How I Became A Cult Leader

Max Landis
12 min readOct 28, 2022

Here’s the thing: I didn’t.

There are many parts of the online narrative around me that are invented or mutated beyond recognition, but I don’t think even the people involved in my shaming would ever describe “The Colour Society” as a cult.

It wasn’t even a thing. It was the hashtag in the corner of a picture from a photobooth. It’s not an organized group. It was just a bunch of people.

Here’s one from my 28th Birthday, The Colour Society Presents: KABOOM. A key element of the Colour Society’s parties was facebook. That was how all the events were planned. Another key element was Snap Yourself photoboothes. Everybody was always up in these getting ridiculous photos.

From 2008 to 2018, I used the name “The Colour Society” as a catch-all brand for parties and events that I threw. They were all different sorts of events; drinking games, nerf-wars in the park, massive dance-parties in Armenian ballrooms, insane New Years Parties in Hancock Park, wild weird weekend getaways, the list goes on and on.

The biggest ever Nerfwar Turfwar 5: NERFPOCALYPSE. It was fucking euphoric.

It was not an actual organized group, except that they attended the same parties. Mostly it was just my actual real friends in life and a few of their friends. I threw parties so they could all meet each other, and I’m weird and like doing silly shit so the parties got steadily bigger and weirder and sillier.

Once in a while I’d organize “goth nights,” except on the first one we tried, we couldn’t get into the Goth Bar, so we all went to Velvet Margarita on Cahuenga. Suddenly 20 goths arrive to this mexican restaurant and guess what, it’s $5 margarita night. From then on, Goth Margarita night was a bi annual affair.

This loosely affiliated group of people were mainly connected through me; I never fit in with the “cool kids” in Hollywood, so the majority of my friends were outsiders, goofs and loons. They were spectacular; it became a relatively tight-knit group, and many lasting friendships were formed, but many of them only saw each other at my parties, which happened about once ever three months.

Me explaining the rules at Nerfwar Turfwar II

I paid for everything at these parties and asked for nothing in return. There was only one rule: “No cocaine.” I at the time considered cocaine a “dirty drug.” I also at the time refused to eat fish because I was scared of them. I was a very strange guy and a lot of the people around me were very strange too. Strange and creative and interesting.

Many of my friends were filmmakers at different levels, artists, dancers, editors, or just generally wild weirdos. Creative collaboration was common, but I never really “gave” anybody a job. I didn’t have that kind of swing as a screenwriter. Any time I worked with a friend, it was because we both got lucky.

This led to some of the most wonderful experiences of my life. The Colour Society “era” was defined by extreme highs and lows in my personal life, mostly due to me, but the parties and events, games and trips (and trips haha remember Burning Max? Good times), I will never regret.

The entire Colour Society was always changing and growing, people coming in and out, as all friendgroups do. I love everyone in this picture, though some of them now have a less favorable opinion of me. I recognize and am accountable to the way’s I screwed myself out of their lives. Some of them are still around though, and are among my most enduring and closest friendships, even though I don’t throw parties anymore and I’m in a position to help exactly nobody with their career. (We also have a cute version of this picture where everyone looks great, but I can’t find it. So it’s the murder version.

In hindsight, and after the shaming, I found out many of the people who were close to me were using me in some way. And why wouldn’t they? After all, I was literally offering everything for free. After a lifetime believing I’d grow up as the loser emotionally unstable kid of a director from the 80s, I had found friends, love and success. I sabotaged all three of those in various ways, but many of the people from that era are still in my life.

The main rule of the ball is that you had to dress up to get in. Dress up as ANYTHING, just dress up. People would show up in normal clothes, and not be let in, and then complain bitterly on twitter. Uh, guys, the parties had two open bars, multiple live performances of disco bands, the Grilled Cheese Truck, tacos, facepainting and hairbraiding. It’s all out of my pocket. Be an adult. Grow up and put on this clown costume or you can’t have any more free tequila.

