Killing Buddha. An Interview With Betsy Chasse (Co-Creator Of What The Bleep Do We Know!?)

March 8, 2012 by Chris Grosso

Betsy Chasse is a writer, director, producer whose recent credits include: Co-Creator “What The Bleep Do We Know?!” and Producer: “Pregnant In America.”  She is also the owner Intention Media Inc. Besides that, Betsy Chasse is a loving mother who continues to cultivate a deeper understanding of who she truly is at her core on a daily basis. A noble task if I’ve ever heard of one before. In Betsy’s recent book Metanoia (Metanoia means “A transformative change of heart” or as Carl Jung put it, a “psychotic break”), she invites the reader into her innermost world, her mind. Her musings are dark, lovely, honest and insightful as she touches on doubt, fear, pain, self-love (or lack thereof), and learning to become vulnerable, the same courtesy I believe she offered me in this interview. Enjoy. 

The following interview was conucted via phone on 3/6/12

The Betsy Chasse Interview

TIS: So it was about 10 years ago that Mark Vincent, co-creator of the documenter What The Bleep Do We Know!? (then titled Sacred Science), approached you about getting involved in the film which has since become a sort of “rite of passage” if you will, for those beginning to explore the relationship of Science and Religion. In your book Metanoia, you write, “By making “The Bleep,” this girl from the valley who had never uttered the words “quantum physics” in her life was thrust into the New Age/New Thought spotlight. So my curiosity lies not so much in your dealing with the success aspect but more so your personal experience of transformation as you were learning about these very radical and life changing implications you were working on in the film. Would you talk about that for me?

BC: Well it’s very interesting you ask that because there’s actually two answers to the question. There’s the experience that I was having, and then there’s the perspective that I have now. As I look back today, I do believe that we bring certain experiences into our lives that are going to challenge us, expand us and make us learn and whether we bring them consciously/subconsciously or if they come of their own accord, they’re there. It’s interesting because right before I was hired to make “The Bleep”, I’d started going to yoga and was taking the Self Realization Fellowship mail correspondence courses on the science of mediation etc. So I had been doing a little of that stuff and I find it funny because I’m the kind of person who can’t take a couple of meditation classes and call it a day, I need to be thrown into the thick of it, that’s just how it works for me. So I started doing that stuff right before Mark (Vincent) came around and after that, I jumped in full force into belief mode.  I would think, “All these people are amazing. They’re so smart and know everything and look at how enlightened they are and I’m just this little thing who doesn’t know anything.” So I believed everything everybody said to me, which was great because I was really open to information and I was really willing to try everything out and see how it all felt. I’m much more discerning today however, though it took ten years to really process this. I was living for quite a while in a space where I believed everything people were saying was true, but now I can look back and think, well maybe some of it isn’t exactly true. So in that space, when I was thrust into the New Age spotlight, it was bizarre for me. I of all people, probably the least-likeliest person on the planet who would have made a successful spiritual film did, and I really liked it because I thought I had it all figured out and it felt good to feel that way. Now I’ll read some of my interviews from back then when I thought I knew it all and think, “Oh my God, did I really say that? Was I really like that?” because now I can sit here and honestly tell you I have no idea.

TIS: Well after reading Metanoia, and resonating with the raw honesty of your essays, I relate to the sentiment of not trying to have it all figured out and making peace with that. It’s a vulnerable yet beautiful place to be I think. And not to get too far off topic, but you’re the first person I’ve come across besides myself who did the SRF mail lessons (laughing.)

BC: Oh did you (laughing)?

TIS: Oh I did. I still have them as a matter of fact.

BC: That’s too funny. You’re the first person I’ve met who’s also done them. We may have been the only two people on the planet who did them (laughing.) Do you remember the story about the frog? That’s really the only thing I remember from them.

TIS: Yes. He was stuck swimming in the bucket right?

BC: YES! I was so baffled and frustrated by that. I’m a really plain speaker and sometimes that can come off as really gruff and brutal and when they sent me that thing about the frog I was like, “What the hell!? Don’t tell me a story about a frog. Just tell me how to meditate.”

TIS: Oh man, now I’m going to have to dig that lesson out to revisit the moral of the frog story. So back to the interview, you’re a loving mother of two children and I’m curious as to how that new paradigm of thought you began experiencing during the making of “What the Bleep” affected your parenting style, if at all.

