First you dream. Then you act. Stories that inspire us begin with dreams, often seemingly impossible dreams.
“Breathe Breana,” a feature-length documentary candidate for Best Documentary and Best Director at the 2019 Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema chronicles a young girl’s daring dream — to become a tandem surfing champion while handicapped by cystic fibrosis.
Athletes draw on reserves of oxygen to compete. When the ability to breathe deeply is compromised, as it is with cystic fibrosis, winning in a demanding athletic competition becomes even more improbable. When winning also requires elegant athleticism, as it does in tandem surfing, the victory becomes deeply inspirational.
“Breathe Breana” is made by another dreamer, writer and director Duke Addleman, honored at IIFC 2016 as co-writer, with childhood friend Greg Morgan, of the multiple award-winning feature “The Boatman.”
Addleman lives a “blended career,” with a day job as a middle school teacher of poetry, literature, film making and screenwriting, and a second career as an indie film producer, writer and director. Added to the blend is the inspiration of being a husband (to Susan) and father (to 20-year-old twins John and Grace). And rounding out the mix is Addleman’s passion for music, as a keyboardist and vocalist, with a background in making that music with his group “Ford Perfect.”
Born in San Diego, raised in Coronado and Palos Verdes, and current resident of San Pedro, Addleman has been drawn to the water around him. All his career facets are fueled by his easy-going nature and ability to understand and welcome the waves — the crests and the troughs.
He has always been a film buff, inspired first, and infused with the dream of becoming a filmmaker, by the 1978 movie “The Deer Hunter.” He has learned to follow his instincts, follow the projects he finds worthy and occasionally to take on the projects that find him.
With “Breathe Breana” the project came to him. “I was watching sports at a bar at a restaurant somewhere in Orange County talking with the guy next to me,” remembered Addleman. “He was a retired pro-surfer, six-time world champion, who now worked with kids with cystic fibrosis in a sport called tandem surfing.” He described how Bob Friedman was partnering with a young girl, Breana Schroeder, in a sport once described as Cirque du Soleil on a surfboard or pairs figure skating on a wave. In the competition, Friedman is “the base,” the lifter on the surf board supporting “the flyer,” a woman trained in gymnastics who performs tricks while being held aloft. After describing his current project, Friedman turned to Addleman and said, “We’re going to the world championships. This is what I’m doing. So what are you doing?”
Addleman answered by agreeing to show up the next day with cameras to watch and perhaps film Friedman and Breana tandem surfing off San Onofre. “I knew it was right, from the start,” said Addleman, of what would become his next film. “The second time I brought my mom and my daughter. I knew this was it.” That was in April 2016. Addleman wrapped the project 18 months later, at the end of 2017. “I spent my entire spring break [from teaching] doing the final edit,” he said. “I looked at it and then we all cried like babies.
“I make movies because it’s fun and that’s it. It’s the juice, the love and collaborating with others. And with ‘Breathe Breana’ there was the added bonus that it is all for a good cause — promoting cystic fibrosis awareness and hoping to raise money and interest in finding ways to add years of life through research.”
Of his blended career, Addleman said, “When you’re in the arts, the world becomes smaller.” Things, people, resources come together, and one builds a cast, a crew and a professional family.
“Breathe Breana” has its domestic premier at IIFC at 2:10 p.m. Tuesday, March 5 at Creekstone Inn. It screens again at Town Hall at 3:45 p.m. Saturday, March 9. At the March 9 performance, Breana and her mother Karen will be present, as will Duke, his mother, wife and children.
To watch the trailer, visit the IIFC web site, www.idyllwildcinemafest.com.