Some of them feel they have to pretend like they’re not my friend in real life, for fear of being attacked themselves. They tell me about queasy conversations with the friends who turned their backs on me, where fondly reminiscing about the coolest shit ever now leads to a chill in the air, like mentioning my name aloud will summon me like I’m Jewish Candyman.

No one in my life in the last 5 years is scared of me. They know who I am, because they know me. No one who was there would describe The Colour Society as a cult, or me as a “cult leader.” Despite my success in the industry and family name, the Colour Society was built on friendship. I had no control over anybody.

The idea is ridiculous on its face. I got literally dumped by my girlfriend at one of my parties. People confronted me constantly when I’d done something that hurt or offended them. It was part of what helped me grow, and to become a better friend. I had no power over anyone in the group, whatsoever, and never punished or threatened reprisal or threatened anyone’s career.

Jewish Candyman swervin’ on’em at one of my New Years Bashes.

The reason no one’s stood up about this isn’t about fear of reprisal from me. That isn’t who I am. They are scared of the people who hate me. Most of whom do not know me. There’s definitely a really intense division amongst these people that’s fractured the group even further. I hate that, but it’s where we’re at, and I’m glad everyone is trying to move on with their lives rather than dickering and fighting about who is allowed to be friends with who. It all feels very young to me these days.

Despite not being a cult, it did, however have a downfall.

The last Ball. Appropriate picture; a glimpse into my future.

Thanks in part to an influx of new people via the burgeoning Los Angeles Youtube and Cosplay Community, and due to my own mistakes and failures in relationships, the group slowly fractured into gossip and cliques; I’ve seen this happen with other large friend-groups of people in their twenties, and it happened to me and my friends too. I participated in this full-on, because I was emotionally immature and an unbelievably messy person.

I get it. It’s hard to want to go to a guy’s parties when he cheated on your friend, or was an asshole to you randomly, or your ex is still being invited to everything, etc. My friends described my role in the group as a “Summer Camp Counselor.” I barely even did that, because I was too busy having fun.

Okay listen I know this looks culty but the reason that guy is lifting me is because he’s a wrestler and we thought it would look cool and IT DOES OKAY

Around this time there was also a lot of more generalized resentment against me in Los Angeles, especially in my personal life. Screenwriters and film fans online bitterly resented that the obnoxious son of a famous director seemed to be getting all the accolades they felt they deserved, but beyond that, people were mad they weren’t invited to the parties.

A photo from one of the Big Fancy Balls. I believe this was when “shout” played. I wanted a place where people could actually just go nuts and dance all night as silly as they wanted, that wasn’t a douchey nightclub, a promoted party or a houseparty. So I created one. And it was glorious.

I had more than one bizarre confrontation with people who demanded invites to parties, despite having tweeted negative things about me or having been rude or even creepy to one of my friends. These people would then use this to prove I was an asshole, as though not wanting to buy them free drinks and host them at a party where I’m going to be on mushrooms was somehow unfair to them.

The constant conflict in my life, and ultimately, losing two of my closest friends because they were so sick of my shit, led to a personal awakening and me getting back into therapy heavily, getting medicated, etc. But for many people, that was too little, too late. And for some people, nothing would ever be enough. My outsize personality, bombastic behavior and manic energy made me a great party host, but it also made me, to a certain type of people, the most annoying asshole in the world.

Every year we had a tradition called GHOST PATROL where I’d rent a party bus halloween weekend and we’d just hit 10 parties in one night going buckwild crazy the whole time. I believe we did more damage than Katrina.

This resentment built, and ultimately by the time I was publicly shamed, the Colour Society had in many ways been split back down into smaller friend-groups. At the last party, I was embroiled in like ten different dramas, most of which I’d started, and there were people I didn’t know there, riding on the ferris wheel I rented and playing in the ballpit.

