I arrived in San Francisco in September 1974 after driving up from Los Angeles. Richard Davis our camera assistant and I towed a u-haul with Kevin’s 16mm 8-plate Steenbeck editing table. Kevin left it with me for a year. Deirdre Carrigan was my partner in life at the time. She hired a company called “Hi-Energy Movers” to carry the machine to my new editing room. Deirdre had found an ad for the movers in a local newspaper or on a bulletin board.
“Hi-Energy Movers” were Lilly and Tom and their friend. Three mellow people. So mellow their appearances raised doubts about their abilities. Anxiously I watched them lift Kevin’s heavy expensive equipment. It still makes me chuckle to recall nineteen-year old Lilly pregnant and showing: Halfway up the stairwell to my second floor office she lowered her corner of the Steenbeck and rested against the wall. Lilly was out-of-breath which amplified the genuine curiosity in her voice: What’s your film about?
I gave a brief explanation because it’s never been clear to me what a documentary is about until the work is finished. Nor do I like talking about the film with strangers. I told Lilly pretty much what I had written to state officials a year or so earlier to request permission to film inside the institution. This is “a documentary about life on a locked ward from the point of view of the patients”.
That was enough for her. Lilly started to talk matter-of-factly about her past experiences as a mental patient. Stigma didn't seem to cross her mind. If Lilly was the hi-energy outspoken component of the company then her husband Tom was the thoughtful ivy-league educated mover. Months later the two of them and their newborn Miranda became our roommates.
Their real passion was a guerilla theatre group called The Proud Paranoids. One evening NAPA sponsored a public appearance of noted author Dr. Thomas Szasz before a packed audience. He wrote the books The Myth of Mental Illness and The Manufacture of Madness. The Proud Paranoids interrupted Szasz’s talk with a satirical skit about an expert lecturer who secretly recites a mantra to gain higher fees for speaking to audiences. The spoof was taken in good humor.
Professor Szasz later wrote:
“Every conscientious American has a moral duty to know the truth about psychiatric imprisonment
called ‘mental hospitalization’, and chemical strait-jacketing called ‘drug therapy’. The makers of
Hurry Tomorrow deserve high praise for an outstanding cinematic as well as ethical achievement.”
If “Hi-Energy Movers” had not moved me into my editing room it’s unlikely that I would have ended up working with NAPA to promote the film. Likewise their political and self-help movement may not have grown so rapidly around the country as it did by finding voice through our film. And a major pharmaceutical company competing with the manufactures of Thorazine may not have offered us a quarter of a million dollars to change the content of Hurry Tomorrow. They wanted us to shoot additional material to favor their new drug. I didn’t consider the offer.
Sometime during the editing of Hurry Tomorrow Lilly, Tom and their baby moved to Oregon. Following the premiere in San Francisco they scheduled screenings of the documentary in the northwest.
“Startling and intense…NAPA members from San Francisco will hold a discussion after
the film… the discussion after the film should be enlightening…”
Emerald, Jennifer Blumberg, December 2, 1975
“As frightening and affecting a documentary as you may ever see…”
Willamette Valley Observer, December 1975
“…as if the film were made in collaboration with Ken Kesey and Joseph Heller…
the patients are manipulated into dull conformity, and the doctor’s statement sounds
almost precisely like the rationale given Yossarian in Catch 22 for sending everyone
on combat missions. Only sane men can be sent, and if you ask not to go, you’re clearly
sane and have to go.”
Oregonian, Portland, Ted Mahar, December 19, 1975
Meanwhile across the country in Pennsylvania:
“Manhood is pre-empted and the degradation is total among humbled men in the ward.
“Hurry Tomorrow” is absolute and unflinching and its raw power is sustained by its
concentration on what is rather than what can be.”
Philadelphia Inquirer, Desmond Ryan
November 13, 1976 Read more…