Cody Greenwood established Rush Films in late 2016 and has since earned herself a reputation as one of Australia’s most promising film producers, creating internationally acclaimed documentary and short films. Her work has taken her across the world, with a throughline of music, something she described as one of the greatest sources of conversation and influence in her household growing up. Her newly released feature documentary Under the Volcano, which premiered at SXSW, brings back the heady 80s music industry.
It was an era when recording budgets were limitless, and some of the world’s most influential musical artists flew or sailed to George Martin’s music studio on the Caribbean Island, Montserrat. Tucked below a volcano, AIR Studios created a temporary island home to Sting, Elton John, Earth, Wind and Fire. Exploring creativity and liminal space, Martin said it best; “Everything has a period. You bring something out of nothing, and it always goes back to nothing.”
While Cody is a patron of music, her scope of interest is comprehensive and refreshingly coincident with the times. She works alongside some of Australia’s most prominent and diverse storytellers to create authentic and thought-provoking cinema. Following its red carpet debut at CinefestOz Film Festival last month, her documentary Girl Like You is set to make its premiere at Raindance 2021 in London. Cody’s showreel is prodigious, and her field of vision acknowledges films that break boundaries and uncover stories that are felt and heard long after people watch them.
“I'm drawn to the unknown in the world of documentary...”, walking onto a set and having no idea what you will get from the subject, and then looking at the realm of possibilities that exist when crafting the edit.”
“I don't remember a time when I wasn't obsessed with film.”
“The last two years have forced us to reimagine/reinvent the corners of our spaces/places in entirely new ways; mourn them, miss them, and make way for new ones.”
“Montserrat bred new heights of musical production technology, and already we are beginning to see similar evolutions across the arts as distance and travel continue to be restricted. As with any major world event, we are presented with an opportunity to reinvent the wheel and, in turn, parts of ourselves.”
Tell me a little about your upbringing? What is your family like?
Growing up, music and art were the greatest sources of conversation and influence amongst our household. My parents met in Bali in the '80s. Mum, originally from the US, was there making a documentary about the Indonesian artists in Ubud. My Dad, a local Freo boy and musician at the time, was managing a bar in Legian. Their whirlwind romance saw them move to London, where they had my brother Luke and me. They continued to live in the art world and today work as painters and writers. So much of what they taught came from travelling to far-flung places and being amongst the locals, listening to live music, and visiting exhibitions. I was incredibly lucky to have parents who looked for culture and connection in that world & encouraged us to do the same.
How would you best describe what you do professionally?
I love being asked this question because no one ever really knows what a film producer does. My role oscillates between the business of film - finance, deal-making, negotiation; to the creative elements- working with editors, directors, and cinematographers. In the early stages, when we only have a script or the beginnings of an idea, I drive the film's financing so that we can bring it to life. As we move towards
production, I will work alongside the director to drive the vision of the film, bring in the best team, and work with investors. The multifaceted nature of the role is what I love most about producing.
What drew you to filmmaking? Do you exclusively work in the realm of documentary film?
I don't remember a time when I wasn't obsessed with film. One of my earliest memories is watching a film with my brother Luke on a family trip to New York. I work across both scripted and documentary films, and whilst I love both, I have a deep affection for documentary films. I'm drawn to the unknown in the world of documentary, walking onto a set and having no idea what you will get from the subject, and then looking at the realm of possibilities that exist when crafting the edit. There is also an element of education; constantly learning about the world through your subjects. And then, of course, trying to find ways to share that emotion and insight with the world is what I really love.
What do you enjoy about it?
The beginning and the end phases of filmmaking are my sweet spots. It's no secret amongst those I've worked with that the slow pace of being on set isn't so much for me. Where I find the most satisfaction is bringing everything together in those initial months; the challenge of financing a project and giving something structure has always come naturally. Then being able to sit in a dark room with an editor and director once we have wrapped shooting to workshop the story will always feel exciting.
What does a typical day look like for you?
