Director Hannah Berryman spent several years making “Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm,” whose original theatrical plans were thwarted by the pandemic. In this short interview, the documentarian shares her thoughts about the film, process and more.
Coda: When did you get the idea for the Rockfield documentary? How did you first learn about the studio?
Hannah Berryman: I had just seen “Muscle Shoals” and wondered where the similarly unusual British music studio story was, and came across the story of Rockfield, the farm that two farming brothers managed to turn into a world-beating studio, hosting some of the greatest artists of our time.
Coda: How long, from conception to completion, did the project take? Can you talk about one or two of the major challenges you faced?
HB: It took about four years in all. The challenges were raising the finances — so we filmed bits and bobs as [money] came in — and getting the artists on board. We knew we wanted some of the greats like Ozzy Osbourne, Robert Plant, Oasis and Coldplay, so we had to wait until we got them!
Coda: Did the onset of the pandemic change your approach in any manner?
HB: Yes, we had been accepted onto the program at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival, which was cancelled only days ahead. Our theatrical plans had to be put on hold.
Coda: Rock ‘n’ roll has long been a male-dominated genre. Did you consider making this film an opportunity to have an impact on the field in a way that would further tear down long-standing barriers?
HB: In many ways it was a female perspective on male rockers! I wanted to tell the stories of the group dynamics. But also we had the women and men of the family at the helm.
Coda: Can you talk further about being female and making what is a standout documentary in which a majority of the artists are male?
HB: Most of the artists recording there were men, though there were women we wanted but didn’t get. Telling the story of these men from a female perspective we hope gave the doc a different feel from some others in similar territory. We were just as interested in them as people as musicians.
Coda: Who were your favorite artists to interview, and why? Did you ever get anything that was completely unexpected?
HB: I can’t pick a favorite, but enjoyed the camaraderie of [former Oasis members] Liam and Bonehead, yet the really personal feel of the interview. I didn’t know what to expect with any of them, really!
Coda: Is there a short list of producer/director etiquette dos/don’ts you want to share?
HB: Not really; every filmmaker has their own style. I’m quite freestyle and meandering in my approach. I just try to get a conversation going and take people back to the time and place and see what it reveals.