How To Hypnotize America

: Documentary
GENRE: Experimental
STATUS: Production


In 1973, James MacMillan founded Therapeutic Hypnosis Inc., ambitious to build an empire. When the company vanished, dozens of young hypnotherapists set out across the country, alone.


The only thing stranger than James MacMillan's goals were his methods. Eager to build a nationwide, corporate hypnosis empire, he impressed recruits and employees alike with TV demonstrations, mystic acts of body mutilation and more. Eventually, his luck ran out, but his influence kept on growing.


The goal of this project, in addition to being an oral history of hypnotism in America, is to expose viewers to an ethnography of verbal patterns and devices employed by its practitioners. The film will be as close to completely free of commentary as possible, so that the viewer isn't tempted to render any premature judgements. There will be no voiceover, no additional titling and no contextualization to the extent that the story allows for it. Conceptually, the film will mimic the effect of a hypnotic induction procedure. Information should be received and understood, but not consciously processed. Tone of voice, cadence, and syntax should be strong enough to convey the narrative and drama. Long, slow takes of quotidian or abstract and repetitive scenes will provide most of the necessary b-roll.

If the necessary funding is secured, we will conduct one or two carefully managed reconstructions of locations important to the story presented in a kind of hypnagogic surrealism rather than as outright realism. If any archival materials exist of James MacMillan's voice or likeness, those will eventually be incorporated, but I wish to avoid the convention of television documentary as much as possible. It should be seen primarily as art film; something to be experienced rather than consciously absorbed.

As far as soundtracking and non-diegetic sound is concerned, it feels very important to me that the film have appropriate musical accompaniment to enhance the hypnotic effect, which will mean textural and ambient tracks that will not compete with voiceovers and can emerge and depart without creating a disruption. A fluid, slowly changing whole of twenty to thirty minutes is the goal.


Bill Kemmler - producer/director/editor
“2010 NYU cinema studies graduate working in television, feature films and documentary for the last 6 years, former public access television host, writer, graphics artist and director. Editor of several 'vimeo staff pick' short films as well as a major motion picture featuring Will Ferrell and Kristin Wiig on the lifetime channel and cable television's Billy On The Street."

Matt Clegg - Director Of Photography
“A Virginian who enjoys exploring and growing plants.” Graduate of Florida State University's Motion Picture, Television and Recording Arts school. Cinematographer of Robin Comisar's TIFF winning and Sundance selected short 'Great Choice' (2017) and multiple-award winning, recently purchased-for-distribution feature film “Are We Not Cats” (Xander Robin, 2016)


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