Emrhys Cooper joins us on Close-Up Culture to discuss his directorial debut, The Shuroo Retreat.
The film follows Parker Schafer, a NYC journalist frustrated with a failing publishing world and a dismal romantic life, who becomes infatuated with a charismatic guru and begins a journey of self-improvement. But as the old saying goes, “beware of false prophets.”
What is your personal experience with self-help gurus and the self-help industry?
I grew up in the small town of Totnes in Devon, England. Totnes—on the ley line for new-age seekers—exuded spirituality, other worldliness and psychic mysticism. People put their faith in angels, spirit guides and past life regression.
In a culture of crystals and reiki healing, numerous phony gurus were quick to jump on the “alternative” bandwagon. Many of them touted profound cures for everything from low self-esteem to cancer. I witnessed my parents fall foul to some of this utterly bogus and life-threateningly bad advice. As a child I was unable to intervene, but now as an adult I feel compelled to reveal the hypocrisy and the fakery in this burgeoning multi-billion-dollar global industry.
What was your trigger to make The Shuroo Retreat?
My intention with this film is to expose the numerous charlatans in this industry, many of whom have no intellectual, scientific or psychological foundation underpinning the paradigms they are championing. It is apparent that those seeking deep soul searching or inner transformation are lured in by a combination of effective sales techniques that go way beyond pure spin to downright dishonesty.
The film follows a frustrated New York journalist, Parker Schafer. Can you tell us more about the character and what you explore through her?
Both myself and Donal Brophy have lots of amazing women in our lives, we’ve seen them struggle with balancing family life and career. They are expected to be everything to everyone all the time, it’s exhausting.
Where did you get the inspiration for Guru Shuroo and his methods?
I have witnessed wholeheartedly the value of self-awareness, contemplation, meditation and the letting-go of habits that no longer serve me. In my extensive research into these New Age trends, I recognized the need to highlight the inherent drama of these scenarios; both the humor of the sometimes outlandish nature of the options available as well as the possible dangers of these “quick fix” weekend retreats. And as I write this, I am still pondering on the benefits of these retreats, either real or imagined.
The struggles of each character in the film are challenges the audience will easily relate to because, essentially, my message is that change is possible.
The trailer is fascinating, most notably the tone shifts it hints at. What kind of ride will this film take audiences on?
I wanted to make a movie that is realistic and relatable, with lots of bonkers twists and turns. There’s a lots of humor in the absurdity of the self help industry but paralleled with some deeper themes of healing.
What are your hopes for The Shuroo Retreat and the impact it has on audiences?
I hope that people will take from the movie that when it comes to self help and and gurus promising they can ‘fix you in three days’ be aware that all that glitters is not gold. Recovering from trauma takes time and work and there are no quick fixes
What are your plans and ambitions for the future?
I am very excited about our recently launched production company Idyllwild Pictures. I’ve spent most of my career at the mercy of casting directors, producers and the Hollywood system and now I am ready to take my career by the reins and get behind and develop projects that will hopefully make a difference.
I feel extremely passionate about the Idyllwild Pictures, we specialize in original film, television and audio production and distribution, we are focusing on stylistically groundbreaking material without sacrificing commercial viability and entertainment value. Our content will always have a thought provoking message, exploring themes such as sexuality, ethnicity, cultural divides, and the fragmented society that we live in today.
4 Digital Media will release ‘THE SHUROO PROCESS’ on demand on July 25th 2022