ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Fletcher McBracken (Brendan Fraser) is an eccentric street performer living in San Antonio, Texas. For as long as anyone can remember, the men in Fletcher's family have had dramatic midnight visions about women -- or rather THE WOMAN who would be their lifelong love. Then it's been up to them to go out and find her. After desperately trying to induce a vision by drinking excessive amounts of coffee and making a giant collage of women's faces -- Fletcher finally gets his vision, a flash of dark eyes, a striking brunette's face and the word, "Formosa".
Roz Willoughby (Joanna Going) is the woman who matches the face in Fletcher's vision. Roz is a former artist who has chased her dreams to Los Angeles, only to get lost in a sea of disillusionment and cynicism. Encouraged by her friend Elaine (Ann Magnuson) and armed with an evil sense of humor, she resorts to conning wealthy men in the world of Fine Art. We see her talents at work in an elaborate sting in which she cons a Argentinian polo player (Paolo Seganti). As Elaine tells her, "Don't worry, they always deserve it"... but Roz isn't so sure. She still has a spark of humanity left inside, but it's fading fast in the LA grind. Next, Elaine briefs Roz on her next "mark", a rich eccentric Texan she's supposed to meet at the Formosa Cafe in Hollywood.
On an L.A. layover as he heads to the island of Formosa (Taiwan), Fletcher spies an article about the "Formosa Cafe" in Hollywood. He goes straight to the bar. Fletcher knows as soon as he sees her that Roz is the woman of his vision. Roz mistakes him for "The Other Texan" (Texas musician Junior Brown in his first screen role). Somehow, Fletcher seems different to Roz, although she can't quite figure out why (but some part of him illuminates a vivid dream she keeps having). His persistence and her own confused feelings make it impossible to escape the situation, and Roz soon finds herself in San Antonio with Fletcher, his musician grandmother Ida (Celeste Holm), and all his quirky friends.
The more Roz learns about this oddly charming man, the more difficult it becomes for her to maintain control of the situation. Fletcher introduces her to San Antonio, where she seems to rediscover a world of artistic sensibilities and integrity she had long since given up on. While she is at the height of her unsettled feelings, Fletcher confesses his vision. Roz almost lets herself go, until one of the locals reveals that his "day job" is as a puppeteer on Alamo Plaza. Convincing herself that his vision is false and she could never be with a mere street performer -- even if he offers true love -- Roz runs back to Los Angeles and starts hunting for another man.
Unable to re-enter the empty world she has so recently left, Roz evaluates herself and her life. As difficult as it is for this disillusioned young woman to believe in her own capacity to love and be loved -- she risks her heart and returns to San Antonio -- fulfilling a personal journey that ends with self-realization, romance and redemption.
Brendan Fraser and Joanna Going head the cast of STILL BREATHING, a magical romance which was shot on-location in San Antonio, Texas and Los Angeles. Also starring in the ensemble cast are Ann Magnuson, Toby Huss, Angus MacFadyen, Lou Rawls, Paolo Seganti, Michael McKean, and Academy Award® winner Celeste Holm. The film features an eclectic musical soundtrack that includes tracks from Morphine, Sub Dub, Texas Tornadoes, Louie Armstrong, Augie Meyers, Flaco Jimenez, the cult sixties band, The Feminine Complex, as well as new music from Rita Springer, Junior Brown and Madeleine Peyroux. The film also features the classic jazz music of THE JIM CULLUM JAZZ BAND as well as a mix of Classical, Opera, Blues and Latin music, and a new score by composer PAUL MILLS.
STILL BREATHING is written, produced and directed by James F. Robinson. Ms. Marshall Persinger is the producer. Joyce Schweickert is the executive producer and Janet Graham is the co-executive producer. The independently financed motion picture is produced by ZapPictures Inc. in association with Seattle Pacific Investments Inc.
"STILL BREATHING is a romantic drama/comedy updated and twisted around to fit the complicated and dangerous waters of love and ambition in the 90's," explains Writer/Producer/Director Jim Robinson. Producer Marshall Persinger continues "it is a film about urban women who have tried so hard to make it. Forging new lives where maybe you don't get married and maybe you get burned by the system along the way, but you keep trying and hoping."
