In new documentary Suzi Q, Melbourne filmmaker Liam Firmager explores the pioneering Suzi Quatro who revolutionised the image of women in rock’n’roll.
Shot across three continents over four years, the film features almost 400 pieces of archive material, 42 songs, and candid interviews with icons such as Alice Cooper, Debbie Harry, Joan Jett, Henry Winkler and the legendary Suzi Quatro herself.
Firmager was inspired by Quatro’s enduring career and fearless character, crafting an intimate insight into a driven, ageless performer.
“I met Suzi Quatro through a mutual friend having always been a big fan,” Firmager says. “I was chatting with them afterward and they said, ‘You know, nobody’s ever done a documentary on Suzi’, and that kinda blew my mind because she’s this icon who’s been around for 50 years.”
“We hit it off straight-away. From the get-go, Suzi wanted the documentary to be very truthful, that was our understanding. We didn’t want to white-wash stuff, glorify, or mythologise the whole experience.”
Before Quatro, there were virtually no women in rock and absolutely none who played bass and sang lead vocals. Quatro re-wrote the rulebook, however, Firmager found that through doing countless interviews, she had developed a protective barrier towards those interviewers who attempted to get close to the bone.
“I soon realised that even though she wanted it to be truthful, she’s a veteran of the entertainment industry for fifty years and she’s been interviewed thousands of times. Someone who’s been a veteran of the industry tends to roll out stock answers, because they’ve been asked the same questions over and over. In the first few sit-downs we did, I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere because all she was doing was rolling out stock answers.
“One day my producer Tait Brady says to me, ‘Maybe you should leave the filmcrew at home today’. So I go to Suzi’s house by myself and I do the camera, I do the lights, I do the sound, and I sit there with her in a room, just me and her, and it becomes a conversation.”
What followed from this was the finished product: a breathtaking documentary that momentously captures a pivotal time and place for women in music and how Suzi Quatro broke the glass ceiling for all women after her.
“She started to open up, I mean really open up. Because when the cameras are on and the bright lights are on, she starts performing. So, without that barrier, it suddenly became a very personal conversation and it was at that point that I realised, I’ve got a film.”
When asked what audiences will take away from the film, Firmager takes a deep breath.
“They will have a pre-conception going in and then have that blown up when they walk out – because it’s not your standard rockumentary. Most music documentaries are based on tragedy because the subject has passed away – suicide, drug overdose, plane-crash. I thought it was interesting to do a doco on someone who’s still alive and kicking, and not only kicking, but still performing with popularity, at 69 years old.
“I wanted to investigate: what is the cost of fame? How does it affect family, what are the sacrifices you have to make to achieve that level? Those are the things I was interested in discussing with Suzi – because most music documentaries don’t do that.”
Suzi Q hits cinemas nationwide from Wednesday November 20. For more info visit suziqmovie.com.