The Happy Film

The Happy Film is a feature-length documentary in which graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister undergoes a series of self-experiments, outlined by popular psychology, to test once and for all if it’s possible for a person to have a meaningful impact on their own happiness.

About the film
The Happy Film takes a look at the strategies serious psychologists recommend to improve one's personal well-being and overall happiness. The questions “Is it possible to train our mind in the same way that we train our bodies?” and “Can we change our behaviour to make us happier?” will be answered in this highly visual documentary. Designer Stefan Sagmeister will try out a long list of various strategies – from the sublime to the ridiculous –and report back on the results. Experiments and explorations will be loosely based on Stefan's book ‘Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far’. The maxims within this book will serve as access points to a larger exploration of happiness, it's cultural significance, our constant pursuit of it, and its uniquely ephemeral nature.


The Experiments
The core happiness experiments stem from Jonathan Haidt's book ‘The Happiness Hypothesis’, in which Haidt identifies meditation, cognitive therapy, and pharmaceuticals as the major ways in which individuals significantly alter their well-being. Our documentary will test these various methods during three three-month experiment periods. Stefan will undertake each method, while being closely monitored by our production crew. During these experiments, the production team will work closely with a group of health professionals who can properly assess Stefan's happiness, and the way in which his well-being changes as a result of his experiences. Our health partners will assess Stefan prior to the experiments, as well as participate in occasional check-ups during the course of our 9-month study.

Q. Why a documentary about happiness?
A(Stefan). Even though I normally don't particularly enjoy quoting other people, I'll answer this question with a quote anyway - this is from the 17th century philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal:
"All men seek happiness. This is without exception. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. This is the motive of every action of every man, even those who hang themselves."
That's why.

Q. What is it you want to convey to the audience of the film?
A. I'll try out various strategies psychologists recommend that should improve my well-being. In the best case scenario, someone in the audience might feel that one or the other strategy might work for them and will try it out. I don't think that watching the movie will make you happier, though. Or smarter. It wont stop you from entertaining awful thoughts under the shower in the morning.

This project is currently in production, and will continue shooting throughout 2011/12. The estimated release date of this feature is autumn 2012.

Co-Directors: Stefan Sagmeister, Hillman Curtis
Poducer: Ben Nabors
Script: Stefan Sagmeister
Cinematography: Ben Wolf
Editor: Hillman Curtis