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March 26, 2010

The Mac Attack

IMG_0836 On Friday, Addison County filmmaker and storyteller Malcolm "Mac" Parker defended his multimillion-dollar effort to finance a 10-year movie-making project, rejecting state regulators' claims that he ran afoul of Vermont securities laws.

It's estimated that Parker owes investors roughly $10 million in principal and interest payments for a decade-long film project titled Birth of Innocence. The film has not been publicly screened, though its brief trailer can be viewed online.

"This film is about a story that is older than Arnie's hay truck, older than Vermont, older than the Green Mountains themselves," said Parker, reading from a prepared statement. "It's a story of the beauty and goodness of who we are and a story I've been preparing my whole life to be able to tell."

For now, the film has been put on hold. Not because state regulators are film critics, but because they're  concerned with how Parker raised the money.

In short, the state claims the "loans" investors made, under Vermont law, should be considered "securities," and if they are securities, Parker needs a license to sell them.

State investigators from the Vermont Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration opened an investigation last year into Parker's film fundraising after they were approached by one of his investors, said Tom Candon, BISHCA's deputy commissioner and overseer of its securities division.

The investor approached BISHCA after the department sponsored a forum on fraudulent investments and scams. The department has held several of these throughout Vermont.

"Vermont law broadly defines what are considered securities, and they can include notes and notes of indebted investments, and we need to determine the status of these investment agreements," said Candon.

Parker's attorney, Wanda Otero-Ziegler, said the language of the film's "investor agreements" was crafted by Parker without the aid of an attorney. That language says the agreements do not provide the investors with any stake or claim in the film itself or any creative control; they only provide fixed rates of return — ranging from 5 to 30 percent.

Those larger rates of return were provided to short-term "bridge" loans, Parker said. Investments ranged from a low of $100 to a maximum of $500,000. In some cases, new investors were found to repay previous investors who needed to cash out, or whose loans had expired.

Some of Parker's more ardent investors and supporters bristle at the notion that they are being somehow defrauded or that they were scammed into investing in his film.

Four investors joined Parker at a news conference held in the law offices of Langrock, Sperry and Wool in Middlebury.

The investors spoke in support of Parker and criticized the state for jeopardizing the completion of the film, and thus any chance that Parker could recoup their investment.

"These were not securities: Securities are something I can buy and sell and see the value rise and fall," said Christopher White, one of Parker's investors. White has also helped raise roughly $15,000 to defray Parker's legal expenses.

"Mac's my friend, and I wanted to help my friend, and in this regard I had that ability to help a friend," said Sharon Gutwin, who owns the Rehab Gym. "I knew there were no promises, and I gave the money not based on an outcome."

At the press conference, Parker added a new wrinkle to this ever-twisting plot. He claimed to have been a victim, too. The culprit, he said, was a "trusted teacher" and "silent partner" by the name of Dr. James Louis Soteriou, who was last known to live in Connecticut. He has not been in touch with Parker in several months, ever since the news of the state investigation went public.

In sum, Soteriou is believed to have been paid roughly $3 million by Parker as part of Soteriou's role as a co-producer and co-creator of the film.

"He had the consciousness necessary to create the film, and through working with him I was growing myself consciously to the point where I could complete the work of the film," said Parker. "He was explicit with me, and his commitment to the lenders was as unequivocal as mine."

Parker said his family came to know Soteriou when Parker's wife faced a debilitating illness and regular treatments were not having an impact. They met Soteriou, and she showed remarkable progress, said Otero-Ziegler.

Parker and Otero-Ziegler say Birth of Innocence was a mutual idea and joint project with Soteriou from the beginning. However, Soteriou refused to have his name listed publicly, nor would he sign any of the investment agreements. "He insisted on his privacy and wanted to be a silent partner and take no public credit because he wanted to focus on his own spiritual and intellectual development," said Otero-Ziegler.

