Elizabeth Cook may be most famous for her song "Sometimes It Takes Balls to Be a Woman."
Justin Townes Earle is the son of musician Steve Earle.
A pair of overseas hitmen come to Charlottesville to kill musician Jim Waive.
That's the premise of a brand new feature film starring Waive almost as himself along with a bunch of other locals, as well as some of the biggest names in the country music world, including Merle Haggard and Ralph Stanley. And the public gets to see it next week at the Paramount Theater.
My Fool Heart is a music-packed picture about life, love, and loss– and the cruel nexus between the top and the bottom of the music world and how nobody really knows where they stand.
"Dolly Parton has said she's one step away from selling CDs out of the back of her car," says director Jeffrey Martin. "I'm fascinated by that."
He wasn't the only one. Not only did Stanley and the famously recalcitrant Haggard (here playing a country preacher) sign on to the little indie, but so did other notable musicians including Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie McCoy, two-time Grammy winner Jim Lauderdale, and standout newcomer Justin Townes Earle.
Though the cast is star-studded, many of the other players are veterans of nothing larger than LiveArts and the Charlottesville underground theater scene. Colorful venues like the Blue Moon Diner also feature prominently.
"I was gonna do a local film on Charlottesville," says the 58-year-old writer/director. "I grew up in California and moved to Charlottesville in 1972. To me it was like a bizarro world. I loved it."
The creator is Jeffrey Martin. A veteran of various pursuits including experimental film and writing for video (not to mention owning a State Farm insurance agency in Charlottesville for two decades), he calls this the "most mainstream" artistic project he's ever made.
Shot digitally over the past four years in Virginia and Nashville with its crew of one, not counting his producer/wife Lucinda Buxton Martin, the picture has been getting its post production back home in San Francisco.
Mr. Martin says he intentionally kept the project under wraps.
"We haven't really done any press at all," he says. "We mostly wanted to see if the movie would work before we publicized it."
Like a country music song, the theme of death pervades the film's fictional story. The real-life Jim Waive lost his dad when he was a seventh-grader growing up in the Tidewater city of Portsmouth. A couple of years later, says Waive, he entered a raffle for a high-end guitar.
"They called me on Christmas Eve and said you've won this guitar," says Waive, who still plays that guitar and who makes his acting debut in My Fool Heart.
"The character in the movie is named Jim Waive, but it's not me," he says. "It was somebody inside of Jeff's head."
The filmmakers will get their first chance for public feedback on an upcoming Saturday night when a rough-cut will be screened at the Paramount.
"It's a test screening; it's not a premiere," cautions Martin. "For people who like and know the music, it's too short. For people who don't, it's too long."
Right now the runtime is an hour and 59 minutes, and Martin says he expects to cut it down about 10 minutes.
"Nobody's seen it," says Martin. "Even Jim Waive hasn't seen it."