Would you choose joy and dignity at the end of the world? Cam Caddell and Kendall Ruhnow of Bridge House Productions endeavor to tell a story of hope amid the bleakness and despair of the apocalypse with Happy Place. Happy Place tells the story of a found family who accepts a pill with potent chemicals, recreating their most joyful memories as they live out their last hurrah on Earth.
I recently had the privilege of chatting with Cam and Kendall about what inspired them to create Happy Place, what makes their project stand out from other dystopian films, what’s on the horizon for Bridge House Productions and their respective happy places.
Melody McCune: We at GGA love a good origin story. What’s Bridge House Productions’ origin story?
Cam Caddell: Our story starts where every good story should: a middle school theater production. We met backstage while doing Annie Jr. in the small town of Littleton, Colorado. It was a creative-soulmates-at-first-
Kendall Ruhnow: We learned how to write novels and scripts together and discovered a shared love of stories that root for the best in humanity. We founded Bridge House to tell those stories and those of other marginalized filmmakers.
MM: Let’s talk about Happy Place. Can you tell me what it’s about and what inspired you to write this story?
CC: Happy Place tells the story of a ragtag found family facing the very end of the world. They accept a pill with potent chemicals that recreates their happiest memories, choosing joy and dignity for humanity’s last hurrah.
KR: It was written as a way to process how we’ve handled the last two years of the pandemic. In the face of overwhelming fear, we had to learn how to choose the good things and the people in our lives.
MM: What makes Happy Place stand out from other films in the dystopian genre?
CC: For one, the story goes through the actual ending of the world, which is surprisingly uncommon for end-of-the-world movies.
KR: But it’s also rooted in very intimate familial relationships and a stubborn sense of hope. We don’t shy away from the heartache, loss and hardships of the apocalypse, but we maintain there is something stronger.
MM: Describe Happy Place using three words.
KR: Bittersweet, tender, heartbreaking.
MM: You mentioned you draw inspiration from HBO’s Euphoria for Happy Place‘s long-take style and hyper color, as well as Lady Bird for the nostalgic, warm-tone flashback sequences. How crucial are these visuals for conveying this story?
CC: The disparity between the two visual styles we play with is a large portion of the story’s emotional journey. The nostalgia of shooting with vintage lenses and playing with those warm tones for our flashbacks gives us insight into how far we’ve fallen and how far away these “happy places” are for our characters.
Leaning into that hyper-purple world of Euphoria for everything in the present timeline of the film is such a big contrast to those hope-filled memories that each of the characters is trying to get back to throughout the story.
MM: When this project is completed, what do you hope audiences glean from Happy Place?
KR: I hope to remind them they’re not alone. While the world is vast and everything we’ve had to confront these past few years alone can feel insurmountable, that’s why we hold onto the people in our lives. We’re meant to face these things together.
CC: Hope is not about controlling a happy ending. Hope is deciding who you are in the face of it all.
MM: If you both took the pill, where would it transport you? What’s your “happy place”?
CC: Reading on a rainy day while surrounded by people I love, with very good coffee or very good wine.
KR: Why not both?
CC: You’re right. It’s MY happy place! Don’t limit my beverage choices!
KR: My happy place would be in an old Italian library overlooking a vineyard or the comic con where I met one of my favorite voice actors.
MM: Is there a dream filmmaker you’d love to work with someday?
CC: Rachel Bloom.
KR: Mike Flannagan.
CC: Haha, we contain multitudes.
MM: What advice would you give aspiring creatives looking to break into the industry?
KR: For my writers out there, there’s one quote from my favorite author that I try to live by to this day: finish your stories, finish your stories, finish your stories. See them through to an end; I’ve learned a lot about how I view stories just by completing them.
CC: The best advice I’ve gotten as a creative is the reminder that you have something to offer, not something to prove.
MM: What else is on the horizon for Bridge House Productions?
CC: We’ve got a couple of projects in development, particularly a horror feature we’re jazzed about! We gained much of our Bridge House community online by talking about a sci-fi fantasy show of ours, Lucent, so we are excited to dig back into that story once production for Happy Place is wrapped.
MM: Have you binge-watched anything interesting lately?
KR: The Haunting of Bly Manor. Once again, Mike Flanagan makes me cry at a ghost story.
CC: Future Man. So good. So silly. I’m late to the game on this one!
MM: Since Happy Place is all about the apocalypse, what are your favorite dystopian films?
KR: My teenage self will always have a soft spot for Divergent, but I also have to second Don’t Look Up and A Quiet Place.