Posted on July 31, 2009 by givingcityaustin
It’s hard to write a thoughtful reaction to a film that left me so emotional. And I wasn’t the only one. There were quite a few beefy guys walking out of the theater with puffy, watery eyes last night, too.
But “Happiness Is” by Austin’s Andrew Shapter will do that to you. It’s not that it’s a sad film by any means. In fact, it’s pretty hilarious. Shapter interviewed some characters, for sure. The woman who admitted to thinking that happiness could be found in a solid-surface countertop sticks in my mind. (HINT: It can’t.)
What it is is hopeful because the message is this: Happiness is within your reach. It’s not something to strive for, it’s something you find within yourself. For proof, Shapter talks to happiness historians (they exist), scientists, and anthropologists. They’ve done the research and can pinpoint exactly when most Americans stopped being happy. (HINT: Rampant materialism, duh!)
Then, to further prove his point, he interviewed an incredible mix of people from all over the country – men, children, immigrants, scholars, artists, musicians, comedians, old people…. Though they all get there differently, eventually they all come to the same conclusion.
There are a couple of things you should know about the film:
1. It’s going on a screening tour around the country, and they’re paying for that tour with the support of generous sponsors. If a quarter of the population in America saw this film, it could change this country for the better. Seriously. So if you can swing the DVD, buy it here: http://www.happinessisthemovie.com/blog/shop/
2. The film is being used to raise money for the sponsoring nonprofit. In the case of last night’s screening, the nonprofit beneficiary is Mobile Loave & Fishes, the organization that takes food out to the homeless and is run by the incredible Alan Graham. (He’s featured in the film.) You can support that organization here.: http://www.mlfnow.org/site/PageServer
There were hundreds of people at this screening last night. I wonder what they’re thinking today.
More from GivingCity -
Giving City Magazine has written an article on Happiness Is. Below is the full article and you can also download the entire article here.
THE SECRET TO HAPPINESS IS…
A new film asks one of mankind’s most profound questions – and gets the answer.
by Monica M. Williams
After Andrew Shapter finished the film, “Before the Music Dies,” a critical look at the popular music industry, he wondered aloud about the focus of his next project. “Before the Music Dies” had taught him everything there was to know about the music industry, he says, “So I told people my next film had to be about happiness. It was kind of a joke at first.”
But the idea took on its own life, and soon Shapter found himself once again traveling to the far corners of the country to talk – to anyone who was willing – about happiness. “I’d just walk up to them and ask them what their ‘pursuit of happiness’ is. Some people knew right away. Others didn’t know what to say.”
Shapter didn’t have the answers either, but an introduction to Alan Graham, he says, “triggered a dramatic twist that would lead to a definitive ending” for the film.
Graham is a founding member and president of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, an Austin-based nonprofit that takes meals out to the homeless and working poor. On that particular trip, Graham took him on a lunchtime truck run to the downtown library. “It was a real cold, wet, miserable day, I remember,” says Graham. “Usually the homeless move in there to stay warm and dry. They shot all the footage of us in that single truck run. I think (Shapter) got a lot out of it.”
In the video clip, Shapter shows Graham and volunteers making plans in the food pantry area, loading the truck, driving to the Austin downtown library, and handing out food to homeless men. Graham talks about his journey– how he was a successful real estate broker who started asking the tough questions in life and found himself investing everything he had to create MLF. The nonprofit is now in four states and enlists 12 catering trucks and almost 10,000 volunteers a year.
It can be said that Graham is not exactly an ordinary person. “If there were a Fortune 500 for the world’s happiest people,” he says, “I’d be at the top of that list.” His decision to relinquish his wealth in favor of service to the homeless is what led to that happiness, he says. “I run into people all the time that say, ‘I wish I could do what you did,’” says Graham. “When people witness someone like me who has made such a radical change in their life – and now happiness is such an intrinsic part of my life – that impresses people.”
What Shapter found, after interviewing dozens of people from children to accomplished and wealthy businessmen, was proof that achievement, wealth, and fame don’t lead to happiness. Giving to and supporting a cause you believe in, he says, does.
He refers to a statement made by Mother Teresa, sainted for sacrificing her own well being for the sake of the extreme poor of that city. “People need to find their own Calcutta. The people who are happy in this film all have their own causes,” says Shapter. “The message is that you need to find your own cause, and give.”
For Shapter that cause is Capital City Kids, a nonprofit that helps homeless kids in Central Texas obtain the resources they need to succeed in school. (In Austin, more than 4,000 students pre-K through high school are homeless.) “When I saw the reaction from people after the initial screenings, I thought maybe people were being touched by the film. So I made a request at the end of one screening here in Austin for donations to Cap City Kids, thinking I’d raise about $1,000. Turns out we raised more than $10,000 that night.”
That same night, a person affiliated with the Obama campaign was in the audience, and is now working with Shapter and C3 (producers of the Austin City Limits Music Festival) to build a model for the film’s distribution. This summer, the team will enlist sponsors to take the film on a 40-city tour that will engage local charities and turn screenings into fundraisers, with Shapter selling DVDs of the film at those events.
“What I found then is that when people get over their egos, they generally stop doing whatever it is that is keeping them from being happy,” says Shapter. “They stop comparing themselves to people ‘above’ them and start looking around at others. Then they start to help.”
Shapter on Happy, Texas
“I was shocked to see the the small towns deteriorating. We have these mass migrations to the big cities – like Houston, Miami, and Phoenix – because people are leaving these tight-knit communities where everybody knows your name. And it’s sad.
“There was this woman in Happy, Texas, whose husband died, and that caused the whole town to come together and take care of her, support her through that time. But then that widow moved to Dallas and joined a support group for widows; there she met another widow who lived in Dallas when her husband died but said none of her neighbors even knew her. That broke her heart.
“You know, our country is a nation of immigrants; we are people that believe success and wealth lie somewhere else. So it’s in our DNA. It’s why young people move away from home. “What’s remarkable is that new immigrants are the ones re-making these small communities and keeping them alive. I think young people will continue to move away and take that journey, but what’s going to happen is that they will always get called back.”