"Was it worth it? You tell me" - asks Paul Duane, Director of Very Extremely Dangerous, screening as part of IFI Stranger Than Fiction, Dublin's Documentary Film Festival.
Jerry McGill is too obscure to even be called a cult figure.
Only those who've read Robert Gordon's seminal It Came From Memphis or seen William Eggleston's dark, outrageous 'home movie' Stranded in Canton would have the vaguest idea who he is, or those rockabilly completists who own a copy of Sun 326, Lovestruck, recorded by Jerry and his band the Topcoats in 1959, his first and only official release. It's not even a particularly good record (the B-side is better).
So why make a film about him when there are so many other, probably more deserving musicians out there?
Well, back in mid-2009 I was facing a blank wall – my first cut of Barbaric Genius, my film on John Healy, had been rejected, all further funding placed in question and it looked as if it would never be completed.
So when I got an email from Jerry's fiancée Joyce telling me that he'd been diagnosed with lung cancer, had booked a recording session in Memphis next week, and wanted myself and Robert Gordon to meet him there, I grabbed an idea out of thin air.
The story of a man who blew all his chances the first time round, who turned his back on a promising music career in favour of a criminal life, trying to redeem himself while staring death in the eyes. I knew Jerry was charismatic and a great storyteller from my phone conversations with him, but could he carry a film? Who knew?
Out of nothing more than that idea, and Jerry's insistence that he wasn't going to go quietly into the night, that he was finally going to follow up his one and only record, myself and Robert Gordon dragged this film, kicking and screaming and fighting us every inch of the way, into existence. Was it worth it? You tell me.
Very Extremely Dangerous screens on Saturday, August 18th at 17.30, with Director Paul Duane in attendance, as part of IFI Stranger Than Fiction, Dublin's Documentary Film Festival (August 16th - 19th).
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