Nanette Burstein

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American Teen Director Nanette Burstein reflects on being part of the “John Hughes generation” and bares her heart with stories of love and loss in a chat with DJ Chris Douridas. The Academy Award-nominated director shares her thoughts on the movie that broke open the world of soundtracks, sings a few bars and reminisces about life as a young NYC artist, and highlights a song that never fails to motivate and move her.

American Teen will be in theaters on July 25.

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"Love My Way," by Psychedelic Furs
"Trouble," by Cat Stevens
"Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered" by Ella Fitzgerald
"Move on Up," by Curtis Mayfield
"Sunset Soon Forgotten," by Iron & Wine


Chris Douridas: Hi, this is Chris Douridas from KCRW and I'm here with Nanette Burstein, Academy Award-nominated director of the 1999 documentary film “On the Ropes” and 2002's “The Kid Stays in the Picture.” There's a new film that Nanette's directed lately, it's called “American Teen.” Nanette, it's good to have you here.

Nanette Burstein: Thank you, it's good to be here Chris.

Chris Douridas: I'm excited today because we get to talk about the music that's inspired you over the years and I was very interested to see what you were going to bring to the table as iconic songs from your life so far.

Nanette Burstein: It's funny, you look through the different periods of your life and each of these songs brings back such poignant memories.

Song: "Love My Way," by Psychedelic Furs

Chris Douridas: I'm going to guess that the Psychedelic Furs piece has some tie to college.

Nanette Burstein: High school, actually.

Chris Douridas: Oh boy.

Nanette Burstein: I was the John Hughes generation. I was the '80's kid who was listening to Simple Minds, Psychedelic Furs, British New Wave, The Cure -- all those bands. And the song that most stays with me from the Psychedelic Furs is "Love My Way."

Chris Douridas: Is there a reason for that?

Nanette Burstein: I had this car at the time. It was my grandmother's Oldsmobile Cutlas Supreme. I'm not that tall and this car is just gigantic, it was a boat. And I used to listen to this song all the time on the tape recorder. I had a boyfriend at the time who I was so in love with- John Drenning. In the beginning of our relationship, I would get very excited listening to this song and then, of course, when we were breaking up I would listen to it and just bawl in the car. It represents first love and first heartbreak.

He was a little bit older then I was and he was taking off as a roadie for the Goo Goo Dolls so he left me behind. *laughs* I totally get screwed by the Goo Goo Dolls. And they weren't anyone at the time.

Chris Douridas: It's called "Love My Way," that's from Psychedelic Furs. You’re listening to KCRW's Guest DJ Project. I'm Chris Douridas with Academy Award- Nominated director, Nanette Burstein. You're a Cat Stevens fan as well.

Nanette Burstein: I am, yes. I started listening to him in high school and in college and just never stopped. When I was in college I was learning how to play the guitar andI used to learn how to play with Cat Stevens songs. "Where Do the Children Play?" and "Peace Train" were two of the first songs I learned on the guitar. I guess when I really got excited by him -- my freshman year of college I saw the movie “Harold and Maude.” I heard Cat Stevens and really enjoyed him before but that movie completely blew me away. And at the time, I wanted to be a film maker myself and was just so inspired by that film and was just amazed at how well that soundtrack had worked and started thinking about soundtracks in a new way.

Chris Douridas: You're actually using a song from “Harold and Maude” in the new film, “American Teen.”

Nanette Burstein: There's a song called "Trouble," which I listened to a lot in college, in high school.

Song: "Trouble," by Cat Stevens

Nanette Burstein: It really is such an important moment in the movie. There's no dialogue at all and the lyrics actually help tell the story, which I don’t normally like to do films. But it really works in this scene where you see a girl whose boyfriend has broken up with her, the main character, Hannah. And she's just beside herself with grief and she's unable to even go to school-- she's missed weeks, she might get kicked out and you kind of see this amazing high school montage of skipping school and what she does and kind of hanging out in the park and this song perfectly embodied her experience.

His songs are so cinematic and in my previous movie, “The Kid Stays in the Picture,” I use "Wild World." I guess I'm forever copying “Harold and Maude.” In every movie I make, I want to try to fit a Cat Stevens' song in there.

