Welsh rocker — and three-time cancer survivor — Mike Peters never intended to make an uplifting documentary about his life.
Eight years ago, when producers first discussed the project that would become “Man in the Camo Jacket” (which screens in The City this weekend in conjunction with a concert by The Alarm, his anthemic new wave band), it was intended to be a study of the singer’s Love Hope Strength Foundation. (The cancer charity sponsors concert-including treks up Mount Everest and Mount Kilimanjaro, and an annual summer hike to Wales’ tallest peak, Snowdon.)
“That was the original scope of the film; the producers were looking for a way to tell that story and bring it into a cohesive form,” says Peters, who, at the same time, was working with director Russ Kendall on the BBC program “The Song That Changed My Life.” (Peters’ choice was Big Country’s chiming “In a Big Country,” which raised his flagging spirits during painful chemo treatments.)
“He came to Wales for this 20-minute feature, so I took him to my studio and showed my Alarm archive, and all the tapes I’d saved since our 1981 beginning as the band’s biographer. And he said, ‘Oh, man, this is a filmmaker’s dream!’”
Kendall urged the production team to shift its focus by informing them that the Love Hope Strength story began with Peters.
“That was Russ’ vision, and I really trusted him,” Peters says. “So I thought I could let go and let him tell the story.”
He sent the documentarian every last bit of footage he had, including romantic clips he filmed on tour to keep his wife apprised of his progress back home.
“That’s how I ended up in my underwear on the film, which I’d never planned on,” he adds, chuckling.
In the movie, his peers — including Billy Duffy, Dave Wakeling, Duff McKagan and Slim Jim Phantom (some of whom have played with him in his ironically-dubbed side group, Dead Men Walking) — reverently praise the kindhearted, apparently indestructible musician.
As the BBC was filming a triumphant “Camo”-wrap story last year, Peters suffered a relapse, as his wife Jules was diagnosed with breast cancer.
The couple let the cameras roll, resulting in another documentary, “Mike & Jules: While We Still Have Time,” now on TV overseas.
As for watching his biography flicker past, he says, “It’s a strange feeling, I must admit. It feels like I’ve literally come back from the dead quite a few times just to be here. I’m lucky to be alive.”
IF YOU GO
Man in the Camo Jacket
Mike Peters appears in post-show Q&A
Where: Variety Club Preview Room, 582 Market St., S.F.
When: 5 p.m. Aug. 18
Note: The Alarm appears at 9 p.m. Aug. 18 at The Chapel, 777 Valencia St., S.F.; tickets are $28-$30; visit www.ticketfly.com
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