Living in Teenage

In 1995 my friend Becky’s sister Jenny Villagran was back from college, and she gave me a copy of her zine Hepcat while playing a cassette of The Smiths. I thought she was the coolest person I had ever met. One afternoon Jenny and her best friend showed us how to make our own zines and soon, by Jenny’s recommendation, I discovered Joy Division, Depeche Mode, and The Cure. I was thirteen, obsessed with the 1980s, and I started my own zine, Goat Dreams.


Recently I was going through an exhibition of the author Jon Savage’s early punk zines London’s Outrage and The Secret Public. It was uncanny how a form that Jon and his friends pioneered in the 1970s was so similar to what I was naively doing two decades later. A year before that show, I had written Jon a fan letter. I was hugely inspired by his incredible book about punk, England’s Dreaming, and I had just finished his latest, Teenage. While I was reading, my jaw kept dropping… I couldn’t believe the details Jon had uncovered from hidden histories of youth culture. But I was even more inspired by the way his book made me reconsider mass-phenomena I thought I already knew… from Peter Pan to Anne Frank. I knew I wanted to make a film, but I was overwhelmed. His book is overflowing with ideas.

When you make films about real people and real lives, lots of projects kind of fall apart. You approach people who don’t respond or who’ve already got a film in the works. Or sometimes you realize you don’t really want to live with the personalities and ideas that revolve around a particular subject. It’s a multi-year commitment. But after talking to Jon, learning about his process, and the material he had found, I realized that I wanted to get lost in the world of his book. 90 hours of archival footage and 3,800 vintage photos later, I’m living in Teenage.

I’m excited to start sharing the process of making Teenage, and many of the inspirations and ideas that have come from it. When you make a film or are at work on any long-term project, lots of images or storylines don’t make the cut. Hopefully some of these pieces can find a home here. The film is still in-progress, so I’ll also share updates and profiles of the talented collaborators I’m working with.

When I was thinking about a way to share Teenage with the world, I thought I should start a zine- to me they’re the coolest form of youth culture. Fanzines are about easily appropriating imagery, self-publishing, punk aesthetics, and meeting new people by exchanging art and ideas. But today zines are Tumblrs and blogs. Mix tapes are MP3 downloads, and it’s just as easy to swap video clips as magazine cutouts.

So this blog is in the spirit of a teen fanzine. And I want to encourage you to exchange your own ideas and inspirations on our Flickr and Facebook groups. Hopefully some of the people reading this are 17, and that some of you are 70. Or maybe you’re the parent of a teenager now. Regardless of how old you are, we were all once 13… And that’s what Teenage is about—looking at how much has changed, but more importantly, what never changes.

Matt Wolf is the Director of Teenage. Look out for Director’s Diary entries each month.