Director Zach Merck’s newest short film explores the concept of “happiness” in a modern world.
Since signing on as one of our new directors, Zach Merck has definitely kept himself busy with everything from commercial work to passion projects, and today we’re excited to share the latter. Zach recently wrote, directed and released his own short film entitled “Happy,” which explores the concept of “love” in today’s technology-enriched world. Inspired by the song “I Hope You’re Happy,” written by his friends Blue October, he took the unconventional route to creating a music video. The result? A unique “mash up of sci-fi, romance, and comedy” or what Zach refers to as “a 1980s-ish short film that is like if John Hughes had a baby with Ex-Machina.”
Enjoy the short film, and enjoy a short Q&A we did with Zach!
At what moment did Blue October’s “I Hope You’re Happy” inspire this?
One of my favorite projects that I ever directed was a music video for Blue October’s song “Into the Ocean” about ten years ago. Justin Furstenfeld and the band called me up asking if I would be interested in making a music video for their newest single “I Hope You’re Happy.” I came back to them with the idea that instead of a classic music video, what if I created a short film for them in its’ place? I had a short film idea about a lonely computer programmer who has recently lost the woman he loves…and after he discovers a broken AI robot in his garden, he rebuilds and programs her to take the place of his lost love. I listened to the single, and realized that the lyrics related to my film idea – for me they breathed new life into the concept. Then it all came together quickly – the lyrics of the song are actually the lead character’s narration throughout the film! I also knew that Justin Furstenfeld, lead singer, could act…so suddenly it all came full circle with additional layers of personality and meaning for the both of us.
What made you want to go the sci-fi route?
I’ve always been attracted the darker elements of science fiction and horror, which is funny because so much of my film and commercial work is light comedy! “Happy” is a very personal project for me, and because I had the freedom to essentially create what I wanted to make from scratch, I decided to step into the genre that has always inspired me the most – science fiction. As a filmmaker I am very comfortable working with sci-fi ideas because it’s they are my favorite stories. You can essentially “do whatever you want” because you’re playing with social commentary that is rooted in reality through make believe scenarios. Who wouldn’t want the perfect companion robot? I think my natural comedic sensibilities creeped into the situations and dialogue.
What does the short film (or you) have to say about love in today’s world?
“Love” as a concept and phenomenon cannot be defined – we all know this. The way we find “true love” – a partner – changes with every generation, of course. When I was thinking about what I wanted to say with this story, the very current age of social media dating – swiping left or right, matchmaker websites, Snapchats and Instagrams – is already very different than ten years ago. For me, it’s all kind of overwhelming at times – and somewhat “plastic” and removed. In this film, I took the current social media fueled approach of “finding love”…thought about this lonely character I created in my head…and started to really riff on the idea that “if you could build the perfect companion, versus deal with the current dating climate, would you do it? And would you be happy?” He goes for it, but as with all relationships, even the perfect scenario, the backstory of the “partner” comes along to bite him in the ass. In “Happy”, the resolve is that our lead character Justin is able to have one full day of perfect happiness with the perfect partner before she is taken away from him…and he is cool with that.
What was your favorite part of working on the short, or what was a memorable moment?
I love the filmmaking process. I’ve been doing this a long time, and I have a loyal team that rolls with me from project to project. My team knew how much I wanted to make this short film, so they pulled out all the stops. Everybody brought fresh ideas to the table, and we worked together as a squad to bring the vision to life. That means the world to me as a filmmaker.
To see more of Zach’s work, check out his reel.