Tom Shadyac is a writer/director/producer of some very funny movies like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (with Jim Carrey), The Nutty Professor (with Eddie Murphy) and Bruce Almighty (with Steve Carrell). But my favorite film of his is a documentary entitled I Am, in which Shadyac asks some of today’s most profound thinkers and doers (scientists, religious leaders, environmentalists, philosophers) two questions: What’s wrong with the world, and what can we do about it?
The Shift Hits The Fan
What caused Shadyac to shift from talking butt cheeks in Ace Ventura to a film about human connectedness, happiness and the human spirit? It was a cycling accident that left him with severe injuries, from which he ultimately recovered. Shadyac’s brush with death motivated him to want to share with the world what he’d come to know about the ultimate emptiness of the “swimming pools and movie stars” life he’d lived in Beverly Hills.
Shadyac came to realize that owning multimillion-dollar homes filled with expensive belongings and flying on private jets didn’t make him happy. He sold his homes, gave away many of his possessions and downsized in a major way. He now operates under the philosophy of using only what you need.
While that approach may seem revolutionary, I Am underscores the fact that nothing in nature takes more than its share Man is the only creature that does that. Many cultures throughout history have viewed taking more than you need as a form of insanity.
In an interview with Esquire magazine, Shadyac explains that the shift he underwent has made him “unquestionably happier”:
“The word contentment comes from the word content, which is what we hold inside – love, value, a feeling of a life that has a meaning or purpose, a cause greater than yourself that you’re a part of. These are the things that bring true happiness. As a culture, I think we need to redefine what it means to be happy.”
“I’m not trying to tell anybody how to live. After my accident, I didn’t want to die with these ideas buried inside of me, so I felt compelled to make this movie to share what I had come to know. Hopefully, if it touches people in some way, they can consider their own lives and how it may affect their walk. I want to be part of the solution. But no pressure.”
I Am isn’t just about owning less stuff. It explores the interconnectedness among all living things, and the fascinating science that underpins and explains how what we do every day, how we treat people, matters. Without giving away any surprises, some of my favorite scenes involve random number generators being impacted by human emotions, and Shadyac’s negative emotions affecting bacteria in a bowl of yogurt.
Take some time (1 hour and 16 minutes, to be exact) from your busy schedule to watch I Am. It’s a beautiful, funny and inspirational film. You’ll be a better person for having seen it. Here, in three parts on You Tube, is Shadyac’s amazing documentary, I Am:
What parts of I Am did you find the most impactful or memorable?