For decades he made Scientology look good. Now he’s out and telling the ugly truth.
Over the years, we’ve become very accustomed to Scientology’s “look.” You probably know what we’re referring to. The style and dressing of Scientology videos, the pacing and extravagance of Scientology events, and lavish attention to detail at Scientology facilities.
In some ways, it can be very impressive, but it’s also usually strained and over the top as it tends to reflect the ambitions of Scientology leader David Miscavige.
Often over the years, whether we were looking at Super Bowl ads, or new Ideal Org grand openings, we couldn’t help wondering who was helping Dave design and articulate Scientology’s vision.
Recently, we got an eye-opening answer to that question when a man named Mitch Brisker defected from the church and claimed to be responsible for Scientology’s look and feel.
Brisker first showed up at the YouTube channel of Janis Gillham Grady and Mark Fisher, but we’d been talking to him for quite a while before that, trying to help him as he attempted to re-adjust to life outside of Scientology.
We knew right away that he was a remarkable figure to have left Scientology, maybe the most notable person to leave since the exodus of executives like Mike Rinder and the Headleys in the mid-2000s.
And now, Brisker has published a book about his adventure as the man who gave Scientology its public appearance, and we can tell you that it’s a ride worth the price of admission.
But before he takes us into his church years in Scientology, The Big Lie: How I made an evil cult look good, available today, he first wants us to know about his upbringing as a kid in Hollywood who watched the Sixties happen on his front porch.
But if young Brisker found himself seeing Dylan at a club on Sunset Boulevard, and experienced being in the first class at the new Cal Arts as he pursued a life in film, his early plans were all subsumed in a serious heroin addiction.
A friend recommended Scientology, and Brisker found that not only were the Scientologists at the Celebrity Centre eager to help him with his habit, but they also seemed to genuinely care about him.
As a result, although he was becoming a skilled filmmaker, he also felt an obligation to Scientology, and one that would put him in one of the most unique positions in the organization.
Brisker gained access to some of the most sensitive locations and projects in Scientology working closely with its leader, David Miscavige, but Brisker’s position as film director and not a “Sea Org” member meant that he was still, on some level, separate from the dedicated troops he was tasked with turning into film crews.
This gave him access that few have been able to talk about, not only seeing Scientology’s projects put into action, but also being witness to how they were planned at the highest level.
Much of the time, Brisker explains, this meant that he was pulled into one impossible situation after another and was expected to “make it go right” on insane schedules. But the result was that familiar landmarks we associate with Scientology in Hollywood today, such as the L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition on Hollywood Boulevard, or CCHR’s museum, “Psychiatry, an Industry of Death” on Sunset, were projects that he brought to fruition.
And along the way, Brisker worked closely with David Miscavige and now brings us one of the most informative and nuanced portraits of the diminutive man who runs Scientology. Brisker portrays a man who was a ruthless micro-manager, as others have. But Brisker’s Miscavige could also be supportive, clever, and even fun to be around.
Eventually, though he had felt some obligation to Scientology for helping him with his addiction decades earlier, Mitch begins to wonder about his dedication to the organization and how it had affected his life and his career. But getting out is not so easy, as so many have found out.
We know from our own interactions with Mitch that starting over after 70 has been a tough task for him. But if this fascinating and well-written book is any indication, he’s making the most of his new life.
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