Dallas, Texas - Jim Cusumano - August 29, 2001

Amarillo, Texas - Jim Cusumano - August 30, 2001

Inspired by the movie "What Matters Most" A Poem by Gary Nichols


From The Road - Dallas, Texas - Jim Cusumano - August 29, 2001
Dallas was an awesome experience. You know, I don't believe in coincidences. The root of the word comes from a Latin form of 'coincide' which means 'come together'. And that is exactly what happened in Dallas.
As it happened, the magnificent new Angelika Theater opened its doors only a few weeks before our premiere, and its popularity in Dallas is growing by leaps and bounds. So, it was natural for our partners in Dallas, Women In Film and Gilda's club to arrange for our screening there. The marvelous management of the Angelika chain was kind enough to provide us with their largest theater, holding more than 400 people, for a very modest price.
The premier sold out in hours and we filled every seat. As people arrived and purchased their ticket, many mingled with the actors in the lobby, which houses a beautiful café and bar, somewhat reminiscent of one of those Parisian art deco café's of the 60s. Whether you wanted an espresso or a martini, it was all there for you. Polly Cusumano, Tamara Clatterbuck, Ransford Doherty, Gretchen German and Marshall Teague flew in from Los Angeles. Kaitlyn Lewis drove up from Amaraillo. They all were most gracious to sign autographs and just speak with filmgoers.
All of the major Dallas press and several TV stations were there for interviews with the actors and producers. There was of course high interest in hearing how Polly and I found working with Jane as writer/director, especially for Polly. "How was it being directed by your Mom?" Polly responds, "It was a challenge at times, but as my Mom, she knew how to push the right buttons to get the kind of reaction demanded of my character in any given situation. Marshall Teague, who most often plays the bad guy, expressed his appreciation in a TV interview for being given the opportunity to explore and portray such a multidimensional character as Raymond Warner. This character makes one of the biggest arcs of change in the story.
After an introduction by Susan Lindemann, the Executive Director of the Dallas chapter of Gilda's Club, and some opening comments by me, we ran the 7-minute documentary and the film. The ovation from the audience at the end was overwhelming. It is clear that this film does just what Jane intended it to do, it touches the very depths of the human spirit. And it doesn't matter whether you are a man or a woman, 16 or 60. It makes you think, it makes you laugh, and yes it does make you cry, everyone does somewhere in those 121 minutes of play.
The Q & A that followed the film was led by one of Dallas' great ladies and journalists, Jane Sumner from the Dallas Morning News. She did a marvelous job. During this session, we learned that Chad Allen, who plays Lucas Warner desperately, sought this part after reading the script, against his agent's admonition. "Why would you ever want to work with a first-time director?" Chad's performance is brilliant. Tamara Clatterbuck, former star of General Hospital and now Days of Our Lives, admitted that she immediately fell in love with the role of Anita Stone for which she auditioned. She told her manager and agent that she would work for nothing if she could get the part. And that's the way WHAT MATTERS MOST got off the ground. First, the cast and crew fell in love with the script, and then they fell in love with Jane. And their performances on screen show as much.
The screening was followed by a marvelous desert party just 50 yards from the theater at Café Patrique, with all wines and desserts donated by owner, Patrick Esquerre. What a wonderful man, God bless you, Patrick! People who had read about the Dallas premiere came from near and far, Austin and even Amarillo, where we would premiere the following evening. Some wanted to see the film twice, some wanted to be sure they got to see it since it was clear that it would likely sell out where ever it would screen.
The questions and comments from the audience were so satisfying. "Jane is a special woman, her talents will be missed." "When can we get to see her next script on film (There are three left that we hope to bring to the screen over the next few years.)?"
Our first major premiere beyond our hometown kickoff at Ojai, and a wonderful success it was. Stay tuned for six more cities to come, starting with Amarillo, tomorrow evening!

