The Baffling Filmography of Robert Shinn from Netflix’s 7M TikTok Cult Documentary

Taken ripoffs, Road House cameos, and a literal princess - the work of 7M's Robert Shinn goes far beyond TikTok.

7M's Robert Shinn getting served papers in a hot pot restaurant in the Netflix docuseries Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult
Photo: Netflix

Not much is publicly known about Robert Shinn, the elusive and mysterious founder of 7M Films and the pastor of Shekinah Church – as seen in Netflix docuseries Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult. Indeed, Shinn seems to prefer to stick to the background and let the talent assembled by his agency get all of the attention. 

Founded by Shinn and son Isaiah Shinn, 7M Films is not the biggest talent agency in the world, or the most successful, but it might be one of the most viral. 7M traditionally has not been looking to boost working actors to new heights, but to tap into a talented community of self-motivated dancers, singers, musicians, and performers who have the skills necessary to go viral on TikTok with a little help from 7M. However, viral videos and brand partnerships aren’t Robert Shinn’s first attempt at getting a taste of Hollywood glory.

Shinn, who is believed to have grown up in Canada and graduated from the University of Toronto, established Shekinah Church in 1994, ostensibly as a way to enrich the lives of Korean and Korean-American people in California’s bustling Asian community. However, Shinn is far from a soft-spoken pastor; this is a man with big dreams, both for his church and for himself. Shekinah’s website boasts a goal of saving one billion souls, either directly or indirectly, by finding and teaching ordinary Christians into being “mighty generals of God.” Shinn also had the desire to turn himself into a Hollywood power player by using the lucrative income stream from his many side-businesses, like a real-estate business and a flower shop, to become a film producer. 

The first of Shinn’s ventures into Hollywood was with Imaginating Pictures, which Shinn founded with his third wife Shirley Kim in 2008. Shinn and Kim jumped wholeheartedly into the low-budget movie game, producing films beginning with a short called Angry Asian Man in 2009, Their latest release (as of the time of this article’s publishing) is 2018’s Abducted starring Scout-Taylor Compton of Rob Zombie’s Halloween fame and Michael Urie of Ugly Betty fame. But that’s not what’s most eye-catching about Robert Shinn’s production slate.

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Taken clones aside, the most interesting Imaginating Picture is, without a doubt, 2013’s Random Encounters (a.k.a. A Random Encounter in the U.K.). Why was this movie re-relased with revised cover art in 2018? Why are stars Abby Wathen (best known for soap opera The Bay) and Michael Rady (best known from the two Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movies and lots of network TV like Chicago Med and Magnum PI) buried in favor of highlighting the party-girl best friend and sidekick Mindy? Well, Mindy has gone from being a bit-part player to being a member of the most famous royal family in the world. 

That’s right, Mindy is played by none other than the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle. 

At the time, Markle was just another struggling actress looking for a big break. She had been working in the industry for years at that point, and had booked one-off TV episode appearances and the occasional movie role, most notably making out with now-disgraced Russell Brand in 2010’s Get Him to the Greek. By the time Random Encounters was released in 2013, Markle was best known for playing Rachel Zane in Suits. When Random Encounters was re-released in 2018, Meghan Markle was a literal princess. 

The movie is forgettable at best. Markle breezes in as the wild-child roommate/best friend to Wathen’s struggling actor Laura. Laura has a meet-cute with Rady’s screenwriter Kevin in a coffee shop when she spills a couple of hot drinks on him, and then the shared obsession begins as the two of them try to reconnect in one of the largest cities in the world. Easier said than done, as every attempt by the two to reunite goes awry while Markle’s Mindy offers up quips and charm as Laura’s sounding board. Were it not for a few scenes of saucy language, some implied canoodling, and Mindy’s revolving bedroom door, it’s essentially a Hallmark movie shot in Los Angeles, for good or ill. 

In many ways, the Shinn method used in the production of Random Encounters is the same modus operandi he has as the owner and mastermind behind 7M and his TikTok dancing empire. Someone who already has some modicum of fame—most of the 7M clients were already noteworthy in their field—and figured out a way to get a piece of that action. In this case, when Meghan was getting popular for her role on Suits, she was given bigger billing on the key art. When Meghan became one of the most famous people in the world, the movie was re-relased with her participation emphasized. 

In other words, Shinn took an artist with some cachet and focused on the business side of things to try to make a profit using that cachet. Robert Shinn’s son Isaiah was involved in the production of Random Encounters in various behind-the-scenes roles. Shinn’s daughter Kloe Julynn had multiple appearances on the soundtrack. He couldn’t turn his daughter Kloe into a pop star or his son Isaiah into the next action movie star, so he pivoted. 

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It’s the same play book that has made 7M Films a million-dollar company just based off of brand partnerships, commercial appearances, TikTok videos, and the occasional movie role (James and Miranda Derrick, two of 7M’s biggest stars, recently appeared in Amazon MGM’s remake of Road House as featured dancers). He might have given up on Imaginating Pictures, but lawsuit filings indicate that Shinn still has multiple production plates. Studio on the Mount Inc., who shares facilities with Shekinah Church, was recently terminated as a business, but 7M Films and its artists have over 11 million social media followers across various platforms and are still producing viral dancing videos. 

Shinn continues to be involved in Hollywood, through both 7M Films, and through son Isaiah’s short films and music videos. Even facing a lawsuit by former members of Shekinah Church and the 7M roster, his many interests continue to be active, albeit with a lower profile after the release of Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult. Perhaps the self-titled “Man of God” might give his old acquaintance the Duchess of Sussex a call for his next big project. 

All three episodes of Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult are available to stream on Netflix now.