"The title STILL BREATHING has a double meaning," says Robinson. "On one hand, modern life can beat us down so much that about all we can do is claim that we are 'still breathing'. On the other, it's like the antidote to that whole cynical/stress gotta-get-my-share world -- to be still and just breathing -- to break things down to their basics like Fletcher does. There's a love scene in the film where Fletcher tells Roz just to be still," continues Robinson. "That's the one thing people never are in Los Angeles, just still. People are always moving, going, or thinking; "what am I gonna do here?" or "how do I get ahead?" or "who do I meet to help me?" There's rarely a sense of stillness.
"I think that as we live our life, the disappointments and disillusionments pile up -- and suddenly we look in the mirror and don't recognize ourselves anymore," explains Robinson. "We get cynical and hardened and start to enjoy that black little world. It feels kind of hip at the time, but it's really both sad and destructive. Roz is a product of her times and the world she lives in, a kind of romantic anti-heroine. In most traditional romances, the heroine is looking for love, or thwarted in her desire to gain love... but in this film Roz AVOIDS falling in love... in fact she sees love as a sham and a weakness, and when she starts to feel something, actually RUNS from it. So Roz's world has become all about control, trying to control her out-of-control world in whatever way she can".
One example of this is one of Roz and Fletcher's most important scenes, when they see each other for the first time. They meet in Los Angeles at the Formosa Cafe, a bar, and instantly Fletcher knows that she is the one he has set out to find. He just has to figure out how not to blow it. He's amazed that she is there, after all these years of waiting for the dream. For Roz, there is something in Fletcher that catches her off guard. She is so concerned with being in control, but here's a guy who isn't predictable -- she can't get a handle on him. What is so interesting to her about Fletcher is that she finds herself unable to get control of their relationship. She feels out of control for the first time in ages and it both delights and disgusts her.
It is the relationship between Roz and Fletcher that is the driving force of STILL BREATHING. Roz is a woman who has been through a lot. She has become used up emotionally, so that she does not trust people. As a result, Roz has resorted to exploiting people for her own benefit. She is a con artist that creates scams to trick men out of money. Fletcher, on the other hand, is the romantic artist who believes in following his emotions and his heart, like his father and grandfather before him. Fletcher is an artist and a musician; emotions are what is important to him. He does not care about money or status. So when Roz and Fletcher do meet, it is like two opposites colliding. They are so different, but it is the differences between the two that will in turn give them each a new outlook on life.
The casting for the roles of Fletcher and Roz was very important. Robinson explains, "I saw a movie that Joanna Going was in at the Sundance Film Festival (EDEN). I had to leave the screening early because there was a blizzard and I needed to get back to Los Angeles -- and driving down the mountain in this dense blizzard, this thing hit me... I knew she was the only actress that should play Roz. I saw something in her that made me know that she could really capture the dark and complicated and beautiful essence of who Roz was. So, as soon as I could I flew to New York to meet Joanna, and the next day... she was Roz."
Having picked a relative unknown in the film world to play the female lead in STILL BREATHING would cause some problems in getting the film made, admitted Robinson. "Joanna has done excellent work in many films including WYATT EARP, HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN QUILT, and NIXON, but she, up to that time, had never played a leading role in a released feature film. There was, naturally, a lot of pressure to cast an actress that was a household name," says Robinson, "I had many people tell me I was crazy to cast Joanna, because the script was getting a lot of attention among some very well-known actresses in Hollywood. But I had great producers that stood by me, and my gut feelings, when I insisted that we give the part of Roz to Joanna," says Robinson.
Ms. Persinger, one of the producers that backed him on his choice, says, "Once Joanna was set, we had to find the perfect man to fill the Fletcher role. We need someone who could balance this child-like artistic persona with the sexiness of a man who knows what he wants and goes out and makes it happen. And we needed a star who believed in the script and wanted to take a chance with a first-time feature director. We were going after several actors that we thought were right to play Fletcher. We were really stressing over finding the right actor because no one seemed just right. Brendan, it turns out, had gotten a hold of the script and wanted to meet with us. He came in and said that he knew was right for the part, and fifteen minutes later, we were convinced that he was perfect to play Fletcher. And he was wonderful!"
