‘The Vow’ Director Breaks Down Nancy Salzman’s Finale Reveal and How Prison Has Changed Her

The interview with NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman came to a close on “The Vow, Part Two,” which aired on November 21.Director Jehane Noujaim sat down for Variety’s “Doc Dreams” series, presented by National Geographic, after interviewing Salzman, NXIVM cult survivors, and current believers and editing all of that material together for the series’ six-episode second season.In the meeting, Noujaim separated the significant disclosures from this subsequent portion.
Through the perspectives of surviving couples Mark Vicente and Bonnie Piesse and Sarah Edmondson and Nippy Ames, HBO aired “The Vow” for the first time in 2020.The secret cult-within-a-cult created by co-founder Keith Raniere was destroyed by Edmondson.Women were subjected to a variety of atrocities, including sexual abuse and branding, once inside this “sorority,” as Raniere liked to call it. To enter, they had to give up damaging “collateral.”The survivors had the option to definitely stand out of the New York Times, which distributed an insightful story in October 2017 — highlighting Edmondson as an informant — that uncovered Raniere and the internal functions of NXIVM.

For Part Two, director Noujaim turned her camera on Salzman. Salzman agreed to talk, but she had to agree that her interview wouldn’t be made public until she was sentenced (she is currently serving a 42-month prison term in a West Virginia prison).Noujaim captured Salzman’s grim acceptance (and sometimes dismissal) of her role as Raniere’s enabler over several days and interviews.

What story did you want to concentrate on for Part Two, and why did you shift the focus away from Mark, Nippy, and Sarah?
By the time they presented the case to lawyers, the FBI, and the prosecution, Mark, Nippy, and Sarah’s story was pretty much over.They weren’t even aware of much of the discovery that was made during the trial.We followed their story all the way through, right up until Keith’s arrest.And afterward going from there on out, the story was truly about individuals who were captured, about the legal counselors and the preliminary that planned to occur.
You were granted an interview with Nancy Salzman, which was the major reveal at the conclusion of the first part of “The Vow.”Why did Nancy accept this task?
We conversed for some time.We talked to her and her attorneys.Her attorneys were very clear when she was making her decision: they didn’t want anything released until after her sentencing so that it wouldn’t affect her sentence in any way, good or bad.Actually, I thought that was a great idea because you wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not they would say something that would affect their sentence if you were sitting with someone who was just talking to you about their experience.Knowing that, she could be much more open.

Why did she do that?That response, I believe, appears in the first episode:You are aware that the world’s perception of you here is not who you are.Or, if so, how did it get started?Thus, the series provides an answer to that query.
She had the impression that there was a perception of her out there that she was a monster, and she had the impression that there was still a story to be told.I agreed that she could immerse us completely in this story in a way that no one else had.
Nancy defends Keith in the first episode, and she is much more defensive.You reveal more about her past with him and her true feelings for him throughout the episodes.What transpired from the initial to the final episode?

She was reading his text messages and letters in his own words at the time of discovery in the criminal case, so she knew that to be true.I believe she went through a process of discovering new information for herself and reevaluating her experience and decision-making with a more complete set of facts.She had a lot of contact with her two daughters, so I think it was a combination of being away from the community and being isolated.She was, however, away from Keith.She had time to reflect, process, and reevaluate the previous two decades.
I was making excuses for this person, Nancy says openly, but I wasn’t completely hurt until he started having sex with my daughter.I find it hard to comprehend how those two things can coexist, despite the heartbreaking scene.How would you avoid assuming that your daughter is involved in this, and why would you continue working with him?

Keith was very good at sharing information only those who needed it did.Nancy didn’t know certain things if she didn’t find them helpful.The secrecy and compartmentalization of information were extensive.It is difficult to believe that Mark Vicente, Bonnie, Sarah, and Nippy were unaware of Daniela’s two-year stay in a room.However, they didn’t!Because everyone was put on these tracks of improvement, self-improvement, self-improvement, and more improvement, they found out later.”Never speak negatively about another person” was in the curriculum.When you speak negatively about another person, that damages them.There was a great deal of caution to refrain from disparaging someone, particularly Keith.

