Jay DeMerit is used to the spotlight. As the center back for the US national team and as one of the top defenders in MLS, the Vancouver Whitecaps man constantly grabs attention.
Still, starring in Rise & Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story, a documentary about his life, was a bit of a strange feeling for the player.
“It’s always a little bit strange when someone wants to make a movie about you,” DeMerit said. “But then I thought about it and said, 'Why not?' and just embraced the idea. If nothing ever comes out of it, at least I’ll have a documentation of that part of my life.”
It’s certainly a life worth documenting. DeMerit’s unlikely story, an unheralded kid from Green Bay, Wisc., who moves to England only to climb his way from Sunday League to the EPL using little more than skill and will, is one of the great fairy tales of American soccer. And now, with a little help from friends and fans, the story could be coming to the big screen.
Helmed by DeMerit’s former University of Illinois at Chicago teammate Ranko Tutulugdzija and attorney-cum-filmmaker Nick Lewis, Rise & Shine focuses on DeMerit’s evolution from college grad to Watford star.
Initially, DeMerit had some misgivings about being the subject of a biopic at such an early age. Ultimately, though, his hesitancy gave way to trust in his old friend.
“These are guys that I’d known for a long time, Ranko especially, and I trusted his ideas and his passion for the project,” says DeMerit. “Today, my story isn’t that different from any other pro. The real adventure is how I got here, and they understood that.”
The story of getting the film made parallels the World Cup veteran’s own tale of hustle and determination. With rights fees for crucial game footage from the Championship League, Premier League and US national team hovering between $12,000 to $20,000 per minute, Tutulugdzija and Lewis are scraping as hard as their subject to get their film finished. The co-directors have recently launched a campaign to secure needed capital via online fundraising platform Kickstarter, where supporters can also pre-order a copy of the work-in-progress on DVD.
Although DeMerit is happy to help promote the film when called upon, he certainly isn’t acting like a movie star and is keeping his ego in check.
“It’s always strange to endorse yourself, but in my opinion, this film is much bigger than me,” he said. “It’s about an idea. It’s about something other people can maybe use as their own inspiration. You really can do whatever you want if you put your mind to it.”