Director Mary Wharton on the Making of Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free Doc: He “Had the Same Kind of Struggles We All Do”

The documentary premiered at SXSW and gets a special theatrical release October 20th

Tom Petty Documentary
Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free: The Making of Wildflowers (YouTube Originals)

    After running through the festival circuit — including a Best Documentary Film prize at the Boulder Film Festival and an Audience Award at the South By Southwest Film Festival — Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free: The Making of Wildflowers is about to sprout for wider audiences, which director Mary Wharton couldn’t be happier about.

    The intimate and revealing examination of the late rocker’s triple-platinum 1994 solo album debuts in theaters worldwide via Trafalgar Releasing on October 20th, which would have been Petty’s 71st birthday, and during November it will plant itself on Petty’s YouTube channel via YouTube Originals.

    “I love this idea of this ‘event cinema,’ where it’s just going to be all over the world, in so many different places,” Wharton (Jimmy Carter: Rock and Roll President, Sam Cooke: Legend, Elvis Lives!) tells Consequence. “It’s exciting for me to reach such a big audience. I’m a storyteller, and to be able to talk to a lot of people like this is super gratifying.”


    Somewhere You Feel Free certainly has a story to tell — and is a story in itself.

    The impetus for the movie was four hours of footage shot by Martyn Atkins between 1993-95, while Petty and producer Rick Rubin were working on Wildflowers and when the Heartbreakers convened to record new tracks, including “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” for the 1993 Greatest Hits album. The material was a revelation to those in the Petty estate, especially in that the notoriously private and guarded Petty allowed that kind of access to his working process.

    “Martyn started coming around and somehow managed to get my dad’s confidence and comfort level to a place I don’t think it had ever been… spending time in our home or studio like that,” Adria Petty, one of the documentary’s executive producers, said during a SXSW virtual panel discussion. “You can only imagine what it felt like — ‘Oh, my God, there’s footage of him and Rick making this record! This is insane!’ We owe [Atkins] a great debt for documenting this stuff so well.”