TOM PETTY: "SOMEWHERE YOU FEEL FREE" - a film by Mary Wharton

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by McCool, Sep 20, 2021.

  1. McCool

    McCool Forum Resident Thread Starter


    Coming Soon!

  2. Looking forward to it.
    Also very much enjoyed the Netflix documentary.
    Mr.Sean and carrick doone like this.
  3. Kevin j

    Kevin j The 5th 99

    Seattle Area
    what netflix doc?
  4. 'Running Down A Dream'
    Meant to say it was on Netflix. Not sure it was specifically a Netflix documentary.
    Either way it was great.
    BDC likes this.
  5. Kevin j

    Kevin j The 5th 99

    Seattle Area
    got it. it's a doc on netflix, and yeah it's great. i just wanted to make sure i wasn't missing something cool!
  6. davenav

    davenav High Plains Grifter

    Louisville, KY USA
    Well, this will be a real present, a birthday present in my case.

    So glad to see this getting out, after the solid reviews of the SXSW showing.

    From the footage seen in the clip up above, it looks pretty awesome.
  7. McCool

    McCool Forum Resident Thread Starter

  8. McCool

    McCool Forum Resident Thread Starter

  9. ex_mixer

    ex_mixer Forum Resident

    New Jersey
  10. BluesOvertookMe

    BluesOvertookMe Forum Resident

    Houston, TX, USA
    Mary Wharton is the daughter of blues musician/gumbo maker The Sauce Boss, BTW.
  11. windfall

    windfall Senior Member

    Mr.Sean, ex_mixer and WhatDoIKnow like this.
  12. Hooodo Man

    Hooodo Man Forum Resident

    I wish this was in theaters for more than one day. Sadly I have things going on that night already but I'm definitely looking forward to seeing this when it hits youtube. Is there a date for that yet?
  13. windfall

    windfall Senior Member

    so far they are only saying "later in the year", presumably to encourage as many people to go to the screenings as possible - if it was known that it was going to be released, say, a fortnight later on YT, many people would not bother, I suppose.

    Hopefully after the screening date we will get a YT date.
    BluesOvertookMe likes this.
  14. twistandshout

    twistandshout Forum Resident

    New Jersey
    Hope this will be put out on DVD or Blu Ray to purchase and watch in your home. Not everyone is near the theaters
    listed or wants to sit in a packed theater during a pandemic.
  15. KinkySmallFace1991

    KinkySmallFace1991 I'm a 20th Century Man

    My thoughts exactly. I feel like this should've been a direct-to-video release, but I'm not in charge.
    supermd likes this.
  16. Myke

    Myke Rock Geezer

    When it shows up on YT it shows up. Got a million other things to watch in the meantime. Streaming and physical.
    KinkySmallFace1991 likes this.
  17. McCool

    McCool Forum Resident Thread Starter

    While I can certainly empathize with the point of view that not all consumers in this pandemic/post-pandemic world that we are living in will be comfortable accessing a theater at this point in time, the home media market for music related films is not what it was a decade ago, let alone before then. I won't belabor the point, but the industry at large has begun to look towards significant digital streaming platforms as the preferred outlet as far as distribution of this type of home media is concerned. That isn't to say that in regards to "Somewhere You Feel Free" that home media options won't eventually be made available to the consumer, it's just that they are no longer going to be looked upon as the ideal option going forward in most cases.
  18. windfall

    windfall Senior Member

    It's unlikely, I guess, but I would love a package of this documentary with a blu-ray Atmos mix of Wildflowers... And All The Rest. But I know we fans of physical media are way behind the times.
  19. Sex Lies And Master Tapes

    Sex Lies And Master Tapes Gaulois réfractaire

    Nantes, France
    No screening in France unfortunately. The nearer theather is in Maastricht, Netherlands, almost 500 miles from home... :(
    I'll watch it on YouTube when it shows up.
  20. McCool

    McCool Forum Resident Thread Starter

    So I wanted to take some time today to discuss the Mary Wharton documentary, "Somewhere You Feel Free" which I have now had the opportunity to screen on four separate occasions. Out of regard for the film's pending release to market, I'm not going to do a deep dive, segment-by-segment review of the film as I think that would be antithetical to the idea of consumers actually going out and viewing the film for themselves upon release and drawing their own conclusions and reactions to the documentary itself. Instead what I hope to do today is to speak generally about the origins of the footage itself and how this footage ties into the overall narrative of the "Wildflowers" sessions and also hopefully clear up some general misconceptions regarding what Tom Petty/Heartbreakers fans who are familiar with this footage have been viewing for decades now.

    To begin with I'll start with the following statement from Mary Wharton on her involvement with the project:

    "In the summer of 2020, I got a call from an old friend that felt like a lifeline. I had recently left my home in New York City, fleeing the terrifying first wave of the pandemic. It broke my heart to leave the city, but it didn't make sense to stay. It was a strange time, and I really didn't know where I belonged. The phone call came from Adria Petty, who explained that a treasure trove of archival footage of her father, Tom Petty, had been discovered. There was a documentary to be made, and it needed a director. She and the film's producer, Peter Afterman, had been talking about me. I hung up and danced with joy, and then spent the next eight months with Tom Petty's music in my head, 24 hours a day. It was like carrying around a box of sunshine in a dark time.

