In the annals of the "You think you've got troubles?" documentary, standing tall indeed is Eric Daniel Metzgar's LIFE. SUPPORT. MUSIC. This quiet little movie tracks the life of
Does this sound like one of those "inspiring" documentaries that will have you reaching for the Kleenex box ASAP? Well, yes, but believe me: You've no idea how good you'll be feeling and/or how differently you will perceive this movie once you've finished it -- rather than now, when you're reading me or anyone else who's trying to tell you how special it is. On one level, Life. Support. Music. is simply about what can be achieved when people try hard enough. It's also about how little doctors sometimes know or understand, no matter how good they may be. But that's too simple. Really. You have to have been there.
So be there, when the movie opens this Friday for a limited run at the Cinema Village (and eventually elsewhere around the country, I fervently hope). Toward the end of the documentary, Jason notes that he doesn't feel fully himself until the music kicks in. When that music finally does kick in, you'll understand exactly what he means.
TrustMovies loves a lot of the films he sees and, in fact, is of the mind that on any given evening, there's probably something worth watching available among the DVDs released that week, not to mention what's playing around town in various theatres. (Yes, it helps if one lives in a major metropolis). Of everything I've encountered of late, however -- documentaries, narratives, full-length or short -- nothing tops Life. Support. Music. So taken with the film was I that I shared my screener with the married couple upstairs, also film buffs who especially enjoy documentaries. (This was done partly as a corrective: Could the movie possibly be as fine as I'd imagined?) One member of the couple calls himself a "nitpicker extraordinaire"; upon returning the disc to me the following day, he admitted with gratitude that he'd found nary a nit to pick.
When the chance arose to chat with the maker of this documentary, I immediately jumped. While I learned a lot from Mr. Metzgar, to avoid any spoilers (can a film such as this even have spoilers?) you may want to see the movie first and then come back to this post. The photos shown above and below, by the way, begin with Jason, pre-aneurysm, at the top -- and then work their way forward, post-hemorrhage, as he progresses.
Q&A with filmmaker Eric Daniel Metzgar
TrustMovies: As writer/director/producer/editor/cinematographer/narrator, what was the most difficult part for you regarding the making of this film?
Eric Daniel Metzgar: It wasn't the filmmaking itself. It was being around Jason early in the shooting process. He had been -- and still is -- a friend of mine, and seeing him in such an altered state was really difficult. In my eyes, at the beginning, it seemed like he was a different person, a changed person, somehow a diminished version of his prior self, and at that point, to me, a full recovery seemed unlikely. And that was really hard to accept. But he continued to recover, and my feelings changed as I watched him return to his life -- his new life. And I saw in fact that he wasn't a diminished version of himself, he was, instead, a stronger, more developed person because of all that he had been through.
Why did you choose to wait so long before really getting into the music angle? Jason had been a musician, after all, and a successful one.
There were several reasons, actually. Music films are tricky. Everyone has different tastes, so to focus too much on the music can put off audience members who don't appreciate the genre you're in.
That's funny, because after I watched the movie, I shared it with my upstairs neighbors, whom I suspected would love the film. They did, and we talked briefly about this question of why the music appeared so late in the movie. We're all senior citizens, and my neighbor Joel offered the exact reason that you just gave: "This would not be the type of music a certain part of your audience would want to hear much of."
Another reason was something more technical: I am a musician, as well as a filmmaker, so I try to treat music in my films with great respect. I won't show a concert -- or use concert sound -- unless it's really good. I filmed Jason playing a lot of shows during his recovery, but the sound of the band was recorded by camera microphone. So the footage was good, but the sound was less-than-stellar, except for the last concert in the film. For that show I took the sound from the "board" -- meaning it was professionally mixed, then mastered. Anyhow, all this led to an interesting thing happening. As I was making the film, putting it together, I thought to myself, I can feel that I should be including some music, some of Jason's music, throughout the story. But then I thought -- no -- let me try holding off until the end, and then I'll have one of Jason's songs play all the way through, and we'll him playing, from five camera angles, with visual flashbacks occurring, and we'll see if it works as a big payoff. So that's what I did. And I feel like it really works, giving the audience that full song -- one that is really well-recorded -- as a kind of long-awaited climax at the end.
What’s the latest update on Jason?
He is doing wonderfully. He's fully back into his life with his wife and new daughter and his music. And he just got his driver's license again!
One of the lovely moments in the film happens when Jason says that he knows that he is not fully back in life until he is there with the music. You -- and he -- make this so clear and meaningful.
Thank you. That's one of my favorite moments in the film. Always make me cry to think of him reconnecting to his sense of music. Because what is that connection? It's so ethereal and personal and private.
The movie hints at some family problems along the way, but we remain thoroughly un-privy to them.
There is no bad blood within this family. They are a truly remarkable group. They had their struggles, but worked through them as part of the process and it brought them all together.