GALO: I was going to ask about the narration a little bit, because I know you used diary entries. Was the rest of the narrative based on actual words from your book? How did you determine how you were going to use the narration?

Wolf: The whole film I think of as this living collage. In the ’70s when Jon was part of punk, he saw these teenagers cutting up clothes from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s and reassembling them with safety pins into a new expression. That’s a philosophy we used both for the visual filmmaking in Teenage and for the script writing. We wanted to invoke a real, authentic voice of teenagers from different countries and different times. We actually cribbed and lifted real language from teenage diaries, interviews and journalistic sources. All that material came from Jon’s book, but the way we crafted that into a narrative in a single story for this film was a whole process unto itself.

Savage: We had a breakthrough when the first script we did was very “this happened, and that happened.” It had a very authorial voiceover: “This is the history.” Then one day Matt and I got really bored. [Matt] said, “This isn’t working.” We both said, “Well why don’t we just try this?” We had the phrase, maybe it was, “This world…”

Wolf: Our world is speedy, and they’re old.

Savage: Something like that. Then we suddenly got a breakthrough that we could actually do the script from a teenager’s point of view, even when we weren’t using actual teenage words.

GALO: How did you split up the writing during the writing process?

Savage: It was very close. We worked very closely together. There were a lot of edits, a lot. How many edits, 25, 30?

Wolf: I don’t know, a lot. Also, when you make a film…Basically, this film has no sync sound in it. It has probably five minutes of sync sound in it, which is very difficult, but it’s also cool, because you can totally control what you’re doing in terms of designing sound and scripting voiceover. That being said, we were revising the script up until a few weeks before finishing it. That process was ongoing as we were tweaking our story. The voiceover was the real tool to craft the shape of it.

Schwartzman: I just had a metaphor that…not a metaphor, but a thing that occurred to me that I hope doesn’t sound cheesy. I almost feel like this movie is what would happen if someone was reading this book and then went to bed and had a dream.

This would be the dream that they would have at night. It would be this swirling, all the characters meeting and becoming one in a way, and all of it being processed in your brain in a way that on a deeper level, you already know so many of the big historical facts. We know so many of the huge ones. But if you were reading the book, you don’t need “this happened, this happened.” You just feel it and know it intuitively, because it’s in your body. I feel that.

Wolf: You’ve lived it.

Schwartzman: You’ve lived it. Because you’re also a viewer, and you’re also a teenager when you’re watching the movie. It’s coming to you from that way, and so I feel like that’s what it’s like. It’s the meme of the book.

GALO: Could you touch on some of your teenage years, and how maybe they relate to the footage in the movie and what’s happening in the documentary?

Wolf: I always thought this film would be just a deep exploration of pop culture, but as I started making it, I came to terms with how political the subject matter is, because young people were really struggling for equality and for recognition in the most basic terms. When I was a teenager, I was also really political. It was in the ’90s, and I was gay, and I published my school’s underground newspaper, and was battling it out, trying to fight homophobia in my school, but also in my bigger community. I really felt like I was changing the course of history at that moment. Maybe I did in some small, tiny way, or at least in my world.

Savage: This is one of the things I really like about the film, that Matt has actually seen the politics in it, and there is politics in it. It may be slightly more disguised in the book, but I’m really glad that it’s brought up in the film, that’s really exciting to me. Our collaboration’s been great, but that’s one part of it I’m really pleased about.

I was a very dreamy teenager, which is why I really identify with the dreaminess of parts of the film. I was very withdrawn, and quite unsociable. I didn’t have psychological problems, but I just stayed in my room, and read books, and listened to weird music. Then at the end of my teenage years, when I was about 22, 23, I got involved with punk rock, and so that was the transformation for me. You can meet lots of outsiders coming together, and finding that they could get strength by coming together, so that was a political thing as well in the widest sense.

Schwartzman: I was mostly playing music. I was in a band from the time I was 13, so I think most of my teenage years were spent listening to music, and playing music, and that’s a weird thing too, because people come to hear music, people from my school would come, or all of our friends would come and see us play. So on one level it was like you have attention, but then they all leave again, and you’re just alone again. [Laughter]

I really was a super MTV consumer. Like unbelievable. If it’s MTV in the ’90s, I can tell you anything that was on that.

Savage: This is also an important part about the film, that we are all real music fans, and music in fact courses throughout the film. To me, there are two incredible moments in the film. One is when Gene Krupa comes in with Benny Goodman in the swing section. And it’s a fantastic moment for me, because it makes it come to life, with what Matt and the sound designer have done with Frank Sinatra, where you get the volume swelling.

(Interview continued on next page)