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MUSIC WITHIN

About The Production
Spanning a timeline of five decades in the life of Richard Pimentel (Livingston), "Music Within” is the real-life story of a crusader for human rights and his struggle to define himself, and by extension, humanity. His path to self-discovery takes him from the seemingly innocent but socially benighted fifties through the social upheaval of the sixties and seventies. His personal triumph continued in the eighties and culminated in the nineties, when the American with Disabilities Act, a piece of legislation that he helped pass, becomes the law of the land.

But "Music Within” is much more than a feel-good biopic. Though it ultimately carries an uplifting message, the characters who tell its story are funny, raucous, bawdy and outrageous in their pursuit of what life has to offer. In short, they are alive. And the disabilities that some of them have are no more, no less than distinguishing characteristics of full-on personalities.

With its highly readable script and engrossing adventures of highly likable characters, the film is more of a highly entertaining movie that happens to have a message, rather than a morality play that is also entertaining. There are a lot of funny bits of business in it, thanks to the protagonist's sense of humor and that of his friends. "The sardonic point of view of Richard Pimentel the real man has truly been captured in the film,” says producer Brett Donowho, noting with satisfaction that audiences at preview screenings and the film festivals where it took prestigious awards "are just shocked that they're laughing. Nobody likes to see a boring true-life drama. People come out of the film and what resonates with most people is that they say, ‘That was kind of funny,' but then it sinks in that it has poignant moments as well.

"It's really a word of mouth film,” he adds. "I've never seen a Q&A last so long as with some of these screenings.”

Director Steven Sawalich says it was a Q&A session that inspired him to launch the odyssey that was to become "Music Within.” "I met Richard Pimentel about eight years ago,” he says. "He was giving a speech at a conference I attended. The presentation was his life story, with issues about disability in the work place. He had this amazing ability to take the audience on a rollercoaster of emotions. One minute they were laughing hysterically and the next minute they were crying. There was something that I admired in his story. I went up to him and introduced myself afterward and said, ‘We have to make this into a movie.” And he said, ‘Why in the world would you want to do that?' It's like, ‘Oh the same reason you talk about it, great story that not too many people know about.'”

The first order of business, once he had the green light, was "finding the story in Richard's life. Nobody lives in three acts. We found it by looking at the trajectory of his life, starting when he was a child and ending when they passed the ADA.”

The method by which the filmmakers elevated Richard's story? The writers decided to draw him out in a relaxed setting, away from the office, says screenwriter Bret McKinney. "Mark Andrew Olsen and I wrote a treatment about how we would open up the story. We spent some time with Richard in Vegas and made a lot of tape,” he says. "Because the story is a true story about 40 years of history – it's about an entire movement.

"We got the story line down. But the one thing that was missing was Richard's romantic interest. He hadn't mentioned a whole lot about it. Christine, Melissa George's character was fleshed out after we mentioned it. Kelly Kennemer did a great job on the polish. "So when Melissa came in, it really gave us a visual as to how to develop the story line. Having her raised the stakes of what Richard's inner struggle was. She acted as a mirror to his struggle and kind of expose

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