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My Boss, the Criminal Mastermind

Marc H. Simon | Director of "Unraveled"
Monday, 22 Oct 2012 | 5:49 PM ET

When I was a young associate working at the law firm of Dreier LLP, my boss, Marc Dreier, would often rib me. "Simon," he'd say, "you'll never be me, you'll never be me!"

At the time, I thought Dreier was referencing only his grandiose life as the jet-setting owner of the seemingly super-successful law firm he had founded.

But while interviewing him as the subject of my documentary, just three days before he faced sentencing for swindling nearly $750 million from clients, I asked whether his recurring jab was meant to convey a deeper message. Dreier said he had indeed intended the subtle forewarning, but I was unconvinced by his answer. (Read More: Diary of a Scam: The Fall of Power Attorney Marc Dreier.)

This uncertainty, and the complexity of the man at its center, is the foundation for what I believe makes "Unraveled" a uniquely compelling film. While verité scenes, archival footage, and graphic animation provide both factual and dramatic support, this is Marc Dreier's story told in his own words and through his own actions.

Yet Dreier's circumstances must brand him an unreliable narrator. He is a mega-fraudster — narcissistic and brilliant — who has chosen to cooperate in creating his own documentary portrait. As a result, "Unraveled" intentionally presents this fascinating man through his own transparencies and masks. The film does not rely on the opinions and characterizations of others.

My relationship with Marc Dreier is complicated by its history. For the six years prior to his arrest, Dreier was my boss, one who supported the growth of my law practice, and who endorsed my budding film career. I determined that my concerns about objectivity and the ability to challenge my former mentor were outweighed by the intimate access my relationship afforded.

How the Scam Began
Desperate to keep his law firm and extravagant life going, Marc Dreier turns to his client -- the affluent and demanding real estate developer Sheldon Solow -- for help. The problem? Dreier's client doesn't know he's helping out ... and it's all illegal.

Veteran cinematographer Bob Richman and I entered Dreier's apartment with two primary intentions each time we filmed over the course of eight weeks.

First, we remained respectful of Dreier for allowing us to share and capture those dwindling days of quasi-freedom, as he prepared for prison and spent precious final moments with his son.

Second, we sought to excavate the root causes that motivated Dreier's criminal path. We realized that Dreier might be unwilling to expose these truths — or that he might even be unaware of their existence — but this persistent and respectful push, we believed, would most fully reveal his character. In the end, we peeled back all the layers Dreier would allow — while others remained buried in the complexities of the man.

(Read More: White Collar 'Country Club' Prisons? Not So Much.)

The tragic irony of filming the downfall of my former mentor was never lost on me. During one of our interviews, Dreier questioned the role of the documentary filmmaker and the purpose that this film could serve. He proffered that the film could be analogous to the proverbial car crash — a tragedy that observers gain nothing from witnessing, yet view due to its fascinating spectacle.

I hope that "Unraveled" persuasively refutes this characterization — that it prompts reflection and dialogue about ethics, values, and decision-making in the current societal landscape. I also hope that it serves as a cautionary tale about the tragic consequences that result when greed and entitlement supplant moral responsibility.

Tune in:

"Unraveled" premieres Thursday, November 8th at 9p | 12a ET.

About the Filmmaker

Marc H. Simon is an award-winning filmmaker and leading independent film and television attorney. Simon created, wrote, and produced "After Innocence," which won the special jury award at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. His feature directorial debut arrived with "Nursery University," which premiered at Toronto's Hot Docs Film Festival and has been broadcast throughout the world. "Unraveled" is Simon's second straight directorial effort and his third as a producer. As an attorney, Simon has served as lead counsel for such acclaimed films as "Winter's Bone," "The Kids are Alright," and "Cave of Forgotten Dreams."

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