Teen Spirit is the latest movie in the last several months about a woman making her way in the music industry. Written and directed by Max Minghella, this one stars Elle Fanning as Violet, a young woman who dreams of being a super star and so auditions for a TV singing competition show.
Violet gets the attention of the producers and others who think she has something special and want to take her beyond what the show might offer and farther than what her family, who’s guided her so far, is capable of. Entranced by the idea of making it big, Violet sets off but finds that fame comes with a trade off she didn’t anticipate.
Just one poster for the movie showing Violet in close up as she leans in toward the mic, a bright purple light drenching her face. It shows the music industry setting of the story and that the focus is on the performance, though the slightly vacant look in Violet’s eyes show she’s not fully processing what’s happening to and around her, or is having a hard time dealing with it.
The first teaser, released at the time the movie was screening in Toronto, paints an enigmatic picture as we see Violet at all stages of her career, from auditioning to commanding the stage at a massive audience. We also see the rough, hedonistic lifestyle that comes with that fame and recognition.
Later on an official trailer starts out by showing Violet’s life before hitting it big, following her from farm through the preparation for appearing on a singing competition to becoming more famous than she imagined. It ends with a list of the artists appearing in or lending their music to the movie.
The second trailer expands on the background shown in the first, explaining where she starts out and the kinds of obstacles she has in front of her. Violet is constantly being torn between told music is a business or a passion, leading to conflict and turmoil with everyone around her. Other than that this is the same message sent before, about the dangers of getting what you wished for.
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A TV spot from March played like a short version of the second trailer, showing the path Violet is lead down in the hopes of becoming famous.
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In one of its first big publicity pops, the movie was slated to premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in early September, with Fanning talking around that time about how the role allowed her to be a pop star for a bit. Distribution rights were picked up during Toronto by Mickey Liddell, though what sort of release that meant remained unclear at the time.
While at Toronto, Fanning spoke about what she admired about her character and how she overall identified with her.
Fanning was interviewed about the story as well as the training she underwent to prepare to play a singer in the movie. For Vogue she talked music and created a playlist of her favorite songs at the moment. She also showed up on “The Tonight Show” to sing and dance with Jimmy Fallon and continued to talk about how music has always been a big part of her life. Minghella also weighed in on the inspiration for the story.
The focus on the music continued when Interscope Records released an official video for “Wildflowers,” performed by Fanning on the movie’s soundtrack.
Fanning is the real star here in much the same way she was in the campaign for The Neon Demon, another movie that cast her as an ambitious ingenue seeking stardom in a glamourous industry. Like that movie – as well as the campaigns for others about women in the music industry – we see her rise to stardom and the costs of achieving the success she’s dreamt of.
It’s also similar to some of those other campaigns in that it uses stark lighting as a way to communicate the character’s moods and actions, this time with singular bright lights on Violet to show her performing and reacting to her new trappings. The movie is sold as a character arc from naive amateur to overwhelmed celebrity, but also hints at the downside of fame when it comes from going against who you really are.