The Petty Archives

Tom Petty documentary a must see for fans
By Ari Jacknow
The Page - November 2, 2007

Runnin' Down a Dream, a Peter Bogdanovich documentary, recounts the 30-year career of rock-and-roll band legends, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

The world premiere of this documentary only played in three theatres in the Bay Area (28 showings total in the U.S.) on October 15. It was a private screening, with limited tickets.
You'd think any movie that is four hours long would be painful to sit through, but this documentary is not one of those. Even if you aren't a complete Tom Petty fanatic, this film will draw you in from the start and leave you totally inspired.

With Tom Petty and all the Heartbreakers' numerous commentaries throughout the movie, this documentary provides insight into some of the funniest stories of touring and their experience. Tons of concert footage and random home-made videos of the band are interspersed throughout the documentary. You definitely see a butt or two, and a hilarious headphone volume malfunction that almost deafens the band members in the recording studio.

The movie starts at Tom Petty's very beginning, in Gainesville, Florida, where his first band in the late 1970s called the Epics, which later turned to Mudcrutch, grew up. The band consisted of Petty and later Heartbreakers members keyboardist Benmont Tench, guitarist Mike Campbell and Tom Petty.

A few years later, Mudcrutch became Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, adding drummer Stan Linch, and bassist Ron Blair. They land a record deal with Capitol records and were touring England and Europe though they were not yet popular in America.

One video included in the film was of Tom Petty's first crowd jump, at a show in San Francisco in 1978. Petty jumps out into the crowd, and cannot return to the stage for at least five minutes. He recounts how beat up he got, and how it was the first time he realized that the crowd really was dangerous.

"Maybe they were thinking they could get a finger or something," said Petty.

The documentary branches off, covering Tom Petty's other numerous bands including the Traveling Wilburys and his extremely successful solo album in 1993, Full Moon Fever. The Heartbreakers worked with Petty the whole time in creating the album, and it was the last one Linch ever did. In 1994, for their Wildflowers record, Steve Ferroni became the new drummer, and was there to stay.

The documentary becomes a little intense with Howie Epstein's death in 2003. Although the film never tells the audience exactly how he dies, you can tell that it was a changing event and the band took it hard. The documentary becomes a little tense. The original bassist, Blair, joined the band again.

One good thing about this film is that it doesn't focus on Tom Petty's outside life very much. It barely mentioned his wife or daughters, except when they were divorced, or when a fire in 1987 destroyed his house. It's completely focused on the band.

The television premiere of this documentary was aired on October 29th on the Sundance Channel. If you didn't see it then, there is a four-disc DVD for sale on TomPetty.com with even more extra never-before seen concert footage. If you're a Tom Petty fan, or have maybe only heard a couple of the Heartbreakers' songs, this film is a must. A-