The Shocking True Story Behind Netflix's “Dancing for the Devil”

7M Films is behind a slew of viral dance videos — and allegedly behind a "cult"

<p>Michael Tullberg/Getty</p> From left: James Derrick and Miranda Derrick attend the Los Angeles premiere of "The Shift" on November 27, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

Michael Tullberg/Getty

From left: James Derrick and Miranda Derrick attend the Los Angeles premiere of "The Shift" on November 27, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

The new Netflix docuseries Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult, which premiered on May 29, examines the Shekinah Church and 7M Films, both spearheaded by Robert Shinn.

Robert and 7M Films came under increased scrutiny in 2022, when dancer Miranda Derrick and her husband, James, became estranged from Miranda's family. Miranda's sister, Melanie Wilking, and their parents released an Instagram Live video claiming that Miranda was in a cult and being deliberately kept from speaking to or seeing them.

Since then, other families have come forward, as well as former dancers for 7M Films and former members of the Shekinah Church, with allegations against Robert and the organizations. Their accusations range from sexual abuse to financial misconduct, labor violations, alienation and coercive control — all of which Robert, his associates, 7M and the Shekinah Church vehemently deny.

From the formation of the Shekinah Church to the allegations made against Robert and his organizations, here's the true story of Netflix's Dancing for the Devil docuseries.

Robert founded the Shekinah Church in 1994 and tried to be a film producer

<p>Courtesy of Netflix</p> Melanie Lee and Robert Shinn in 'Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult'.

Courtesy of Netflix

Melanie Lee and Robert Shinn in 'Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult'.

The CEO of 7M Films, Robert, founded the Shekinah Church in 1994. Robert, a former doctor who grew up in Canada and graduated from the University of Toronto, expanded Shekinah in 2000, moving from Santa Fe Springs, Calif., to Norwalk, Calif.

In addition to serving as founder and pastor of Shekinah, Robert produced his own TV show called The Millionaires Club (later retitled The Billionaires Club) and films like Random Encounters and He's Way More Famous Than You. However, Robert had little success in this arena. Some former members alleged in Dancing for the Devil that Robert had tried getting 7M members in the entertainment industry previously as actors and singers but failed to break through.

According to Business Insider, Robert's son Isaiah Shinn ultimately made 7M a force. Isaiah began filming dancers for their social media channels and launched his own production company, HiFreq Films, in 2018.

7M Films found success thanks to dancers on social media

<p>Michael Tullberg/Getty</p> James Derrick and Miranda Derrick attend the Los Angeles premiere of "The Shift" on November 27, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

Michael Tullberg/Getty

James Derrick and Miranda Derrick attend the Los Angeles premiere of "The Shift" on November 27, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

In 2021, with many dancers facing mounting bills and a lack of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Isaiah and Robert launched 7M Films, a management company and means for dancers to create and release videos for social media and supplement their incomes. Through 7M Films, Isaiah, Robert and the company provided hair styling, makeup, wardrobe, cameras, crews, equipment and mansion backdrop settings for dancers' social media content, with Robert's wife Hannah Shinn — whose Shekinah titles include "Woman of God" and chief financial officer — managing dancers' bookings and schedules, according to Business Insider.

Members of 7M Films and the Shekinah Church have seen success that can be rare for the cutthroat dance industry, especially in Los Angeles. Some performed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, others in the 2022 Super Bowl Halftime Show with Dr. Dre, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg. Members have booked commercials for brands including McDonald's and Toyota, and many have lucrative social media endorsements. Members James and Miranda Derrick even appeared as dancers in the 2024 Jake Gyllenhaal Road House remake.

Despite their viral success, however, some dance industry experts have questioned 7M's credibility. One choreographer told Rolling Stone that she allegedly DMed with a 7M dancer and that the conversation was always directed to their manager, who didn't seem knowledgeable on the industry. "She was asking for the rates and I was like, 'It's standard SAG rates,' and she was like, 'What are those?' " the choreographer, who requested to remain anonymous in the story, recalled. "That's what agents and managers would know, like off the top of their heads."

In Dancing for the Devil, former Shekinah and 7M members claimed that Robert exerted some control over their content, having them dance to classic and oldies songs like "September" by Earth, Wind and Fire, and encouraging the male dancers to dress up in suits for their videos. The appearance requirements for women in 7M were even stricter, Business Insider reported, with many being encouraged to cut their hair into short blond bobs and a priority allegedly put on thinness, exercise, dieting and fasting.

Though Shekinah staff, Robert and Robert's ex-wife and former business associate Shirley Kim are all listed in 7M Films corporate filmings, a representative told Business Insider, "7M and the church are run and operated as separate entities apart from each other."

7M and the Shekinah Church has been accused of being a "cult" and isolating its members

<p>Courtesy of Netflix</p> Priscylla Lee and Melanie Lee in 'Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult'.

Courtesy of Netflix

Priscylla Lee and Melanie Lee in 'Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult'.

Several family members and friends of 7M dancers have expressed concerns that Robert, 7M and the Shekinah Church are controlling its dancers and isolating them from their loved ones.

