When I started reporting my book about the rise and fall of Adam Neumann and WeWork—the most spectacular I.P.O. collapse in American business history—there were a seemingly endless number of kooky leads I wanted to track down. There were the stories about Neumann’s pre-WeWork baby-apparel business, clothes kitted out with kneepads to enhance crawling comfort (fun fact: Sarah Palin dressed her son in one of Neumann’s rompers at the 2008 Republican National Convention); his relationship to Jared Kushner (Neumann beat him at arm wrestling—twice); and a story about how Rebekah, Neumann’s wife, micro-managed the rock band at WeWork’s elementary school.

But the thing I wanted to find most of all was a copy of “Awake,” a short film the Neumanns self-financed in 2010, the year WeWork was founded. Rebekah, who is Gwyneth Paltrow’s cousin, was trying to make it as an actress at the time. She played the lead role alongside a star-studded cast: Rosario Dawson, Sean Lennon, and Lynn Cohen. As I talked to early WeWork employees and found people who had worked on the crew, almost none of them had ever seen the final cut. All they could tell me was that the plot seemed to have something to do with meditation, that it was the most expensive short film they had ever worked on, and that Rebekah had been especially difficult to work with. The film seemed to echo WeWork’s rise and fall—it contained excess, celebrity, narcissism, and mindfulness, all packed into 15 minutes of screen time. “Let me know if you find it,” the assistant director told me.

Eventually, I did.

Neumann’s wife, Rebekah, got the lead role alongside a star-studded cast: Rosario Dawson, Sean Lennon, and Lynn Cohen.

In the movie, Dawson’s character finds her friend, played by Rebekah, in her apartment surrounded by pills and booze. Dawson drives Rebekah outside the city and tells her to take a walk in the woods, where she happens upon a tent. Inside, Sean Lennon is sitting cross-legged on a pillow, waiting for her. At one point, there’s a flashback to what appears to be New York on 9/11.

“Please, sit down,” Lennon says. “You have been searching your entire life—from religion to relationship, from sex to substances, from psychoanalysis to reality television—but the answer has been residing in you all along.”

The crew said that Rebekah, pictured here in character, had been especially difficult to work with.

“I don’t mean to be rude,” Rebekah says, tearing up, “but I don’t believe in God and spirituality and horoscopes. I just want the pain to go away.”

The film crew said it was the most expensive short film they had ever worked on.

“Fear is a source of all pain and suffering in this world, from every act of violence to every war,” Lennon says. “It’s fear that is poisoning you now.” He tells Rebekah to write down every thought and memory she’s ever had. Rebekah sits in front of a fireplace, cataloging memories while images from her real life—her childhood, her wedding to Adam—appear on-screen. When she hands them to Lennon, he tosses them into the fire.

“Listen, darling, every thought carries its own vibration,” he says, encouraging her to join him in a chant, at which point rays of light shoot out of her body.

“Who are you?,” Rebekah asks.

“I,” Lennon says, before snapping his fingers and sending the screen to black, “am awake.”

Sean Lennon, playing a guru to Rebekah’s character in “Awake.”

I didn’t know what to think of the movie when it ended, other than that WeWork’s eventual mission statement—“To elevate the world’s consciousness”—seemed to have been a long time in the making. And then to wonder: How on earth did this get made? The answer, of course, was money; the Neumanns had it, spent it, and made the film they wanted, with no one to tell them otherwise. Eight years later, WeWork lost $2 billion in a single year while pursuing the grand, world-spanning ambition Adam Neumann had for his company. It was possible to see the seeds of its collapse in a short film the Neumanns had made at the very beginning.

Reeves Wiedeman’s Billion Dollar Loser: The Epic Rise and Spectacular Fall of Adam Neumann and WeWork is out now from Little, Brown