From The Road - Amarillo, Texas - Jim Cusumano - August 30, 2001
Another sold out premiere this evening! Associate producer, Sue Burns Hoffman and Producer, Charla Driver with assistance from other Amarillo crew did an outstanding job of organizing a first class and memorable event.
I had planned to premiere WHAT MATTERS MOST in Dallas as one of the six major cities selected for our nationwide Inspiration & Awareness Tour. After all, it is a Texas film and a major population can be reached in Dallas as a means of achieving our objectives of inspiring others with Jane's story, raising awareness and funding for breast cancer, and increasing the visibility of the film prior to striking a distribution deal.
But shortly before Jane passed away, she made me promise that we would premiere in Amarillo, as she said, "where fine people had given their hearts and souls to help us make this a successful film." So we compromised, and decided to show it back-to-back in both Dallas and Amarillo.
The theater of choice was the large United Artist metroplex on US 40 at Soncy Road. Sue booked the 250-person auditorium, but it was soon clear that the film would sell out. The manger then gave us his largest theater, holding 500 people. They came in droves from Amarillo, from many small towns in the panhandle, and of course, from Vega, the small "one-horse" hamlet, 30 miles to the west where most of WHAT MATTERS MOST was shot.
The film was scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m. and people began to line up at 5:00 p.m. The local press, and FOX and NBC TV crews where there for live coverage and interviews with producers and actors. Polly Cusumano, Ransford Doherty, Gretchen German and Marshall Teague flew in from the Dallas premiere last evening, and Kaitlyn Lewis, Jason Haney and a number of other actors from Texas were there as well. WHAT MATTERS MOST T-shirts and our special Texas hot sauce were given out as souvenirs to the audience.
The film sold out in 30-minutes and we were left with some 200 people left outside clamoring to get in. Another more than 100 people never tried to get in when they saw the size of the line. Charla begged the theater manager to allow some overflow in and he graciously agreed. Thank God the fire department wasn't around! By the time the show started, we had more than 600 people in the theater, many sitting on the steps in the aisles, some standing. What an incredible sight! I am sure Jane was there, and she must have been touched by the spirit of the crowd. They were wonderful.
We started the show with an introduction by the Senior Director of Development for the Don & Sybil Harrington Cancer Center in Amarillo. That's where Jane received her weekly chemotherapy treatments while we were shooting there last fall. All ticket sales were donated to the Harrington Center. We raised more than $5,000 for them. Wow!!
I gave an introduction and told everyone about our successes to date and our plans for the remainder of the tour. Then we rolled the 7-minute documentary and the film. A little over 120 minutes latter, Jane received a standing ovation. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. Men and women alike, even an 16-year old boy, came up and told me they could not help but laugh and cry and that---just as Jane had planned---WHAT MATTERS MOST had touch their spirit like no other movie they had seen in recent times. I was so happy for Jane, I though that I was going to burst.
Alyson Dutch, from Public relations led a Q & A from the audience to the actors and me. There were lots of questions: "Polly, how was it to work with your Mom and Dad?" "Marshall, how did you find the emotional place to deliver the diverse set of intense performances demanded by your role as the tough-minded Raymond Warner?" "Gretchen, what were you thinking when as Bunny Warner, you delivered that incredible response to your son, Lucas' question about your relationship with Raymond, 'Do you still love him?'"---And many more.
But, the most telling moments came at the very end when numerous members of this audience, some 600 strong, stood up and made incredibly complimentary and touching comments. One sticks in my mind, it came from an elderly Texas actor who graced us with his presence, "There is no question in my mind that several of you should be nominated for an Academy Award." Thank you Amarillo and God bless. Janie, you did so very, very well. We are proud of you, and yes, we miss you.

What Matters Most
Gary Nichols

What Matters Most to you and me
Is not the hate that's on TV
It's not the loss of life for spite
Nor is it fighting just to fight!

What Matters Most to us it seems
Is not excessive or extreme!
If we fill our lives with "I"
Our hearts grow empty, and we die!

What Matters Most for us today
Is to help each other along the way
The path is steep and tough to climb
Our journey is easier when we're kind

What Matters Most to you and me
Lets Gods' Spirit set us free
To live our lives the best we know
To make it real not just a show
What Matters Most is from above
What Matters Most to us is LOVE
The Love we give to young and old
Becomes more love that we can hold
What Matters Most is LOVE!

Inspired by the movie "What Matters Most"
Written & Directed by Jane Cusumano



























































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