A Tribute by Jim Cusumano
The first time I asked Jane
out on a date she gave me a categorical, "No!"
But I persisted again, and again, always with same response.
I suppose I just wore her down, she finally conceded,
probably out of pity. I took her to the nicest restaurant
in town and I dressed to the nines in a new hand-tailored,
monogrammed shirt. Over dinner we spoke about everything
from Dostoevsky (which was one of her casual reads at
the time) to rock n' roll. Her breadth of knowledge
impressed me. I first met Jane at work where she had
been so unassuming. Who would have guessed?
All through dinner, Jane kept staring
at the monogram on my shirt. Finally, I inquired with
a big smile, "Like the shirt?" She coolly
replied, "Not really. I know who you are, you know
who you are and God knows who your are, so why the monogram?"
I have not worn a monogram since then. Jane was an incredible
human being, not just striking and beautiful on the
outside, but also special and magical on the inside.
She taught me the true meaning of humility and what
it means to do service to others. She inspired those
around her with her incredible, quiet, unassuming creativity,
always willing to help, never seeking anything in return.
She was an accomplished artist,
musician and writer and a very promising screenplay
writer and filmmaker. But you would never know it unless
you pulled the information from her. Jane's piano playing
was magical. I learned only after we were married for
several years that she had played Rachmaninoff in concert
at the age of nine. It was also some time before I realized
she was an accomplished artist. Just married and I a
struggling entrepreneur with a newly formed company,
we had challenges making ends meet. Jane solicited and
acquired several commissions to paint multi-million
dollar racehorses for very handsome fees. When our youngest
daughter, Polly went off to Vassar, Jane bought a horse
and became an accomplished equestrian, winning numerous
ribbons in competitions. She wrote a novel under the
guidance of her agent, Al Zuckerman, who also managed
Ken Follet and Stephen Hawking, among other best selling
writers. The novel remains unpublished, an indication
of her drive for personal excellence. She wrote a number
of screenplays, the first of which was recently produced
as her first movie, WHAT MATTERS MOST, which she directed
Jane was my wife, my best friend
and my teacher. As my wife she provided unconditional
love, constant encouragement and sound counsel. I was
most fortunate to found and grow two successful public
companies in Silicon Valley. This was not an easy task
and required millions of miles of travel and many more
hills than valleys along the way. Jane was always there
to help me through the darkest hours and to show me
how to celebrate our successes. She listened to my dreams.
Five years ago, at age 55, I confided to Jane that since
I was a boy, I fantasized about climbing mountains like
Whitney, Rainier, and Kilimanjaro in Africa. She encouraged
me to 'just do it!' And I did. Every one of them. The
echo of her voice pushed me to the top as I struggled
through thin air on each of those mountains.
As my best friend she is aptly
described by a several verses from a poem we shared
together, "What Is A Friend" by C. Raymond
What is a friend?
I will tell you. It is a person with whom you dare
to be yourself.
Your soul can be naked with her.
She seems to ask of you to put on nothing, only to
be what you are. She does not want you to be better
When you are with her, you feel as a prisoner feels
who has been declared innocent.
You do not have to be on your guard. You can say what
so long as it is genuinely you.
Through it all ---- and underneath --- she sees, she
knows and loves you.
A friend? What is a friend? Just one, I repeat, with
whom you dare be yourself.
I could always be me with Jane. She did not always agree,
but she was never judgmental.
As my teacher, she taught me to listen. "Bud (her
affectionate name for me)," she would say, "you
learn so much more when you are listening than when
you speaking." Like an in-house 'Mother Theresa,'
she taught me to serve all people, no matter who they
are. Once, while crossing the border from San Diego
into Tijuana for a cancer treatment she could not receive
in the U.S., she saw a disheveled lady, holding her
baby and begging. She asked me to give her five dollars,
and so I did.
The next day upon our return, the
same lady was there, begging again. "Please give
her ten dollars, you clearly did not give her enough
yesterday," was Jane's request. She taught me to
give talent a chance and to build on the strengths of
people, a lesson that served me well in building my
companies. Every actor she hired for her film gave incredible
performances, and they did it for her. "We don't
need stars, we need talented, committed, hard-working
actors," she would say. And she found them.
the day before Jane died, after a courageous four-year
battle with metastatic breast cancer, I lay sleeping
on a cot in her hospital room. She awoke miraculously
out of pain, the first time in weeks, and the doctors
still have no explanation. She sat up excitedly on the
edge of her bed talking about life and death, about
her children, her grandchildren, her movie and that
she wasn't afraid to die. She had two last wishes. First,
she prayed that her efforts to make her movie, above
anything else, would inspire young filmmakers to be
true to their passion. "Be tenacious and find a
way to make the movie you want, no matter what,"
she implored. Jane also asked that I create a foundation
that would be managed pro-bono by qualified friends.
She asked that the foundation provide financial assistance
to needy children and older folks in Ojai. She loved
On June 1, 2001 at 10:30
a.m. Jane died quietly in my arms at Cottage Hospital
in Santa Barbara, California. All I could think of was
the song she chose for our first dance as husband and
wife, "Always And Forever." Janie, I will
miss you dearly.
