Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

A Film by Robyn Symon
Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard
Film review - Film preview - Purchase DVD - Watch film now

San Francisco Premiere

What happened when
Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard
came home to San Francisco
and premiered at the thirteenth San Francisco Independent Film Festival

Roxie Cinema, San Francisco, California, USA

February 3, 2011

This essay, San Francisco Premiere, is the companion piece to
  1. Transformation: The Life And Legacy Of Werner Erhard
  2. South Africa Premiere
in that order.

I am indebted to Robyn Symon and to Wes Malkin and to Victoria Hamilton-Rivers and to Clay Kilgore and to Clare Erhard-Trick and to Fay Dearborn who inspired this conversation.

Photography by Screen Media Films - © Symon Productions and Screen Media Films - 2007
A Film by Robyn Symon
Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard
Film review - Film preview - Purchase DVD - Instant watch
It all started in San Francisco, the City by the Bay, in March 1971.

When Werner Erhard first burst onto the local stage - literally coming from nothing  - to capture the public awareness (no, to rivet  the public awareness) delivering the first est  Training at the Jack Tar Hotel on Van Ness Avenue in October of that year, nobody had experienced anyone or any-thing  like him before. In a zeitgeist  rich with Transactional Analysis, Haight Ashbury, the Summer of Love, Primal (Scream) Therapy, Rolfing, meditation, yoga, gurus, all inside of a background conversation in which the nation was coming to terms with its participation in the reviled Vietnam war, there was simply no one and nothing like Werner Erhard.
Werner Erhard demonstrated an uncanny knack for turning people on to their own inner strengths, a pragmatic way of showing people experientially  who they really are, a count-on-able ability (where did he get it?)  to have people give up their deadening positions  and instead take on new possibilities for themselves and for their lives, a remarkable gift of reliably, time after time after time, bringing people to their own enlightenment  - a word he actually eschews given its association with an eastern context  which he says he doesn't require, preferring to use the word transformation  instead. It was dramatic Socratic  theatre. It was history in the making.

Forty years later and five years after it made its debut on the world scene, having already been shown many times in cities and towns around these United States and in other countries in theatres, in film festivals, and in private screenings on DVD, double Emmy award winning PBS  ie Public Broadcasting Service producer Robyn Symon's biographical documentary which covers Werner Erhard's life and work, the appropriately and accurately titled Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard finally came home like the Prodigal Son  to San Francisco to premiere at the thirteenth "SF IndieFest"  - the San Francisco Ind(i)ependent Film Festival.

The thirteenth SF IndieFest screened Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard three times at the historic Roxie Cinema on 16th Street in February of 2011:

 1)  at 9:15pm on Thursday the 3rd, the prestigious main opening night slot - sixty five people attended;
 2)  at 7:00pm on Saturday the 5th - one hundred and five people attended;
 3)  at 9:15pm on Tuesday the 8th - fifty people attended.

No one had to ask for or solicit people to assist at this event. Once I put the word out about this San Francisco premiere, people spontaneously called in or e‑mailed, quietly requesting the opportunity to assist. A table was set up in the foyer manned by assistants who could answer questions about the film, and sell DVDs and posters. The film's producer Robyn Symon was there to meet people and to interact with her audience in question and answer sessions at the end of the screenings.

I've watched the film many times - as have most of the people who came - on DVD. So for me, coming to this premiere wasn't about seeing the film for the first time. Rather, it was about being present to celebrate its mainstream homecoming  to San Francisco.

After I greeted people, I sat alone ie I sat by ... my ... Self  ... to watch it. It's an awesome film. It really is - of which I was reminded. Certainly it's been highly acclaimed - rightfully so. And while there's no substituting for being with Werner face to face in person, watching this film comes very, very close.

Seeing it on the big silver screen for the first time, I saw things I hadn't seen before. I was certain Robyn Symon had changed, smoothed, and fine tuned it because there was so much more I got from the larger format. But she hadn't - I asked her. It was the same version as on the DVD I've watched. That says a lot to me about what happens when I expand the context in which I view something.

Photography by Wes Malkin, Biscayne Productions
Robyn Symon
In the end, what this film does for me is it distinguishes (by watching Werner Erhard through a microscope) where the "sweet spot"  is in Life. The "sweet spot" is who I really am - not like some cosmic spirit  or soul or even like the abstract Self (which are all sublime and are all equally as wonderful) but rather like just a regular guy, like just an ordinary Joe, like just another dude.

When Werner Erhard speaks transformation (and when I say "When Werner Erhard speaks  transformation ...", I'm saying "When Werner Erhard articulates transformation into existence  ..."), he rocks my world. But when he shows up as he does in this film like a regular guy, like an ordinary Joe speaking openly and candidly and undefensively about his life and about his failures and about his successes in heroic bone numbing  honesty, allowing himself to be captured on record for anyone and everyone to watch and / or criticize and / or appreciate in perpetuity, that's when I (I'm just another ordinary Joe myself just like you)  get the most for my life and for Life itself. That's when I love, respect, and appreciate Werner and his extraordinary contribution to humanity the most.

Frankly, in my opinion, it takes an extraordinary documentary making skill to make all this available through the medium of film. But then again, all told this was an extraordinary occasion, indeed an extraordinary homecoming.

The Q & A  sessions with Robyn Symon after the screenings, were animated and lively. She answered each of the questions, both the complimentary as well as those critical of her film and of Werner Erhard's life and work, evenhandedly and with aplomb. And she actually didn't need to. Her film and Werner Erhard speak for themselves.

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