The Dancing for the Devil filmmakers want to clear up one thing about the Wilking sisters

The Dancing for the Devil filmmakers want to clear up one thing about the Wilking sisters

Despite what anyone might think, Acevedo says their initial video was “never about attention,” but a “last resort” that helped numerous victims break free of Shinn’s control. During filming, four dancers left the church and came forward with their experiences, as did longtime Shekinah member Priscylla Lee, whose own sister Melanie had escaped a decade earlier.

Now, Acevedo and director Derek Doneen hope their three-part documentary can finally do the same for Miranda Derrick. Below, the filmmakers discuss piecing together this decades-long story, what they hope viewers learn from Dancing for the Devil, and what comes next.

Glamour: I would love to just jump right into how both of you got involved in this particular project, and why?

Jessica Acevedo: So the story was brought to me by Tim Milgram, who owns a dance studio and is a director and fellow producer I’d worked with in the past. He was telling me about how 7M got started and the buzz around the dance community, specifically with the management company, and how one of the families, the Wilkings, went live on Instagram in the hopes of reconnecting with their daughters. So right away, I went and watched the Instagram Live, and, like most people, I was really like, “What the heck is going on here?”

And so later that evening, Tim got me in contact with the Wilkings, and we ended up talking for quite a few hours. They were catching me up to that point of the Live—like what had been going on, the struggles that they had faced, and how they felt like the Instagram Live was their last resort, if you will. So ultimately, that kind of kick-started us really diving deeper into this. These sleuth accounts started to come out with more and more information about it after the Live. So we were made aware that this had gotten much darker and deeper than we could have ever imagined.

When were you made aware of the Live? Was it right when it came out or a while after?

Acevedo: It was around February 2022 when we first started. So we started to dive in, and then a few months later, we set it up with Netflix, and Netflix wanted to partner us with a premium doc company. And that’s when we met Derek and the Dirty Robber team. And immediately there was just a connection, like Derek got the vision of what we wanted. You know, with a project like this, it’s so sensitive when you’re establishing relationships with people and the trust that has to be earned. And that’s something that Derek took very seriously, which made us feel very comfortable.

What interested you in the project, Derek?

Derek Doneen: I think, from my perspective, the thing that’s really exciting as a storyteller is the ability to immerse in a story that’s still unfolding, especially in the cult space, where I think generally, much of the time it’s a retroactive look back at the cult leader—the monster—and the victims and their experience. Obviously, that’s a part of our show and it’s a part of what we needed to do to create context and understand their lived experience, but maybe we can look at this story that’s familiar to audiences from a fresh perspective: From the point of view of the families who are desperately trying to get their loved ones out. And from dancers and ex members, as they get out of the cult and try to rehabilitate, try to deprogram, try to reconnect with their families, and sort of figure out who they are as people, where they fit in the world, and where they’re trying to go.

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