Tony Robbins is a larger than life figure who has been leading seminars around the world for decades. Some people remember Robbins from his TV infomercials. Others know about him through books like “Money: Master The Game” and “Awaken The Giant Within.” Outside of his business and writing, Robbins is also an active in charities through his foundation – the Basket Brigade has provided assistance to millions of people over the past few decades.
I had the opportunity to see “Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru” film at the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto earlier in 2016. I have read two of his books (mentioned above) and found them useful. I’ve never attended one of his seminars, so Joe’s film gave an inside look at Robbins and his approach to delivering seminars which was interesting.
What can we learn about Robbins from Berlinger’s film? In the social media age, the film underscores the tremendous value of participating in live events in order to achieve personal and professional growth. Second, I was impressed by the event management skills Robbins brings to bear (notwithstanding the controversy over the recent Dallas event: Tony Robbins event attendees burned after walking on hot coals ) on these events. It is no small feat to engage and inspire several thousand people during a multi-day event yet Robbins has done it over and over again.
Q&A Interview With Director Joe Berlinger
1. Why did you decide to make this documentary?
In 2012, I met Tony Robbins at a social event. He invited me to attend one of his events as his guest. I was not deeply familiar with his work prior to attending. I found it to be a powerful emotional experience that had a cinematic quality.
In 2014, I started the process of seeking permission to make a film. Robbins had some questions related to maintaining a high quality experience for attendees and some other points.
Ultimately, I was able to convince him of my approach through persistence and demonstrating my approach. After viewing my previous documentaries, Robbins understood that I could thoughtfully present complex topics in documentary form. I was eventually able to persuade him through persistence and my track record.
[Note: Previously, Berlinger’s body of work includes documentaries concerning FBI corruption [Whitey: United States of America V. James J. Bulger], oil politics [Crude] and economic issues ([We The Economy: The Street].]
2. Which event did you film?
In 2014, we filmed the “Date with Destiny” seminar in Florida. It is a six day event that covers a variety of topics.
[Note: The Tony Robbins website describes the event in these terms: “At Date With Destiny you won’t simply discover who you are — you will decide and create your own life-changing experience. Connect with your ultimate purpose and ignite your passion to achieve the ultimate vision of your life, career, finances, health and relationships. ”
3. In addition to the seminar, the film shows Tony Robbins going through his daily routine. What are some of the insights you observed?
I noticed that Robbins takes physical health and exercise very seriously. It is a key reason that he is able to deliver multi-hour seminar experiences day after day. Beyond exercise, Robbins also practices daily meditation.
4. Our society is interested in gurus and thought leaders. Yet, the sub-title to the film is “I Am Not Your Guru.” What does that mean?
Early on, I heard Tony himself say, “I am not your guru.” Instead, his approach is to give you a set of tools understand what you want and then go for it. That could be business success, improving a relationship or health. Ultimately, the best approach is to use his teaching to lead the life you want.
5. Several individuals are profiled in the film who received interventions and other assistance from Tony Robbins and the event generally. What was the outcome?
Robbins asked me to follow up with the individuals highlighted in the event a year after filming. That was easy to do because film production takes considerable time. The outcomes look great so far. Several people have transformed their careers and moved into the coaching field. Another person had the opportunity to reconnect with a parent. A couple profiled in the film had an improved relationship.
6. What was the film concept you took with this film?
I wanted to use a concert film concept here. Previously, I made a documentary about Metallica (Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster) so I had some experience with that approach. The individual stories of transformation had a cinematic quality. I was also struck by the spirit of camaraderie among the attendees.
7. How do you compare Tony Robbins to others in his industry?
I did not take a comparative approach in this film. I don’t go to many seminars so it is difficult to comment on this point. Overall, I think Tony Robbins is the real deal and he’s on a mission to help people. There are some people that regard Tony Robbins fans as cult members – I disagree with that view.
8. Where can readers go for more information about the film?
The film is now available via Netflix. For additional information including photos and trailers, please visit the Joe Berlinger Films website.
Reviews and Article About Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru
Curious to know what other reviewers thought about the film? I have collected several reviews below for your reading pleasure.
- Spellbinding look at self-help guru Tony Robbins. Lifeline or snake-oil salesman? You decide (LA Times)
- SXSW Film Review: Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru (Austin Chronicle)
- Review: ‘Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru’ Depicts a Self-Help Prophet (New York Times)
- Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru (Now Toronto)
- The POV Interview: Joe Berlinger on ‘Tony Robbins: I am Not Your Guru (POV Magazine)
- Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru with Dir. Joe Berlinger (The LipTV – a YouTube video)
- In ‘Tony Robbins’ documentary, tears flow (Boston Globe
Question Of The Day
What was the most helpful seminar or conference you have attended and why?