough positive visualization? Blind faith not strong -- or blind enough? After all, it is enough to believe it to achieve it, no?)

Apparently then the "principles" are not so universal (or they may not even be principles at all -- gasp!), since somebody like Heriot, very much "in the know" in The Secret world, has failed to attract all the goodness and wealth he so desired. Not to mention that he has managed to attract the wrath of Byrne (and, just you wait, also that of the whole army of Secretrons who will never forgive him for attacking the Priestess Herself).

And indeed, the question about Byrne's own, obviously insufficient faith in the "universal principles" must be asked, now and again (and again, and again). So what gives? What has she done -- or not done -- to attract all this pain to herself?

(Asking the above with mocked incredulity and a gleeful anticipation of a fall-out.)

P.S. Wonder if HRH Oprah will care to comment now... Though it may not matter, since the "beauty" of The Secret "philosophy" -- and the whole self-help/NewAge nonsense -- is that it is cognitively self-contained and self-perpetuating -- i.e. it has the dubious power to explain away everything and all that happens to us in terms that are part of the "philosophy." So we can expect to hear, from Byrne&Co., forthcoming explanations of the current troubles along the lines of "it all happened for a reason," etc. (Not that *we* are dishonest scam artists preying on the stupid and gullible, including our own collaborators, mind you; no, it's The Universe teaching us valuable lessons -- the content of which is to be determined according to the newest and most useful rationalization. In other words, The Secret is safe with us. LOL. Or not, really.)

P.S.2. But hey, this -- trouble in The SecretLand -- is good news in my universe, in which there no secrets, just endless confusion, lifted from time to time by glee over the absurd. So thanks for brightening my day, Steve.:)

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz, that's a very good point about Heriot. I guess he must've gone into this expecting to be screwed, so he was....

Elizabeth said...

Ha, ha, ha! Yep, Steve -- shame on Heriot then for low expectations. Serves him right -- he asked for it, the unfaithful, ungrateful guru wannabe.

But that still leaves Byrne's question open -- what was SHE expecting...? ;)

I guess we'll find out.

Steve Salerno said...

Maybe she was expecting to make a ton of money and screw everybody else out of their fair share?

Cosmic Connie said...

Steve wrote: "Maybe she [Rhonda] was expecting to make a ton of money and screw everybody else out of their fair share?"

I think that more than likely the success of "The Secret" took Rhonda by surprise and prompted her to change her mind about whatever agreements she had in the beginning with the folks who helped her launch the world's most famous infomercial to success. Or maybe her partner Bob R. made that decision. I don't mean to imply Rhonda is blameless, no matter what influence Bob R. had.

I tend to cut Drew Heriot a little more slack than I do Rhonda and Bob; I think he may very well have gone into the project in good faith and is just trying to get what was originally promised to him. I could be wrong but that's my feeling right now.

At any rate, I expect the rationalizations to continue long after the legal issues are resolved. As Elizabeth put it: "...the 'beauty' of The Secret 'philosophy' -- and the whole self-help/NewAge nonsense -- is that it is cognitively self-contained and self-perpetuating -- i.e. it has the dubious power to explain away everything and all that happens to us in terms that are part of the 'philosophy.'"

Steven Sashen said...

I once asked the producers of "What the Bleep" why they were "attracting" so much argument, dissent, and outright hatred?

After a moment, they said, "Every great idea was originally mocked and ridiculed."

I said, "First of all, that's not true. And secondly, that doesn't mean that every idea which is mocked and ridiculed is, in fact, great."

They just took another question, which, if memory serves, was something like, "How can I create my day?"

WC said...

The reason(s) for The Secret:

Often I will hear people say that certain painful and harmful things that happened to them, happened for a 'reason'. I can see them trying to squeeze these events into a philosophy, whether it is of their own making or not. I am of the belief that when shit happens in life, there are reasons that this particular shit happens. Allowing 'reason' to be plural makes an important difference to the thinker of these kinds of thoughts. We can benefit by learning as much as we can about the reasons so as to better our approach next time. I think squeezing our thoughts into one 'reason' stifles learning. Indulging the preference for a special 'reason' seems to cause folks to go nowhere. Those who don't indulge in seeking the comfort of a special reason, but are content to learn from the reasons, do better.