The most well-known example is Miranda Derrick, whose family released a video in February 2022 alleging that Miranda wasn't allowed to speak to or see them for close to a year at that point. Miranda, whose younger sister Melanie briefly joined 7M and the Shekinah Church but left within months, denied the allegations and said their estrangement was not at the control or coercion of anyone else. In a statement to Rolling Stone, 7M also denied the Wilkings' claims, noting, "Miranda Derrick is a successful businesswoman and a loving wife and daughter who cares very much about her family. It is pathetic and contemptible to try to turn her private family matters into a tawdry public scandal for clicks and clout."

The Wilkings bonded with the parents of another 7M dancer, Nick Raiano, who claimed they experienced similar alienation from their son. In Dancing for the Devil, Raiano's parents, Migdalia and Lawrence, said that they visited Nick after not hearing from him for more than six months, though he wouldn't meet them. Former members in the docuseries alleged that Robert discussed the Raianos' visit during services and, in one sermon, encouraged followers to meet with their families to "get undercover" and cut them out in ways that the families may not realize. Allegedly after this sermon, Nick agreed to meet with his parents.

He hugged his mother in a photograph, which Migdalia wept about as she recalled it. "Just being able to look at him and touch him, my instincts were telling me he was being very mistreated," she said.

Former members Kylie Douglas and Aubrey Fisher-Greene told Rolling Stone that while they weren't expressly prohibited from speaking to loved ones outside of the Shekinah Church, their "mentors" and Robert "discouraged" members from doing so. Other former members also reportedly told Business Insider that starting in 2006, the Shekinah Church employed "internet monitoring" and that they were told to give their passwords to their mentors and higher-ups within the organization.

Members of the Shekinah Church were also ostracized by one another, Business Insider reported, with former members alleging that the congregation would be instructed to ignore members who weren't earning enough money for the church or who committed any number of transgressions, which could range from using too much toilet paper to badmouthing the church. "Someone is always watching you," one former member alleged. "If you said anything that opposed them, it would get back to them somehow."

A representative for Robert denied his involvement in such a system and told Business Insider, "These allegations are false and defamatory. At no point has Dr. Shinn isolated anyone, restricted anyone's diet, required anyone to run, or had control of anyone's bank account."

At least three former members accused Robert of sexual misconduct, which he denies

<p>Courtesy of Netflix</p> Melanie Lee in 'Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult'.

Courtesy of Netflix

Melanie Lee in 'Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult'.

Ex-7M dancer Kylie Douglas alleged that after suffering from back pain, Robert offered to crack her back for her, and that she believed that he was a "Man of God" and could potentially heal her, she said in Dancing for the Devil. Instead, she claimed, he began thrusting his hips at her from behind. She has since filed a police report accusing him of sexual battery.

Other accusers told Business Insider that Robert frequently asked young female congregants for massages, during which he'd be nude or ask them to disrobe. Robert denied the allegations, saying in a statement, "Two congregants offered to massage Dr. Shinn, not at his request, because he was in pain. There was no nudity or inappropriate touching."

Sisters Melanie and Priscylla Lee opened up about their experiences in the Shekinah Church in Dancing for the Devil.

The sisters, who were estranged from their father as children and say they were often left alone while their single mother went out drinking and partying for days, initially embraced the structure and belonging they felt in the Shekinah Church as teens. They claimed that while the Church started out warmly, eventually, members were forced to live together in a house, cut off from one another, and would have to get approval for whatever they did and wherever they went.

Melanie and Priscylla said that no matter their age, they had to go to bed at 10 p.m. and be awake by 5 a.m. and had to go to church at 6 a.m. to pray daily. All of their activities would have to go through supervisors called "mentors," and members would "tell on" each other to their mentors, who would then report to Robert.

Melanie, who left the church in 2011, recalled in the documentary that during a sermon while she was a member, several young women barged into the church and accused Robert of sexually assaulting them and coercing them into sexual activity by promising them a "Woman of God" position in the church. The women, she claimed, didn't know Robert was married. According to Melanie, Robert made it sound like the women "seduced him" and he asked his congregation for forgiveness.

Melanie claimed that after the incident, Robert made sexual advances toward her and told her she had to "pay [her] price" like everyone else did and that he was allowed to have mistresses. Melanie and a friend made a plan to leave the church within the next 10 days, but during that time, she alleged that Robert gave her just three days to contemplate having sex with another man in the church. Melanie told her friend what happened and that she had to leave immediately, and her friend came to the house with a baseball bat while she loaded her car with her possessions. Melanie wanted to take her sister Priscylla with her, but Priscylla refused to leave because she thought she'd go to Hell if she did.

After Melanie left the Shekinah Church, Priscylla alleged that Robert told her that Melanie was cursed. He then allegedly began grooming, sexually abusing and coercing Priscylla. "I hated it," she recounted in Dancing for the Devil, "but I felt the need to repent." Priscylla said that she got physically ill following her sexual experiences with Robert, and he told her that being with him was "purifying" her and that's why she was vomiting, which convinced her to be with him more. According to Priscylla, this abuse continued for a decade.

