Filmmaker Tim Samuels has spoken out about his visit to one of ‘dating guru’ Julien Blanc’s seminars. He tells Suzanne Baum about his unusual experience.
On a boiling hot afternoon in February, film director Tim Samuels joined hundreds of other men at a seminar given by the controversial American ‘pick-up artist’ Julien Blanc.
What stood out initially for Samuels was not the so-called advice that Blanc was dishing out on how to attract the opposite sex but the mere fact that several hundred men had chosen to fork out thousands of pounds to attend what had been labelled the ‘weekend boot camp’. “At the time, it felt pretty extraordinary to see hundreds of guys sitting down with their notebooks jotting down tips on how to pull,” Samuels recalls.
“It’s kind of strange, if not a little creepy, that pulling should get reduced to a science. But these men seemed to swear by it and some of them even talked of their lives being changed for the best.” The same can no longer be said for Blanc, who is 25 and who, following accusations of promoting sexual assault and a social media campaign that led to more than 158,000 people signing a petition on Change.org against him, has been banned from the UK for his sexist approach.
“The idea of teaching men a method to win over women is kind of debatable,” adds Samuels, who is from Manchester and now lives in Crouch End. “There was nothing I saw from Blanc on the weekend I attended the seminar which felt like it crossed a line, but the allegations out there refer to stuff which is shocking if true.
“The Home Office must have some pretty compelling evidence actually to exclude someone from the country.” Unlike the other participants, 39-year-old Samuels was not at the Miami seminar to learn about Blanc’s methods on how to attract women.
He was attending as research for his TV programme Tim Samuels: The Hunt for Real Men, which was broadcast on America’s Biography channel in June. “I was making a documentary about the state of men today and thought it would be interesting to understand what a male dating guru did,” Samuels explains.
“It just seemed intriguing that men were paying good money learning how to talk to women, so I decided to check out what actually went on in one of Blanc’s seminars.”
On a personal note, I ask Samuels if he picked up any useful advice from the seminar, but he claims he didn’t: “Not a lot! I was too busy watching to see how the American guys were taking to the course.”
He continues: “It reconfirmed my sense that British men do need a few pints before they attempt any of this super-confident stuff that Blanc’s seminar was trying to instil in their American counterparts.”
Having wanted to be a film-maker since he was 13 years old, Samuels has had a colourful and impressive career. He started out as a trainee for BBC news before becoming an investigative correspondent for the flagship programme Newsnight and then moving on to make documentaries.
“The best part of my job is that I’m creating programmes that have a positive effect on people’s lives or perceptions about an issue,” he enthuses. “When I took a bunch of lonely pensioners into the pop charts (they were called the Zimmers), that really felt like it had an enduring and real impact for them.”
Samuels is also a regular voice across BBC radio, presenting documentaries on Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live, and fronting the Men’s Hour magazine show.
Much of his work contains a humorous undertone, a trait he claims was picked up partly from his years spent in the RSY-Netzer youth movement while living in Bowden in south Manchester. “Although I was sent to cheder – that was a form of weekly torture that I’m still trying to block out – most of what I now know about Judaism came from going on RSY summer camps,” he points out.
“The RSY people are like me and go for the more meaty stuff – based on the programmes we used to write in camp about serious things but in an entertaining and confident way.”
As for confidence, it didn’t seem to come in too handy when Samuels was sent to try to put Blanc’s dating tips into practice during the Miami seminar. Did they work, I ask? “I was pretty hopeless when it came to my turn at giving it a go in Miami,” he admits.
“I learnt that Mancunians who mumble don’t really cut it when trying to talk to models in Fashion Week. I have to say that chatting up strangers on the street is not really my thing.”
Getting back to the things he is passionate about, Samuels is now working on several new documentary ideas, including a programme about Romanians coming to the UK and a Men’s Hour New Year special.
“Making documentaries where I really feel I have made a difference is the best part of my job,” he smiles.