Watertown Daily Times - 10/19/2013

Watertown native brings ‘This Time Tomorrow’ home

Song inspires hope for those affected by cancer

By Samantha Christian

Finding out a loved one has cancer can ignite feelings of shock, anger, sadness and denial for those who are forced to look on helplessly while their family member or friend is hurled into the depths of this disease.

Watertown native Cory Zimmermann was faced with this situation 12 years ago when he learned his best friend and co-worker, Dick Ticcioni, was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and only given three months to live.

“I think it actually affected me more than him,” said Zimmermann.

Although devastated by the news, Zimmermann channeled his emotions to fuel creativity. He was inspired to write a song called “This Time Tomorrow,” which began with the lyrics, “You never know when / You never know why / Will I be here? / Will it be clear? / This time tomorrow.”

Then, 93 days later, the unexpected happened: Ticcioni went into remission. He defied the odds and won the battle against cancer.

“I had to rewrite the end of the song because I (had) left it sort of open, so I rewrote it to be more inspirational,” he said. The last line became, “You’ve won that battle.”

What started as a bittersweet release took on a life of its own that, more than a decade later, continues to touch the lives of those affected by cancer.

Song for a cause

Zimmermann, known by the stage name Cory Z, turned the song into a music video (some of which was recorded in Watertown), made a CD single and went on tour telling Ticcioni’s story. He donated all the money he raised to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

“I did that for about 2 1/2 years, and then I kind of put it on hold for awhile,” he said.

When the 10-year anniversary of Ticcioni’s remission was approaching, Zimmermann got the idea to resurrect the song in honor of his friend’s survival and others who had dealt with cancer.

The 2010 version was a collaboration between 56 Milwaukee-area musicians who, at the time, were virtually unknown artists. The black and white music video, made as a celebration of life, inspiration and song to benefit LLS, won seven awards in the 31st annual Telly Awards contest. The contest received nearly 11,000 entries from around the world.

That year the Telly Awards teamed up with YouTube to pair similar videos together for people to watch and vote on which one they liked best. Two of the awards won by the “This Time Tomorrow” music video were in the people’s choice category for nonbroadcast production and video.

“This Time Tomorrow” was pitted against the remake of “We Are the World,” which featured famous singers to benefit the people of Haiti following its destructive earthquake.

“Ironically in 2010, ‘We Are the World’ was redone. They did a music video with all the big rock stars. And we won!” said Zimmermann. “So this little Wisconsin-based foundation that no one knows, these musicians not only won, we actually crushed them. It was unbelievable.”

This moment gave Zimmermann more confidence in his cause and confirmed there was something very special about his mission to inspire hope for those affected by cancer through music and the arts.

“It got such good feedback and awareness that we then redid the song again in 2011,” he said.

The 2011 version of the song featured pianist Joe Hite with Zimmermann as the vocalist. The music video is set in a wheat field and interspersed with heartwarming home videos of various children.

“That was about the time we decided to actually incorporate (“This Time Tomorrow”) and (have) all the money go to local families (in Wisconsin) that have any kind of cancer,” he said.

This Time Tomorrow Foundation (TTTF) is now an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a mission to inspire and raise money through songs, videos, concerts and events to help those less fortunate reach the tomorrow they deserve.

The trend continued with an instrumental version of the song by guitarist Peter Mac in 2012. The music video was shot outdoors and profiles dozens of people affected by cancer. Some hold portraits in memory of loved ones who have passed away from cancer. Others who currently have cancer or are survivors stand poised along walkways surrounded by trees, shrubs and flowers.

“Now part of what TTT does is rerecord the song every single year by a different band of any genre. We film a music video to it, and there is always some story line (in which) we usually honor somebody,” said Zimmermann. “The (band) basically can do anything to the song … as long as the song keeps the integrity and meaning.”

Since the original music video took 2 1/2 years to film and edit, last year Zimmermann’s personal goal was to finish the entire music video in seven hours, which he accomplished by filming for three hours and editing it in four hours.

“I’ve learned a little bit since the first one. That was the very first music video and first time I ever touched a video camera in my life,” he said. “I’m a photographer, so I just took my philosophy and techniques in photography and translated it to video.”

The 2013 version of the song will be recorded by the Milwaukee-based indie rock band I’m Not a Pilot.

“The band changed it up a little bit. It’s completely different,” he said, noting the band still used the lyrics but gave the song its own flair. “The original version is a long song, so they wanted to make it more of a radio song.”

As the original writer of the song, Zimmermann always wonders how much freedom he should give the band, but he ultimately puts his trust in the artists.

“I really like what they did with it, and I’m actually excited to see how people react to it,” he said.

The music video will premier at the fourth annual “This Time Tomorrow” Benefit Concert on Saturday, Oct. 26.

Return to roots

“This year is pretty different,” said Zimmermann. “We wanted to actually re-enact a true story.”

That is where Laurel Marschke comes in.