Chris Douridas: Cat Stevens, "Trouble." You can find this on the soundtrack of the new film, “American Teen,” which I was music supervisor on and the director of the film is with us, it's Nanette Burstein. This is KCRW's Guest DJ Project. I was a little surprised to see Ella Fitzgerald on the list 'cause you're such a rocker.

Nanette Burstein: You know, I am a rocker but I have eclectic tastes. I had this apartment in college in the East Village. And even back then I wanted to be a filmmaker so I was writing scripts and, you know, you're twenty years old and you're staying up 'til four, five in the morning all the time. I remember just watching the sunrise and I would be listening to Ella Fitzgerald and particularly that song. It really inspired me, both to write and just on a personal level, it was always about the hope and inspiration of falling in love again and the excitement of that. You know, when you first meet someone and you’re just so excited about them and that thrill of falling in love for the first six months. And so, over the next decade of dating whenever I would fall in love again, which happened a few times, I would actually put on that song.

Song: "Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered" by Ella Fitzgerald

Nanette Burstein: 'Cause, that song has the lyrics that are like (she sings) "that simpering, whimpering child again." That innocence and usefulness of being bewitched. The lyrics are absolutely perfect and she just does the most beautiful rendition of that song, her voice is just gorgeous.

Chris Douridas: I'm so glad you sang part of that for us, we got that on tape.

Nanette Burstein: *laughing* I know you're going to embarrass me now, I knew you would!

Chris Douridas: Classic work from Ella Fitzgerald, "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered." I'm Chris Douridas, it's KCRW's Guest DJ Project. With us in the studio is director Nanette Burstein. Curtis Mayfield is on the list here.

Nanette Burstein: I'm a huge fan of Curtis Mayfield.

Chris Douridas: And such an inspiring character too.

Nanette Burstein: And, you know, his songs from the '60's I find the most inspiring. The emotion behind those songs, because of the times in which they were written, and just the quality of his voice, is translatable to any period because it's so powerful.

Song: "Move on Up," by Curtis Mayfield.

Chris Douridas: And why this song?

Nanette Burstein: I mean, "Move on Up" I just find to be one of Curtis' most beautiful songs. It's all about getting ahead in life, no matter what the adversity is and being treated equally and being treated with dignity. It actually is telling a story and it’s an inspirational story. It just makes you feel very motivated in life because if they could be doing that back in the '60's, when there was so much adversity and so much hatred that he was trying oppose with this beautiful music, then it makes you feel like you can accomplish anything.

Chris Douridas: It's a classic piece from Curtis Mayfield, it’s "Move on Up." I'm Chris Douridas with Nanette Burstein who is our guest here on KCRW's Guest DJ Project. A very poignant piece from Iron & Wine rounds out the list here.

Nanette Burstein: Yes, "Sunset Soon Forgotten," which is a song by Iron & Wine. When I was in Warsaw, Indiana making “American Teen,” I listened to this song quite a bit and I would imagine scenes from the movie. I’d imagine the end of the movie, actually. They were all high school seniors and I knew they were all going to go off to college and it’s all about leaving your small town and the sun is setting and you're never going to come back -- at least to this chapter of your life – again, so it made so much sense as far as what was happening to these kids in the movie and how they were going to leave their adolescence behind and venture on into adulthood at the very end.

Song: "Sunset Soon Forgotten," by Iron & Wine.

Chris Douridas: "Sunset Soon Forgotten," from Iron & Wine, a song that almost made it in the film, “American Teen,” written and directed by Nanette Burstein who is our guest here in studio. I'm Chris Douridas it’s KCRW Guest DJ Project. Nanette thanks so much for joining us, thanks so much for being with us.

Nanette Burstein: Oh, thanks for having me Chris.

Chris Douridas: I'm Chris Douridas, that was Nanette Burstein, Academy Award- Nominated Director of “On the Ropes,” and the film “The Kid Stays in the Picture” and the new project, “American Teen.” It's all part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project.

Fade out with "Sunset Soon Forgotten," by Iron & Wine.