based on a true story
ABOUT THE FILM
Happiness Runs, the sophomore feature from director Adam Sherman, confronts head on a hangover of free love and rampant drug use lingering well past the hippie 60s. Loosely based on experiences from Sherman’s own youth, the film is a stylishly conceived consideration of the boundaries of hedonism and the dangers of a world where personal pleasure is the first consideration.
A young man named Victor realizes the shortcomings of the Utopian ideals on the hippie commune where he was raised. Victor’s mother is funding the commune where the guru Insley hypnotizes and seduces women with a technique he calls “running.” Insley manipulates the minds of these women so that they give him their bodies and all their worldly possessions. Victor’s childhood love, Becky, returns to take care of her deathly ill father. Victor, haunted by visions of Becky’s death, is desperate to save her and himself by escaping from the polygamous cult. Preoccupied with Insley’s free love philosophy, the adults of the community overlook the painful reality that the self destructive behavior of their children is most certainly due to early exposure to sex and drugs. To afford an escape, Victor tries to sell weed but is cut out by rivals competing for Becky’s affection. Finally, Victor is torn between getting money from his mother who is entirely under Insley’s influence, dealing with the violent drama of his drug-addled friends, and staying to save Becky as she spins out of control.
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.
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.