During the filmmaking process, Parker said, he spoke with Soteriou daily — sometimes as many as three or four times a day — over the years. "He had the knowledge and the experience that speaks to the deep and powerful place behind this movie."

In addition to his payout of $3 million, it's not clear if Soteriou had direct access to Parker's bank accounts. "We don't know for sure," said Otero-Ziegler.

Could Parker have a claim against Soteriou? If the latter can be found.

"We have not explored in any depth, but arguably there is a potential claim here for some kind of fraud on the part of Dr. Soteriou and the breach of an oral contract," said Otero-Ziegler. "It's a classic case of undue influence."

Over the years, Otero-Ziegler said, Soteriou became more immersed in Parker's life and became a spiritual guide and teacher, as well as a close confidant. Then, it appears, his influence became more bullying in nature.

The state became aware of Soteriou last week in a court hearing and would like to track him down, too.

"We are aware of the partner and trying to find out where he is," said Candon. "This is why we have concerns about what went into the project. One of the chief obligations we have is that the money gets back to the investors and there is accounting of the movie and of the investments made to date. We have received some of that accounting back, but not all."

Otero-Ziegler said Parker has provided the state with the entire set of accounting records from the movie's 10-year lifespan. The problem? It's all in hardcopy. Though meticulous, Parker did not keep any of his accounts digitally.

Candon said it isn't sufficient for the state team to have all the records; it needs Parker to spell out certain aspects of the accounting, since the only alternative is to comb through the voluminous files.

"All I want is to bring this situation to an honorable and successful resolution," said Parker. "I am respectfully and sincerely asking the state to join me in an approach in which no one will lose, and everyone will win."

Candon, too, said the state has no problem with the film being completed.

If the court agrees to let Parker raise additional funds to complete the film, Candon said, he will want to ensure that any money raised is used properly and accountably for the film's actual completion.

Parker estimates it will cost another $30,000 to $50,000 to finish editing the film.

If Soteriou made off with $3 million, that means another $7 million was spent over the course of 10 years. Parker said a core group of about 20 people have been part of the film's production team, while hundreds of others have been paid small amounts to appear in the film. Parker also drew a salary and paid for living expenses from the loans, he told reporters.

Part of what Otero-Ziegler's firm is doing now is providing a more accurate breakdown of the film's income and expenses by putting the information in an electronic spreadsheet.

Beyond the charges about unregistered securities, there's another issue: If $10 million for a Vermont-based independent film sounds like a lot of money, that's because it is.

Three Vermont filmmakers contacted by Seven Days — Jay Craven, Nora Jacobson and David Giancola — said their most expensive films have tended to cost about a fifth of Parker's effort.

Craven and Giancola said they've barely crested $2 million for some of their big feature flicks. All three filmmakers also said that when they raise money, they usually do so through a registered limited liability company as a way to protect themselves — and investors. 

"I have lawyers in L.A., the UK, New York and Vermont and three accountants on call, and that doesn't include the bookkeeper you need," said Giancola. "You can get into real trouble with the state and the investors if you don't do things right."

He said the probe of Parker's fundraising could eventually do damage to other Vermont filmmakers trying to raise in-state money.

"People doing stuff like this just makes it that much harder for people like Jay [Craven], myself and others  who do all the proper filings," said Giancola.

Parker hasn't reached out to the Vermont Film Commission for help on the project. Other filmmakers contacted by Seven Days said they didn't even know about Parker's film until news of the state probe surfaced.

Parker said he does plan to repay his investors every penny owed — no matter how long it takes. Revenue streams will include money generated by the film itself, a DVD release of his previous film Down on the Farm Let's Go to the Farm, and money he may generate from a book about the making of Birth of Innocence.

"I am not seeking to avoid my responsibility for any mistakes or potential violations I may have committed; I am simply looking for ways to resolve the situation in a positive manner," said Parker.