"Brendan brought so much of himself into this project", says Robinson. "Fletcher is an artist, a thinker, and an all-round oddball guy who comes to believe in the idea that there is one woman in the world for him -- and it's up to him to find her and make this thing work without scaring her away. Brendan created a Fletcher with this kind of wonderful, mythic quality that reaches out to Roz. The thing about Roz is that she sees so many different kinds of men and she's always ahead of them, because she's usually smarter than they are. In Fletcher she finds someone she can't quite figure out. There's no handle, exactly. He's genuine, he's real -- and that throws her. Joanna is really stunning, a gifted actor who brings an amazing depth to this part. To watch them on the screen, the two of them, is breathtaking. Not only because they look so great together, but that they have each developed their characters so distinctly. Joanna expresses this kind of exquisite sadness in Roz -- a pain inside that comes from denying and losing touch with yourself. She hit all of these beautiful little notes... And Brendan created the character of the Texan Fletcher with a true sense of childlike vision and direct honesty -- a man who can see right through Roz and show her what is really important. And Brendan was full of such great comic ideas and improvisations -- he really made Fletcher truly unforgettable."
Counterbalancing the relationship between Fletcher and Roz are the characters of Elaine (Ann Magnuson) and Ida (Celeste Holm). Through them, the viewer gets to see the real Fletcher and Roz.
"Ann Magnuson plays Elaine," explains Robinson, "Roz's best friend, who is also her mentor in this shady world of fine art cons. You can't help but enjoy this completely amoral, wonderful character that Ann plays so well. She has a really special energy and timing that's just wonderful. She has created these wonderful subtle comic moments that are so brilliant and precise that you could never write them." Roz and Elaine are two of the con artists of the film. The two women trust no one, except each other (and then, barely). The disillusionment that Roz expresses through the film is shown differently when she is with Elaine. Roz is not always defensive with Elaine -- she expresses her feelings. Ms. Persinger explains, "In the dressing room, Elaine and Roz have a scene where they just nail the way that type of woman really thinks. I love scenes where women are together talking in a completely uncensored way. This particular scene is fun because they are doing two things at once. They are planning this con with Elaine briefing Roz on how this guy is supposed to be and what's the best way to get him. At the same time, they are being playful and trying on all these wonderful clothes. Through what appears to be a superficial scene, we get to see what Roz, as she really is, is looking for in her life."
The con that Roz and Elaine pull off at the beginning of the film is on Tomas (Paolo Seganti from "As The World Turns"). Tomas is a wealthy foreigner who is hot on the trail for Roz. He spends money on her to impress her, expensive dinners, anything she wants. The scam involves getting Tomas to purchase a painting that Roz (supposedly) loves. The painting is in a gallery run by their friend Philip (Angus MacFadyen from BRAVEHEART) who is also in on the scam.
Ida (Celeste Holm), Fletcher's grandmother, is the person that Fletcher confides in the most. It is through her that we see where Fletcher gets his knowledge and strength. "Celeste Holm is an absolute delight in this film", says Robinson. "She plays an retired jazz tuba player who, at this stage of her life, is only interested in playing classical music. We see so much of her in him and vice versa. It's great to see their relationship. They communicate artistically -- they play music together. She understands more of what's going on in his head by listening to him play than by talking to him. Through Ida, we can see where Fletcher has gotten his clarity of thought and his true understanding of the human experience."
Another person that really explains Fletcher's character is The Tree Man played by musical-legend Lou Rawls. The Tree Man is a kind of mystic/narrator of the film, a street performer who plays the massive baritone sax and pushes a big tree planted in a shopping cart to provide shade in the hot Texas sun. He is a friend and mentor of Fletcher's that shows him the ways of the world, not necessarily through words (he barely speaks) but in music. It is this music that transcends the problems in everyone's lives.
Persinger says, "It is wonderful to see how many people will support an independent film like this -- and really give their heart to something they believe in. Jim wouldn't have gotten to direct the project the way he did, nor would the casting be as eclectic as it is, if we did not go the independent way. Other potential investors wanted to change the casting and change the ending of the film and the end result wouldn't be as remarkable a story as the one that we created."
After shooting on location in San Antonio, Texas at locations including the Alamo, the San Antonio River, and the historic San José Mission, the production filmed for several weeks in Los Angeles at locations including the Formosa Cafe and the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
Principal photography on STILL BREATHING was completed on July 14, 1996. This film was first screened at the Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills, California on December 11th, 1996.