Priscylla revealed in Dancing for the Devil that after Robert married a woman named Hannah in 2022, Hannah began harassing Priscylla and that it eventually escalated to physical assault. Priscylla said after the attack, Robert came into her room and said that Hannah did nothing wrong. It was that day, Priscylla said, that she realized she'd "rather go to Hell than stay." She eventually filed a police report about the abuse she allegedly suffered.

Robert has vehemently and repeatedly denied all allegations of sexual misconduct, with a representative telling Business Insider Robert "has never inappropriately touched a congregant."

7M and the Shekinah Church have been accused of financial misconduct

<p>Courtesy of Netflix</p> Robert Shinn in 'Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult'.

Courtesy of Netflix

Robert Shinn in 'Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult'.

In Dancing for the Devil, Melanie Lee alleged that Robert would put young members to work and would take most of their money, employing them at businesses including a café, a flower shop, a mortgage brokerage and a real estate company.

Priscylla worked for the real estate company and said she never received commissions for her sales, claiming in the docuseries that she wasn't permitted to touch the money in her own bank account. She said a "mentor" named Hannah gave her a checkbook and made her sign all of the checks, which were then written to Robert and his family's accounts. According to Priscylla, regardless of their actual earnings, most Shekinah Church members only had $100 per week at maximum for their own use and in their own possession — and that she only had $80 every two weeks.

Business Insider reported that it spoke with 10 former Shekinah and 7M members, who also said that Robert had them give him access to their bank accounts and that at times even married couples only had access to $15 per week. These members alleged that Robert's sister and second-in-command, Catherine, would often write checks from their accounts without their consent. A parent of a member said that their son called to ask them for a password for his Roth IRA that they'd established for him when he was a teen, and that when they checked the account next, it had been emptied. Other parents said that their children's savings accounts, some with balances as high as $80,000, were cleaned out after joining Shekinah.

While dancers and influencers with 1 million or more followers can get an average of $5,000 per sponsored post, The Cut reported in 2022, in Dancing for the Devil, former members said that 7M took a large chunk of their income: A 20% management fee, which is "pretty standard," Kailea Gray said, plus an additional 10% to the church, another 10% for the "Man of God" (Robert) and another 10% earmarked as an "offering."

After Priscylla finally left the Shekinah Church, it took her months to see Melanie again after being convinced that Melanie was cursed. The sisters were wary of one another at first, but eventually began working together in a years-long effort to sue Robert for financial misconduct, which they documented in Dancing for the Devil.

Ex-7M dancers Aubrey Fisher, Kevin “Konkrete” Davis, Kailea Gray and Kylie Douglas were also involved with the suit, which accused Robert, 7M and the Shekinah Church of taking and keeping most of the members' money, including charging dancer-endorsed brands for management fees and not paying them for their labor, according to Rolling Stone.

In the docuseries, it was reported that when the Shinns got wind of the impending lawsuit, Robert sued them first. He filed a complaint against a former church member in October 2022, claiming extortion and defamation.

No criminal charges have been filed against Robert, and he has denied any wrongdoing. A representative for Shekinah and 7M told Business Insider that in regards to unpaid labor, "If anyone has performed any work without financial compensation, then they would have volunteered or offered to do so as most human beings volunteer or help others at some point in their lives."

They've been sued and subjected to legal complaints before

<p>Courtesy of Netflix</p> Melanie Wilking in 'Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult'.

Courtesy of Netflix

Melanie Wilking in 'Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult'.

A woman named Lydia Chung sued the Shekinah Church and Robert Shinn in 2009, alleging that Shinn and the Church pressured her to give them $3.8 million in money and property, claiming they "exerted undue influence, mind control, coercive persuasion, oppression and other intimidating tactics." She accused Shinn and Shekinah of labor law violations and fraud, however the suit was unsuccessful.

Two years later, Jung Hee Lee filed a complaint with the California Labor Board against the Shekinah Church, The Cut reported, alleging that despite working full-time, she was only given $30 per week as an allowance because the church had full control of her bank accounts. She was awarded more than $9,000 in unpaid wages and damages.

For his part, Robert is also suing bloggers and social media influencers who've made allegations against 7M and the Shekinah Church, including Katie Paulson, who runs the Instagram account @withoutacrystalball. In the suits, Robert's legal team accuses the bloggers of defamation, which they've denied.

Miranda Derrick says she received death threats following the release of Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult

In a video posted on Instagram in June 2024, Miranda Derrick expressed feeling physically unsafe following the release of Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult.

"Before this documentary, my husband and I — we felt safe,” she said. “Now that this documentary is out, we feel like our lives have been put in danger. We have both been followed in our cars. We have received hate mail, death threats. People have been sending us messages to commit suicide. We’ve been stalked."

Miranda continued: “I honestly — I don’t understand how my parents and my sister thought that this documentary would help me or would help our relationship in any way."

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