Famous people who were treating it like an industry party. Just what I had always dreaded.

The friendships I made with talented people in this time led them to collaborate with me on my weird passion projects, which gave a sense of purpose, fun and creativity. Making little crews and shooting weird little movies wasn’t something people were pressured to do; again, even the people who hate me now have fond memories of their work with me.

But where were my friends? Most people don’t understand that the shaming isn’t what “changed” me. What changed me was realizing I’d destroyed several of the closest relationships in my life with consistently self destructive behavior. The fun vibe was gone. Maybe we were just getting old, but a lot of it was my own fault. I was on my way to recovery and trying to change my behavior already about two years before the shaming, albeit clumsily.

Wizard Weekend. “Bro they’re a cult they rent a house in Malibu and play videogames all day and dress up as wizards and they’re literally just drinking beers and chasing around a balloon”

People often compared me, in the bad-actual-book-way, not the Cool Hustler Meme Instagram way, to the Great Gatsby. The aloof, manic clown circulating, having short, kooky interactions, doing psychedelics and dancing my ass off. But always a little lonely, and always a little unhappy, generally because I’d created more stupid drama.

I’m in my late thirties now. My life has changed drastically, but I’ve kept the friends that really matter, and made a lot of wild new ones, but I no longer have a “friend group.” I think some of that is just growing up; social circles and habits shift and change as you get older. I still love to dress up and go out and have fun when I can, but for as many good times I had at parties in my career, and as many good memories I have, I’m grateful to have changed a lot since the Colour Society days.

the great gatsby meme at The Ball 2015. no one at the time realized I’d for real end up face down in a swimming pool.

You might be wondering why I’m writing this now.

Recently, this “cult” narrative has resurfaced, in the ugliest way possible. Someone has been trying to sell the story of The Colour Society, and has been posting about it on Reddit. It was shown to me by more than a few people, and, though I usually try not to engage, I realized that most of my friends who were actually there, who were potentially being portrayed as characters in a story in which they were seduced by or villainous members of an evil cult, deserved better than that.

She says she “changed the names” but posting this was a huge mistake, because you literally are admitting it’s about me, which means it’s actual slander. If this is the person I think it is, they did not know this group of people pretty much at all.

It took very little CSI detective work to figure out who the person behind this script is. I haven’t been able to confirm it yet, but them spontaneously showing up to comment in the reddit thread is extremely suspect. I think I know exactly who wrote this, and I think there’s even a chance the script doesn’t actually exist. The script claims to be about a “female film student” who “enters the cult.”

The only “female film student” ever to be at Colour Society parties is still my friend. But: They are actually the other person the likely author has been harassing for years.

The only person who fits the description of a 22 year film-student who was my friend in those times called me about this post. She had a separate friendship with the OP has been harassed by this person for years, without ever interacting with her. Now she has written an entire script about my friend, now in her thirties and a successful person in the industry, and me. Literally the script is a fan fic based on someone she hates. Funnier still: this person, who the protag is based on, barely even came to any of the Colour Society stuff. She was and is a friend of mine.

If you look in the reddit thread, you can see both their main account reply to the post, as well as a sockpuppet account they made that day to attack anyone who was grossed out by the idea of the script existing. Their language and references on this account would seem to confirm their identity, which means they are posting under three different accounts in the thread.

Here’s the sockpuppet, all of its posts are about me, and it really

This behavior is not uncommon. It is not a person who was at more than three Colour Society events, and a person who has also stalked and harassed one of my other friends, and continues to harass them to this day.

Here’s the original poster of the script. Also shortly before posting. This is an attempt to drum up hatred towards me and my former friend with the purpose of getting attention. I literally used to do this on a wrestling forum, where I’d pretend to be a girl. Literally I’d just post about wrestling and shit but it said female in my bio, etc. My early twenties were really strange.

