Northampton man wants to make independent film about disabled musician


NORTHAMPTON — Jeremy Macomber-Dubs has been an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities for several years. As someone who uses a wheelchair because he struggles with the effects of brittle bone disease, Macomber-Dubs knows it’s a challenge to navigate a world where access for people with reduced mobility is often limited at best.

Now Macomber-Dubs, the chairman of the Northampton Disability Commission, is taking that effort into a new arena. He hopes to make an independent film about a rock guitarist, who uses a wheelchair to get around, who gets a hit at the big time – but also could destroy his friendship with a good friend and fellow musician.

The proposed film, entitled “tallywhackeris based in some way on Macomber-Dubs’ life story, including the fact that he’s been playing electric guitar for years and has played with several bands. One of his bands once opened for the Pixies, a band he later befriended, singing backup vocals on one of their albums.

But the larger goal behind the project, he says, is to encourage filmmakers to include more characters with disabilities in their films — and to hire actors with disabilities to play them.

“I’m a big fan of movies, and it bothered me for years how little representation there was for people with disabilities,” Macomber-Dubs said in a recent phone call.

A few years ago, after seeing a TV movie with a single disabled character “who was just depressed and sad, like that’s the only way to define him,” he said, Macomber-Dubs poured out his frustration on Facebook. and called on filmmakers to think differently.

His message caught the attention of Brendan Bogiea screenwriter, director and producer in Boston (he now lives in Los Angeles) who came to Northampton to meet Macomber-Dubs and then wrote a screenplay loosely based on his experiences.

Macomber-Dubs and Boogie have now launched a fundraiser on Seed & Spark, a crowdfunding platform focused on creating more diversity and community in the film world. They hope to raise $30,000 by the end of the day on August 4 to fund “Tallywhacker,” which will be filmed this fall in Northampton.

More information about the project can be found at

The story centers on a guitarist and singer, Aelister, who defied his brittle bone disease to become a rock guitarist, playing with his good friend Emmett, a drummer, in the band Tallywhacker. The two are asked to open a show for a major rock star, Carly Major, a thrill that gets complicated when Carly later invites Aelister to tour with her as her new guitarist.

Aleister invites Emmett along, but what about Tallywhacker, the band that meant everything to the two friends?

Their friendship will soon be put to the test, but since this is a buddy movie, there’s plenty of laughs too, says Macomber-Dubs.

“I think Brendan’s script is amazing,” he said. “He really understood the issues I was talking about…he wrote scenes about things that had happened to me that I hadn’t even told him about. He just intuitively understood so many things.

Chris Goodwin, a Boston-area drummer and actor, plays Emmett in the film, and Macomber-Dubs says the two have bonded quite well, musically and socially, since meeting earlier this year for filming some quick scenes for a promotional clip for the film’s fundraising campaign. “Tallywhacker” will also include a few other characters, Macomber-Dubs said.

In this promotional clip, Boogie says, “When I first met Jeremy and heard his story, I said ‘This has be a movie.’ This guy is a badass. It was amazing. [And] when Jeremy and Chris were in a room together, they were a band. They became Tallywhacker before my eyes.

For the past few years, Macomber-Dubs has fronted the progressive rock band Valley Bunnies, who, in addition to playing venues in the area, have made a number of appearances at the annual Performance summer concert (formerly known as Transperformance) at Look Park, where bands from the area pose as notable bands. Next month, Bunnies will return to Look Park, says Macomber-Dubs, to portray They Might Be Giants in Performance 32.

He hopes his own experience as a musician – and a film about it – can help show that people with disabilities don’t have to be defined by them.

“It’s not a movie that Hollywood will make, so we’re going to make it ourselves.” he said.

Steve Pfarrer can be contacted at [email protected]


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