Sam Jones' illuminating Wilco documentary "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" is gradually making its way across the country, but even after a year-and-a-half following and filming the band, director/ph
Sam Jones' illuminating Wilco documentary "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" is gradually making its way across the country, but even after a year-and-a-half following and filming the band, director/photographer Jones hasn't stopped working. Last weekend, he was in Chicago to introduce the local premiere of the film, which coincided with two sold-out hometown Wilco shows. Earlier in the week, he was up late at the film's family and crew party, where band members eventually joined a 10-piece Wilco tribute band for a surprise half-hour set.
For fans of Wilco, "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" is, in fact, an occasion worth savoring. Documentaries are frequently about being in the right place at the right time, and "Heart" is no exception. Jones, a longtime Wilco fan, got permission to film the band right after drummer Ken Coomer was replaced by Glenn Kotche.
Over the course of the next several months he would also capture the departure of Wilco multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett and the band's high-profile showdown with Warner Bros. during the recording of the band's latest album, "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," eventually issued by Nonesuch.
"Obviously it turned into something a lot bigger than I imagined," admits the tall, gregarious Jones. "I didn't know that their story would garner so much publicity. I think the perception right around March or April of this year was that Wilco probably seemed bigger than what they were. But it was a self-fulfilling prophecy: now they are bigger than what they were!"
While Jones earned the theatrical release he always wanted, he kept careful note of all the supplements he hoped to add to the forthcoming DVD, which he views as a companion to the film. "My goal all the time was to make [the film] theatrical, but I think I was the only one who believed in that when we
first started," he says. "I figured the DVD was still going to be the main place that people saw this. Then I realized I was getting all this musical stuff that just wouldn't fit in the size of the movie that I wanted to make. I didn't want to make a movie that was too long, but I knew from the start that this was something I wanted to show more of."
Jones reveals that the DVD will feature "another hour-and-12-minute movie, hopefully as a separate disc. It's not more story. It's not more enlightenment about what happened. I feel the film tells that story in a concise way. But we have 21 other songs, and between those songs there are some weird little moments we caught."
The director says he views the DVD almost like a separate Wilco record. "We even just got [Rolling Stone journalist] David Fricke to write the liner notes for the DVD. There'll be my diary, and a nice book with photographs. We made a seven-minute featurette, which is cool, since it interviews me, our camera assistant, and [Wilco frontman] Jeff [Tweedy] about making the film, and [Wilco manager] Tony Margherita about letting us do it. There are some real insights there. Then there are odd little scenes that didn't make it into the movie that are priceless."
Last but not least, Jones hopes to rope the band in for a full audio commentary later this year. "Our DVD distributor tells me that the commentary is the least desirable feature," he offers. "But I love listening to my 'Don't Look Back' and 'Gimme Shelter' commentaries, so we're trying to find the time to do one. There are things about those scenes that could use explaining."
The eventual DVD release could also quickly set the stage for another Wilco studio album, something Jones says is actually close to completion. "I've heard about 26 songs," he says excitedly. "It's fantastic and all over the place. And it's totally different from 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot!' I can't wait to see what happens. I think they're going to do at least three more recording sessions, so there'll be this big batch of songs. There's talk of even putting four albums out at once, or maybe just picking out the best."