Beyond Clueless, a teen movie about teen movies
“My plastic surgeon doesn’t want me doing any activity where balls fly at my nose.” “Well, there goes your social life!” 1995’s Clueless is full of brilliant quotes, something which Charlie Lyne, the creative mind behind film blog Ultra Culture knows...
Illustration by Hattie Stewart
With this inception-like concept in mind, Charlie et al. spent over a year watching hundreds upon hundreds of films from between 1995-2004 (from Clueless - Mean Girls) and analysing every second of them, tearing apart their teenage favourites in the process. Getting longtime friends and total sweethearts Jeremy and Elizabeth of Summer Camp on board to score the project was a perfect fit, and calling on The Craft's brilliantly creepy Fairuza Balk to narrate was almost too good to be true. It wasn't though, it was real. It is real. Welcome to Beyond Clueless! Before tonight's London premiere, complete with a live score, we grab a coffee with Charlie, Jeremy and Elizabeth to talk cliques, crushes and Dawson's Creek...
Where did Beyond Clueless come from?
Charlie: A few years ago I was asked to curate a festival of teen movies at the Hackney Picture House, so in preparation for that I started re-watching all these teen films that I hadn't seen since I was like 14. Obviously the weight of nostalgia and affection that I had for these films was still there and really palpable but there were these bizarre underpinnings that I'd obviously never seen before. So it got me thinking about how strange and under-examined the genre was, and I wondered what the best way to present that would be.
You got an incredible response to your Kickstarter campaign. Did you see that as your only option?
Charlie: We knew we only needed a small amount to make it, because of the nature of the production. And so we certainly could've looked at other ways of raising the funds. The problem I suppose is that I think we'd have had trouble convincing people to put a large sum of money into it when none of us had prior film-making experience. Kickstarter seemed like such a natural thing to do, to put it in front of people and essentially ask, 'do you want to see this?' It's a subject so close to people's hearts. And we all had audiences online that we could talk to.
How did you get Fairuza involved?
Charlie: A friend of mine suggested her and it just clicked. Her voice is perfect and her personality is just amazing! It was another nine or ten months until we actually contacted her, because we wanted to actually have something whole to show her. We were just really lucky that we managed to get her attention. It was really refreshing that she was so open to it, especially cause it's a subject she has direct involvement with and it might be seen as taking a risk because on paper it's sort of an odd film.
Does it feel like a documentary when you watch it?
Elizabeth: I thought it might be like 'So, guess where Selma Blair is now!' and 'Did you know, that in 1998…' but I was awed by how beautiful it is. It's much more a piece of art than a documentary, but at the same time it's very funny and absoutely gorgeous.
Charlie: I think a lot of that is down to you two as well. We treat the whole thing like it's the real world, like we exist within this teen movie Universe and everything we say is going by these teen movie terms. We wanted it to feel like a teen movie itself, and music was so essential to that. I think when you tell people that it's a documentary, either they feel let down or confused or put off because they don't like documentaries.
Did scoring the movie feel the same as when you write your own music?
Elizabeth: So much better! It was a breath of fresh air. With our first album we created a fictional world where the songs were set, so it's already something we already like doing - just disappearing into somewhere that the songs take place. There was all this stuff to pull from and reference - so much richness to nick!
Jeremy: There's this really great bit in She's All That where the kids are rapping in the playground and we basically took that and put a beat to it.
Which teen movie do you think has the best soundtrack?
Elizabeth: I always like the Rules of Attraction soundtrack.
Charlie: Is that also because Robin Thicke is on the soundtrack?
Charlie: Yeah, the Rules of Attraction soundtrack has on it a Robin Thicke single that was quite big in America but never really made it big here. It was based on a disco remix of Beethoven's Fifth, called a Fifth of Beethoven, and he would do his thing over the top of it. So when you watch the film back and there's a party scene with this playing over the top it's like two worlds collide - especially as it wasn't even set when it was made. So time seems to fold in on itself.
Jeremy: My favourite is probably 10 Things I Hate About You.
What cliques were you guys in at school?
Jeremy: I was a dweeb.
Elizabeth: I guess I was the least popular of the popular girls. I would go to all the cool parties but I'd be sitting on the stairs with the girls who were crying because too many boys fancied them and they didn't know who to pick. Nobody would ever want to go out with me, but I didn't mind.
Charlie: I suppose the art crowd? From the age of 14/15 onwards I got very into making experimental art at school, so I hung around with the people who did that. So in many ways, I was Rachel Lee Cook in She's All That, making very angry, expressive art. I made a room out of cardboard one year - like a ten foot tall box with just blackness inside, like my heart.
Jeremy: I was Elijah Wood in Faculty.
Who are your biggest teen movie crushes?
Jeremy: Elisha Cuthbert in Girl Next Door.
Elizabeth: Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You is just the perfect man.
Charlie: I feel like I'm trying to win feminism awards here, but I always liked the girls pre-makeover in makeover films. Obviously in Mean Girls you're supposed to like her pre-makeover, but the ones where you're not, it's amazing how attractive they actually are… Anne Hathaway in Princess Diaries and Judy Greer in Jawbreaker.
Teenage Kicks, a season of films dedicated to teens on screen, runs at BFI Southbank throughout August. The season includes the London Premiere of Beyond Clueless with a live score performed by Summer Camp on Friday 8th August.