In 2005, Jack's Mannequin's Andrew McMahon was recording his first album, Everything in Transit, and on the same day he finished the project, he was also diagnosed with cancer. Andrew was only 22 years old.
Sire Records had given the singer-songwriter a DV camera to document the making of the record, but Andrew also recorded everything that happened while he fought the disease. Using that footage, the Jack's Mannequin frontman has released Dear Jack, a documentary that chronicles his battle with leukemia.
Andrew was able to get a stem cell transplant from his sister, opening the door to a full recovery, but the journey remains a source of inspiration for the musician, who also hopes that Dear Jack will personify an illness that affects people of all ages.
JSYK: Why did you choose to document this difficult period in your life?
Andrew McMahon: There are a couple of reasons, actually. The first being that I had been documenting the early stages of the Jack's Mannequin project for about six months prior to finding out I was sick. Over the course of those six months, I had become so inclined towards filming every aspect of my life that when I got ill, it just seemed like the natural next step. The other reason was a little more complicated and still a little tough to wrap my head around. I think, in large part due to a lack of physical energy, it became difficult to write songs and journal and pursue art as a form of refuge from the disease. In turn, the camera became the place where I could confess the kinds of things that I had trouble discussing at the time.
JSYK: What do you hope people will take from Dear Jack?
Andrew: I guess I'm hoping that it sheds a little light on the humanity of the disease. Also, 15- to 22-year-olds have seen no improvement in their survival rates for cancer in more than 30 years. I hope this can put a face to that struggle and motivate people to bring about change in the odds for young people suffering the same way they've been able to for so many others facing illness.
JSYK: Do you think the subject matter and imagery might be difficult for young people to handle?
Andrew: I'll be honest, I think it might be difficult for a lot of people to handle.The thing is, it's real. We didn't leave out the hard stuff. I can't say I know how people will process the film, but I do know it is as honest and educational about the experience as possible. It may not be right for everyone, but I think it gives people a frame of reference for how illness can affect patients and their families. I also think it illustrates how difficulty can inspire as much hope and good as it does pain, and that is a positive thing, in my opinion.
Dear Jack is available today at www.jacksmannequin.com/dearjackmovie/. Jack's Mannequin's sophomore album, The Glass Passenger, is in stores and online now.
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