Mac Parker is a life-long Vermonter, and has no desire to live anywhere but Vermont. There's no way he would borrow money from all his dear friends and neighbors unless he was 100% sincere about paying it back. He will never waiver from this -- no matter what obstacles the State bureaucrats and his selfish, dishonest co-producer throw in his way. Mac is totally steadfast in his commitments to lenders. And "Birth of Innocence" is a beautiful and inspiring film. I hope the State stops obstructing and frees Mac up to complete it and share it with the world.

By the way, the children's' video you mentioned is actually called LET'S GO TO THE FARM --and it's terrific! Here's a link:

go to link and see the comments by folks who have gone to scfreenings. also you must check out the trailer while there.

what a bloody ponderous piece of crap!
if this guy is for real and he really raised 10M for this POS, then the real joke is the dupes who gave him money. Idiots. What an amazing story. What ridiculous blather Mac Parker has spun. Is he on drugs? Is that where the money went.

This is a fraud. I think they should aggressively pursue charges. Mac's obvious defense will be that he has the mental capacity of a child. How did Simple Mac raise $10 million.? That doesn't make any sense. Are there a bunch of really rich dopers out there?

As the previous poster said - PONDEROUS

OMG. The vague nonsense he utters is priceless! Either he's a Rasputin-quality swindler, or truly dumb as sh**. You couldn't make up idiotic quotes like these:

"It's a story of the beauty and goodness of who we are and a story I've been preparing my whole life to be able to tell."

"He had the consciousness necessary to create the film, and through working with him I was growing myself consciously to the point where I could complete the work of the film."

" . . . he wanted to focus on his own spiritual and intellectual development."

"He had the knowledge and the experience that speaks to the deep and powerful place behind this movie."

"Over the years, Otero-Ziegler said, Soteriou became more immersed in Parker's life and became a spiritual guide and teacher."

O. M. G. This is such wonderful bulls**!!! It's just prefect for "spiritual" Vermont. I can just see all the stupid hippies eating this sh** up like it was a veggie and hummus wrap.

And a 10-year movie production?! That's cost $10 million so far?! What a fraud!!! Can you say, "The Producers"? If this is how the guy talks, anyone who invested money with him will never own their own home and SHOULDN'T get their money back.

I wonder what the chances are of 700 clueless idiots (out of a very small population) finding the same fraudulent scheme to get sucked into
the chances of 700 people (out of the millions upon millions documented around the world who are waking up to the fact that our current way of living, working, and interacting with each other is not working in a way that enhances life) choosing to walk their talk by supporting, with their pockets as well as their mouths, a message that would help people open up to their innate ability to create and to thrive; and possibly, as a result, choose to act differently, too.
Just a thought.....

Lisa, wtf are you talking about? From your babble, I suspoect that you gave money to this idjit?

I've known Mac Parker for 25 years. He has more integrity than almost anyone I've ever known. He is extremely gifted and has always used his gifts to honor and benefit his community. There is no question that he means what he says. It's very regrettable that he was taken advantage of by the person he spoke of, but Mac is no fool. It's not so unusual for spiritual teachers to betray their students' trust, and it is always a terrible experience. Mac deserves every opportunity to finish his beautiful film and work to repay his generous lenders. It is not helpful for him to be blocked by the State from fulfilling his promises and responsibilities. I loaned Mac money at the beginning of the project, not for my own financial gain but because I wanted to help him carry out his dream. I still want that. I hope the State frees him up to finish.

Mac is one of the most sincere and honest people I have ever met. Anyone who knows Mac, his family, or the full extent of this film project could not write such rude and ignorant comments as many of these written above. He fully intends to repay the lenders to this film despite the betrayal by Dr. Soteriou. The State has not helped protect the lenders but is rather hindering their repayment by not allowing Mac to do business.

In addition, the trailer "The Birth of Innocence" does not come close to capturing the message the film carries and the message that hundreds of people have been touched by the contribute to this project.