June 11, 2001
A. Cusumano, Ph.D.
Executive Producer, WHAT MATTERS MOST, ONE TOUGH BISCOTTI
President & CEO, Chateau Wally Films
A. Cusumano has worn many hats throughout his highly
successful and eclectic career; starting out as a 50s
rock n' roll recording artist, then moving on as a research
scientist, and finally a Silicon Valley entrepreneur
who founded three public companies. Now he is a film
producer, who with his wife, Jane, formed Chateau Wally
Films. Chateau Willy's mission is to establish a reputation
of producing high-quality independent feature films
that reflect the human condition and touch the heart.
WHAT MATTERS MOST is Chateau Wally's first feature.
It also marks Cusumano's return to the entertainment
world after his successful run in the energy and pharmaceuticals
industries. As a rock star, he sold several million
records in the late 1950s and early 1960s. His iconoclastic
repertoire includes "Short Shorts," "Short
Shorts Twist," "Lovers Never Say Goodbye,"
and the successful album, "Newies But Oldies."
Cusumano was intrigued at the prospect
of returning to the entertainment industry and applying
the entrepreneurial skills and experience he acquired
in building three public companies. He found it similar
to the situation that existed when he entered the energy
and pharmaceuticals industries. He sees the film business
as one that is primed for change and offers unusual
opportunities to new players who understand the dynamics
and timing of impending changes. Capitalizing on his
wife's skills in screenplay writing and her desire to
direct films, he launched Chateau Wally Films as his
fourth entrepreneurial enterprise.
He is also executive producer for
a new documentary, "One Tough Biscotti: A Woman,
A Film And A Fight," which chronicles his wife's
journey simultaneously fighting metastatic breast cancer
and creating her first feature film.
Born April 14, 1942, Cusumano obtained
a BA in 1964 and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry in 1967
from Rutgers University. Upon graduation, he served
at Exxon Research and Engineering Company from 1971
to 1974 as the Director of Catalysis Research and Development
at their Corporate Research Laboratory. He co-founded
Catalytica, Inc. in 1974 in the heart of California's
Silicon Valley. Under his leadership, the corporate
mission was and is to significantly improve the way
manufacturing is carried out in the pharmaceutical and
energy industries through economically advantageous
and environmentally friendly catalytic technologies.
Catalytica Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
manufactures numerous drugs for other major pharmaceutical
companies at its plants in California, Michigan and
North Carolina. Examples include AZT for treating AIDS,
Zyban for smoking cessation, Wellbutrin and numerous
over-the-counter drugs such as Sudafed and Neosporin.
With the sale of Catalytica Pharmaceuticals, Inc., he
gave up his position as chairman to focus on his efforts
in Chateau Wally Films.
Dr. Cusumano has authored more
than 50 papers, 20 patents, 8 book chapters, and a book
entitled Catalysis in Coal Conversion. He has lectured
extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and
Japan. Dr. Cusumano appeared in the PBS TV production
on nanotechnology, "Little by Little." He
has been a lecturer at Stanford University and is the
1989-1990 recipient of the Charles D. Hurd Lectureship
at Northwestern University.
Dr. Cusumano is an advisor to the
Fulbright Scholar Program and is listed in Who's Who
in America and Who's Who in the World.
On the personal front, Jim enjoys
hiking and mountaineering and has had the good fortune
to ice-climb 14,160-foot Mt. Shasta in Northern California,
14,410-foot Mt. Rainier in Washington and 19,340-foot
Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa, among many others.
He has two grown daughters, Polly Cusumano and Doreen
Nelsen, three grandchildren, and lives on a horse and
citrus ranch in Ojai, California.
Charla Driver - Producer
native CHARLA DRIVER had the rare opportunity to produce
WHAT MATTERS MOST right in her own backyard of Vega
and Amarillo. For the past ten-years, Driver has firmly
established herself in an entertainment industry career
working in various production capacities including producer,
second unit director, assistant director, production
manager and director on a number of feature film projects.
Her chosen career path has also brought her in front
of the camera with cameo roles in several productions.
Most notably, her latest cameo appearance is as a nurse
in WHAT MATTERS MOST.
Driver has line produced numerous
independent productions including the upcoming award-winning
drama The Visit with Billy Dee Williams, Marla Gibbs,
Phylicia Rashad, Hill Harper, Obba Babatundé
and Rae Dawn Chong; Lesser Prophets starring Michael
Badalucco, Amy Brenneman, Scott Glenn, Elizabeth Perkins,
Jimmy Smits, John Turturro, and Scar City with Stephen
Baldwin, Chazz Palminteri, Tia Carrere and Michael Rispoli.
Since 1990, Driver has line-produced
or associate produced more than 20 projects that include
such diverse titles as Deadlock: A Passion for Murder;
Galgameth; Evil Obsession; Texas Payback; Alien Intruder;
Intent to Kill; Private Wars; To Be The Best: CIA Code
Name: Alexa and Street Crimes.
As an actress, Driver has appeared in Deadlock: A Passion
for Murder; Texas Payback; Living to Die, and Night
of the Wilding.
