How Director Alex Gibney Took on The Church of Scientology

  Alex Gibney at the 2016 duPont-Columbia Awards for his film Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.

Alex Gibney at the 2016 duPont-Columbia Awards for his film Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.

“[Lawrence Wright] sent me this book, the book on which this film is based in galleys, and I was particularly impressed by this idea of the prison of belief… How is it that smart, discerning people fall into a belief system like this and get lost in it? And how do they get out?”

Director Alex Gibney came to The Columbia Journalism School in 2015 to discuss his recent film Going Clear: Scientology and The Prison of Belief. Of the more notable interviews in the film is the segment with Marty Rathbun, the then second-command of the entire Church of Scientology.

After the screening of Going Clear, Gibney spoke with Columbia Journalism School Professor Betsy West about the film—as well as the interviewing techniques he had in common with the former second in command of the Church of Scientology, Marty Rathbun.

“What makes him so great is that he’s tremendously empathetic. He gives people confidence to tell their stories,” Gibney said about Rathbun. “If you have a live interview on 60 Minutes or Meet the Press and you're trying to confront a public official in real time… It's a combative thing. For the kind of films that I do, I'm in the zone of Marty Rathbun: my job is to be empathetic and give that person the confidence to tell me the story.”

This screening and Q&A were part of our Film Friday Event Series, sponsored by The Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Awards and The Columbia Journalism School Documentary Program.

Going Clear: Scientology and The Prison of Belief won a 2016 duPont-Columbia Award.

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