Adina Istrate: Burn your bridges with reality


A guest post by filmmaker Adina Istrate.

Terminally Happy is set in a not-so-distant future where pollution and the perpetual lack of sunlight have set in motion an alarming wave of suicides, a group of scientists is appointed to produce an emergency bereavement drug to curb the epidemic. In an attempt to solve the crisis as well as self-medicate, the protagonist creates a chemically-induced interactive experience meant to alleviate the pain of the mourner. However, he also inadvertently destroys his relationship with reality in the process. The film discusses the ethics and ramifications of tampering with the natural course of the healing process and applying a “one size fits all” solution to a hypothetical psychological pandemic.

The project was selected for two development labs: the EuroConnection Co-Production Market in Clermont-Ferrand and the Berlinale Short Film Station. Subsequently, the script received a production grant from Film London, through their 2014 ‘London Calling’ scheme. Giannina La Salvia, the film’s producer, initiated a partnership between our London based company ToyBox Films and DUOfilm of Bergen, Norway who secured regional funding from Vestnorsk Filmsenter, making it an official UK/Norway co-production.

Terminally Happy

Alistair Mackenzie and Emma Campbell-Jones

I had a wonderful time working with lead actors Alistair Mackenzie and Emma Campbell-Jones and learned so much from them. They both had a very acute understanding of what was, at least on paper, a puzzle of emotions; disjointed layers of time and fractured memories. Playing husband and wife, Alistair and Emma had a particularly tough job. Alistair had to be both fully immersed in an exchange with Emma, while being aware that the experience is just a drug-induced illusion. Emma, on the other hand, had to both live in his summoned memory as if it was real, and behave as a projection who gradually becomes aware of her purpose.

Emma Campbell-Jones and William Stagg in Terminally Happy

Emma Campbell-Jones and William Stagg

Much of my projections for this fictional world are based upon our fragile present tense and the reality of climate change. Given that the foundation for this story world is both delicate and cautionary, approaching this project in the most sustainable manner was inherently built into our ethos as a production. Our commitment to produce Terminally Happy sustainably earned the film a 2015 Observer Ethical Award nomination for Most Sustainable Film Production.

BTS: Terminally Happy

BTS: Terminally Happy

BTS: Terminally Happy

BTS: Terminally Happy

Now that it has reached the end of its festival run, I want to share Terminally Happy with online audiences and hopefully engage them with my upcoming films. I am currently developing a film script on the topic of space exploration and the impact of deep space travel on the group dynamics of astronaut teams, as well as a TV drama set in a future where genetic engineering redefines the concept of family. Innately curious about how people process and/or construct the reality they are experiencing, through my work I seek to illustrate how our urge to create and transform the world surrounding us is a manifestation of our need to deconstruct and understand ourselves.

Follow Adina on Facebook, Twitter – @outlandfilm and @ToyboxFilms – and on the web – and Find out more about Terminally Happy on Facebook and Twitter. Find out more about Adina’s upcoming feature Eve on Facebook , Twitter, and on the web.


About Author

Adina Istrate

Adina is an award-winning writer/director and co-founder of ToyBox Films. A London Film School graduate with a background in writing for television, she is currently in development with 'Eve', her debut feature. Shortlisted for the Sundance International Screenwriters’ Lab, the project has received support from the Venice Biennale College Cinema 2015/2016, the Wellcome Trust and EAVE and participated in the 2016 edition of the IFP No Borders Co-Production Market.

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