    The footage of Tom Petty making his "Wildflowers" album with Rick Rubin, Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench, Howie Epstein, Steve Ferrone and George Drakoulias is truly a treasure. Martyn Atkins, who filmed most of the material, did an amazing job of capturing these events in such a beautifully intimate way, and the camaraderie in the studio is palpable. The editor Mari Keiko Gonzalez and I agreed that we wanted this film to have a loose, classic verité feel. Whereas most major artists these days are only seen in tightly edited and overly polished imagery, here we get a rare, unvarnished view of a master of his craft at work in the creative process. That process sometimes gets messy, and you can see in the film that Tom isn't always sure of himself. As viewers, we get to watch him find his way into a song, and when he gets there it feels like catching a garden snake in a jar. It's slippery, beautiful and exciting.
    " ~ Mary Wharton

    So utilizing Mary Wharton's commentary as a bit of a jumping-off-point for my own analysis here it's important first and foremost to discuss where exactly Tom Petty/Heartbreakers fans should place this footage in terms of the overall chronology of the "Wildflowers" project. In order to do this, it helps to understand Tom Petty's working methods as far as allowing his creative process to be revealed to his public. The long and the short of it is that although many Tom Petty/Heartbreakers documentaries do appear to show the band at work creating music in the studio, in actuality what fans are seeing is part fact and part fiction. Yes, there is technically music being created but what fans are seeing 95% of the time is music being performed with the cameras in mind rather than an audio verite, fly-on-the-wall experience. This practice dates back to 1982 and the Cameron Crowe documentary, "Heartbreaker's Beach Party" where there is ostensibly footage of the band recording their album "Long After Dark". However, when complete performances of songs such as "Keeping Me Alive", "Finding Out" and "Wild Thing" subsequently surfaced as part of a French television broadcast entitled "Houba Houba", it became clear that these were camera conscious performances of this material for director Cameron Crowe's benefit, a notion further backed up when previously unseen footage from the same session turned up in the Peter Bogdanovich documentary "Runnin' Down A Dream". Perhaps this process is best exhibited in the ironically titled "The Last DJ Sessions" DVD which was originally bundled with the album of the same name. Throughout the course of the documentary you see clips of Tom Petty/Heartbreakers performing select tracks from the record interspersed with a conversation between Tom Petty and the album's producer George Drakoulias. However, the performances which are included are again staged for the purposes of the cameras and are merely used as a bed for the finalized, mixed masters of each song as heard on "The Last DJ" album itself. So in the case of that documentary you don't even get to hear Tom Petty/Heartbreakers performing the songs, let alone creating them and instead they are essentially miming to the tracks themselves.

    Having said that the footage that Mary Wharton accessed for "Somewhere You Feel Free" falls somewhere in the middle between the projects I just discussed. It has been mentioned that all of the footage included in the documentary dates between the years 1993-1995 and that does appear to be the case. This was an incredibly fertile period for Tom Petty creatively speaking and he did allow his professional life to be documented during this period more so than any other time in his career. There was the "Going Home" documentary filmed for the Disney Channel as directed by Jonathan Bendis as well as no less than three separate documentary projects by director Martyn Atkins that were produced during this time period. The initial project undertaken by Atkins which makes up 90% of the footage seen in the Wharton documentary, comes from the production of a "Wildflowers" EPK in the spring/summer of 1994 and features footage of Tom Petty/Heartbreakers in the studio primarily during the mixing and overdubbing phase of the project. I'll get back to this momentarily but I also want to briefly make mention of the two other sources derived from Atkins' work all of which dates from 1995. The first derives from the "Dogs With Wings" tour where Atkins followed the band around roughly for the first two dates of the tour [Louisville, KY and Indianapolis, IN] and then sporadically through the rest of the trek [the two shows at the Hollywood Bowl in June and then the tour finale in New Orleans, LA]. The other '95 source is footage shot specifically to promote the box set "Playback" and includes an interview conducted by George Drakoulias with Tom Petty [mainly discussing Mudcrutch] as well as ancillary footage of the band listening to some of the tapes Drakoulias had pulled from the archives alongside other non-Heartbreakers footage regarding the baking of tapes and the like.

    However, as mentioned the bulk of the footage seen in "Somewhere You Feel Free" does date from the initial project that Martyn Atkins undertook for Tom Petty/Heartbreakers and focused primarily on footage of the band in the studio with further filming taking place in Tom Petty's backyard [much of which was later used in a 2020 "Wildflowers" promo film]. Now one of the great things about the Wharton documentary is that it contains much more of this footage than has ever been widely available before to Tom Petty/Heartbreakers fans. As mentioned while some of this same footage was screened in a 1994 EPK used to promote the "Wildflowers" album and a bit more was subsequently included in the Martyn Atkins' documentary "400 Days", the amount of footage included here is a literal goldmine. However, it is important for me to stress that upon viewing this documentary, my belief that what I was watching were in fact performances rather than actual documentation of the recording sessions themselves was if nothing else emboldened. The long and the short of it is that much of studio footage of Tom Petty/Heartbreakers captured by Atkins in 1994 derives from the summer of that year with one potential filming date being 1994/07/14 which would place the footage subsequent to the conclusion of the "Wildflowers" sessions-proper which have been revealed to have wrapped in April of that year ["California" was the last song tracked on 1994/04/14].

