Betsy Chasse is an unlikely poster child for spiritual media. Prior to co-directing and producing What the Bleep Do We Know, which broke attendance records at theaters nation wide and convinced the industry that a market for such films exists, she was a stranger to common forms of spiritual practice and had gained much of her early experience producing films and television shows for the Playboy channel. “Before the Bleep, for me spirituality was tequila and BMWs,” she says. The process of making and marketing the film brought about huge changes in Chasse’s life, including a move from the epicenter of the film world, Los Angeles, to rural Yelm, Washington.
Today, Chasse runs her film distribution company Intention Media, which distributes movies about consciousness, ethics and environmental responsibility such as Fuel and The Quantum Activist, from Yelm. She also produced the documentary Pregnant in America in 2008, but has been focused primarily on distributing films rather than creating them. Today, she only occasionally visits L.A. “Because of the kinds of movies we distribute, most of the people that I deal with aren’t in L.A. anyway,” she says. “It’s a lifestyle choice. I was there for twenty four hours and my head felt like it was going to explode. Just driving made me crazy.”
Born and raised in L.A., Chasse has been involved in film literally since the moment she was born – on television. By the age of eleven, she had acted in 120 commercials, and by twenty-two she had created her own production company. “I was very ambitious,” she says. “I really understood what I wanted.” That meant working behind the camera, with ever increasing levels of responsibility. While she was still in her twenties, it appeared that her dream of a major film career had come true.
A wellknown studio began courting her for a job as director of production, a role that would groom her for a potentially very bright future. “I think by this point in my career if I had stayed there, I would have been vice-president of a major studio,” Chasse says.
Instead, “I sort of woke up one day and thought, ‘I don’t really want to do this.’ I couldn’t imagine sitting in an office,” she explains. She walked away from the film industry and began a business selling dog treats, a venture that proved highly successful – until the dot.com bubble burst. In rapid succession, her BMW was repossessed, she went broke, and her landlord served an eviction notice. Right around that time, director Mark Vicente called with a proposal: would Chasse help him craft a film about science and spirituality? She agreed, and after a series of meetings with director, producer and financier Will Arntz, he was scheduled to fly out for a final meeting in Los Angeles on September 11, 2001.
After the World Trade Center attacks, the three rethought their plans. Arntz and Vicente both had homes in the Pacific Northwest. “They said to me, ‘Why don’t you come up here?’ I came to Washington for what was supposed to be two months, make the movie, and leave,” she says.
Instead, she met chiropractor Dr. Gordon Grobelny, fell in love with both him and Washington State, and stayed. Today, the couple has two young children and Chasse’s lifestyle is a far cry from the fast-paced world of L.A.
Although others may have been surprised by The Bleep’s reception, its three creators were not. “We wanted to make the best film that we could make, and we wanted 100 million people to see it,” says Chasse. “Every time we came across anything, whether it was shooting the movie, casting the movie, we would ask, ‘does this answer this intention?’ We set rules. We wouldn’t put anything in the movie that we didn’t want to try or believe or attempt ourselves.”
In part because of the phenomenal success of What the Bleep, Chasse is now in the enviable position of being able to pick and choose what projects she participates with. “I don’t fly down to L.A. as much as I used to because I don’t have to,” she says.
“I’ve reached a place in my career where I don’t have to knock on a bunch of doors every day to get a job. I’ve turned down a lot of work over the last eight years. When people want to talk to me, they go to my agent. My family is first, and any project I do now has to fit into that lifestyle.”
Currently, Chasse is writing a script called Killing Buddha based on her experiences making What the Bleep. “One of my friends said I parachuted into the center of the spiritual universe,” she comments. “In a way, that’s true.” Promoting the film involved a whole circuit of consciousness related film festivals, and she was exposed to a wide variety of belief systems and practices within a short time. The screenplay will reflect what she learned in the process. Odds are, it will include BMWs – and tequila.
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