ABOUT THE CAST
Brendan Fraser (Fletcher McBracken) Photo:
Brendan Fraser was most recently seen on screen in MRS. WINTERBOURNE, starring opposite Shirley MacLaine and Ricki Lake. He joined the STILL BREATHING cast after wrapping production on THE TWILIGHT OF THE GOLDS, based on Jonathon Tolins' acclaimed play of the same name, with Garry Marshall, Jennifer Beals and Faye Dunaway. Next up for Fraser is the title role in Walt Disney Pictures' GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE, to be a major Summer '97 release.
Born in Indianapolis and raised in Europe and Canada, Fraser has been dedicated to honing his craft since the age of 12; he began taking himself to the theater during frequent visits to London while his family lived in The Hague. He attended Upper Canada College and received a B.F.A. in acting from the Actor's Conservatory, Cornish College of the Arts, in Seattle.
Following his feature film debut as the endearing prehistoric caveman in the hit ENCINO MAN, starring opposite Pauly Shore and Sean Astin, Fraser was hand-picked by Sherry Lansing for the lead role in the critically praised 50's era drama SCHOOL TIES. His film credits also include WITH HONORS, co-starring Moira Kelly and Joe Pesci; AIRHEADS with Steve Buscemi and Adam Sandler; and THE SCOUT opposite Albert Brooks.
Joanna Going (Roz Willoughby) Photo:
Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Newport, Rhode Island, Joanna Going is the oldest of six children. She entered Emerson College in Boston, then left after two years to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. A year later, she made her television debut on "Search for Tomorrow" when she was cast, out of 400 contenders, as ingenue Evie Stone. Going went on to join "Another World," where she remained for two years in the part of Lisa Grady. She then starred as a prime-time series regular opposite Ben Cross in "Dark Shadows," playing the dual role of Victoria Winters/Josette Dupres. Most recently, she was featured in "Children of the Dust," a mini-series for CBS starring Sidney Poitier.
Going's feature film credits include WYATT EARP, HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN QUILT, and Oliver Stone's NIXON. She will be seen in the upcoming Fox release INVENTING THE ABBOTS, as well as the independent features KEYS TO TULSA, LITTLE CITY, and EDEN, which was in the dramatic competition at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival.
Celeste Holm (Ida) Photo:
Celeste Holm made her professional debut in Leslie Howard's HAMLET, beginning a career encompassing theater, motion pictures, supper clubs, and television. After attending school in New York, Chicago, Brooklyn and Paris, she made her Broadway debut in William Saroyan's Pulitzer Prize winning play THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE in 1939. Miss Holm became a star with her bouncing performance of Ado Annie in the original Broadway production of OKLAHOMA! followed by the title role in BLOOMER GIRL.
Miss Holm then came Hollywood to earn three Academy Award nominations: COME TO THE STABLE, ALL ABOUT EVE, and winning the Oscar® for her role in GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT, a searing revelation of prejudice, which also won the accolade for Best Picture. THE SNAKE PIT, which was the first film about mental illness, followed and began Miss Holm's lifelong involvement with mental health. Miss Holm is currently starring in the television series "Promised Land" and prior to her work in STILL BREATHING, starred in the new play, THE BROOCH for New York City's Miranda Theatre Company. She also recently appeared in Warner Bros.' DON'T TALK TO STRANGERS, a tenet Miss Holm has always ignored.
Ann Magnuson (Elaine) Photo:
Ann Magnuson is a versatile film, television, and theater actor. In addition to her acting credits, Ann is an accomplished musician and writer. She has worked with such distinguished film directors as Barbet Shroeder, Phillip Noyce, Alan Rudolph, Robert Towne, and Susan Seidelman to name a few. In addition, she has acted with Meryl Streep in BEFORE AND AFTER, Harrison Ford in CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER, and Madonna in DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN. On the small screen, Ann starred with Jamie Lee Curtis and Richard Lewis in the ABC comedy ANYTHING BUT LOVE.
In the theater world, Ann starred in John Patrick Shanley's FOUR DOGS AND A BONE at the Lucille Lortel Theater in New York. In addition, she has had her own successful one-woman show play to sold out audiences all over the country. Ann has compiled an album of some of her songs from her one-woman show, which is presently out on Geffen Records.
Lou Rawls (The Tree Man) Photo:
Four-time Grammy® Award-winning singer/performer Lou Rawls was last seen as an actor in highly acclaimed drama LEAVING LAS VEGAS. A legend in pop and R&B music, Rawls has garnered one platinum and six gold albums in his career, plus a gold single.