Maybe that is the 'Secret'!

Steve Salerno said...

Note to readers: You'll notice that I allowed "WC" to use a mild profanity that I generally bar from the blog (in the interest of preventing that quick slide to more serious profanities). I gave the waiver for 3 reasons. 1, the overall intelligence of WC's take (that gave it a "redeeming social value"); 2, WC is a newcomer; and 3, the phrase he uses is really a bumper-sticker idiom of sorts.

I still hope to hold the line on this type of informality, which--I still believe--does long-term damage to blogs (certainly in the case of several that I've followed through the years).

WC said...

Steve, thanks for being so fair. I was unawares, and now I will do my share, and write without swears.

If you get me rhyming, you may want me to go to back to swearing.

Lana said...

A true Secretron will admit that he or she creates everything -- good, bad, ugly. So they can't or won't claim that the Universe is teaching them a valuable lesson.

The fun begins when a true Secretron holds this belief while trying to win a lawsuit.

WC said...


Thanks for the distinction. I think you are saying that in this line of thought the reason for whatever happens is always "I created it", every time, no exceptions. Do secretons ever get to ask why they create things, or is it just circular reasoning, because the answer is: "you are asking 'why' because 'you created it(why)'? Sounds like a universe in which only I really exist, which perhaps explains the lawsuit and alleged shady dealings.

At the risk of sounding bombastic, ( I heard that term in the news last week), this would actually be seen by many ordinary Christian folk as Satanic.

Lana said...

Exactly, WC!

It's crazy makin'.

Jim said...

Steve> You gotta wonder what Byrne did to "attract" this.

Steve, can I tell you how much I love your sense of humor?

300 million? Dollars? Are you serious? Do you have any references for that? How much do you think went to Rhonda? That's appalling. "The Secret" is garbage with a good marketing plan. It is shameful that something so ridiculous can make so much money.

Anonymous said...

I hope someone points out to the Secretons this lawsuit throws out Rhonda's entire model. She should just come and say she has been thinking very bad thoughts and of which was not to pay her ghost writer.

Anonymous said...

Uh, I hate to have a hate-on the haters...but...

But Steven Sashen who is posting here, is actually in the exact same business as Rhonda Byrne...

Also, Steven Sashen on his blog promotes Byron Katie and her methods called The Work, which have come under fire.
Steven makes good money from The Work of Byron Katie.

As well as his "Quantum Wealth", and various other potions like selling MLM memberships for Acai berries.

He also made a $100 Challenge on his blog, but appears to have refused to apply the evidence procedures of his $100 Challenge to Byron Katie.

Bottom line, those who live in New Agey glass houses should not be throwing stones at others glass houses.

Rhonda Byrne & Co have run a massive global moneymaking scheme, and they fluked off, and made millions and now they are all going to fight over it.

So they deserve to get criticized.

But beware of the fox who puts on a rubber chicken suit to get into the hen-house to do some spin-control on the other hens, and slip a few eggs away...(you get the metaphor!)

Steve Salerno said...

Folks (and Steven), the previous comment is a fair one, and I can't really think of any way to bar it, using the standards I uphold against "ad hominem" attacks. It's not really ad hominem; it's making a point about something a person does (and that something happens to be highly relevant to what we do here). Now, the allegation about Steven and Rhonda Byrne being "in the same business"--well, I leave that for others to decide. But as I've said often, this blog is open to anyone who wants to post. I would let Rhonda Byrne herself post (as well as Osama bin Laden, as I've also said previously). I'm not making some sort of cute analogy between Sashen and bin Laden. I'm just saying that if you put yourself in the public sphere, you make yourself fair game. Just as I have.

Steve Salerno said...

Btw, the link that doesn't fully show up in the Anon post, just above, is here

Anonymous said...

Right, the above comments about Steven Sashen are NOT an Ad Hominem personal attack at all.
They are professional.

It is just more than a little hypocritical to see someone making critical comments of The Secret, and What The Bleep, yet at the same time be selling...
-The Work of Byron Katie
-Quantum Wealth
-Advanced Medication
-Kabbalstic Healing

For example, if you read the Sashen $100 Challenge, at that link, there is a decent evidence procedure put forward.

