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The making of “Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru”

An interview with documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger

Hundreds of thousands of people have attended Tony Robbins programs, but there’s an event that only takes place once a year in the States, where 2,500 people from all over the world come to Florida to experience one of his most intimate and intensive seminars — Date with Destiny.

It’s six days of total immersion, and the people who take that journey discover who they are, what drives them, and their ultimate purpose, and they dive deep into how they interact and relate with others. In short, this is the place where they deal with the hard stuff. And with thousands of people in a room, digging into their pasts, envisioning their future, you name it – you can imagine how emotionally charged the room gets, and how personal of an experience Date with Destiny is.

So it’s not hard to understand why Tony never allowed cameras in to document the event. But that all changed when he met acclaimed documentary filmmaker, Joe Berlinger.

Tony and Joe were first introduced to each other by two other heavy-hitters in the entertainment industry – Brian Koppelman and David Levien – who themselves had attended Date with Destiny and ultimately went on to executive produce the documentary.

For those of you familiar with Joe’s body of work, you may be surprised that Joe would have pursued a subject like Date with Destiny in the first place. And you may be especially curious as to why he felt so strongly that he pressed Tony for years to say agree to it.

After all, Berlinger is known for investigative films like the Paradise Lost trilogy about the West Memphis Three, exposing cracks in the criminal justice system, and “Crude,” which is about pollution in the Amazon from giant oil companies. His work, for the most part, has been geared toward taking us into the issues of the world that are often obscured by media or politics, and the uncovering disturbing truths.

So for this film, it’s a bit of a departure in subject. But the motivation, the storytelling, and the deep dive into parts unknown — that’s all there. And that’s what made the endeavor a clear choice for Joe.

The film is called “Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru” and it premiered at South by Southwest in March, followed by a string of showings at film festivals. The documentary has been picked up by Netflix and will premier to members worldwide on July 15th.

In this episode, Joe Berlinger joins us to talk about how fate played a hand in the making of this documentary, his unique approach to filming Date with Destiny, what he ultimately wanted to share with the audience, and how the entire experience has transformed his life.

Listen on iTunes



[2:20] Joe’s path to becoming a filmmaker
[7:45] How Joe and Tony met and connected
[12:00] Joe’s decision to attend Date with Destiny
[13:05] His initial reaction to the event
[16:30] Why he fled and why he stayed
[17:00] A life-changing experience
[19:00] The next 5 days and the tools he absorbed
[20:00] Joe’s transformation
[20:30] Why Joe wanted to make a film about DWD
[22:30] Tony’s resistance to the documentary
[24:00] How Joe convinced Tony to say yes
[26:45] The range of experiences at DWD
[28:30] Joe’s intentions through documentary
[31:00] Giving people a concert of human emotion
[32:30] Joe’s ultimate goal in making this film
[33:30] His expected audience reaction
[36:20] Changing the rules of a documentary
[39:40] The powerful experience the film creates
[41:45] What’s next for Joe


Not your average “Netflix & chill” – Announcing the Netflix release of Joe Berlinger’s fascinating documentary about the world-renowned life and business strategist Tony Robbins and his signature event, Date with Destiny.

Why we all need pain – The pain after a breakup can lead to immense suffering, but it can also be an opportunity for tremendous growth and love.

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