Rawls' TV work includes providing his unique vocal styling for three "Garfield the Cat" animated specials. He is best known for his "Lou Rawls Parade of Stars" telethon which to date has raised more than $100 million for the United Negro College Fund. As a result of his long-reaching philanthropic efforts, there is now a Lou Rawls Drive in Rawls' hometown of Chicago and Rawls has been awarded five honorary doctorates.
Toby Huss (Cameron) Photo:
Toby Huss' feature film credits include Cameron Crow's JERRY MAGUIRE, Garry Marshall's DEAR GOD and DOWN PERISCOPE with Kelsey Grammer, as well as Scott Kalvert's BASKETBALL DIARIES, Hal Harley's AMATEUR, and HANDGUN. He is known as a brilliant improvisational comic actor and former resident of Iowa.
Among Huss' television appearances are guest spots on NBC's "News Radio" and Nickelodeon's "The Adventures Of Pete And Pete." He has also appeared in "Code Name Cobalt," an MTV short film, and worked with MTV on several promos including "MTV Spoken Word: Unplugged" and "Rock The Vote."
Angus MacFadyen (Philip) Photo:
Angus MacFadyen's feature film credits include the 1995 Academy Award Winning BRAVEHEART directed by Mel Gibson, WARRIOR OF VIRTUE, and BRYLCREAM BOYS.
Among MacFadyen's television credits include such British productions as "Two Golden Balls," Takin' Over The Asylum," "Care," "Soldier Soldier," "God Of Happiness," and "The Lost Language Of Cranes." Educated in France and fluent in French, MacFadyen received a Master of Arts in French and English, at the University of Edinburgh. At Edinburgh's Fringe Festival, he performed in "Faculty Of Rats," "The Tempest," "Hess," "The Beautiful And Damned," "Cloud Nine," and "The Immortals."
Paolo Seganti (Tomas) Photo:
Paolo Seganti is best known to television audiences for his portrayal of Damian Grimaldi on "As The World Turns." His other credits include appearances on "The Nanny," and Showtime's "Women."
Paolo's film credits include LA CONFIDENTIAL and Woody Allen's EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU. He has also appeared in the Italian films LA SETTIMZANA BLANCA, VACCANCZE AL MARE, and DEUS. While in Italy, he also starred in several plays such as Odet's classic "THE GOLDEN BOY," "TRUE WEST," "DANNY AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA," and "EQUUS."
Michael McKean (The New Mark) Photo:
Actor and writer Michael McKean has starred in numerous feature films including THE BRADY BUNCH, RADIO LAND MURDERS, AIRHEADS with Brendan Fraser, CONEHEADS, THE BIG PICTURE, EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY, THE LIGHT OF DAY, CLUE, Garry Marshall's YOUNG DOCTORS IN LOVE, Robert Zemeckis' USED CARS. One of his most famous roles is his unforgettable portrayal of rock star David St. Hubbins in Rob Reiner's THIS IS SPINAL TAP.
Most memorable to television audiences as Lenny in "Laverne and Shirley" starring Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams, McKean has also starred on Saturday Night Live and HBO's "Dream On."
The Jim Cullum Jazz Band Photo:
While attending college, Jim Cullum, Jr. began a partnership with his clarinetist father, the late Jim Cullum, Sr., forming a seven-piece traditional group they called the Happy Jazz Band. The next year, a group of San Antonio business leaders established The Landing, a jazz club on the San Antonio Riverwalk, as a showcase for The Happy Jazz Band. Under Jim, Jr.'s direction, the band evolved into a nationally-acclaimed, professional company known as The Jim Cullum Jazz Band. Boasting 45 record albums of traditional jazz, The Jim Cullum Jazz Band has performed with a great number of jazz luminaries and at many famous venues including Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.
In 1990, Jim Cullum along with Margaret Moos Pick, under the auspices of Texas Public Radio, created the high-profile radio show "Riverwalk, Live from The Landing." "Riverwalk" features the great jazz music of the early 20th century and the great jazz luminaries who best extoll the music. The show is distributed by Public Radio International and is broadcast on more than 182 stations nationwide.