Finally the name of Mac's previous film is "Let's Go To The Farm" not "Down On The Farm" as this article wrongly states. That film is also a wonderful piece of work, an exquisite film for children that conveys the beauty of rural Vermont throughout the seasons on a farm.

JoJo,"Get Real", Sean, - birds of a dirtied feather; you flock so well. Angry, sad, vindictive. Like pecking pigeons.

Remarkable the "insight" you claim to possess and yet no basis in facts, no knowledge beyond groundless recriminations. How quick to point your fingers. And what does this say of you? Have a look; you so deserve each other.

No hippies, no hummus, no dope. Just the harsh resignation in your reminding us just how very far we've fallen.

Dive deep. It's all yours.

Mac is honest, sincere and dedicated to his work. He has a beautiful and inspiring film, art that should be available to be viewed world wide. The world would be a better place because of it. Mac is being investigated because of words used in his agreements. He has not been charged with fraud or anything else. He has not wavered in his committment to those who have helped him with this project in spite of the challenges.

There are lots of sincere, committed people, who are also lifelong Vt'rs. So what? Mac may not be a thief, but that doesn't excuse him from flaunting the laws and best practices of business.

This reminds me of Scientology. Could Mac be the reincarnation of Elron Hubbard. This could be a real boon to our state's economy if Mac is able to get the Thetons to come up and invest in VT as their new landing pad.

Mac the Visionary, apparently you and your thieving friend are quite adept at transferring wealth. This story will prove to be one of the great laughs of Vermont history.

Folks arriving at this story: don't neglect to check out the Visionary's website. It's rich. Mackie: you should set up a legal defense fund on the website! I think you have the names of many contributors already at hand! Hopefully they'll have a few more dollars left. Hey, and hopefully the judge will be able to overlook all the little laws and see the bigger picture created by your gift to humanity. Peaceout. The Birth of Innocence appears to be stillborn.

It's quite extraordinary, and history bears this out, that every creative act of inspiration and worth is, nearly without exception, met with equal force by ignorance, vehemence and judgment.

Who cares? "Let the buyer beware."

Whoa ...

Harsh words fellows. Sounds as lil' Howie's a bone to chew. I mean, I had to check up on a few of those special words he's using, seems a bit of a Scientologist himself.

If I've got it right, Parker's made a film that makes folks feel good about themselves and the world around them. And he and the people who got involved are losers? Seems only thing stillborn is your fu'd logic.

I'd buy a ticket to that flick in a sec. God knows we can use all the help we can get. Rock the world Parker!!

@ JBG: if you're so fond of the vague visionary Mac "Sun Yung Moon" Parker, why don't you lend him $50,000?

Mac Parker borrowed the money to make a film. Why not just let him finish the film so he can pay back the loans. Seems like common sense.

"He had the knowledge and the experience that speaks to the deep and powerful place behind this movie."

Can anyone say what this nonsense means? It's complete and total gobbledegook. If you wrote it in a high school essay, you'd get a "D."

First I've heard of this story. I'm amazed at the number of comments. I'd expect one of Shay's posts about Burlington's sad political situation to generate as many (or more) comments, but this? Just sayin'. "Everyone has their reasons," quoting another film director, Jean Renoir! Ha!

Somethings krazy kat when an artist trys to do good and a bunch of self-proclaimed genuises want to climb up his ass end and tell the world how clever they are. No pun, but aren't you sceptics clever in hindsight. You smell like krap to me. Count me in for a ticket. Our world could use a lift.

I know Mac Parker to be a man of integrity. My sincere hope is that he will be able to bring to conclusion this project that he has devoted himself to, for the sake of the many lenders involved, as well as for the benefit of anyone who is interested in this special film. It takes courage to wholeheartedly pursue such a dream, particularly in the face of society's cynicism. May Mac have the opportunity to complete this unique work as soon as possible.

