Personal History Summary
Michael Sellers is the son of a U.S. Army officer who died in 1972 while serving as a Vietnamese-speaking Province Senior Advisor in Nin Thuan, Province, Vietnam. Michael attended the University of Delaware on a football scholarship, graduating Magna Cum Laude and achieving the status of National Finalist in the Rhodes Scholarship competition in 1975, his senior year of college. He went on to the New York University Master of Fine Arts in film-making program, then relocated to California in 1977 where he spent two years working in film production and as a writer, followed by 8 months as an environmental activist with Greenpeace in San Francisco, where he became the National Communcations Director for Greenpeace America and took part in multiple anti-whaling voyages on the Rainbow Warrior in the Western Pacific.
In 1979 Michael was recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency as a member of the Clandestine Service. He served as an undercover operations officer from 1980 until 1990 with assignments to Warsaw, Poland; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Moscow, USSR; and Manila, Philippines. During his 21 months in Moscow he handled a number of sensitive operations and agents including Sergey Vorontsov, a senior KGB officer. On March 10, 1986 Sellers was arrested during a clandestine meeting with Vorontsov and was subsequently expelled from the Soviet Union after briefly behind held by the KGB at Lubyanka. Voronstov was tried and executed. It was later established that the arrest was the result of information provided to the KGB by Aldrich Ames, the American CIA officer who was later arrested as a Soviet “mole” and is now serving life in prison.
After Moscow with his cover no longer intact due to press exposure associated with the Vorontsov case, Michael took an assignment to the Philippines where his status as an intelligence officer was “declared” to the new Aquino administration and Michael was placed in liaison with Aquino’s former chief of staff to help re-establish democratic institutions after fifteen years of martial law under Ferdinand Marcos, and to combat an aggressive communist insurgency as well as right-wing elements of the military intent on destabilizing the Aquino government. Michael served in Manila from September 1986 until January 1990, a period that encompassed 7 coup attempts against the Aquino government as well as the assassination of four American military officials in two separate incidents by Communist insurgents. In December 1989 a major coup attempt resulted in Aquino urgently requesting U.S. military assistance on the morning of December 1, 1989. The request was passed from Aquino to her former chief of staff, and through the chief of staff to Michael who served as the major link between the Philippine and US governments as urgent plans were worked out whereby the U.S. government flew air support which suppressed the rebel capabilities and turned the situation in favor of the Aquino administration. On December 3, with the initial coup attempt faltering, rebels took over a number of apartment buildings in Central Manila, including the building in which Michael was operating and where he was looking after the wife and elderly mother of Aquino’s chief of staff and speechwriter, Teodoro Locsin, Jr. On December 7, with the building still held by rebel forces, Michael effected the safe extraction of Locsin’s wife and mother. Michael was awarded the Intelligence Commendation Medal for his efforts to help preserve the Aquino administration and, with it, democracy in the Philippines. Michael elected to resume his career as a creative professional soon after the December 1989 coup attempt. His CIA work has been written about in a number of non-fiction works by respected journalists covering intelligence and security matters including Moscow Station and The Spy Who Got Away by Richard Kessler, and The Main Enemy by Milton Bearden and Pulitzer Prize winning NY Times journalist James Risen. The U.S. intervention in the Philippines in December 1989 is described in detail in Bob Woodward’s The Commanders.
In 1991 Michael left the CIA an relaunched his career as a writer and filmmaker. His first step on the journey back to film-making was to create Pacwood Films, a Philippine based production company, under which label he produced three domestic Philippine movies, then began undertaking co-productions with international film companies, starting with Rage (1993), which he co-produced with Menachem Golan, and Fortunes of War (1994) starring Martin Sheen, Michael Ironsides, and Haing Ngorr. Michael’s first film as writer/producer was Goodbye America (1997), a film about the final days of the US Navy in Subic Bay and the effect off America’s long association with the Philippines on the people of that country. Goodbye America starred Michael York, James Brolin, Alexis Arquette, Rae Dawn Chong, and Corin Nemec and was distributed in the United States by Buena Vista and HBO. Still in the Philippines, Michael produced Legacy (1997) starring David Hasselhoff and Rod Steiger, and Doomsdayer (1999) starring Udo Kier and Birgitte Nielsen.
In 1999 Michael’s daughter Michelle, then 9 years old, developed extreme scoliosis that could not be treated in the Philippines and so in 2000 Michael, his wife Rena, and daughter Michelle relocated to Los Angeles where Michelle underwent a series of operations at Shriner Hospital which ultimately reduced her spinal curvature from 90% to 18% and allowed her to achieve a normal appearance and activity. Michael continued his film career in Los Angeles. In 2002 he wrote and directed Vlad, a historical horror-adventure film shot on location in Romania with a cast that included Billy Zane, Brad Dourif, and Francesco Quinn, and which won multiple Best Picture and Best Director awards at various horror/ fantasy film festivals. He followed that in 2005 with Karla, a true crime drama based on the court transcripts from the murder trials of Canada’s most infamous serial killers, Paul Bernardo and his wife and accomplice, Karla Homolka. Starring Laura Prepon, Misha Collins, and Tess Harper, Karla played the festival circuit in 2006 and was released in theaters in the US on January 12, 2007. In 2006 Michael wrote and directed Eye of the Dolphin starring Carly Schroeder and Katharine Ross Eye of the Dolphin won 13 major awards including Best Picture, International Family Film Festival; Best Drama, USA Family Film Festival; and a Special Presentation from the Alfred Sloan Science Foundation at the Tribeca Film Festival. He then then directed Beneath the Blue, starring Paul Wesley, Michael Ironside, and David Keith. Beneath the Blue was an official selection in a dozen film festivals including the Hollywood Film Festival and the Monterey Oceans Festival.
In 2009 Michael learned that a fundraising group which he had hired in 2007 for Eye of the Dolphin and Beneath the Blue had been the object of a justice department since 2006, before the had retained their services, and now he was included as a target of the investigation. Michael stopped all fundraising on behalf of his feature film slate and cooperated fully and immediately with the justice department in the investigation. Michael has experienced serious legal consequences as a result of this situation, and has fully accepted responsibility for failing to ensure that the fundraising undertaken on behalf of his movies was legal in all respects. The investigation is ongoing.
Michael continues to generate media and creative assets for the intended benefit of the investors. His creative output in the aftermath of the events described above include one completed book, John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood, an iPad HD App that is currently available from the iTunes App Store, a second App in progress, a documentary in progress entitled The Life and Mind of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and a special commemorative 2 Disk DVD et entitled 100 Years of Tarzan and John Carter. He has also completed the novelization of the Award Winning Eye of the Dolphin, and is working on a novel, The Last American, about a CIA officer inserted into Afghanistan in the days after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Michael is married to Lorena Llevado and lives in Burbank, California. He has four grown children, Patrick, Pilar, Kaitlyn, and Michelle.