Junior Brown (The Wrong Texan) Photo:
Country music rising-star Junior Brown is known for his virtuoso playing of his unique "guit-steel"-- a hybrid, part-electric guitar and part-steel guitar he developed himself. The singer/songwriter/producer is from Austin, Texas, and has released three highly-acclaimed albums on Curb Records. Brown is a favorite in venues as diverse as Texas roadhouses and the hip clubs of both coasts and Europe. He's been called a "genius" by MUSICIAN magazine and honored by LIFE MAGAZINE and GUITAR PLAYER. Junior's one of a kind, and he makes his first film appearance in STILL BREATHING, as well as writing a new song just for the film... "A Long Walk (Back to San Antone)".
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
James F. Robinson (Producer / Writer / Director)
STILL BREATHING marks Jim Robinson's dramatic feature film debut. Jim's previous credits include writing and directing the one hour drama, "The Estate Sale" produced by White Lion Pictograph for The Disney Channel, Public Television and Channel Four/UK. He also wrote and directed the award-winning documentary "Tinsel"; the award-winning musical parable film "Music Box"; and "Miracle of Taxila" a documentary shot in Pakistan for the Discovery Network. His other credits include commercials and music videos.
Jim claims San Antonio, Texas as his hometown although he was in fact an Air Force brat, and grew up in various parts of the US and Europe. He received degrees in Cinema and Art History from Trinity University. He is married to production designer Denise Pizzini. They have two children, Alexander and Nicholas.
Marshall Persinger (Producer)
Marshall Persinger is an independent film producer who currently is the president of Fresh Produce Company, specializing in film production and development. She began her career with Director/Producer Jonathan Demme on SWIMMING TO CAMBODIA and stayed with him through movies including MARRIED TO THE MOB, MIAMI BLUES, and THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. She was a co-producer on AMOS & ANDREW, unit production manager for A BOY CALLED HATE, and pre-production co-producer on HIGHER LEARNING.
Marshall worked with Mark Johnson Productions as producer on various projects and has worked on pictures for HBO, Tri-Star, Orion, and Paramount.
Additionally, Ms. Persinger served as producer on music videos including "Too Darn Hot" by Erasure, "Welcome To The Real World" by Jane Child, "Don't Wanna Fall In Love" by Jane Child, and "Liar, Liar" by Deborah Harry.
Janet Graham (Co-Executive Producer)
Janet Graham joined Home Box Office in January of 1996 as director of production overseeing physical production of projects including GOTTI starring Armand Assante and DON'T LOOK BACK starring Eric Stoltz.
She received a Master of Fine Arts in 1989 from the Peter Stark Motion Picture Producing Program, University of Southern California. Ms. Graham then began her career in entertainment at Abrahams Entertainment Group working as the assistant to Jim Abrahams on WELCOME HOME ROXY CARMICHAEL, then as director of development, and finally as an associate producer on HOTSHOTS!
Her other credits include being vice president of Mike's Movies where her credits included associate producer on THE NIGHT WE NEVER MET, co-producer of CAMP NOWHERE, and co-producer of HACKERS.
John Thomas (Director of Photography)
John Thomas won the 1995 Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography for his work on BARCELONA. His other feature film credits include FREEWAY, PALOOKAVILLE, UNDER THE BRIDGE, VENUS RISING, THE NIGHT WE NEVER MET, and Whit Stillman's METROPOLITAN.
Thomas' television credits include HBO's "Norma Jean And Marilyn," as well as 20th Century Fox TV's pilot "Falls Road" starring Ruben Blades and an episode of "Law and Order."
Denise Pizzini (Production Designer)
Denise Pizzini has served as set decorator on such films as Alfonso Arau's A WALK IN THE CLOUDS and LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE (for which she won the Ariel Award for Best Art Direction) as well as MONKEY TROUBLE and PROBLEM CHILD. She worked as assistant set decorator for UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL, FATHERHOOD, THE DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMAN, SHATTERED and FATMAN AND LITTLE BOY.
Her television credits include NBC's "Murder C.O.D." and "The Estate Sale" for the Disney Channel.
Before a career in art direction, Denise was a practicing Interior Designer. Her work included space planning and interior design for restaurant, retail, and corporate facilities.
STILL BREATHING marks Ms. Pizzini's Production Design debut.
Paul Mills (Composer)
Paul's long association with fellow Texan Jim Robinson started with scoring the director's award-winning documentary "Miracle of Taxila" and has continued thru STILL BREATHING, Mills' debut feature film score.
