People often say that your school days are the best days of your life. Looking back through teary, nostalgia soaked eyes, there’s some truth in that. For a lot of kids, growing up is great – you’ve got seemingly no responsibilities, you have two adults that cook and clean for you (whilst paying for pretty much everything), and if you’re in your mid 20’s right now, it’s likely that in your teen years, BBC Two had a double bill of The Simpsons and The Fresh Prince waiting for you whilst you had your tea. It sure beats the hell out of being an adult – living in your own place, crippled by financial debt and licking postage stamps for sustenance (tongue firmly in cheek…)
But your formative years can be a tough slog, and being a teenager is sometimes hard work. Besides school getting tougher from a work point of view, it’s also suddenly tougher from a social aspect. Everything seemingly changes the minute you become a teenager. If only there were a series of films that capture these years of your life so perfectly…
Funded by over five hundred backers in a 2013 Kickstarter campaign, Beyond Clueless is the debut documentary from film journalist Charlie Lyne. Think of it as a visual essay on all the highs and lows of being a teenager, examined through the use of clips from over two hundred coming-of-age teen flicks. It takes you directly into the heart of the Hollywood high school we know so well from the films of our youth. It premiered at last year’s SXSW festival and has since been screened at more than twenty festivals around the world. The narration has even been provided by Fairuza Balk, one of the stars from cult teen film The Craft!
Music played a hugely important part in these cult classics (and pretty much starts and ends with the Simple Minds anthem from The Breakfast Club) For Beyond Clueless, the tremendous soundtrack was provided by indie-pop dream team Summer Camp. It’s a great pairing, and the cutesy, charming American teen’s aesthetic of the documentary fits in with exactly what Summer Camp are all about.
I caught Beyond Clueless at the tail end of January at the wonderful Dancehouse Theatre in Manchester. The score was provided live on the night by Summer Camp themselves (with matching Letterman jackets!), which was an interesting experience in itself.
It’s a great documentary, and shows up the majority of the films for how laughable and out of date they’ve become, whilst also getting that period of teenage life spot on. Perfectly edited together, it gives the impression that all these occurrences happening on screen are part of one giant high school. This works humorously well at the beginning of the film, focusing on the main characters from hundreds of teen films from the past twenty years arriving at school and walking to class. It also highlighted that you don’t see much of Freddie Prinze Jr these days…
With the film now on general release and special screenings taking place up and down the country (including another screening scored live by Summer camp at the Ilkley Film Festival tonight!) I spoke with Summer Camp to discuss their role in all this, and to find out whether or not they actually got to meet Fairuza Balk.
BCFB: You provided the soundtrack for the Charlie Lyne film Beyond Clueless – How did you get involved with the project?
Summer Camp: Charlie, the director, is an old friend and loves our band for some reason, so once he decided to make it into a film he asked us straight away.
What was the recording process like?
Great! Very different to making an album, which we really loved. We’d talk to Charlie about the feel that the scene needed, then he would send over rough moodboard versions. We would make some music, then he’d cut to that. It was a real back-and-forth.
What did you think of the film?
It’s so good! It’s a beautiful, artistic meditation. I love the implied irony of taking such a serious look at what is normally considered a very shallow genre. It’s honestly changed the way I see film forever.
What are some of your favourite teen films of that era?
It’s obvious, but Clueless and Mean Girls are great. Also Ten Things I Hate About You.
Your Facebook page is filled with photos of the pair of you dressing up in outfits from cult TV and film (my personal favourite being Elaine and Jerry from Seinfeld!)
Was it a dream come true to be able to work on something like this?
Absolutely! We love films, and making the soundtrack to a film was amazing.
You’ve been performing live scores to accompany the film at screenings – How have these been? Have any performances stood out in particular?
Really good, the Manchester one was especially good as the crowd were the most enthusiastic we’ve had.
For those experiencing it for the first time, what can people expect?
It’s a very unusual film. It’s a visual essay about teen films narrated by Fairuza Balk and it’s absolutely brilliant.
Now for the last question, but possibly the most important question: Did you get to hang out with Fairuza Balk yet?
Sadly not, Charlie flew out to LA to record her and we stayed at home. We’ve heard lots of fascinating stories though – she’s a bit of a legend!