Charlie Lyne of The Guardian on his directorial debut ‘Beyond Clueless’

By January 17, 2015

Film, TV & Tech. Leeds.

[Image courtesy of The Guardian]


Charlie Lyne is an unashamed film geek. He writes for The Guardian, edits popular film blog Ultra Culture and was a regular on the BBC programme Film with Claudia Winkleman. Now he turns his film-fanatic’s eye towards one of the least celebrated cinematic genres: teen movies.

Lyne’s directorial debut Beyond Clueless is part documentary, part audiovisual essay, a celebration of the films that shaped so many youngsters’ formative years. Underscored by the husky narration of Fairuza Balk, Beyond Clueless examines the high school world of films such as Clueless and the hormone-driven exploits of its inhabitants. Compiled from almost 300 films, it’s a beautifully-crafted memoir to jocks, cheerleaders and band geeks.

Beyond Clueless will be showing at the Hyde Park Picture House on Sunday 18th January, followed by a Q&A with director Charlie Lyne.


TSOTA: What was your inspiration for making Beyond Clueless?
CL: I started re-watching the films I loved as a teenager and found myself addictively searching through all these movies, partly because of the rush of nostalgia, but also because I was fascinated by the odd undercurrents that I never picked up on as a teenager. Beyond Clueless was my attempt to capture that feeling; the simultaneous affection for the genre and the unease these films roused in me.


TSOTA: Beyond Clueless is interesting for its sole use of film clips, as opposed to the usual talking-head approach to documentary filmmaking. What was the decision behind that approach?
CL: I was so aware that when people talk about this genre, they tend to critique it from a real distance. I felt an emotional connection to these films, so I wanted to make something that would feel in itself like a teen movie, existing purely in that high school world. Had we jolted to a talking-head interview or a shot of me narrating, it would have been quite alienating and pulled you out of that world.


TSOTA: Beyond Clueless is very focussed on films of the ‘90s. What was the reasoning behind this?
CL: Partly because it was the era that I grew up with, but it was also important that Beyond Clueless felt like a single universe. Had we been cutting between a shot of James Dean and Ellen Page that would have felt quite jarring. It just seemed the natural time to pick, not least because that was an era where teen movies really broadened out. Unlike the ‘80s ‘Brat Pack’ era of teen movies, you didn’t have a genre defined by a couple of huge, titanous movies and directors. It was a much more level playing field. You look at the release schedule from the mid to late ‘90s and there’s one or two teen movies out every week. It felt like a really fruitful time for these movies.


image2 (1) (400x225)
[Image courtesy of]


TSOTA: As much as you love teen films, it must have been a tiresome, lengthy process re-watching all those films and editing them together.
CL: I try not to complain about it, because obviously it’s an incredible privilege to direct a film like this – and have the biggest problem in your life be that you’ve got to watch too many teen movies! But it was very intensive and I became a bit of a hermit for a few months. I think it was required for what I ultimately came out with, which was this feeling that I was living inside that genre. It was just there when I closed my eyes and pictured how the film should be.


TSOTA: The film was funded through Kickstarter, a website that allows members of the public to invest in creative projects. What was that process like?
CL: We were really lucky timing-wise. Kickstarter launched in the UK about a week before we put that thing online. There was something about our film that people cared really strongly about, because teen films mean so much to people. It was ideal and, for our project, a perfect fit.


TSOTA: Beyond Clueless features an entirely original score, composed and performed by indie pop duo Summer Camp. Appropriately, their music felt like the score of a ‘90s teen film.
CL: That was always the aim and I was so thrilled to have Summer Camp on board. It needed to be a big, proper pop teen movie soundtrack, but they also brought an instrumental emotional range. They found that balance perfectly. We wanted to reflect the genre as accurately as we could, while also deconstructing it.


TSOTA: Fairuza Balk was an inspired choice of narrator. How did she get involved?
CL: We had a list of dream candidates, with her at the top. When we finally managed to get in touch with her, we were in a position where we could pretty much show her the entire film and thankfully she liked it. I’m sure a lot of other actors would have done a great job, but I don’t know any who could have given it the same atmospheric tone that Fairuza Balk does. Her voice is just the most evocative thing in the world.


TSOTA: Fairuza Balk is one of those actors who is intrinsically linked with the teen film genre, would you agree?
CL: She didn’t even do that many of those roles, but each one feels like it very much cemented its place in that genre, especially Nancy from The Craft. I would say fifty percent of any audience watching Beyond Clueless seemed to hold Nancy from The Craft as their personal role model, even fifteen years after the film was released. Getting to speak through that voice was a real privilege.


[Image courtesy of]


TSOTA: What was the experience of premiering Beyond Clueless at the SXSW film festival in Austin, Texas?
CL: It was incredible. Each step of this process has completely exceeded our expectations. When we started the film, we were amazed that we managed to be funded on Kickstarter, but I think we all assumed that we would finish the film and maybe hire a room above a pub to show it. So flying off to Texas to premiere in a five-hundred seater cinema at one of the most exciting festivals in the world was unbelievable. It’s an amazing feeling to show a film to a festival audience like that. It’s a very pure way to see a film, because there are almost no preconceptions. In the year we were there, we were premiering alongside The Possibilities Are Endless, the documentary about Edwyn Collins, and that’s easily one of my favourite films of last year. To be held in that company is a bizarre feeling. I couldn’t speak kindly enough about the whole process. It’s just been incredible.


TSOTA: What aspects of teen movies do you find most similar to your own teenage experience?
CL: I think, for most teenagers, it’s the emotions they rouse in you. You see a horror film with a body-horror theme and, when you’re sixteen and going through puberty, that’s an incredibly evocative thing to see. And then, of course, the things that are less familiar are always slightly more exaggerated. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have a house party with four hundred friends and kegs in the garden, but in a way that’s the point of teen movies. It’s an alternate universe. You’re living vicariously through them while living your own, perhaps more banal, teenage experience. So I think the literal realism doesn’t matter so much as the fact that it’s getting at deeper ideas that connect with you.


TSOTA: Which teen films were most different when re-watched through adult eyes?
CL: I think almost all of them! Sometimes I’m blown away that it’s me that’s changed and not the films. There was a moment of devastating realisation when I re-watched The Girl Next Door. It’s a 2004 sex comedy with Emile Hirsch as a teenager who starts dating a porn star. As a teenager, I found that film appealing for various reasons and now I’m horrified by some of the things it has to say. For me, the affection and scepticism are one and the same and I hope that’s something that comes across in Beyond Clueless.


TSOTA: Would you consider making a sequel to Beyond Clueless, perhaps documenting the importance of teen television?
CL: Early on, I did consider trying to include TV and eventually ruled it out, partly because it would have meant thousands of hours of extra material and partly because the episodic structure of television is very different. But I do think there’s a totally different film in the mad tropes and traditions of television. Or maybe a TV series! Maybe I can have a spin-off TV series, slowly getting to grips with the undercurrents of Dawson’s Creek


Joe Saxon


Beyond Clueless will be showing at the Hyde Park Picture House on Sunday 18th January, followed by a Q&A with director Charlie Lyne.

For more info and tickets visit the HPPH website

Filed under: Film, TV & Tech

Tagged with: ,