“Laurel was my wife’s best friend and maid of honor at our wedding,” said Zimmermann.

Marschke, a former Watertown resident, passed away in 2008 after a battle with breast cancer.

“I wanted to honor Laurel through the music video and tell a different story,” he said. “We’ve been telling the ‘people are surviving, people are beating cancer’ (story), and they are, more now than ever. But there are other stories that aren’t told. And that is, ‘women have breast cancer and they die.’ They are not surviving, and the husbands and the children somehow have to move forward.”

Zimmermann was also recently struck with the news that his own wife has breast cancer.

“Unfortunately my wife actually had a double mastectomy this year as well, so it really hit home this year,” said Zimmermann. “I’ve been doing this for 12-13 years and I’ve known people, obviously my best friend had cancer, but when it hits you in your own living room, that’s where it really reminded me why I’m doing it.”

He decided to return to Watertown to film parts of the music video as a kind of personal homage to his hometown.

Some parts are filmed at the Watertown home of his friend Clayton Kratzer to represent typical activities in the Marschke household. In the music video, Kratzer’s wife, Beth, and daughter Asha, 8, play the parts of the new girlfriend and daughter, respectively. The final scene is set in St. Bernard’s Catholic Cemetery, where Laurel Marschke is buried.

The story line follows closely with the life of Sean Marschke, who has since remarried. Caylyn, who was 6 when her mother passed away, will turn 12 years old next month.

Although the song and music video were independently thought, Zimmermann said the end result of the video was highly influenced by what the band was doing. The band once sent Zimmermann an iPhone recording during band practice. The music video will be about 60 percent music performance and 40 percent story line.

“The music video concept to the song melded together so well,” he said. “The cinematography (especially the helicopter style of shot in the last scene) was definitely influenced by what they did in the music.”

The final scene shows the husband standing at the headstone of his late wife’s grave, and as he walks toward his daughter she runs toward him and the two embrace. Subtly in the distance standing at the edge of the cemetery is the husband’s new girlfriend.

“It is sort of a subliminal thing saying he still honors and remembers his wife, but he had to move on,” said Zimmermann. “The helicopter scene is the very last scene, and some people are going to see it and get it and some people won’t, and that’s kind of the idea.”

Even though Sean Marschke has not seen the music video yet and is unable to attend the premier at the benefit concert, he had a positive reaction after reading the screenplay.

“I was very appreciative of (Cory’s) work in the past and impressed as well and quite excited when I heard about the new project he undertook,” said Marschke. “It is going to be quite interesting when I finally do get to see how Cory did the finished product.”

Marschke explained how important Watertown was to his late wife despite their move to Racine County for his job.

“Even after she went to school at Carroll College and I met her in Waukesha, she always kept her ties to Watertown. In fact, she was baptized, (had) first communion, confirmation and got married at St. Bernard’s, and then actually we had her funeral there,” he said. She also attended St. Bernard’s Elementary School and was a 1985 graduate of Watertown High School.

He hopes the video will also bring attention to the broader effects of cancer.

“It’s not only important to remember her and her ties to Watertown, but also now, with October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, how important it is to fight this deadly disease as well,” said Marschke.

Famous friendship

“I wanted to make (the video) even more special and I wanted to find someone who would help the foundation,” said Zimmermann.

He instantly thought of his friend C. Thomas Howell, whom he had met about five years ago on the set of an insurance commercial, to play the role of Sean Marschke.

“It was like 4 in the morning when this idea came into my head, and I got up, typed up the concept and e-mailed Tommy, and (a few) hours later he e-mailed me back and said, ‘Yes, I’ll do it,’” said Zimmermann. “It was just huge to have someone of his caliber connected to this foundation.”

Known for his starring role in the television series “Southland” and performances in movies such as “The Outsiders” and “Red Dawn,” Howell took on a new character in the “This Time Tomorrow” music video.

“He flew in (from Los Angeles) on his own dime specifically just to film that day,” said Zimmermann. The filming of the story line took place on Thursday, Sept. 26.

“It was virtually a no-brainer to come. This is my first time but it won’t be my last,” said Howell, who wants to help grow the foundation. “I’m helping because it is a good cause, a great charity and is working with a delicate subject. It is important to give back when you can to something (you) believe in.”

Zimmermann applauded Howell for doing such a good job making the other actors, especially Asha, feel welcomed and at ease.

“When we went back to the house to film it she did a phenomenal job, and it’s because Tommy made her feel comfortable. It was pretty magic to see how that whole thing came together,” said Zimmermann.

Howell considers Zimmermann a good friend and a wonderful photographer.

“He has an amazing eye and sense of creativity. He can tell a story better than most people,” said Howell. “I love his sensibility behind the camera.”

Howell said he understands thev overwhelming loneliness and helplessness a person can feel when their loved one is diagnosed with cancer. He watched his grandmother pass away from cancer, so working on this video is a way for him to represent his family as well as show others support.