Mills is well known as a Nashville music producer and composer. He has to date produced and engineered over thirty number-1 hit singles for artists like The Imperials, Twila Paris, Wayne Watson and Phillips Craig & Dean. He has been nominated for eight Dove Awards, including Producer of the Year, and has won twice. He was the producer, arranger and co-creator of the highly successful "Young Messiah" album and concert tour.
His other scoring credits include "Desperate Passage" for NBC, "The Marianao Kid" and "The Estate Sale" for The Disney Channel and Public Television.
Susanna Puisto (Costume Designer)
Among Susanna Puisto's feature film costume designer credits are UNDER THE HULA MOON, LOOKIN' ITALIAN, DICKWAD, BIG AL, ACCOUNTING FOR THE SCREAM, and JOURNEY OF HOPE. She has also served as costumer on features such as ATTACK OF THE 50-FOOT WOMAN, DANGEROUS WOMAN, HARD TARGET, FOR THEIR OWN GOOD, TWENTY BUCKS, FRESHMAN DORM, THE PUBLIC EYE, GILDA, YOUNG GOODMAN BROWN, and TROUBLE SHOOTER.
Puisto served as costume designer for television shows such as "Lawless," "Dead at 21," "Team Suomi," "Gladiators," and "Two Fisted Tales." She also was costumer for "The Ben Stiller Show" and "Tales From The Crypt."
Sean Albertson (Film Editor)
Sean Albertson's feature editing credits also include JOHNNY SKIDMARKS, WOMAN IN THE MOON, and ARCHIBALD THE RAINBOW PAINTER. He also Co-Produced and edited the new independent feature NOBOBY'S CHILDREN. His assistant and associate editor credits include THE BIRD CAGE, HEAT, WOLF, CONSENTING ADULTS, and REGARDING HENRY.
Albertson's television work includes Spelling Entertainment's "Night Stand" as well as "Alone in the Neon Jungle" and "Braxton".
Q&A WITH JIM ROBINSON
writer / director of STILL BREATHING
Q How did the story for STILL BREATHING develop?
A I think it came from a lot of places. Part of it came from the fact that I had been frustrated for too many years trying to make my first feature film. I think I was at a point where I was finding myself writing scripts that I thought would be "commercial" in the marketplace -- but I was really betraying myself as an artist and I was getting nowhere. My first short film, MUSIC BOX, was pretty successful, and looking back on that, I thought that it had succeeded because it was made from my heart and had a sense of magic to it, and it was a film that I wanted to SEE as opposed to a film that I thought I could SELL.
So I set out to write STILL BREATHING as a film that would be one of my favorite films, even if I hadn't made it. (That may sound obvious, but thinking like that is easy to get away from in the competitiveness of the film business). My favorite films have always included the great romances, dramatic romances like WUTHERING HEIGHTS and comic romances like THE LADY EVE, as well as great European films, so I set out to make a romantic film like those, but twisted up and around in a modern way.
I had recently moved to LA from San Antonio, and both are cities that I really love, and I wanted to create the two leads as a kind of human embodiment of what the two cities mean to me. I moved out to LA right before the riots and fires and earthquake and all of those things I know made a big impression on me and on the writing of this film -- especially the LA riots, which occurred all around my neighborhood.
More than anything else, I wanted to say something about the epidemic of cynicism that I saw all around me, and also inside of myself at the time. I wanted to see, if you created a character that had essentially given up on herself, if there was a way back from the abyss. And I thought it would be interesting to mix that kind of modern dilemma with the oldest romantic fantasy ever -- that somewhere out there, a perfect mate is waiting, just for you. It is that mixture of modern despair and old-fashioned romantic-fantasy that seemed so interesting to me. I wanted to wind them up and watch them collide.
Q How would you describe the main characters in STILL BREATHING?
A I think of Fletcher as the last of the True Romantics, and of Roz as a product of her times -- a kind of romantic anti-heroine.