I frequently inquired, “How is it possible that all of these breaches are taking place?”Why are people breaking the law without knowing why?Why isn’t there more inquiry?Why aren’t more people holding Keith accountable?Because of this, we tell her story when she asks Keith questions, and Keith replies, “Don’t you ever ask, because I know many things that you don’t know and you don’t know how I work with people.”
Nancy’s response when the judge said that she “enrolled” Lauren into this group shocked me.She feels it in her bones when this happens.Particularly since she had been making statements like this about herself.Unload that second for us.

She probably feels a great deal of guilt for including Lauren in the group.I also think she adores her children, and I do believe her when she says that she would not have enrolled them if she didn’t think they would benefit from it.Regarding the judge, I believe she felt judged as a mother for intentionally placing her daughter in this predicament.That, in my opinion, must have enraged her.However, she had absolutely gone through it in terms of discussing the guilt she felt about it.She said a lot of the same things about how hard it was for her daughter to accept the fact that she couldn’t have children because that was what she wanted most at the time.She probably feels a lot of guilt about that.

Additionally, I believe that the sentence surprised her.She had witnessed her daughter’s release from prison after receiving a lighter sentence or no sentence at all.She had gone through this transformation for herself, and she was thinking about it while filming the process and talking to people.In the event that you followed the preliminary, the adjudicator had a great deal of connection with Lauren and knew precisely where Lauren stood, however had no cooperation with Nancy, so truly didn’t have the foggiest idea where Nancy remained in the entire circumstance.While he had not had the same kind of interaction with her on the stand, she had written a letter.The prosecution had not.After watching the show, a friend of mine who practices law said they would be interested to hear what the prosecution and the judge thought.However, I would also be curious about that.

“There’s no point in doing this if you aren’t going to be able to dig deep and be honest about things that are difficult to talk about and things that you’re also not proud of,” we said in a very candid conversation before we started.”There is no point in me doing this unless I am going to really talk about everything,” she declared.As we speak, I believe she does undergo a transformation.In my opinion, she has undergone additional transformations since being in prison.She is putting what happened in an even darker light in some of the letters I have received from her about reevaluating and continuing to reevaluate what she went through and what happened.What does indeed “more obscure light” mean?

