Richard and I shot 240 hours of video tape footage on Jonathan. It took years to find the film in the editing. We had a structure in mind and we were clear on the themes, but you don’t know what you have until you see it with an audience. We couldn’t afford to rent a screening room so we had a preview screening at Richard’s house for 20 people, then preview screenings for 50 and 75 in the big theater at the Los Angeles Film School, where I teach directing. They were valuable screenings for audience feedback, but suspect because we were showing the film to other filmmakers, and they tended to tell us how they would remake our film, since everyone is a director. We felt we needed a real audience response.
Festival audiences became our almost real audiences. We’d stand in the aisles of packed theaters and watch for when the audience laughed or look bored. After each festival screening, we’d do some re-cutting. Pace and rhythm and clarity of story line were our concerns. The film got better and better, and we think it’s at its best.
Now we’re opening CERTIFIABLY JONATHAN, seven years in the making, in New York City on February 11th, 2011, to be followed by Chicago, Los Angeles, and theaters around the country. People will now see our movie in local movie theaters. The public. The real audience at last. It’s lucky Richard and I can’t clone ourselves to stand in all those theater aisles. Otherwise, we might be tempted to…. No! Don’t go there, Jim! The film is done, done, done.
-Jim Pasternak, Director
The other day I was feeling depressed over a variety of things, including money, politics, death, etc. Then I thought about Jonathan, and what he’s been through. He’s 85, 16 years older than me, and he just lost his wife, Eileen, after 55 years of marriage. He’s also bi-polar and has a host of physical problems. Despite those obstacles, he remains cheerful and functions at an extraordinarily high creative level. His new drawings and paintings are wonderful. Just thinking about Jonathan’s ability to overcome adversity and create inspiring art dispelled my gloom and put me in a better mood.
If you’ve been inspired by Jonathan Winters, I would be delighted to hear about it.
-Jim Pasternak, Director
“Brilliant.” “An accidental wonder.” “A tremendously interesting glimpse into the sometimes unsettling – but authentic – genius of Jonathan Winters.”
Check out the full review by Philip Martin of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
Certifiably Jonathan is opening today in Little Rock, AR at the Market Street Cinema. If you’re in the Little Rock area, you can be one of the first people to see Certifiably Jonathan in the theater!
Jonathan as Maudie Frickert
In September 2003 I am sitting at an outdoor café in Montecito when Jonathan Winters walks out of the café entrance. He is wearing his baseball cap, a Churchill-like scowl, cigar in mouth, and coffee cup in hand. I suddenly remember being with my parents in front of the television and howling with laughter at his antics. Grateful for all the joy he brought to my life, I blurt out, “thank you, thank you, thank you.” He turns to me, his face changing into Maudie Frickert, his old lady character, and he says in her sweet voice, “you’re welcome, you’re welcome, you’re welcome.” He then sits down and talks to me non-stop for an hour and a half.
For the first half hour I scream with laughter; 45 minutes in I want him to shut up, as I am hurting physically; after 90 minutes I am hooked by one of the most complex minds I have ever encountered. Talking with Jonathan Winters is like talking to a man who has his brain inside out. All is revealed and nothing is sacred. His bright intelligence and deep feelings combine in comic riffs that struggle between creativity and sanity, love and hate, fame and infamy. It is an unbelievable performance that suggests a rare form of documentary jazz. He tells me that he is a serious painter with a show about to happen at the prestigious Andrew Weiss Gallery in Beverly Hills. His dream is to hang in the Museum of Modern Art. He shows me his paintings and I am very excited. He’s a wonderful painter: a cross between Miro and Dali, with a sprinkle of Caldwell.
When I can get a word in edgewise, I tell Jonathan that I have directed two features, teach film directing, and ask him if I can shoot a feature documentary about him as an artist. He says yes, we sign papers and my partner Richard Marshall starts shooting.
At first the shooting is straightforward, conventional documentary. We’d shoot Jonathan in his house in Montecito talking about painting and art. The camera lens inspires hilarious improvisations from Jonathan, and we realize that this is going to be a most unusual documentary. Jonathan’s bi-polar craziness is like the dada art movement. Maybe we’re making a dadamentary.
-Jim Pasternak, Director