When Mike Schmiedeler, ‘94 graduate in FTT and Marketing, finished his first feature-length independent documentary film “Don’t Turn Your Back on Friday Night” about musician Ike Reilly, he knew he wanted his first audience to be at Notre Dame. In his introduction to the screening, Mike credited Notre Dame and the job he got after graduation at WNDU for “teaching me everything I know.” Schmiedeler explained how the film follows the musician Ike Reilly and his life, detailing how “struggling with booze, a love/hate relationship with his hometown he never left, his deeply rooted Catholic faith and the face of foreclosure on the dream house he raised his family in, Ike finds redemption in music, art and family as his 3 sons begin performing with his band”. The documentary not only features interviews with members of the band and family and Ike’s wide variety of collaborators over the years but also contains a truly astounding amount of archival footage, from decades of performances to personal family videos.
The film itself is not your typical documentary. Rather than trying to construct a traditional three-act structure, the film examines and reveals Ike’s life through his songs. Reilly’s records are the window into his soul and his truly remarkable life. The film begins by introducing the audience to Ike through his community including the likes of Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine); David Pasquesi (“Veep”, ”The Book Of Boba Fett”); Johnny Hickman (Cracker); David Lowery (Cracker); Tony Fitzpatrick (“Patriot”); Mars Williams (Psychedelic Furs); and his three sons, who themselves joined the band. The film reveals Ike’s life in a non-linear fashion through the stories embedded in his songs, which draw from real experiences in his life, including a range from the birth of one of his sons to the death of a friend, and getting stiffed as a doorman by Donald Trump.
One truly remarkable fact about Ike that Schmiedeler hopes audiences take away from the film is how Reilly somehow manages to succeed, not only as a musician but also as a family man. So often, musicians are forced to choose whether to prioritize one or the other, but Ike managed both. When I asked Schmiedeler what it was about Reilly that made him the choice for his first independent documentary, he said it was simple. Ike was “just that good.” And Schmiedeler is not the only one
who thinks so. The New York Times described his band as “one of the best live bands in America.” With this documentary, Schmiedeler hopes that more people can come to that same conclusion.
The screening on Sunday also privileged the audience with a performance by Ike Reilly and his three sons Shane, Mickey and Kevin. They performed three songs, “Living in the Wrong Time,” “Trick of the Light” and “Put a Little Love in It.” They also did a short Q&A session, where Reilly said the documentary was “humbling and humiliating at the same time” and expressed his gratitude for the community showcased in the film who made the band and his life what it is today. There was no perceivable difference between the life in the documentary and the man answering questions for an audience. He spoke honestly — albeit sarcastically and often self-effacing — concerning his life, his mistakes and his hopes for the future. The band and the filmmaker are certainly ones you’ll want to keep an eye on. For more information about the film and the band, you may visit the documentary’s website.