As an incurable early riser, my most productive hours are 6-8 am. I wake up and make coffee before sitting down to catch up on emails and then head to a Pilates class before going into the office. Over the course of a day, I will speak to directors, distributors, and writers, workshop ideas, and package films currently in production. When making a film, you quickly become immersed in the world of that subject matter. With Under the Volcano, that world was 1980's pop culture and music, so my office quickly became a shrine to this.
Why did you think the story of George Martin's AIR Studios was an important one to tell?
When I first set out to make Under The Volcano, it was a personal story. I had grown up with the stories of AIR Studios in Montserrat. The importance of the film shifted over time from something personal to me to a story I felt needed to be shared with the world. The power of 'place' when it comes to creativity sits at the centre of Under the Volcano's story. The artists who escaped to the island did so with the belief that this hideaway provided a sort of sacred space —one where they could tap into their creative potential.
Did you feel like that would resonate with people experiencing lockdowns and isolation?
The last two years have forced us to reimagine/reinvent the corners of our spaces/places in entirely new ways; mourn them, miss them, and make way for new ones. For creativity and the arts, it has at times felt like a slow torture. For creatives, the world's new state of normal is here to stay & with it comes the chance to redefine how we create and connect going forward. Montserrat bred new heights of musical production technology, and already we are beginning to see similar evolutions across the arts as distance and travel continue to be restricted. As with any major world event, we are presented with an opportunity to reinvent the wheel and, in turn, parts of ourselves.
By the time it came to wrapping up under the Volcano, we were drawing eerie parallels with our subjects – farewelling a life that we knew and the places that we called upon in which to create. As an industry, it made us question whether we would be capable of continuing to create. It felt at times as though we would never be able to finish what we began as a team. However, what came of this forced change was not only an ability to adapt to this new world but a far deeper connection with the people around us.
What inspires you professionally?
The opportunity to create content that shapes and shakes people. Films that break boundaries and uncover stories that are felt and heard long after people watch them. I also feel inspired to support and
guide the next generation of Aussie talent so that they can thrive in our industry and be given the right opportunities to become world-class filmmakers.
Who do you create for? Is there an audience you have in mind during your process?
My ambition for Rush Films has always been to create high quality, international films with a distinct voice. So naturally, I've found myself creating for an audience who seek out stories of depth, diversity, and intrigue. Audience and story are so intertwined, and I've become significantly more selective in what I want to develop and who I want as part of the team. That will ultimately decide who my audience is.
How would you describe your personal style?
Relaxed and minimalist. Jeans, a singlet, and sneakers are my day to day. But I love dressing up for an event. My go-to for this will often be structured suits or a statement dress.
Is there a piece from your wardrobe that you 'can't do without'?
LV slides, a good pair of levis, and a vintage Fendi bag from my Grandmother's wardrobe. Her closet has given me most of my favourite pieces over the years.
What's next for you? What kind of stories do you think are essential to shed light on at this moment in time?
In November, my latest documentary Girl Like You will air on ABC. I worked on the film with an incredible team of female directors from Perth - Frances Elliott and Samantha Marlowe. The film was shot across six years and is a raw, intimate, and confronting insight into a young woman's experience as she transitions from male to female. I will also step into the drama realm over the coming year by developing two feature films to be filmed here in Western Australia.
What or who is inspiring your world at this moment?
The influx of Aussies returning from overseas who are hungry to make magic at home. The opportunity to collaborate with people from various industries whilst in Perth has been the silver lining for the last two years. From an industry perspective, female producers such as Liz Watts and Bruna Papandrea, who have carved their own pathways and are putting Australian voices on an international stage, are the ultimate inspiration for emerging Aussie filmmakers.
Describe your workspace – where is it located, and what do you need around you to feel creatively motivated?
I work from an office by the ocean in Cottesloe and have always needed light and space to work well. Being surrounded by like-minded people and an environment rich with ideas and collaboration is something I find so important to the creative process.
Tell me about your day-to-day. Where do you live?
I live in Fremantle. My partner Gus and I bought a home last year in Byron Bay, and before COVID, our dream was to live between the two coasts. We met and lived in Indonesia and have always been drawn to living by the ocean. We love the pace of Byron Bay, but Fremantle has always been home. Having lived in LA and London, I'm looking forward to heading back overseas when the borders finally open.