GALO: Are those the two things you think are mainly explored in the film, the politics and the music?

Wolf: It’s really about the intersection of that, and it’s about the way that young people pioneer new styles of expression, new ideas, and it’s also about the way that the means that they express that becomes political. I think the German swing story really embodies that. These kids were fans of American swing music, and British fashion, but they were growing up during the Nazi regime, and by listening to that stuff, and celebrating that culture, they were subversively rebelling against their oppressive political government, and they were endangering their lives. It was very courageous. I think that moment really represents the intersection of the serious fun that is at the core of Teenage.

Schwartzman: You know what else is really cool in the movie as you watch, you’ll notice most people had a guitar, and a group. Someone’s got a guitar always, it’s really great.

Wolf: It’s a big thread in the film, just in terms of the story and the content, but also just in terms of the making of the film, there’s music that plays wall to wall in it. It’s a huge part of the experience. I see the film almost like a record, and the voiceover is like lyrics. You can just let the experience wash over you, or you can listen, and it will deepen and enhance your understanding of the material.

GALO: Do you think there’s been a shift in the identity of teenagers in the second half of the 20th century? Because this film explores up until 1945 very in-depth, and then you see flashes of the second half of the 20th century.

Wolf: The teenager, at the end of our story, we say it was a compromise solution, which it really was. It’s like adults were able to have certain measures of control, and young people were able to express themselves through the clothes and records and magazines that they wanted to own, and that consumerism is at the core of the teenager that’s born at the end of World War II, and it’s a model that never went away. It still is the model for youth today. I think what changes is the influence and the scope of youth culture explodes after the war, especially with 1950s rock and roll. From that point on, the global influence is so expansive that it’s hard to identify just one strand.

Savage: And also, everybody knows it. How many books are there about Elvis? Thousands. And this is what attracted me to the concept of the book, which developed as I was writing it, because my original brief was to carry it on to the present day, and decided half of the way through with my publishers that we should stop at 1945, because it was all undocumented.

There is so much data, and in a way, the story is familiar. And what is exciting to me about the book, and particularly the film, is that it’s totally new ground. I mean, what was so exciting when we were watching the footage is we were saying, number one, this actually does bear out the thesis of the book, we’re seeing the book actually come alive on screen, but the other thing was, there was all this stuff there, and nobody had really looked for it.

Wolf: That’s what’s cool to us, to show people stuff they’ve never seen before and to treat it in a way that feels really contemporary so that it unlocks an experience that we know, but that we haven’t seen or experienced before.

GALO: That’s one of the cool things I found with the documentary, you bring these very specific stories that were unknown to me, at least, and I’m sure to several viewers as well. How did you go about identifying these individuals or these groups?

Wolf: All of it comes from Jon’s book, but I think the way we narrowed the scope — because Jon’s book covers a lot more ground than the film — is finding stuff that there was archival footage of. No matter what, we always knew if we wanted to tell a story, it needed to have a basis in real archival footage or photographs, something we could bring to life visually. Really the point of the story was what are the competing ways people are trying to deal with youth? How are they trying to be controlled, and what ways are they pushing back and asserting their freedom? These stories that we landed on are the places where those conflicts and those themes play out most explicitly.

GALO: Jason, could you talk a little bit about your involvement in the film, how this has been a different experience from acting, and what you found more fulfilling, producing versus acting?

Schwartzman: Well, it’s very different than acting because, well, to be fair, there’s an incredible production team, so many people who did so much to make this movie happen, and I do not want to take any credit for all that incredible work. I came on board years ago; Matt and I worked together for a day, we shot a short film for a mutual friend of ours’ company. And during this day we spent together making this movie, I asked him what he was working on next — this was just after his movie hit Wild Combination had come out — and he told me he was trying to make this movie Teenage, and he explained it to me.

Off the bat, he said it’s based on Jon Savage’s book, which I knew. I love Jon Savage, I love Matt, I was excited to see this movie, and he was explaining that it was going to be a collage and it was going to be recreated footage blended with archival footage. The whole thing was exciting to me. I approached this whole thing as a fan, because I just wanted to see it get made, and basically I checked in with Matt like a year later or something, and I just said, “What’s going on with the movie? When is this coming out? I want to see this.” And that’s how I got involved with the movie, just as a fan.

My role also is to just try to help in any way that I can to get the word out. And it’s different than acting because I’m not in it. The premiere last night [April 20th] for me was just one where I didn’t have to be self critical or feel awkward, and I could just enjoy it for Matt and for Jon. I don’t enjoy going to my own movies. I haven’t seen any of my own movies.

(Interview continued on next page)