Years ago, she began to tell anyone who would listen that I was “obsessed” with her, and would claim that I had created a bizarre stalker website that she clearly had created herself. I am actually not alone in this experience of her. This person believes many in Hollywood are “out to get her.”

This someone I haven’t spoken to in maybe 8 years and have never physically touched, and someone who only came to about three Colour Society branded events (a nerfwar, a drinking game she let us do at her house for some reason (she didn’t play and wasn’t pressured to), and a new years party). Her concept of it affecting her career is invented. Most of the people who used to go to the Colour Society Parties wouldn’t even know who this person is.

And on top of that, I don’t believe I was ever in a room alone with this person. Ever

This person is now attempting to not just clout-chase a cancelled guy by appealing to a community that is excited to hate him but actually forward the narrative that the friend-group was an actual cult, and this is over the line.

It was a group of incredibly nice people, some of whom were social climbers or sycophants, nutjobs and weirdos, but all of whom I don’t regret meeting.*

The fact that this person is being indulged by reddit, and is sending their script, which portrays the Colour Society as an abusive cocaine cult centered around a diabolical mastermind, to real producers and agents, is hot steamy bullshit with dog barf all over it.

I’m amazed that multiple people are defending me in the thread, but that probably has to do with me posting it with a tongue out roll eyes emoji on my private instagram. Do people still say finsta? Is Instagram still a thing? I’m old, dude.

Literally the only rule of the Colour Society parties was “no cocaine.” I stopped inviting this person to things because she was always sneaking in cocaine. My opinion of cocaine has changed over the years. My opinion of her unfortunately hasn’t. This is a person not just maligning me now, not just maligning my friends, but maligning people who have nothing to do with me.

I’m speaking up about this, rather than any of my personal allegations, because as I understand it this script portrays other people in an awful light. Many times I see the Colour Society talked about as being “complicit enablers” of my toxic behavior.

This is an “oof” take. The reason the parties stopped was literally my friends confronting me about my toxic behaviors. These were independent, smart people who were not afraid to challenge me or call me out on my bullshit. In hindsight, yes, there were sycophants and users in there too, people who though friendship with me would “get them something,” but they never stuck around long, and they’re certainly long gone now.

Whatever they think of me now, even amongst my worst detractors and the people who have the most valid beef with me, I believe 100% that if you were to ask them, they’d say no. Cults have leaders, rules, and emotional control, they control your behavior and your personal life with brainwashing and threatening of dire consequences.

The Colour Society was a brand name for parties I threw for a friend-group of people in their twenties that had a Golden Age and then fell apart mainly due to relatively normal 20something millenial drama, most of which was caused by me. They helped me make a video called “The Slap” that got 17 million views. It was everyone slapping each other, and it was the cultiest shit we ever did, and oh my god, was it a wonderful, fun experience for everyone involved.

This was unbelievably fucking fun and a crazy moment in my life.

I didn’t monetize the video because I thought it would be wrong to make money off my friends hitting each other. I never asked for people to pay, for anything, and I never asked anything from them that wasn’t just another way to have more fun.

I loved these people, in this time. We’ve all moved on, but I remember them, even the ones who are gone forever and apparently don’t care if I get murdered, fondly. I hope someday we either make peace or forget each other completely. But none of the were “cult” members.

It sickens me to see a delusional liar who was barely involved in that period of my life continue to find ways to harass me, and now involve my closest friends, and even people I used to know who wouldn’t want to be associated with me in any way. I’m not going to name her, because I don’t want her to be harassed. People in the industry are already aware of her and who and what she is, and this isn’t a script that can or will sell.

I always have said “Hate has a life of its own.” Seeing this person, who in person could not convince a drowning man to catch a life preserver, manipulate the existing online hatred of me to harass others makes me want to fucking scream.

But what doesn’t these days?

Thanks for listening.

*Okay full freight I do regret meeting one of them, but I don’t wish ill upon them.

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Max Landis

I am a writer who is pretty tall but not very tall.