BC: That’s tough to answer because I think I’d have to be looking at myself from outside and observing myself from a different perspective. I try really hard, and probably fail most of the time, as I’m sure I’ve given my kids plenty of bad habits, and set them up for therapy in one way or another, but if they could just walk away from their experience with me and know that the power is all within them, then I’ve succeeded. That to me is the most important lesson- that it’s all up to you. If you can approach everything in your world from that perspective, knowing that you often you can’t control this really shitty thing that’s going on right now, or that person who isn’t being nice to you, but that you can control how you respond, then your response is going to dictate everything else that happens. That’s something I wish we touched more on in “The Bleep” and that’s the one lesson I hope I can give my kids because I think it’s a really empowering place to be. So often in life we feel completely out of control and like a victim, or like it’s everyone else’s fault, “poor me, I’m a victim” but if we can look at our response and realize it will dictate everything that will happen next to us, then we are actually in control. That’s really the message I want to give to my kids and that’s how I raise them. I don’t know if I do that because of anything other than that’s what I do, or if I would have done anything differently if not. One of the observations I’ve been making about myself, which we talk about in “The Bleep” as well as the new movie I’m doing, or even the books we’ve done, is that it all just feels really logical. So I can take “spirituality” out of it all and step back and think, “This is just a really right way to live.” Dr. Joe (Dispenza) has a quote on my website, which mentions that I embody this stuff naturally. I’ve always been a really optimistic person and the kind of person who goes the extra mile and believes in myself, so I think a lot of that is organic in who I am which also helps.

TIS: That’s awesome. Something else I found fascinating in Metanoia, while you were talking about your experience during the decade following What The Bleep!?’s release, is that you said, “The greatest realization I’ve had over the past few months is that I don’t even know myself.” Can you elaborate on that experience and how you came to said realization?

BC: The realization I didn’t know myself was honestly because crisis hit, I ended up getting divorced. I say all the time that I wish I could start doing this stuff without having to have a crisis. I’m working on a film now in which Barbara Marx Hubbard has a quote that I’ll paraphrase which basically says, “Crisis is the start of evolution. Your problems are the beginning of transformation.” So for me, in one afternoon, everything I thought to be true turned out not to be and I thought, “Wow, what do I do with this? What’s real if my entire marriage has been a lie and everything I’ve been doing is not real?” There I was thinking I’m “The Bleep” girl and that I’ve got it all figured out but I woke up one morning and realized everything I thought I’d figured out wasn’t figured out, that’s where I had to stop and recognize that I didn’t know. A bizarre, but not bizarre, sort of perfect thing happened then too. Even though I was unhappy in the marriage, I didn’t think we would get a divorce. It wasn’t in my picture because I was living in my fantasy world thinking everything was wonderful and would work out, but it all blew up. So that same day I got a letter, and I get a lot of letters from women often saying my life is perfect and I have it all figured out and asking how I do it etc. I used to write back these wonderful and profound letters about how wonderful my life was and how I did have it all together, even though inside I felt there was a part of me that knew that was a load of crap that I put out because that’s what people expected from me. So I was in my back yard reading this letter from a woman who was really in crisis and thinking I could cut and paste from other letters I’d previously responded to (which is what I used to do) to respond to her. I should note that it wasn’t that I wasn’t being insincere with those old letters I’d respond to but cutting and pasting etc because I truly wanted to help these people and I think the advice I was giving was good but the problem was that I wasn’t actually living it myself. So I was giving the advice from a perspective of how I was pretending to do things and when it came time to respond to this particular woman I had a moment of choice, which was, do I respond to this woman with the typical, “Your attitude is everything. Your thoughts affect your reality. Be positive. Believe in yourself” all those wonderful little profound statements that we say to each other or, do I share my experience about me and my truth, which is what I did and it was the most freeing letter I’d ever written. I wrote her a letter in which I told her I was in the same place she was. I told her I was hurting, that my life was falling apart, that I was scared and angry, I was lost and had been trying to tie on these ideas and belief systems that she thought I’d been living but the truth was that I had just realized today I really wasn’t. I then recognized they were all just words in my head and that no matter how shitty I felt or how dark of a day I was having, although it’s really small, there’s always at least one cell in my body that knows that it will be ok, and then I’d focus on nurturing that cell. That was really freeing for me because it was the first time I was really vulnerable and chose not to put on a shell, a mask.

TIS: And so how have you moved forward in your day-to-day life since that experience?

