Category: GEMA, GEMA Alumni Spotlight

Title:GEMA Alumni Spotlight – John Breen (B ’85), Director and Producer

John Breen (B ’85), produced and directed the powerful documentary film 3 Days 2 Nights, which features the story of Mark and Andy Godfrey, and the tragic plane crash they experienced while enroute to a family ski vacation in 1974 with their parents and two older siblings. Mark and Andy, 11 and 8 at the time, were the only survivors and braved three nights and two days in the frigid cold of the Colorado Mountains. For nearly 40 years, they rarely discussed the crash, even between themselves. 3 Days and 2 Nights is a film about two brothers coming to grips with the defining moment of their lives.

How did you discover this story and what drove you to tell it?

3 Days 2 Nights is a plane crash survival story. The main subjects of the film, and the survivors of that 1974 plane crash, are Mark and Andy Godfrey. My family and the Godfrey family were close friends living in Houston, TX at the time of the crash. Mark and Andy were 11 and 8 years-old. I was 10 years-old. What happened to the Godfrey family was heartbreaking to me and the entire community in which we grew up. For many, it was the first time we had seen our parents cry. This tragedy had a tremendous impact on me as a child and, ultimately, has inspired me throughout my life. In telling this story, my hope was that others would be inspired, as I was, by Mark and Andy’s journey. It was also an opportunity to shine a light on childhood trauma. Mark and Andy rarely, if ever, opened up to others about what had happened to them. This film allowed Mark and Andy to purge themselves of years of buried feelings and pain, which resulted in a higher state of healing. Speaking about your trauma is the first step in healing.

The Godfrey family on the morning of the crash, March 1974.

It was fascinating to learn that you had very little prior filmmaking experience before producing and directing this film – how did you do it so successfully?

It goes without saying that you need to have passion and a vision for anything you decide to pursue. That was overwhelmingly true in my case because I was so close to this story. However, the key component to the success of the film is my relationship and lifelong friendship with Mark and Andy. I trusted them, but more importantly they trusted me completely. That trust enabled them to open up; be vulnerable; and reflect upon the unspeakable pain they’ve experienced in their lives. it was their bravery and courage to share their story in the most vulnerable way that makes this film so powerful. Finally, filmmaking is very collaborative, and I was fortunate that I had the support of very talented and experienced collaborators. I couldn’t have made this film without the help of my brother-in-law and the film’s Director of Photography JoJo Pennebaker, and the film’s Editors Shannon Kennedy and Mark Becker.

Talk about the journey in making this film as it did stretch over many years, correct?

Our team spent six years making the film. Documentary filmmaking differs from Narrative filmmaking in many ways. Narrative films work from a script, employ professional actors and have very strict shooting schedules they adhere to. Documentary films, especially those filmed in a verité style, do none of the above. In the case of 3 Days 2 Nights, Mark and Andy have day jobs as well as family and parental obligations. Working around everybody’s scheduling issues was very challenging. We never worked from a script because our goal was to get as close to a cinema verité film as possible. We ended up shooting about 120 hours of digital film. We then went into editing to put the film puzzle together from the 120 hours, along with hours and hours of archival film footage that was provided by the Godfrey family. We also had the challenge of editing a film that takes place from 1974 to the present. All of this resulted in a 3 year edit. Finally, we bumped up against the pandemic which presented challenges in the final stages as well with distribution. We were very fortunate that Peacock TV agreed to distribute the film. It’s now available for streaming on Peacock as well as Amazon, Apple TV and Google.

What lessons or insights can viewers take away about the human condition from watching this film?

Although a tragic beginning, 3 Days 2 Nights is about hope, resilience, family and love. It’s about rebuilding what’s been lost. It’s also about keeping the memories alive of those we loved. A valuable insight to be taken from this film is that it’s okay to express your vulnerability and to show emotion while doing it. It’s a strength not a weakness. Finally, as I said above, the film takes place from 1974 to the present. Because of this 45-year time frame, it’s natural for the audience to reflect upon their own lives during that time. As Mark Godfrey has said, this film is more than just a film about him and his brother. It’s a mirror upon which the audience can reflect and think about themselves, their lives and their relationships with family and friends.

Visit the Film Website to learn more and access links to the platforms that are streaming the film.