Emma Meurs and Faculty Mentor: Brad Barber, Theater and Media Arts
Pyramid Dream is a documentary film that investigates the reality of the promises of Multi-Level Marketing companies of financial success to their distributors, through the eyes of three female distributors. These three woman experience varying degrees of success as they endeavor to make millions by direct selling lipstick and other cosmetic items. However, it soon becomes clear that it getting to the top of the pyramid is more difficult than it seemed. But, although they may be unable to make millions, they are able to find a sisterhood which might make it all worth it.
This is the premise of my short documentary, Pyramid Dream. The focus of the film was always at its center an investigation of Multi-Level Marketing companies and their relationship to the culture of Utah. When I first moved to Utah, I was blown away by the quantity of these companies in such a prominent LDS community, as in my mind, these ideals were contradictory. But rather than create a harsh critique documentary, that simply looks at just the negative of these companies, I was more interested in looking at the people who believe and sign up to be a part of these companies and the reasons that they have for doing so.
This led us to our three lovely distributors in the film: Jalynn Schroeder, Ashley Brinton, and Lindsay Arbuckle. These three women have three very different life stories but somehow have all come to experience a similar experience through their involvement in Senegence, the Multi-Level Marketing company that they are distributors for. These women offered us three different stories though. One of success, one of financial need, and one of youthful determination and aspiration. They opened up their worlds to us in a way that was enlightening and loving.
One of the marvelous things about making documentaries is coming to contact with people with extremely different views of the world. This was something I experienced with this film. I was invited into this world were hundreds of people believed and participated in a community with a foundation of beliefs that I couldn’t understand. Yet, through my lens, I was able to establish an empathetic view, and try and help myself, as well as my audience, understand why they see the world the way that they do.
The film did demand having a critical voice as well, and for that we travelled to Charlotte, North Carolina, to visit with Robert Fitzpatrick, one of the leading critical voices of Multi-Level Marketing companies. His voice reflected the other side of the argument that our film needed, and so when we combined his voice with the experiences of our distributors, we ended up with a balanced piece.
This film was a challenge to make. It needed to be fair to both sides of the argument, and we wanted our characters to speak for themselves, rather than myself as the filmmaker speaking for them. I learnt a great deal about empathy, understanding, and thoughtful filmmaking. This film invites the audience to make up their own mind about these companies by the end of the film, and so I hope, if you have the opportunity to see it, that you will do the same.