She wrote, “There were parts of the curriculum that I did not even realize was doing the damage that it was doing” when she looked back on things, so when I say “darker place,” I mean that when I say that.In our story, she really understood what Keith was doing, that she had caused harm, and that she felt a lot of guilt for luring women in, coaching them, and allowing them to continue on this path.She continued to examine everything that had occurred and her role in it after she was sentenced to prison.It was a community.
The people you will be prosecuting must be identified during the course of a court case.Those individuals were the following five:Clare (Bronfman), Nancy, Lauren, Kathy (Russell), and Allison (Mack)However, there was a much larger ecosystem of individuals involved, and it was one of manipulation and abuse.It required a whole group of people to play various roles, not just one person or two people or three.I believe that as she travels back, she examines both her role and how everything came to be.It entails exploiting people’s vulnerabilities when they are at their most vulnerable, arriving at a location that is supposed to be safe.
What prevented Lauren from taking part in the documentary?
The occurrences, in my opinion, seriously traumatized Lauren, making her unprepared.Even though she felt it was important to shed light on the story and felt like she really could, probably more than anyone else given that she has been on all sides of this, she wanted to stay as far away from NXIVM and the entire story as possible.At that time, she wanted to stay very focused on the trial, and she wondered if she wanted to be in a documentary about NXIVM for the rest of her life.
Everyone in the courtroom was affected by Lauren’s story, which is pretty clear.
Yeah.In point of fact, in her letter to me, she stated, “I might be open to doing something, but I would never want to do something just for the sake of entertainment value.”She stated, “I didn’t understand what it meant to be in a relationship that was abusive and narcissistic.”Additionally, I would be willing to do anything that would assist others in understanding how this occurs.She wants to do it because she thinks it will help people understand what they’re looking at or add to the information.because she believes she never really comprehended what she was observing.
Have you communicated with Allison Mack as well?
We tried to get in touch with Allison Mack, but we didn’t hear back from her.
When Allison Mack and Raniere talk about the branding, there is chilling footage.He calls her a narcissist after asking her opinion.Why did you want to show that clip, and how many other videos and audio clips were similar to it?
Since I’ve watched the entire story, I don’t believe any of these women would have been involved in what happened if they hadn’t been targeted for weaknesses and manipulated.I felt that demonstrating that was crucial.I don’t think the women who are going to prison are bad people inside.They probably wouldn’t have done much of what they had done if they hadn’t been influenced and their weaknesses had been exploited.
It seems like such a small illustration of the story that we are all constantly confronted with.Big choices.The question, “What are you willing to trade?” keeps coming up.especially when it comes to decisions about work and sometimes about marriage.And Nancy concludes by saying that.It’s a crazy story, but in terms of its components and what it means for humanity when you keep trading your values, it’s not that different from any other story.Then, all of a sudden, you find yourself in a circumstance where you have truly crossed the line.
Similar to Mafia, you are forced to make these choices in this location.I mean, there was constant negotiation about the contract even during our conversation with Keith about whether he was willing to be filmed.And after talking to someone for a long time—we talked to him about being in the project for a year—you start to make concessions, saying things like, “I wouldn’t have made that concession six months ago.”However, you are now so far along in this negotiation.
Also, in the end, we didn’t make the concessions because we thought it was very important to have a raw interview with him where nothing could be edited out.We were unwilling to make some of the concessions he requested of us.
When you found out that Nancy had a sexual relationship with Keith, were you surprised?
No, I wasn’t completely surprised.simply because of his past and the admiration she evidently had for him.However, the fact that he ended their relationship was interesting to me.That was interesting to me in terms of knowing how to exploit someone else’s weaknesses and how to manipulate them.
After each episode, the discussion about Nancy continues to rage online.She has enraged a lot of people. “Is she a victim or is she an enabler?” they ask.How do you feel about that?
Any kind of abuse makes people feel bad.Additionally, victims become aggressors when abuse is repeated.How can we encourage people to take responsibility for the serious mistakes they make if you take a very harsh stance toward victimizers after they have publicly disclosed what they know and expressed regret?We all make mistakes because we are all human.We don’t take enough personal responsibility for our mistakes, which I believe is one of our society’s most significant issues.
Although there was some discussion of grooming, sexual abuse, and trafficking in children in the first part of “The Vow,” it was rather hazy and did not go into as much detail as the second part does.After the first documentary, a second one that really delves into the allegations and accusations was released shortly after.Why did you not spend as much time on that in the first season?
Since we are vérité filmmakers, we follow a story as it develops.We followed Bonnie, Mark, Sarah, and Nippy in the first part as they revealed what they had discovered and learned.It was interesting because several journalists asked us during our trial, “How did you not show all of this crazy sex stuff that was happening in Part One?”Additionally, Mark, Bonnie, Sarah, and Nippy were unaware because they were not involved in any of the sex activities that were taking place.As filmmakers, we only knew what they knew and had heard.However, it was a disclosure so that them might be able to catch wind of Dani in the room.They had some hunches about what was going on, but they didn’t really know.
We didn’t realize there were two strands to this story of Part Two until we got into the trial, discovered the discovery, and began filming with the prosecution, defense, and Emily Saul, the journalist.There is the trial’s core as well as Nancy’s admission and reflection on her involvement.By going back to Nancy and other people who were at the center of the organization, our objective was to go through the trial and comprehend how it ended.We didn’t start to learn much more about the sexual abuse and grooming that had taken place until Part 2, when we really got into what was going on behind the scenes.
The episodes were sent to RAINN for a sensitivity check, correct?
Yes.We collaborated with two teams.We worked with the Dart Center, which is a journalistic organization that does amazing work with traumatized individuals.How can you work with traumatized individuals while still maintaining journalistic integrity?After that, we also sent all of the episodes to RAINN for their sensitive review.
Exists a “Vow:”?Third Part?“
I believe it is time for me to leave NXIVM territory.But Mexico has a fascinating tale to tell, and if Lauren is open, maybe we’ll go there with her.Aside from that, I believe I am ready to move on.
We have shortened and edited this interview.

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