Steven Sashen states...
"If someone can give me a respected, published scientific study (that can’t be effortlessly debunked because of bad or no control groups, too small a sample size, or other obviously stupid study design) that demonstrates the proof of the 21-day habit building technology, I’ll give you $100!"

ok, well, look at Steven Sashen's advertising page about Byron Katie.
He makes many claims on that page, without ANY evidence at all. And Byron Katie makes even stronger claims, with ZERO evidence. 00.00

I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but there are a few Byron Katie senior "bloggers" who go around a make "buddies" with numerous critical blogs, like SHAM, and make posts on those blogs, yet somehow always seem to promote Byron Katie.

Look at what happened at the Guruphiliac blog when people started to criticize Byron Katie there.

What the heck is the real difference between The Secret scamola, and the Byron Katie scamola?
Byron Katie is much more damaging, as its not just superficial fluff, she gets inside your brain very deeply.

So let Steven Sashen address some of these questions.
That might be a good blog entry itself.

Steve Salerno said...

Again, a knee-jerk response to the foregoing would be that it's a "personal attack." But it really isn't; it's rooted in prima facie evidence, or at least the presentation of same, all of which surrounds a specific person who contributes to this blog.

Steve Salerno said...

NOTE: A number of visitors have written me off-blog, explaining that they've encountered problems with the "comments" section of the SHAMblog--either Blogger won't accept the verification letters (no matter how many times they try), or they seemingly post a successful comment, only to have it disappear into the ethers. I am posting this on behalf of a visitor who contacted me off-blog and asked me to run it anonymously. And so:

"Steve, just found out something disturbing...and it would be really super if you could do the public a favor and bump up that Byron Katie piece on your priority list, m'kay? (Please? I know this isn't a paying gig for you, but you are doing a great thing with this blog and it is appreciated.)

(Sorry about the long link, but my security software says is a spyware site and I'm going to go with my security software on this one.)

Anyway...Now Oprah's pushing this dangerous "work". I've got a really BAD feeling about this one."

P.S. Please sign me "anonymous". Thanks!

Elizabeth said...

It appears that SHAMbloggers cannot wait for your sue-worthy expose on Byron Katie, Steve.

As to Steven Sashen's involvement with BK's enterprise, why not ask Steven himself? So Steven, if you are reading and care to comment now, or when Steve's piece comes out, we are listening. (I'm curious myself.)

P.S. I have also noticed that some SHAMbloggers who do identify themselves and seem to post on a semi-occasional basis are in the self-help business or its vicinity (life coaching, for example), as evidenced by their own blogs and websites, some of which directly promote their services. While I personally do not see anything wrong with it (it is the World Wide Web, after all), it is somewhat intriguing, though perhaps understandable from a certain point of view, to hear comments disparaging the self-help business from people who are actively involved in it, but do not acknowledge their involvement.

Steve Salerno said...

As I just mentioned to someone off-blog, Eliz, if I had to stop to examine the backgrounds and vested interests of everyone who comments on SHAMblog, I'd have no time for anything else! Having written a book on the subject, I know that one of the staple tactics in SHAMland is critiquing someone else's methods as a way of elevating your own. But what am I gonna do? I've established a policy of being open to comment from anyone, and I try to observe that (as long as the attacks don't get truly personal). As I've said before, if Osama bin Laden himself showed up on SHAMblog and wanted to explain why America must die, I would publish his remarks. (Not that I'm drawing any parallels between bin Laden and, say, Dr. Phil, but you get my point....)

Elizabeth said...

Speaking (recently on SHAMblog) of the Apocalypse -- this from Oprah's message board, where I ended up by accident (I swear!) while pursuing another link:

"I just completed Byron Katie's 'Loving What Is' and found tremendous help in order to investigate my own thoughts, while at the same time participating in Oprah's online class with Eckart and ANE.

What a wonderful combination! Maybe, Oprah, Katie and Eckart could host a Show together on TV or online?

Love and Hugs,

Cosmic Connie said...

Looking at the comments about Steven Sashen here on SHAMblog, I see that I've been receiving nearly identical comments on my blog. Apparently someone cares very deeply about getting this message out. I too have invited Steven to publicly comment if he wishes.

I have to admit it is kind of scary to think of Byron Katy, Eckhart Tolle and Oprah teaming up together. Next thing we know, Obama will be appointing the mighty three to his cabinet.