Leif - Writer
Leif has been writing, producing, directing, and editing
film and video for more than 25 years. His work has
been seen on the screen, on most of the American television
networks, on many of the premiere cable television outlets,
and on home video.
recently, Mr. Leif edited Keep the Faith, a biography
of the colorful and controversial Adam Clayton Powell
for Paramount Television and Showtime. The film stars
Harry Lennix and Vanessa Williams.
prior to that film he edited the independent feature
What Matters Most for Chateau Wally Films.
edited the suspenseful Showtime film Who Killed Atlanta’s
Children?, the untold story of the Atlanta child murders,
starring James Belushi and Gregory Hines. The film
was the highest rated broadcast of the year for Showtime.
was the editor of the powerful Showtime character
driven thriller The Fixer, starring Academy Award
winner Jon Voight; a film the Hollywood Reporter called
"a classic". The film has garnered top
honors at the US International Film & Video Festival,
the Chicago International Television Competition,
and a CINE Golden Eagle.
Leif was also the editor of the film Vanishing Point
for 20th Century Fox Television starring Viggo Mortensen,
Christine Elise, Steve Railsback, Keith David, and
Jason Priestly. The film was named Best Action-Adventure
at the 13th Annual International Festival
of Television Movies.
was the editor and second unit director of the charming
hit film comedy Who Am I This Time? for multiple Academy
Award winning director Jonathan Demme.(Philadelphia, Silence of the Lambs, Beloved) It
starred Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon and Christopher
Leif was the writer, producer, and director of the
poignant, award winning film A Steady Rain, starring
Tony award winning Joe Mantegna.
has also written several screenplays for upcoming
features; among them the exciting, true-life science
adventure story, Daedalus, the sexy comedy Breaking
the Rules, and the literate and sultry film noire
of his films, Fighter Ace, was nominated Best Adventure
Video by the American Video Conference. This award,
co-sponsored by the American Film Institute and Billboard
magazine, is considered the academy award of home
video. Mr. Leif wrote, directed, and edited this
exciting documentary, seen frequently on the Discovery
Leif was the director and editor of Voices, the compelling
documentary about the plight of refugees around the
world. The film features an appearance by distinguished
international actress Liv Ullmann.
a writer, Mr. Leif has written a number of programs
for the Nickelodeon biography series, Against the
Odds, winner of the Peabody Award for Best Children’s
Programming. In addition, he has edited literally
dozens of television programs and science documentaries
and has produced and directed dozens of industrial
films, videos and commercials.
Leif's knowledge and interest in space exploration
led to his serving as supervising editor for NASA's
official daily science report produced at the Jet
Propulsion Laboratory during the historic Voyager
2 encounter with the planet Uranus.
Leif also served a number of years as adjunct film
professor at Chicago's Columbia
College. Many of the students he taught there
work today in Hollywood
themselves as successful writers, editors, and cinematographers.
is married and has two children.
Goi - Director Of Photography
earning his B.A. in film production and graduating as
valedictorian of his class at Chicagos Columbia
College, Michael began teaching cinematography and lighting
work in the industry included feature documentaries
for PBS such as the Emmy Award-winning "Fired Up:
The Story Of Public Housing In Chicago" and the
multi-part series "Wrapped In Steel" which
documented the decline of the steel industry in South
1980 to 1988, Michael filmed many commercials for clients
such as Quaker Oats, Chrysler, SaraLee, Dairy Queen
and Good Morning America.
has photographed over 45 features including "Judas
And Jesus" for Paramount television, the Showtime
Original Movie "Who Killed Atlanta's Children?,
and received an ASC Award Nomination in 1999 for his
work on "The Fixer" starring Jon Voight.
documentary roots still run deep with recent assignments
including "Welcome To Death Row" which documents
the rise and fall of Death Row Records, and a film which
explored the relationship between a man dying of AIDS
and his son.
Sean Morris - Music / Original Score
was the winner of the Peter David Faith prize in composition
in 1997 and a winner of the 1998 New Music for Orchestra
Competition at USC in 1998. His most recent compositional
effort, a short film entitled Yo, Tyrone,
was recently accepted at the New York Independent Film
Festival and is in consideration for Sundance.
Sean has done orchestration and
transcription work for many national TV commercials,
for clients such as Accenture, Chevy, Principal Financial
Group, and The Lending Tree.com. He also worked as an
orchestrator on the short film, The Sharktank
Redemption, which is currently airing on HBO and
Sean works as an assistant to Paul
Chihara (Crossing Delancey, China Beach, The Morning
After), for 100 Centre Street, (the series on A&E).
Sean was also the teaching assistant to Jerry Goldsmith,
(Academy Award winning composer), in a recent film music
course at UCLA.
Sean had the following to say about
working for Jane Cusumano, Working for Jane was
an experience unlike any other that I have had in my
career. I was afforded a level of independence and artistic
freedom that I have not been given in the past. It is
my feeling that Janes personality, attitude, and
her ability to foster the strengths in everyone that
worked on the film made the picture what it is, and
allowed those involved to take pride in the project.