“Unfortunately it has to hit close to home to awaken one’s desire to become involved. And when it hits, it comes quick,” said Howell.

Although the topic of the music video is heartbreaking, Howell said the project has been a lot of fun.

“It’s also a bit of a celebration, what we’re doing, (by) helping a group of people fighting the disease,” said Howell. He urged others to get the word out about the foundation, noting it is an endless job to find sponsorship and donations.

Behind the scenes

Since Zimmermann started This Time Tomorrow on his own in 2001, he reached out to the talented people he works with to help get the foundation off the ground.

Behind the scenes of TTTF is Pewaukee-based Z2 Marketing, of which Zimmermann is the creative director and principal.

“I do a lot of the editing and shooting myself since it is my foundation and I have the biggest passion towards it, but all my employees will step up,” said Zimmermann.

Z2 Marketing donates all the marketing, website, social media and public relations efforts to the foundation.

“Our crew that comes out there (to the shoots) and all my staff donate their time. Everything is volunteer,” he said.

Since music videos typically range between $30,000 and $150,000, having professional equipment at one’s disposal is priceless.

One of the large cameras on set belong to Z2 Marketing.

“We’re one of the only firms in America that owns that, because the whole camera, including the editing (equipment), is about $75,000. We do some pretty high-end stuff, so to have Z2 behind TTT when it comes to doing the music video is priceless,” said Zimmermann.

Every year Z2 Marketing gives back by donating to a charity of their choice. In the past it had been LLS, but since its incorporation two years ago, This Time Tomorrow Foundation has become Z2’s official charity of record.

Future of the foundation

“It’s been an interesting and exciting road to see the foundation evolve over the years,” said Zimmermann.

In fact, this year the This Time Tomorrow Foundation has become its own label. Bands can donate their song and appear on an album while still retaining the rights to their song.

Within the next five months, TTTF will be filming about three music videos to help promote their new CD called “This Time Together.” The album will feature between 10-13 songs by different bands.

“Everything the foundation makes (from the album) goes straight back into the mission,” he said.

Since the foundation has been incorporated, Zimmermann estimates TTTF has raised close to $200,000.

TTTF also recently accepted a donation of three HD TVs from a corporation. After selling them on eBay, the foundation has raised about $13,000 from that donation so far.

“The more people are learning about us, the more the phones are ringing and people want to help. It is heartwarming to see,” said Zimmermann. “Our goal is to give every penny back to families. We don’t keep anything, and we don’t pay anybody anything.”

People contact TTTF and explain their situation or tell the story of their friend or family member who needs help. The foundation then contacts its board of directors to vote on what form of financial aid a person may qualify for.

“We do have to go through a checklist, because that person may or may not qualify. We really try to help people from last wishes to people that just don’t have good health insurance, or if it is so time consuming that they can’t go to work (temporarily),” explained Zimmermann. “We do get a lot of requests and we help as many people as we can.”

In the last year and a half, between 10-15 families have benefited from the foundation’s funds.

“We’ve ranged from a couple hundred bucks to many thousands of dollars,” he said. “Last year we actually paid the salary of a mother that had to take three months off so she could take care of her daughter.”

TTTF also flew a terminally ill and nearly blind Milwaukee man to Florida so he could cross seeing the ocean off his bucket list.

“His friend contacted us through Facebook and said the man told his wife he really wanted to see the ocean before he loses his sight and dies,” said Zimmermann. “Within 24 hours I had the board approve $5,500 to buy flights and miscellaneous other things to get him and his family down to Florida. Then Z2 gave them two HD cameras so they could film the entire thing to remember it forever.”

In just over a week from the time the money was approved, the man was in Florida with his family.

“Those are the items and things we can do because we’re small, and the more money that we raise the more families we can help,” he said.

“We do see it going nationwide, because our ultimate goal is to have a national act record the song. That’s kind of what we call our Oprah moment. If we have that, that will automatically take the foundation on a national level,” he said.

Zimmermann noted that having a Hollywood celebrity star like Howell in the 2013 music video was a step.

“We have some connections that are opportunities for next year. We’re talking to a couple of different national bands that are interested,” he said.

Until that happens, TTTF intends to use all of its funds locally.

“There’s benefits to that, and we are such a locally driven foundation,” he said. “But once we go national, the dollars that come from Wisconsin will probably still stay in Wisconsin, and the dollars that are donated from outside the state will probably benefit those states that it comes from.”

Zimmermann is looking forward to what the future may hold for TTTF.

Through the universal power of music, TTTF is already worldwide because it sells its songs on iTunes. Zimmermann said the versions of the song “This Time Tomorrow” have been downloaded in more than 35 countries, with Australia at the top.

“I’m really excited this year’s going to be our pivotal year. We’re making some big strides and helping a lot more people, and that’s our goal,” he said. “Even the people we’re not helping we’re hoping it inspires. That’s the beautiful thing about music.”

Watertown Daily Times

Watertown Daily Times

Watertown Daily Times

Watertown Daily Times