Now Parker's been duped by a missing doctor who disappeared after getting $3 million? That still leaves Parker with $7 million squandered (or hidden) to make a little film that any other filmmaker could make for a small fraction of that.

I just watched the "trailer". Oh man, where did the money go Mac?

$10 million in 10 years and *that's* all they have to show for it?? That's pretty crazy. If people wanna give him their money that's their business but this whole thing seems a little too close to Scientology for my liking...

Doing 5th grade math shows how absurd this whole thing is.
Parker has claimed that he used the $10 million for living expenses, to pay performers, and to pay for production.
- $3 Mil right off the top for the "doctor",
that leaves $7 Mil
- Let's say he used $100,000 per year to live on (I've been by his house, it ain't no mansion),
that leaves $6 Mil
- $1 Mil for production crew (which is extravagant, hell, based on the trailer it's ridiculous),
that leaves $5 Mil
- Let's be extravagant again and say he paid performers $1 Mil (I know, absurd, but this whole thing is)
that leaves $4 Million dollars

Ok then, where's the $4 Million dollars? That's twice what Jay Craven spent on his biggest film. And Parker says they don't even have the $30-50,000 necessary to finish editing. Where's the $4 million dollars? (of course we know it's much more than that, but it's a start)

"Gimme back that filet-o-fish, gimme that fish.
Gimme back that filet-o-fish, gimme that fish."

Some thoughts:

Bernard Madoff was sincere in his wanting to pay back investors, I'm sure that if we just left him alone and allowed him to continue his work to raise more money he would, however long it takes, pay everyone back.

Additionally, if Birth of Innocence is about opening awareness to the unlocked secrets and powers of . . . . oh crap, I have no idea what this movie is about either and I watched the trailer three times . . . . What I'm saying is, Do you really want to take spiritual advice from a guy that was duped by a Guru-Ciropratactor?

Also, 10 MILLION DOLLARS! I could produce and shoot The Second Coming of Christ for 8 1/2 Million, 9 3/4 if you want it in IMax 3D.

How about a porn movie called the second coming of christ?

how much would that cost?

$150,000 with a name, $200,000 if you wanted some effects
You'd make about .5 million - 1.5 million in return over 10 years (More if you drop "Christ" from the title).

More if you drop the name christ....? I guess I undersstand. But we need a pun of sorts to make it attractive. How about the Second Coming of Christina?

By your calculations Mac Parker - with his 10 million, could have made 50 porn films and grossed about 50 million in a 10 year period! That's pretty good!

HE borrowed from peter to pay paul so paul wouldn't come over and break his freaking legs.In absolute desperation he cornered family members and tried to force them to give him 20,000.00 dollars for "Bills" that he needed to pay Right now!!!. He is psychotic and has been using this money to live on and support his "mentor" who's obviously a smarter con man tha ol' Mac because he flew the coop before the shinola hit the manure spreader!!! if he is allowed to continue his little project, Mac and his 10 million will fly away and no one will ever see him again.!!!

Yeah, but he's got a website with vaguely inspirational messages, and a vague, 5-minute movie "trailer" (which is nothing more than a montage of some still photos) so that proves he's legit, right? Where do I sign up to give him money?

does anybody remember the fact that chiropractors aren't real doctors? they're con-men of the highest order.
this one was particularly brilliant.

Mac has shown an outrageous lack of responsibility for his actions. He has pissed away $10,000,000 of money "loaned" to him by neighbors and friends, has no concievable way to repay even 5 cents on the dollar, and has the gall to ask for more money to pay the legal costs of his actions. I read an amazing diatribe (Open Letter to Vermont)likening his plight to a farmer's barn that has burned. Mac hasn't worked an honest day in 25 years, and this metaphor is an insult to Vermont farmers and communities.
People need to recognise this situation for what it is: a very disturbed and desprate man who has betrayed the trust of thousands of people, and lost millions of dollars. The money is gone. People who want to give money away should look for a more deserving charity.

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