This wasn't the movie Jim Granato planned to make. When he started filming D Tour in March 2006, Granato expected to tell the story of former Indiana drummer Pat Spurgeon and his dual quest for rock stardom and a new kidney.
Granato thought he'd show Spurgeon on the road with the band Rogue Wave, Spurgeon undergoing a less invasive kind of treatment called peritoneal dialysis and, ultimately, Spurgeon getting a kidney transplant.
That's some of what happened, yes, but the aptly named D Tour goes in a couple of stunning directions, especially in the roller coaster final half hour.
"Like a lot of documentaries, when you're following one or more people, you never know what's going to happen," said Granato, who'll be in Indianapolis with Spurgeon Oct. 17-19 when his film is screened at the Heartland Film Festival. (There's a fourth showing Oct. 23, but they won't be in town.) "You have to have some patience, and obviously things unwind — sometimes day after day, sometimes not for weeks or months."
Waiting proved worthwhile. In addition to getting the film into various festivals, Granato sold it to the series Independent Lens. It will air on WFYI (Channel 20) and PBS stations across the nation at 10 p.m. Nov. 10.
The televised version will be cut slightly, from the original 99 minutes to 83, but "there are no major losses," Granato said.
The roots of D Tour start in Indiana, where both Granato and Spurgeon grew up. They didn't know each other here, but Granato knew of the wiry-haired drummer who played with John P. Strohm and Jake Smith in the early '90s band Antenna. Granato left Bloomington in 1994 and settled in San Francisco two years later, shortly before Spurgeon did. They met in a bar in 1997, realized they shared Indiana roots and became friends.
Granato knew Spurgeon had lived with kidney problems all his life and had undergone a transplant. Then in early 2006, Spurgeon mentioned that his kidney was failing and he needed to resume dialysis.
Spurgeon was given the option of peritoneal dialysis, which allowed him to be mobile, as opposed to having to be treated at a clinic multiple times a week. Doctors cleared him to tour, and Spurgeon suggested Granato document the situation.
"I knew Pat, and I knew his perseverance and his will was very strong, and I knew he knew what he was doing," the filmmaker said. "So I had a lot of faith in him."
Granato, a freelance camera and sound man, had no money to make a film. But he did have equipment, friends who volunteered to help and a handheld camera he let Spurgeon use to make a video diary. That became one of the important elements of the first half of the film, when we see Spurgeon fulfilling his dreams while hoping a kidney donor would be found.
What happened next — the heart of the film — will not be revealed here.
"I was fortunate to know some really interesting people and have this incredible story take place that I was there for -- for the good moments and the bad," said Granato, who spent three years completing D Tour. "Hopefully, what people will take away is some new light shed on a subject (organ donation) that people don't talk about very often. We don't want to come off as too didactic or heavy-handed. It's more of a conversation we want to get started."
As for visiting Indiana, "I'm looking forward to coming back to town and experiencing the film with the really old friends I expect to see," he said. "And some new ones as well."