For a behind-the-scenes music docu co-produced by its subject (and his wife), "My Secret Record, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Biz" is unexpectedly revealing and not entirely flattering. Credit singer-songwriter Rob Thomas for allowing filmmaker Gillian Grisman wide latitude and apparently full access while documenting the matchbox twenty CQ star's efforts to maintain artistic integrity while recording and promoting his first solo CD. Even nonfans may be intrigued by the pic's inside view of record company decision-making and hype-manufacturing. Doc could get heavy rotation in appropriate cable venues.

For a behind-the-scenes music docu co-produced by its subject (and his wife), “My Secret Record, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Biz” is unexpectedly revealing and not entirely flattering. Credit singer-songwriter Rob Thomas for allowing filmmaker Gillian Grisman wide latitude and apparently full access while documenting the matchbox twenty star’s efforts to maintain artistic integrity while recording and promoting his first solo CD. Even nonfans may be intrigued by the pic’s inside view of record company decision-making and hype-manufacturing. Doc could get heavy rotation in appropriate cable venues.

Much of “My Secret Record” pivots on an intriguing irony: Despite his chart-topping pop success while performing with matchbox twenty and collaborating with the likes of Carlos Santana and Mick Jagger, Thomas still had to prove his cred as a rocker while preparing “Something to Be” (a CD that eventually debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts).

Many scenes center on Thomas’ ambivalent participation in efforts to “recast his image” — new haircut, magazine profiles, sexy musicvideos, etc. — while laying tracks with such notables as John Mayer and Wendy Melvoin for an album that defies genre labeling. Michael Lippman, his feisty manager, indefatigably defends his clients’ prerogatives while conferring with officials at Atlantic Records. But even Lippman can’t hide his bemusement when he thinks Thomas may too much of pure “artiste” for his own good.

Without pressing the point too hard, Grisman depicts Thomas’ mixed reaction to the unavoidable hype as emblematic of a complex personality. The singer-songwriter repeatedly claims he would never allow his music to be used in commercials, but he OKs a promotional tie-in with Target that he insists is not any sort of sellout.

And while he often seems to be a genuinely engaging and compassionate fellow (one who frequently frets about the health of wife Marisol, battling an autoimmune disease), Thomas also is an impulsive prima donna who, during an uncomfortably extended scene, verbally blowtorches a PR rep for encouraging a magazine interview that turns out disappointingly.

Technically well-crafted and adeptly structured, with more than enough music performances to please Thomas’ fan base, “My Secret Record” is hardly the vanity project one might expect (or dread). Indeed, Grisman goes so far as to suggest that the bluntly practical if not ruthlessly mercenary Atlantic execs have every right to worry about whether Thomas can make a persuasive switch from pop to rock: Their research indicates his fan base skews toward older consumers, more VH1 than MTV.

“My Secret Record” has a happy ending, of course. By that point, however, most viewers will agree Thomas has earned the right to enjoy his just desserts.

My Secret Record, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Biz

Production

A Pendencia Film production in association with 11th Hour Prods. & Entertainment. Produced by Marisol Thomas, Rob Thomas. Executive producer, Michael Lippman. Directed, edited by Gillian Grisman.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Grisman; music, Rob Thomas, Matt Serletic; sound (Dolby Digital), Tom Efinger. Reviewed at Nashville Film Festival (opener), April 19, 2007. Running time: 83 MIN.

With

Rob Thomas, Alicia Keys, John Mayer, Carlos Santana, Robert Randolph, Wendy Melvoin, Jeff Trott, Mike Elizondo, Gerald Heyward, Clive Davis.

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