Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” Makes Me Happy!

Published On August 1, 2014 | By Mike Carroll | Filmmakers

(Okay, I’ll admit it–I can be slow to get on the bus at first. I don’t  catch on to some things–or many things–that, as my wife Bonnie has just told me, EVERYBODY already knows about. But I just discovered this information & this site today. I just think this is INCREDIBLY COOL and I want  to share it with anyone else out there who doesn’t know about it yet.)

I can’t remember when I first heard Pharrell Williams’ song Happy. I don’t listen to music on the radio. In fact, I don’t listen to any contemporary music. I live on a steady audio diet of podcasts from iTunes.

I really started noticing it when I was in Costco or some other store where the song would come up in in the background music. It sounded upbeat and instantly timeless. Then I just became abruptly compelled to find out just what this song was???

I know nothing about Pharrell Williams except seeing him wearing one of his hats at the Grammys and my wife Bonnie, who is hip to all kinds of music, told me, “He’s incredible. He’s huge!”

Cut to: A few days ago. I finally found out what this guy’s name was and how to spell it and typed them into YouTube’s search window. Up came his music video Happy.

I watched the video and found it—instantly likable. It’s the kind of song and video and that makes you smile and feel happy watching it.

The music video consists of Pharrell Williams walking and dancing towards the camera, which is:

–shooting in a widescreen format
–constantly backtracking on Steadicam
–filmed entirely using natural light–even the night scenes

and cross-cutting with all kinds of other people or also dancing to the song. ALL kinds of people. Young, seniors, little kids, all races, all ethnicities. People who can really dance. People with no rhythm whatsoever. Celebrities and even some people who possibly live on the street. Even little costumed characters called “minions” from the animated movie Despicable Me 2, for which this song was written.

I found a terrific article, attached here article profiling the making of Happy, about how the video was made.

–Shot over 11 days.
–Two days of shooting with Farrell Williams.
     –Shot on locations all over Los Angeles.
     –300 diverse people were cast to dance.
     –Each person or persons had one-take to perform. No retakes.
     –They performed the 4-minute song all the way through from beginning to end.
     –Some people were cast on-the-spot & given a chance to perform a video.
      –Filmed at locations all over L.A. with performers scheduled at 10-minute intervals.

(And I have to say – I lived in Los Angeles for a little over a year and—I love LA! Woody Allen loves Manhattan. I love, love, love Los Angeles.)

At one point during the video on YouTube a blurb appeared directing the viewer to the

I was hooked on the song and the video—and I wanted more—so I went to the 24 Hours of Happy. This is where the Happy project becomes incredibly cool:

Happy 24 hrs site 1

At 24 Hours of Happy all of the footage—all the performers’ one-takes takes were put together posted online. On the page is a dial like a clock. At the top of each hour is a take of Farrell Williams performing the song in a different location. Anything can happen. People can walk through the song, shake his hand, he may do an improv with someone he sees, it’s all free and loose. Some of it made it into the video. A lot of it, obviously, didn’t.

The 24 Hours of Happy means that enough 4-minute takes of the song with the over 300 different performers, including Pharrell Williams, to be able to run—for 24 hours!

The 24 Hours of Happy means that enough 4-minute takes of the song with the over 300 different performers, including Pharrell Williams, to be able to run—for 24 hours!

Happy 24 hrs site 2

On the dial, which is arranged as a 24-hour clock, you can scroll around the circle and see all the various takes. You can play one all the way through, or on the left and right are arrows. If you click on the arrow you will be taken to another take that is playing in synch with the take you were just watching. If you click quickly or to the beat, you could be effectively editing the song yourself. Very cool!

I think this is BEAUTIFUL. The people involved in the project are able to see everything they did, whether they made it into the finished video or not. Even Pharrell Williams’ performances are unedited—mistakes, fluffs and all. He’s putting himself out there the same as everyone else.

Nobody gets left on the cutting room floor here.

Lots of artists approach a project with an idea, but to see it fully realized and lived out like this is brave and inspiring. And, corny as it sounds—it makes me happy!

To me, the video of Happy is democracy of art.

Happy is the essence of America.

Everybody gets a chance to show what they can do. And everybody gets to see what they did and share what they did with others.

No one is left on the cutting room floor.

Until a few days ago I had no idea who Pharrell Williams was. Now I want to know more.

Let me say this one last time:

I love, love, LOVE this video Happy.

I love the idea behind it.

It makes me happy watching Happy.

And it also makes me proud watching the people in the music video of Happy.

For me, this video is America.

Thank you to everyone involved in Happy video and the 24 Hours of Happy project.

Thank you.


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About The Author

Mike Carroll joined the digital revolution in 1999 with a Sony TRV900 camcorder and Final Cut Pro, when it was only Final Cut Pro and not version 2, 4 or a Suite.

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