In most traditional romances, the heroine is looking for love, or thwarted in her desire to gain love. With Roz, I wanted to create a modern character who AVOIDED falling in love.... In fact she sees love as a sham and a weakness, and when she starts to feel something, actually RUNS from it. I think Roz lives in a topsy-turvey world -- gender roles are all twisted around and confusing these days, so that Roz's world becomes all about control, trying to control her world. I've noticed that desire in women today. It seems that all the old rules -- "grow up, look pretty, find a man, get married, have babies" -- seem to have been tossed aside and mixed up. And in their smoking ashes, all that is left is the desire to control what small things you can. That is accentuated, I think, by living in a city like Los Angeles where EVERYTHING seems out of control -- the crazy guy on the corner, the city a mess, the justice system a joke, the very ground under your feet shaking you to bits. In Roz's case, "control" means dominating the idiot men who pursue her. She sees men as predictable and easy marks, and the very fact that she can control their heads as she does, makes her despise them. That's why when she meets a guy who ISN'T predictable, who in fact is wildly unpredictable and doesn't follow the script, it drives her crazy... and both scares and excites her.
Beyond all of that, Roz is essentially an artist who has somehow betrayed her artistic soul and lost it. I think once she started to us her passion for art as a lie to control men, she lost something very dear and central to her heart. So Fletcher's making art out of everyday items and making an art out of the very act of living, is like a foggy, distant and disturbing memory to Roz. It shocks and terrorizes her, because the heart of Fletcher is what she wants back for herself, the child-like heart of an artist, but she sacrificed it all on that modern, hip altar of cynicism and self-loathing.
Fletcher's no fool or wide-eyed innocent -- he knows enough of despair and cynicism as all adults do -- it's just that he has built a world for himself where he puts those things away and chooses instead the life of the artist. He lives to create, whether it is a stack of rocks or cut up pictures or the sound of his cornet bouncing off the surface of a still river. I see Fletcher as a person who 'creates' -- not just objects of art but A LIFE -- a distinct life that he's chosen for himself -- which is of course such a fantasy in this modern world because life just seems to happen to most us -- there doesn't seem to be any control or plan or sense to any of it. Both characters are dealing with this issue of control, Roz controlling what she can in a sea of chaos and disillusionment, and Fletcher being in more complete control, staying out of the rat race, building a world for himself where materialism is irrelevant but lying in the ivy staring up at the trees and listening to the cicadas buzz is VERY relevant.
Most importantly, Fletcher has CHOSEN to love Roz, and he does so partly because he comes to believe that this is the woman that was created just for him -- but also, because he just plain chooses to love her. Roz is not such an easy person to love after all; she essentially despises herself, and what she has become, and that has covered her with prickly thorns. That kind of person is VERY hard to love, but Fletcher has this ability to see the Roz that was... and that ability and faith in Roz is what is ultimately redemptive for her.
Q What was making the film like?
A I knew I was going to be a filmmaker most of my life, from the moment I first made my little neighborhood movies with my folks' old single-8 Bell & Howell home movie camera, so the process itself was very comfortable for me. But at the same time, nothing can prepare you for actually making a real-live feature film except doing it -- so there was a lot of dancing along the way. I mean, I was directing one actor who had been nominated for three Oscars! We had an unbelievable amount of challenges, not the least being that San Antonio experienced the second-most severe drought of the century while we were filming there... it was very, very hot and every shot was on a real and usually un-air-conditioned location.
What really happened was that every day we would struggle and fight and pray to make our day -- and then we we would sit in dailies and just cry because the movie was so beautiful and it had such a real, live beating heart inside its chest. That heart was willed into the movie by a cast and crew that cared so incredibly deeply about what we were doing -- as a work of art and as a statement and as entertainment. It was a glorious and exhausting experience. There were many people who helped make this movie that I believe did the most beautiful and thoughtful work of their careers -- both in front and behind the camera. It was a very humbling and satisfying thing to be a part of.
We all trusted each other, for the most part, and because of that trust, we felt confident and free enough to be open to a lot of great new ideas. For example, I remember Joanna and I looking at Pat Hammond's (one of the owners of the location of Fletcher's house) home-made books of important times in her kid's lives. That made a big impression, and it resulted in my quickly writing two new scenes for the movie between Roz and Ida, just days before we started shooting -- now a key part of the film. I wrote those scenes in an hour and a half while we also did a fitting for Joanna's costumes. Now, that is one of my favorite scenes.
The real miracle of the movie is that we had an Executive Producer, Joyce Schweickert, who more than anything else, wanted to make a beautiful and meaningful film. She is a person who is a true film lover and a person with great vision. It was due to her faith in me and in the movie, (and the tenacity and creativity of producer Marshall Persinger), that we got the amazing cast and crew we did, and made a film that we are all so proud of.
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