Back to IndieWire

“Happiness” Director: “Our parents’ experimentation with drugs and free love were hardly a secret

"Happiness" Director: "Our parents' experimentation with drugs and free love were hardly a secret

In this drama directed by Adam Sherman, a young man realizes the shortcomings of the Utopian ideals on the commune where he was raised. Strand Releasing will open “Happiness Runs” Friday May 7 in New York followed by Los Angeles the following week.

One part Woodstock and one part “Lord of the Flies,” this semi-autobiographical film tells the story of Victor, a neglected child of parents living on a commune. Helpless to resist the atmosphere of sex and drugs that permeates their world, Victor and his promiscuous girlfriend are also smart enough to know that if they are ever going to survive in the real world, they will have to get out. As smart and sexy as it is unnerving, “Happiness Runs” is a cautionary tale about freeing yourself of social constrictions. [Synopsis courtesy of Strand Releasing]

“Happiness Runs”
Director: Adam Sherman
Cast: Mark L. Young, Hanna Hall, Jesse Plemons, Laura Peters, Shiloh Fernandez, Andie MacDowell, Rutger Hauer
Screenwriter: Adam Sherman
Producer: Stephen Israel
Cinematographer: Aaron Platt
Composer: Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek
Editor: Jonathan Alberts

Director Adam Sherman on what brought him to filmmaking…

I honestly don’t know why I write stories or make movies, but I always have. When I was a very small child, I vented these urges by telling my friends wild stories about dump trucks full of candy being delivered from my grandmother, or far away islands at the bottom of the world that I visited with my dad. It wasn’t long before I realized that this was called lying, and that the other kids did not like my stories. As a result, I started quietly writing my “lies” down. It was more of a lonely process, but I have been doing it ever since.

Soon, I discovered video, and I realized at an early age that friends were eager to get back involved in my mad little tales. If I pointed a video camera at them, they would say whatever I wanted and do whatever I said. I could put them in great danger, cause them to grow angry at one another, or watch them fall in love; and so began my career in filmmaking. As an adult, what started with childhood lying manifested itself into partially autobiographical writing and filmmaking. I use basically the same process, it comes from the same desire and ends up as a story for people to see and hear.

How his own unorthodox upbringing influenced “Happiness Runs”…

In the case of “Happiness Runs,” I am trying to come to terms with complex issues related to my unorthodox upbringing. In many ways my childhood was idyllic: I was creatively encouraged, free of constraints, while living in some of the most beautiful countryside in America. And I most certainly felt loved. Our parents’ experimentation with drugs and “free love” were hardly a secret; they thought this environment would open our minds and free us from the psychological limitations of the society in which they had been raised.

Yet as children, we were exposed to adult concepts before we were equipped to properly process them. In retrospect it’s hardly a surprise that by adolescence, we were spinning dangerously out of control. Although the film is based upon real experiences, it’s not a perfect reconstruction of events; I have tried to distill the story down to the key elements that shaped that period of my life. So the film ends up being part autobiography and part cautionary fairy tale, and it is my hope that we can all learn a little from my experiences.

On his approach to making the film, and some tidbits on challenges and inspirations…

My approach to filmmaking is that I instruct my cinematographer to point the camera at the actors. Once he signals to me that he’s rolling, I say action. This always takes place after casting and prior to editing.

The challenge was completely internal. “Happiness Runs” manifested itself from dark times in my life and recreating it for the screen wound up being an even darker experience than living through it the first time. I highly recommend that people let go of negative past experiences and simply get on with their lives.

Movies don’t help me make films. I don’t like modern movies and I don’t watch television. I base my films on life and am inspired by philosophy, religion and literature.

And his next project…

I’m shooting a movie right now. It’s called “CrazyEyes.”

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Features and tagged

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox