XJW | Coming Out of the Jehovah's Witness Religion
Ex-JW film and music creatives have come together to capture the unique exit experiences of former members from around the world. Their stories focus on present life philosophies, personal growth and strength on the outside as they reflect on their past.
100 Days of Optimism
Inclusion StatementOur production team and music composers are all ex-JW creatives who've come together to tell the stories of people from around the world who share an unlikely connection. Culturally, sexually, and racially diverse, they reveal their experiences leaving the religion and moving forward.
About The Project
The Jehovah’s Witness (JW) religion prints in 800 languages. Members exist in every country on Earth and number over 8 million. Over 100,000 men and women are forced out or choose to leave the religion every year. There are millions of ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses (exJW's) globally today; theirs are the stories of loss and redemption.
We are traveling around the world to capture the stories of a representative cross-section of this diverse group. The documentary series will delve into themes such as: why people leave the religion, how their lives have changed, their new personal philosophies and what now inspires them. We follow their transformations as they grow and find new, deeper meaning in their lives.
For some context here, the Jehovah’s Witness religion teaches that Armageddon is “Imminent,” that it could happen tomorrow and that if you’re not a member of the, “only true religion,” you will be destroyed forever, murdered by Jesus. Here's some iconic Jehovah's Witness imagery with their captions:
"Jesus Christ, God's chosen King,
will destroy this world at Armageddon"
"Jehovah will destroy the bad ones
who do not change"
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that if they interact with non-believers, especially ex-Jehovah's Witnesses, they risk being expelled from the church and denied entrance into paradise after they die. JW's isolate themselves from the rest of the world for this very reason, only interacting with non-believers with the agenda of making new converts.
Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses are completely isolated from communication with those they love. Jehovah’s Witness culture functions as a high-control group that requires absolute submission. Any person who disagrees with what is taught, or fails to follow the rules, is seen as dangerous and is immediately cut off by friends and family.
So, why should you support us in covering this topic? We have the dedication and the connections to capture and share these stories in a powerful and accessible way. Because of our personal backgrounds as former Jehovah's Witnesses, we also share a unique bond with our interviewees which helps them feel safe and understood. We know what questions to ask to get straight to the heart of the stories and explore the deeper themes of their experiences.
Our storytellers are excited to finally be given a voice. We continue to be inspired by the strength of character and lifestyles of the exJW’s we meet along the way. Their stories need to be told.
We need your support to create this documentary series.
Some of our participants:
2,509 exJW’s (out of millions) have self-reported their locations on this map on Reddit:
We are dedicated to transcending sexual, racial, national and cultural boundaries in order to tell these stories in a dynamic and inclusive way. This involves networking abroad and going out into the world to do so.
Let’s make this together!
What you can do:
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Free and easy things you can do
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Follow us here on this page on Seed & Spark. 250 followers unlocks incredible perks, 500 followers unlocks even more perks and 1000 followers gets over $1000 of quality equipment. See details here:
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Share this campaign page on social media and in your groups everywhere.
All of that costs you $0!
As part of the 100 Days of Optimism campaign we become eligible for $50,000 in grants and hundreds of thousands worth of marketing support from WeTransfer and $25,000 in investment from Bow and Arrow Entertainment for up to 3 winning documentary projects.
This requires GreenLight (80% funded) and at least 1000 followers.
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Contribute in exchange for some creative incentives. We created a hilarious card game, a kick-ass soundtrack, a fun project credit page and more! Get in on the action with a small contribution starting at $10.
We want to get to know you.
Contribute to create the first episode of this documentary series!
For every $1000 beyond our goal we get we will add another nation to this documentary project to capture even more global diversity told through more human lenses.
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About This Team
I was born into the religion and baptized young. An abusive marriage and near death experience precipitated my exit from the organization. In the decade since, I’ve traveled extensively, learned eagerly and forged new relationships. When Scott reached out to me last year I was inspired by the concept of the project and am excited to be part of the team!
Concept - Cameras - Cut
I've spent the last 5 years in Vietnam with a focus on creating short films, music videos and documentaries.
I was raised on the fringes of "Witness Land" and was coerced into baptism as a teenager like so many. My parents were not very good at the religion so I had it pretty easy compared to most ex-Jehovah's Witnesses who I meet. I gave the religion a proper try for a couple years of my early 20's, auxiliary pioneering, and in general doing all the, "right things," before and during university and then went off to Ecuador to see first hand how they operated internationally as a, "Need Greater." I wish I had a camera then because that's a whole other story! It was in Ecuador as a Witness that I really started to question the intentions of this religion. They really don't hide their cultural imperialist approach to generating converts and controlling their lives and relationships.
After Ecuador I permanently left the religion. I had made some close friends in it that culture, many of whom have since come out as well. For the past two years a number of us ex-Jehovah's Witnesses have been working together to capture our own stories and those of other ex-JW's who we've sought and found. This project is personal, engaging and pushes me creatively. I can't get enough!
Eric & Cindy:
Music Composers - Post-Production
Cindy and I both come from Jehovah's Witness families. We served as full time ministers for the religion. I was a ministerial servant in my congregation. About ten years ago, when we were in our mid twenties, we both decided to leave the religion. We have both experienced the good and the bad that is the Jehovah's Witness life.
When Scott asked if we wanted to help with this film, we were very happy to do so. We have lent our music. It is necessarily the product of the story of our lives and the Jehovah's Witness religion is a major character in that play. Though it is not always a happy story, in our view it is an incredibly important one that demands attention. This religion has left us with echoes of experiences with depression, suicide, shame, and many lives left unlived. We are proud to have our music attached to the telling of this incredible story.