Voices in Unity: A Conversation With Richard Cohn

By Annie L. Scholl

In February 2015, Beyond Words Publishing launched an online film-screening platform allowing people to conduct private screenings in their homes, offices, churches, or community centers. To do so, they log in to the Beyond Words website, select a film to screen, and then arrange a date and time to host the screening. The goal, according to Beyond Words, is to “encourage engagement, growth, and transformation across communities.” Here, Beyond Words Publisher Richard Cohn, who turns 71 on May 14, talks about the new platform and the Portland-based Beyond Words.

Unity: Where did the idea spark for the film-screening platform?

Richard: We started getting a lot of requests for screenings and it started with the new film we’re distributing, The Power of the Heart. The filmmakers are from Holland.  We showed the film for the first time in the United States at the Awakened World International Film Festival Retreat, which was held last October in Santa Barbara, California, by the Association for Global New Thought. There were Unity ministers from all over North America in attendance. It was the first screening, and a number of ministers came out of the screening and said, “We’d like to screen this for our churches. How can we do that?” That prompted us to start a discussion with the film producer, Baptist de Pape, and we asked him if he would be willing to come back to the States so he could be present at different events, and to do a Q&A afterwards. On May 16, 2015, we’ll celebrate the new platform with an interactive film screening event throughout North America, where viewers can submit questions to him after hosting their own screening. 


Unity: What has the response been to the platform?

Richard: From the ones who have done the screenings, the response has been far bigger than they imagined and they have raised a lot of money for their churches and organizations. So far, every screening has been sold out, and in some cases they had to turn people away.


Unity: How many films are in your library?

Richard: We distribute about 200 DVDs. We add about two films a month, and we’re very selective. There are literally thousands of films being made every month. We want to make sure when we do a film that it is something that will add value to people and provide information they might not otherwise get.


Unity: What do you look for in your films?

Richard: What we’re looking at, first of all, is the quality of the film. Is it something that people will enjoy watching? Is it well edited? The content always is the most important thing for us. Is it cutting-edge? Is it new, breakthrough information? Is it something that has never been out before in film? The content is the key for us.


Unity: Why is it important to Beyond Words to get these messages out?

Richard: This is our 32nd year that we have been publishing books. Books provide information for people who like to read, and audio books provide for people who like to listen. However, when a filmmaker makes a 90-minute film, he or she may have 50 to 100 hours of interviews with authors and scientists and spokespeople. That information is synthesized down to sound bites and very short key phrases, which can activate people’s minds and get them thinking and wanting to pursue more. People are auditory, kinesthetic, and visual. We wanted to give them something that really hits the emotional core when they’re watching a film.


Unity: Why did you choose The Power of the Heart for the screening event?

Richard: This is the first big film that Drew Heriot, who’s the director of The Secret, has done since The Secret (in 2006). When we showed the film to our staff here at Beyond Words, no one could say a word for about five minutes afterward. They were just so struck by the film and its messages. It’s just a powerful film that really opens the heart. … It brings the spiritual and the scientific together.


Unity: How are you feeling about this new development at Beyond Words?

Richard: I’m very excited to see that we’re already getting responses back and people really are embracing the idea of having film as a teaching tool. I didn’t coin the word edutainment, but it’s out there, so it really pleases me to see people are using this the way that we had hoped it would be.

Unity: What are some of the book titles Beyond Words has published that people might be familiar with?

Richard: The Secret. We’re a partner of Atria, which is a division of Simon and Schuster, and The Secret was the first book we brought to that partnership. Another book readers might be familiar with is The Hidden Messages in Water by the late Masaru Emoto. His theories have been replicated many times and that particular book is his first one really summarizing everything. 

Another very interesting book is Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All, by Dr. Jerry Jampolsky. The message in it is that many times people do things that are almost unforgivable. You don’t have to condone the action, but if you can forgive the person, then it doesn’t eat you up by holding on to that grudge or that experience.

Another interesting book we did is The Secret Language of Your Body and The Secret of Life Wellness, both by Australian author, Inna Segal. She looks at how one can heal their body and how to connect with their inner wisdom.  It looks at real, deep questions. 

A book that’s quite interesting we did about a year ago that’s become a big seller is called My Son and the Afterlife, by Elisa Medhus. She’s a medical doctor and her son, Erik, took his life when he was 20. At a certain point he reached out from the other side and started communicating with his mom about what it was like on the other side. 


Unity: So what’s next for Beyond Words?

Richard: We are reinventing ourselves all the time, which I think is important in the information business. Ten years ago we started doing film because we wanted to get the information out in ways that we hadn’t been, then along came e-books, and now digital delivery of information. We are now streaming live from our site. We’re doing webinars with authors and filmmakers and live streaming events. We’re going to host a cruise in the next year where about 150 people will have the opportunity to interact with and learn from some top authors and filmmakers.


Unity: It doesn’t sound like you’re retiring any time soon.

Richard: No moss grows under my feet, even though we live in Oregon. A wise teacher said to me, “You never learn less.” So I’m open to learning all the time. We’ll reinvent ourselves periodically as I learn better ways to deliver information and provide what people desire. I’m happy to do that.

I have a very soft, quiet knowingness that I attribute to either heart wisdom or intuition; I’m not sure which. I’ve learned if I listen to that voice inside or that feeling, that message, it never steers me wrong, ever.  What it took me at least 60 years to learn, was I don’t need to override it with my ego or my head. I could just pay attention.

I have a prayer where I say to God: Please help guide my actions to the highest and best good for our company and its employees, for authors and filmmakers, for my relationship with my wife, Michele, for my children and grandchildren—and I just go through the whole list and give thanks. Gratitude is a big part of my life. I’m grateful for everything that has happened. When I leave life, I want to leave life with no regrets. And I learn from everything.


Learn more about Richard Cohn and Beyond Words Publishing at www.beyondword.com.

About the Author

Annie L. Scholl is a freelance writer and native Iowan who lives in North Carolina. In addition to writing for unity.org and Unity Magazine®, she is a regular contributor to Huffington Post and blogs at her website, anniescholl.com.