    So what is it exactly that Tom Petty/Heartbreakers fans are viewing when watching the studio footage captured by Atkins? Well it seems that there are two distinct aspects of the "Wildflowers" project that were captured by Atkins in the summer of '94. The first appears to be musical arranger Michael Kamen's involvement with the project as there is a great deal of footage of the conductor discussing the orchestral arrangements with Tom Petty and Rick Rubin and Kamen is later seen on the studio floor working with the orchestra on the score for the songs that required such adornments. The second and most interesting aspect of the project captured by Atkins seems to be footage shot specifically for the aforementioned EPK of Tom Petty/Heartbreakers performing stripped down arrangements of the "Wildflowers" tracks and they run through a great deal of them! To begin with, there seems to have been a specific intention to reassemble the Heartbreakers for this purpose as not only are Tom Petty, Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench present for this session but so are Howie Epstein and Steve Ferrone. As mentioned in comparison with their album counterparts, the versions of the "Wildflowers" tracks captured by Atkins are of a far more laid-back, unplugged nature and at times seen to rely heavily upon Tom Petty's original home recordings of the songs rather than the more ornate versions heard on the album. The versions of "You Wreck Me" and "It's Good To Be King" as heard on the "Wildflowers And All The Rest" box set derive from these performances and "Only A Broken Heart" as both seen in the "Wildflowers" EPK and later heard as the b-side to "You Wreck Me" benefits greatly from this stripped-down approach. One tell-tale sign that these versions of the "Wildflowers" cuts do not derive from the "Wildflowers" sessions proper is the version of "To Find A Friend" captured by Atkins, features Steve Ferrone prominently on drums whereas the album version derives from around a year earlier and features Ringo Starr installed behind the kit. That is not to say however, that there isn't some audio verite moments to be found amongst the Atkins footage as given that it had been over a year in most cases since the band had performed these songs, they had to relearn them in order to perform them for the cameras. So there is a bit of noodling and rehearsing and all the rest.

    There are also some charming moments where given that the band is unable to recreate the tracks in the manner that they were recorded for "Wildflowers", they instead decide to lean on the bare essences of the tracks so instead of performing "California" as a buoyant pop song, they strip it back to essentially how the song sounded on the home recording giving the track a traditional folk music feel. Most notable is the recasting of "Climb That Hill" which was initially tracked on 1993/11/30 in a rock arrangement as heard on "Wildflowers And All The Rest". This 1994 casting however relies heavily on the arrangement heard on the home recording of the song ["Climb That Hill Blues"] although it does manage to deviate from that recording in that the Heartbreakers cast the song in a jangling delta-blues arrangement complete with piano and harmonica adornments which is very much antithetical to the heavy blues arrangement heard on the home recording.

    So in summation I believe that while the Atkins footage does not represent a fly-on-the-wall perspective of the "Wildflowers" sessions as they happened, they are no less valuable and essential viewing for any Tom Petty/Heartbreakers fan. Along with providing fans with an intimate look at one of the most creatively fertile periods of Tom Petty/Heartbreakers career, the footage itself is beautifully observed by Atkins and the performances for the most part provide a rustic and charming contrast to the walk-away-perfection of their album counterparts. Combined with the context provided in "Somewhere You Feel Free" by Heartbreakers Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench and Steve Ferrone, producer Rick Rubin alongside George Drakoulias and Adria Petty as well as stock footage of Tom Petty, Stan Lynch and Howie Epstein, "Somewhere You Feel Free" really does itself proud in framing this period of Tom Petty's career.
  21. JohnG

    JohnG PROG Nation!

    Got my ticket for Wednesday night at my local Showcase theater.
  22. harmonica98

    harmonica98 Forum Resident

    London, UK
    It's showing at one of my regular haunts but at nearly double the normal cost for a standard screening. Not quite sure what justifies the premium...
  23. Hooodo Man

    Hooodo Man Forum Resident

    I may kick myself later for saying this but it sounds like there may be enough meat on the bones from this project to warrant a soundtrack album. :biglaugh:
  24. Kevin j

    Kevin j The 5th 99

    Seattle Area
    hopefully bundled with some 300 dollar boxers
    Alright4now likes this.
  25. gjp163

    gjp163 Forum Resident

    Just saw the doco in Avoca Beach in Australia. It's brilliant, and brings me much closer to the record I love. Tom writing Wildflowers in one take, Stan Lynch replaced by Steve Ferrone as Tom's drummer after demoing on one song never hearing it before. It was great to see Tom "the happiest he'd ever been in his soul". Also it's sad because Tom ain't here any more...
    BertDert likes this.

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