You can’t truly discuss the influence of rock ‘n’ roll on the American psyche without including Joan Jett. After all, it is her love song to the genre that has been performed in karaoke bars the world over for nearly 40 years. She is truly rock — and feminism — personified, and diehard music fans know well the tremendous impact she’s had.

In the newest documentary from director Kevin Kerslake, aptly-named Bad Reputation, that impact is explored. We dive into Jett’s impressive resume, from the formation and dissolution of The Runaways to forays into film and ultimately, activism, with celebrities like Iggy Pop and Miley Cyrus providing commentary along the way. It’s a documentary for Jett fans, yes, but the singer has lived an unequivocally interesting life whether you dig her music or not.

ScreenPicks spoke with Kerslake about what it was like to cover the unbelievable life and music of one of rock’s first female icons.

ScreenPicks: Why did you choose Joan as the subject of your documentary? —Other than her being awesome, of course.

Kerslake: Well, being awesome … that’s almost like the number one thing, right? [Laughs] … Having admired and been a big fan Joan’s for a long, long time, I think the thing that probably pushed the film into another dimension for me was just the fact that Joan has been so active outside of music and has used her fame wisely, gracefully, and to really make an impact on bettering life on the planet. … I think that the level of humility that Joan has in terms of how she conducts her life is a really interesting story to tell — on top of the fact that she went through so many eras of music that were sort of “mother’s milk” to me.

ScreenPicks: Her story is certainly a fitting one to tell right now, in the throws of the #MeToo movement.

Kerslake: Joan is sort of a feminist manifesto in the flesh just because she’s doing what she wants to do, and if you don’t like it, f*ck off.  [Laughs] She’s not necessarily waving a banner; she’s just doing what she wants to do. And that is such an important message I think not only to little girls and women but to men — that you don’t have to wave a banner necessarily and wear all your politics on your sleeve. You should just be doing what you were born to do and what you want to do, and that is the most important thing.

ScreenPicks: Her music, her causes — she’s influenced a lot of people. How did you decide who you would talk to and who would be best to comment on Joan?

Kerslake: Well, Joan has gone through a lot of different stages and has influence in certain fields of interest, whether it’s activism or film, and so I think that the idea was to just have somebody, or even a couple people, who could speak with authority about each one of those stages or some compartment of her life — and with passion. I think the fact that they are all giants in their realms, and that Joan has had an impact on people of that stature, that is sort of authority in itself in a way.

So yeah, I think the most important part was who had a grasp of those eras and those subjects, who has the passion, and who was so inspired by the impact of Joan on them.

ScreenPicks: She has done so much, how did you decide which facets of her life to include when telling her story?

Kerslake: One of the first things that we decided — with Joel [Marcus], who was my editor — was that Joan sort of lives in that three-chord rock universe. So, doing a movie that didn’t have that sort of straight-forward, foot-on-the-floor structure — it wasn’t going to be faithful to the story in a way, right? So, we decided to go the A-to-Z route.

Her life has had so many ups and downs. You can step out of it and say, “She was a star shooting across the sky,” but then, if you get down to the details, it’s like oh my god … every single album was a war unto itself. So striking that balance between those two things was probably the most difficult aspect. To be able to squeeze everything into the film — obviously you’re not going to be able to fit everything. So, we just wanted to be faithful to the general arc of her life and [include] enough specifics.

ScreenPicks: Where did all the photos and footage come from? Did Joan provide that herself, or is it from an archive?

Kerslake: We had sort of a combo platter of sources for the photographs and video in the film. She lived through an era that was pretty well documented. In the 70s, it was documented on film, and early 80s as well. And once things started going into the visual world, it got more and more voluminous in terms of what we could access.

But I think [for] a lot of the period stuff, we relied on archives of those eras, and they were very generous in terms of how much they wanted to share with us. We were super lucky that they played ball.

ScreenPicks: That covers the visuals, but what about the sound? What was it like for you and composer Jacques Brautbar to find the sound for this rock documentary?

Kerslake: The one thing that we really wanted to do was have a counterpoint to that three-chord rock and pop structure and to have something that had … that resonated in a more emotional sense and teased out the drama or emotions that Joan was feeling. So, that was a pretty natural instinct. Once he saw the film, sort of wall-to-wall rock ‘n’ roll, we all felt that it could use something that really was married to the emotions a little more.

Bad Reputation opens in theaters September 28.