BC: It’s ups and downs, it’s life. I wake up some mornings scared to death, sad, depressed, frustrated, angry, or whatever I’m feeling at that moment and other days I wake up happy. The other thing I didn’t do very well in life was allow myself to be anything other than a perky, happy, positive, wonderful, everything is great type of person and when the darkness would come, I would shove it away. So now, if I wake up in the morning and I’m feeling sad or whatever I’m feeling, I acknowledge that feeling and sit with it. I spend a little bit of time in the morning with what I’m feeling and being ok with it and not trying to shove it away. I still have to get up and work, and do whatever I have to do. Some days it stays with me all day long and I let it be there. I may tell it, “I’m busy now and I have to work but I’ll come back to you later” but I will make it a point to find a time in the day to go back and really be with it. These feelings of sadness and anger come from those voices in the head that are doubt and fear based. So I’ll sit down and literally go through a list of why it is the statement the voice is telling me isn’t true. Then I’ll be able to think of a million reasons why my life is great, why my life is filled with love and goodness, and usually by the time I’ve done that, for about ten minutes or so, I recognize that I was just caving to the voice in my head because it was easy. However, after I’ve taken the time to realize that I really am loveable, thinking of some of the reasons why, using real examples from my life, it will usually go away.


TIS: I’m so glad you shared that because it is indeed so easy to cave to the voice in the head, but I’ve also found once one begins to make the conscious effort to recognize that and sit with what’s really going on, like you said, after a period of time that becomes the new second nature instead of caving.

BC: Right.

TIS: So one last “Bleep” question for you. A lot of people often talk about how it’d be great to see a sequel with all the new information that’s arising almost on a daily basis, especially with things like the work happening at CERN etc. Is there any chance that will ever happen?

BC: The short answer to that is no. I think there’s a lot of films are being made that answer a lot of those questions. I am working on a new film called Killing Buddha, but it isn’t a sequel. It’s funny to me though because if I walk into a room with ten people and ask them if any of them have seen “What the Bleep!?” at least seven of them will raise their hand. If we were to make a sequel, the hype and intensity on it being what people expect it to be would be so big that we’d never be able to live up to it. I love listening to people who talk about why “The Bleep” was so successful, like marketing people etc. They’ll talk about working on it for six months and conjecture why it was successful but when people ask me that, and I’m someone who made and distributed it, I say it was successful because it was a moment that occurred where everything that needed to align, aligned. I work in film distribution now, besides being a filmmaker and I get films coming to me all the time and the first thing the filmmaker’s  say is that it’s going to be the next “Bleep” and I say there will never be another “Bleep” because you can’t recreate that, and I won’t even try.

TIS: Ah, when you put it that way, it makes perfect sense. Can you tell me about the Killing Buddha film you mentioned?

BC: Killing Buddha sort of goes back to the basics for me. It’s based on my experience before “The Bleep” and then the making of it, in a very silly, satirical way. It’s essentially a movie about the making of a documentary. The characters are all different, like Mark Vincent and Will Arntz aren’t in it. There are moments of my life, which makes it the story of the person I remember being, and still am in so many ways. Ways in which I think many people can relate to in the sense that we’re lost and confused and searching. So what happens when you start searching sometimes is you become inundated with Gurus and teachers and books and philosophies and practices and ideologies and strategies so much so that you lose the source of who you are and where it all really comes from. So the point of the story is really to remind me, that everything I’m looking for is already within. In a way it’s a very funny look at what people do to find enlightenment. It has some fun with spirituality and Gurus and crystals. It doesn’t make fun of them, it just reminds us that while all of those things are really valuable, in the end, it’s all you and you can’t forget that.

TIS: Sounds exciting. Is it a full length film, or a documentary film in the style of “What the Bleep!?”- Like a story within a story?

BC: It’s a film but there’s a documentary being made within the film and we’ll probably release the documentary “Killing Buddha” itself, separately from the film.

TIS: That’s a cool concept. I look forward to it release. There’s another film releasing soon that you’re involved in distributing called “People V the State of Illusion” by Austin Vickers which I had the privilege of screening and was completely blown away by. What was it about the film that attracted you to it?

BC: I don’t think I’ve ever said this but going back to your other question regarding a sequel to “The Bleep”, if I could make a sequel, this would probably be it. It’s similar in design to “The Bleep” as it has a story and interviews. What I love about “People” is that it’s really scientifically based, and I like science and logic and explanations of how things work and this film really does that. It explores the understanding of us as humans and how we work. It also really shows you how your brain works and how you perceive in a way that, for example, since this is how you’re perceiving, this is what you’re getting. So if you want to change your life, you have to change the way you are perceiving and this is how your brain does that. That sounds very dry and boring, but it’s a beautiful film that’s wonderfully shot and acted. There’s a wonderful story in it about a man who ends up in prison, which is rally a metaphor for the fact that we’ve all created these prisons for ourselves through our belief systems and perceptions about how reality is which everything we do is based on. So if we want to change our lives we really have to create a shift in our perception, and for me, that’s the greatest message film.

