A Review of Vision Forum Film Flim Flam
Doug Phillips has ambitions to create a Christian film industry to compete with and supplant the evils that Hollywood spews on the public. To that end he has launched the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival (SAICFF). In just three years the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival has become Vision Forum’s largest program. Doug Phillips has even produced his own film, The League of Grateful Sons. More films are planned, with the goal of Doug Phillips becoming one of the top Christian film producers in the world.
Along the way, however, Phillips’ first production mysteriously disappeared. At the time it launched, it graced the cover of Vision Forum’s catalog. It was the most profitable Vision Forum product of the year. Then it disappeared without explanation, just as, all of the production costs having been recovered, it should have remained a steady source of income, with margins approaching 80%. What is this first Doug Phillips production, and why would he abandon it just when most profitable?
The mysterious disappearing Vision forum production was a 2002 documentary video entitled, Raising the Allosaur: The True Story of a Rare Dinosaur and the Home Schoolers Who Found It . The reason it disappeared from Vision Forum’s website and catalog is that it’s not a “true story” but rather a highly exaggerated account of some home school kids and their parents who tagged along, as part of nothing more than a tour group, on someone else’s dinosaur dig.
When I first watched this documentary something about it just didn’t smell right. I’m no paleontologist, but even from what little I’ve learned from reading National Geographic and visiting a few dinosaur and archeological museums I knew there was something seriously untrue about Doug Phillips’ true story. Even with what little I know about paleontology I know enough to know that no group of untrained parents and their kids (home schoolers or not) could possibly go out in the field, and the very first time out, and in the course of just a few days in the field, “make the biggest dinosaur discovery of the year.”
Indeed, after doing just a very little digging of my own I didn’t have to dig too deep to unearth a real stinkeroo of a story. Doug Phillips himself figured out awhile back that he’d been caught in his lies, which is why he no longer sells Raising the Allosaur. This review will expose some of those lies.
Here’s what the back of the video jacket of Raising the Allosaur says:
Q: What happens when a group of home school boys and girls travel to the badlands of Colorado with their parents in search of adventure and the hope of finding ancient treasures buried in rock?
A: They make the biggest dinosaur discovery of the year. There, buried in the rock, they excavate three amazing creatures: a many-plated Stegosaur; a 120-foot Brachiosaur. Most importantly, they raise from the ground what appears to be the most complete Allosaur (similar to a T. Rex) ever found in the history of paleontology, including the monster’s giant skull complete with rows and rows of once-razor sharp teeth…
This Q and A reflects exactly what this documentary attempts to portray–that home schoolers were directly responsible for discovering and excavating some very significant and very rare dinosaur bones. “They [the home schoolers] make the biggest dinosaur discovery of the year.” Left completely out of the story are those who were actually responsible for the finds–skilled professional paleontologists with many years of field and laboratory experience.
Taking all the credit, and grossly misrepresenting the facts (i.e. telling a pack of lies) for “the biggest dinosaur discovery of the year” is Doug Phillips and his team of home school families, who also shares some of the credit with Pete DeRosa and his two sons. Yet “Mr. Honor” Doug Phillips fails to give credit where credit is due. He doesn’t mention any of the men who were responsible for discovering and excavating the Allosaur.
For this investigative review I interviewed Joe Taylor, founder of the Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum. Mr. Taylor is a professing Christian (Primitive Baptist), a creationist, and paleontologist. Joe has over 25 years of field and laboratory experience as a paleontologist. Joe’s Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum is the largest creationist fossil museum in the world. Joe is highly respected by many paleontologists around the world, as well as by numerous creationists, including Ken Hamm and Carl Baugh.
I asked Joe to share his story. The big challenge was that there’s just so much to cover that it was hard to condense it. Here’s Joe’s Reader’s Digest version of what really happened with Raising the Allosaur, and why Doug Phillips was forced to pull a highly profitable video from Vision Forum’s catalog:
On the cover of Vision Forum’s video Raising The Allosaur Doug Phillips claims that his group of home school kids found and raised from the ground the Allosaur. But that is not true. The home school kids and their parents did not raise even one bone from the ground. And they certainly did not also excavate a stegosaur and a 120-ft. long sauropod all in four days. It is nonsense. I told Peter that what he thought was a Stegosaur was just another sauropod. Dana had also found it in 2000, long before any of us were there. Doug boasts that a Dr. Bruce Belamy “found” the Allosaur skull. That is a lie. It was actually found by Mt. Blanco team member Jordan Hall three days after Belamy left.
