By Gregory Crofton
A documentary about Chris Whitley, an artist who combined poetry with blues and scored a hit album with his first record “Living With the Law” in 1991, is still a work in progress apparently.
Jon Mayor is a co-director of the project. Mayor had expected to release the film years ago, but he, his co-director Michael Borofsky, and editor Gil Gilmore, split from their New York City base to live in different places and that inevitably slowed things down.
The initial cut of “Dust Radio: A Movie About Chris Whitley” received an underwhelming reception at some film festivals likely in part because the movie is dark compared to pictures like “Searching for Sugarman’ and “20 Feet From Stardom,” two indie music docs won Oscars for Best Documentary Feature.
“I feel that our film was a hard-hitting film at a time where people were steering away from really dark sad character-driven drama,” Mayor said.
Mayor ended up in Los Angeles working on reality TV shows and things fell into a waiting mode in the hope they could shoot “bigger” interviews with people they wanted to include in the film like Chris Whitley’s brother, Dan Whitley, who Mayor has interviewed for the film.
“Dust Radio” has been in the works for more than 10 years now. Mayor first spoke to Whitley in 2005 after a show he played at the Knitting Factory in Los Angeles. A month or two later, the two met up at Whitley’s New York City apartment. The August visit lasted for two days. The interview was his last because Whitley died from lung cancer that November.
Mayor and Borofsky had each shot footage of Whitley in different stages of his career and were pursuing separate films until a Sony executive introduced them to each other. They decided to pool their footage and work together on what became “Dust Radio: A Movie About Chris Whitley.”
“I don’t want to say I want to be done with it, but it’s time to be done with it for everybody, and for everybody that’s been waiting for it,” Mayor said.
In 2012, Mayor and Borofsky raised more than $68,000 via Kickstarter from 430 Chris Whitley fans.
“The thing to do is make it authentic and I think honest and loyal to what Chris stood for,” Mayor said. “If people have issues with that I can live with it.”