TIS: Absolutely agreed. And again, after seeing this myself, I see how it could almost be a sequel to “What the Bleep!?” in a way for sure.

BC: Yeah and another thing I love about it is that it’s not a spiritual movie. There are no Gurus in it. There’s nothing controversial about religion. This is not a movie about spirituality. It’s a movie about neuroscience, the science of your brain.

TIS: And I think that’s great. So outside of film work you also do a radio show called “Life Unscripted.” Can you tell me the premise behind that show and how you got involved with it?

BC: Well eight years ago, we opened “Bleep” in Seattle and there was a man named Cameron Steele there, and he had just started Contact Talk Radio. He was incredibly supportive of “The Bleep” in Seattle. One of the reasons “Bleep” was so successful was because there were so many wonderful people across the country that got behind it. People that had no vested interest in getting behind it but just did, and he was one of them. I’ve kept in touch with him since then and he’s always told me I should do a radio show. There’s always been a part of me, even when I was at the height of my, “I’m so cool because I’m the Bleep Girl” you know- my egocentric, crazy, maniacal mind, but there’s always been a part of me that still wondered why anyone would want to hear from me. Going out and doing talk’s back then was weird for me because I felt I had nothing to say to these people. I didn’t really know what was going on but they were paying me so I figured I’d make something up. I just never felt right about the radio show however. So when I got divorced and started going through this process and writing Metanoia, I really started learning that I didn’t know how to be vulnerable. I liked the story people thought about me, that I had things together, that I was hot, and dressed right, and had the right car etc. I liked that perception. There’s a caveat to that though which is that I had no real connection to people. So when I started the divorce process I realized I didn’t know how to be vulnerable and I was in a really vulnerable place. I was hurt, sad, devastated, lost and scared and I didn’t know how to express that to people because I didn’t want anyone to see that side of me. So I started writing Metanoia as my way of expressing that. I do have a couple of really close friends I can cry to and I started sharing these essays with them, one of whom told me that if I really wanted to experience vulnerability that I should publish this book. That way, everything going on in my head would be out there and exposed and real and people would really get to see what goes on in my head. Then she told me I’m also not alone and that everything I wrote about in the book was the same as how so many people feel and that it’d be freeing for them to see I feel the same way many of them do and to establish a connection in that way. So I published the book and started getting letters instantaneously from people who did in fact share those feelings, and I started to feel that connection. Another thing that happened when I got divorced was that I went back and started looking at my belief systems, all the spiritual stuff and I really wanted to examine it from a new perspective. So Cameron had been harassing me about doing a radio show and I finally called him and pitched the type of show I would do. I told him I would go on air every week and talk about what’s really going on with me and interview all different kinds of people, teachers from Buddhism to Taoism to Neuroscience etc, but that no matter who’s on there, I’ll get in there and have it make sense. Often times what happens, especially for me, is I’ll read a book which says some cool stuff and I’ll try it out for about six month and then it doesn’t work anymore and that’s it. So I really want to get down to the nitty-gritty of what this stuff means and how I can really apply it to my life, not just in conversations to sound like I know what I’m talking about it. If this stuff really works, I want to know about the application of it, not the philosophy, ideology or data and that’s what the show is all about.

TIS: I definitely respect that. So in close I wanted to ask you the same question that was posed to those featured in “The People V the State of Illusion” at the end of the film which is, “If you had sixty seconds left to live and the entire world’s attention, what would you say?”

BC: If I had sixty seconds to live and the world’s attention, I would say that it’s all within you and nothing else matters but love. And that’s so corny and cheesy but you know what, after forty two years on this planet, that’s the only thing I know, that it’s all within me and I’ve just got to love. I love this little saying going around that was brought to my attention by my dear friend Gini Gentry, “What Would Love Do?” like the “What Would Jesus Do?” thing. In every situation ask, “What would love do here?” I wish I did that all the time but believe me, I don’t. I fail most of the time but I try.

TIS: And that’s what counts. So I think that’s a perfect place to wrap this up. Thanks so much for your time and the invaluable work you do through all your endeavors.

BC: Well thank you so much for that sentiment Chris, it’s appreciated.

TIS: You’re very welcome. Take care.

BC: You too.

Visit Betsy Chasse Online Here!

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Chris Grosso is a writer, public speaker, mental health youth group facilitator, and author with Simon & Schuster. He also writes for Revolver Magazine, Fangoria, and has spoken at a bunch of fancy-schmancy festivals and conferences (as well as even more events that were significantly less than fancy-schmancy). Chris's podcast, The Indie Spiritualist, is hosted on Ram Dass's Be Here Now Network.