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Documenting Jack’s Mannequin

Maximum Performance

In the summer of 2006, a publicist friend called on a Sunday morning and invited me to a studio visit with one caveat: It had to be that day.

Fortunately, I bit.

A few hours later, after convincing my friend Josh Morrisroe to grab a camera and meet me there, we stood in an empty room watching Andrew McMahon, bald and weighing maybe a buck fifty, pouring everything he had into a song called "There, There Katie."

He was on a deadline, but this wasn't an 11th hour addition to his new album (that was Dark Blue months before). In fact, it wasn't for release at all.

A few months earlier, Andrew was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 20. He was in between rounds of chemotherapy and out of the hospital for the weekend. The song was a gift for his sister, Kate, who was donating her stem cells to him a few days later.

Between the strength he showed behind that piano and the love captured in those words, "There, There Katie" moved me like no song had before. From that afternoon on, Josh and I became dedicated to sharing Andrew's story with the world.

At that point, we had no idea how it would end, but as fans of Jack's Mannequin know, the stem cell transplant was a success and Andrew was back on stage exactly 100 days later.

Somewhere in between that time, Andrew told me he had video taped every detail of his experience dating back to the fall before when he first started recording Everything In Transit, a coming-of-age break-up record released the same day as his transplant. All the needles, all the phone calls, all the ups and all the downs ..all captured along with straight-from-the-heart narration by a handheld DV cam.

Eventually, those 40 tapes or so became the basis for the documentary Dear Jack, which Josh and I spent more than three years putting together.

Narrated by Andrew's friend (and the drummer on Everything In Transit), Tommy Lee, the movie gives a raw look at cancer and shows how one (very young) man rode his determination to keep making music all the way to recovery.

The below clips are two of the many scenes that were deleted from the final version. One is from Jack's Mannequin's first show (outside of a few Los Angeles small club dates), a sort of coming out party at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas. He was cancer-stricken at the time, but would not find out for another couple of months. And you would never know it by the energy exerted into the performance. (Talk about Maximum Performance!)

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