By late 2002 Doug Phillips had made the DeRosa boys famous through his web page and through aggressive promotion of them as prodigies and professionals since the ages of five and seven. This got the DeRosas speaking engagements on the East coast and else where. At a meeting of home schoolers in New York State, the DeRosas claimed that Mark discovered the Allosaur and that Peter was the one who determined that they had an Allosaur. They were lying. They did not find the Allosaur at all. It was I who identified it as an Allosaur in May 2001. At the same time, Pete DeRosas told the meeting that their boys were so great that NASA had come out to make a film of “their” work. Another complete lie.
Doug gave my credentials to the DeRosa boys and exaggerated that. I personally know dozens of genuine paleontologists all over the world. The DeRosas do not.Yet, Phillips told the world that the teen age DeRosa boys were seasoned, highly trained professionals, with a dozen years experience each with hundreds of digs to their credit. I have personally done dozens and dozens of fossil digs over the last 25 years. It’s virtually impossible for even an active digger like myself to have done hundreds even in a lifetime. But Doug gave those credits to the DeRosas who were only 17 and 18 at the time and who in reality had only been to two dinosaur digs, both of which were my digs and they participated as my trainees.
There was another film made about raising that Allosaur titled The Truth About Raising The Allosaur. It included all of the actual footage and stills of the real excavation from start to finish. It shows that Dana Forbes, the property owner of the land where the Allosaur was discovered, actually found and even excavated on the Allosaur with a college paleontology student a year and a half before Doug Phillips and his home schoolers were ever on Dana’s ranch. It shows that the DeRosa boys were merely my trainees and that this was only the second dinosaur dig they had ever been to.
The other was at another of my digs for Carl Baugh. Doug pretends the DeRosas are knowledgeable paleontologists. He claims that this Allosaur is the largest. The truth is that they knew better. The other film shows the DeRosa boys and I standing under a cast of the world’s largest Allosaur, Saurophaganax, in Boise, Oklahoma. The man who restored it is a friend of mine and verified its size. It is 11 inches longer than the one we excavated.
The Truth About Raising The Allosaur was never released because Doug Phillips demanded it not be as part of a mediation settlement between the DeRosas and me. Doug was supposed to have come to the mediation, but sent his lawyer instead. That mediation left me in financial ruin.
Doug Phillips is a Pharisee. He puts on a good show in the flesh. The things he says sound fair and good. But my personal experience with him is that he is a very unethical man who will destroy someone who holds him accountable.
He pulled the very successful video Raising The Allosaur off the market because he had gotten a lot of heat from all of us who knew it was a big lie. But it was pulled at the same time that he issued a statement that he was parting ways with the DeRosas because of “ethical” problems. The “ethical” problems were never disclosed. I believe that the real reason was because the DeRosas were unhappy with and critical of Doug. I don’t think Doug will be telling on the DeRosas because he doesn’t want them telling on him.
Shame on all of them for taking the Lord’s name in vain. They are preaching Christ for filthy lucre’s sake. Doug Phillips succeeded in turning more than a dozen of my friends against me and against each other in order to cover his lies and fraud in getting the Allosaur away from its rightful owners. I am glad to say though that through a lot of hard work the friendships that Doug Phillips succeeded in wrecking have all been restored. I have publicly marked Doug Phillips as a divider of the brethren.
What Doug has done to me has ruined my business and wasted the better part of the last four years of my life. It has been the most grievous situation I have ever endured.
People ought to demand their money back for a film that is listed as a documentary but is just a lie.
Joe Taylor’s accusations against Doug Phillips are very strong. But they deserve to be taken seriously. No businessman in his right mind would give up the kind of profits possible from a video product, the production expenses of which having already been fully recovered. If it were possible for Phillips to edit the Raising the Allosaur video to eliminate a few problem areas, he would no doubt do so. The fact that he has not, instead quietly pretending as if the Raising the Allosaur video had never existed, speaks volumes that the content was so far from reality that no amount of editing could fix it.
As Doug Phillips continues to pursue his ambitions of personal domination of a new Christian film industry, spearheaded through his Vision Forum and San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival, he would do well to recall that the Ten Commandments of Christian Filmmaking which he established specifically for the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival, includes a Ninth Commandment:
“Truth is essential to Christian films… Film is an especially powerful medium for communication and should be handled with integrity.”
Keeping the Ten Commandments is a far wiser approach to starting a new Christian film industry than creating entirely new film genres and categories in conflict with those commandments. As it stands, however, Raising the Allosaur deserves at least honorable mention in what appears to be Doug Phillips’ innovative new film category known as “Fictional Documentary.”