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Can you make a movie while having mental illness? Bud Clayman is doing it. Will making a documentary about your mental illness change your life? Maybe.
Mental illness interrupted his dream of a filmmaking career. Thirty years later, he’s making the movie of his life. Bud Clayman is one of films’ most unlikely heroes. This is a personal story with universal relevance—a wildly original documentary of pain and vulnerability, empowerment, and Bud’s quest for belonging.
Throughout his youth, Bud’s future was filmmaking. After college in Philadelphia, he headed to Hollywood in search of a break. Instead, he had a breakdown. As mental illness struck, it stuck. When distress and isolation set in, the diagnoses followed. For eight years, Bud lived in a therapeutic community.
Without waiting for his illness to vanish, Bud has reclaimed his quest as a filmmaker. As his camera chronicles the ups and downs of recovery, we also see the experience of what he calls “the fight inside my head.” Behind the lens, a parallel journey unfolds as Bud the Director grapples with the challenges of making an incisive, highly personal documentary—a movie that he believes will transform his life.
Through video diaries, Bud reveals eye-opening glimpses of his inner world, including OC87, an altered state of mind named by Bud and his therapist. “My mind becomes filled with intrusive thoughts that over-analyze every action and idea,” he says. “As my awareness becomes dominated by themes of control and mental commands, OC87 causes me to lose touch with not only my feelings, but also social connection.” It also gets in the way of ordinary living: riding a bus, getting in an elevator, unclogging a drain. As a long standing struggle, OC87 is embedded in Bud’s pent-up confrontation of a former mentor—a moment that‘s been brewing for thirty years.
When problems hit the fan, Bud sometimes feels defeated. More often, he draws strength and skills from therapy, humor, and relationships. Even so, he feels different, and the stigma of mental illness is fierce. Curious about the roots of healing and recovery, Bud’s journey unfolds. He talks with a psychologist (Jon Grayson, PhD) about his current OCD and Asperger’s problems. After visiting his former residential treatment program, Bud criss-crosses the country to connect with a psychiatrist who had Schizophrenia (Dan Fisher, MD-PhD),
a television daytime drama star with Bipolar Disorder (Maurice Benard, General Hospital), and a radio news anchor with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (Jeff Bell). The arc of Bud’s story also includes his parents, whose sharply different views of their son affirm a common struggle—and an uncommon love. On the romantic front, Bud goes speed dating at a local bar. Weeks later, a creative urge sparks him to write (and later star in) a campy sci-fi episode about an inner duel—a conflict familiar to each of us.
Meanwhile, directing this documentary film stretches Bud in ways that ultimately recast his quest. From the shadows of suffering, a portrait of imperfect courage emerges—a testament to acceptance, change, and hope.