Film project amplifies loss and hope in death of jazz great, husband Brecker


“To see Michael on the screen and hear his voice over and over again was an extremely painful task …”

The documentary More to Live For screens at the Gig Harbor Film Festival this Saturday. People from the Pacific Northwest will finally get an opportunity to view the story of three men affected by Leukemia seeking out a bone marrow transplant, including the late tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker.

In anticipation of the screening, I spoke with Susan Brecker, Michael Brecker’s widow and the producer of the film by phone. In this interview, Susan told me what the film was all about, how she decided to spread the word about the bone marrow registry through film and the response received from viewers so far.

About the film

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More to Live For is a film about three men, all of whom have developed Leukemia. The film chronicles their lives, with the cure for each of them being a bone marrow transplant. It shares the story of each of them searching for a transplant, which would ultimately save their lives.

Using a film to spread the word

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Following the death of her husband, Susan Brecker wanted to get the word out about how easy it was to donate stem cells to save a persons life.

Initially she thought that a benefit concert would be the way to go, but wanted to make it something continuous that could be easily spread around the country. After meeting James Chippendale (one of the other men in the film and someone who survived after receiving a successful bone marrow transplant), the two decided that the best way to get the word out was by making a film and bringing it around the country.

“It has been our mission every time the film has been screened to test people afterwords. We’ve found that the film and the story is so compelling that nearly 100 percent of the eligible audience members get tested.” – Susan Brecker

Choosing Noah Hutton as the director of the film

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During Michael Brecker’s illness, Noah Hutton, also a musician and neighbor to the Brecker’s, became Michael’s arms and legs in the studio when Michael was too sick to move around. Hutton would help with technical aspects, and when Michael passed away it was a huge loss for him. Susan had seen Hutton’s first film, Crude Independence, and was blown away by his ability to respect each person in the film.

A painful process creating the film

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Making this documentary was not without heartache for Susan Brecker. Being married to a Grammy Award winning recording artist naturally resulted in having thousands of hours of archival video footage to sort through. To see Michael on the screen and hear his voice over and over again was an extremely painful task for Susan as she grieved for him. Even after watching the finished product hundreds of times, Susan still finds it just as painful.

“To balance this feeling however, I have this wondrous gift to test people and perhaps save lives with the film, so it becomes a little bit easier.” – Susan Brecker

Response from Michael’s fans

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While Michael was sick and since the film has started screening, Susan has received an overwhelming amount of support and love from people who want to help in any capacity. During his illness along, tens of thousands of people, many of whom were fans, were tested in an attempt to try to save his life. She continues to receive constant support from fans worldwide.

Screenings continue around the world

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In addition to the Gig Harbor Film Festival, More to Live For will be screened in the near future at the First Glance Film Festival in Philadelphia, the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, in Denver, and internationally at the London Jazz Festival.