Collage Talks: Jessica Leski, ADLFF Filmmaker

I Used to Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story, a documentary featured in the upcoming Adelaide Film Festival program, celebrates the devotion of fangirls. Collage contributor Milly Farmer talks with the documentary’s director, Jessica Leski.


When: Friday October 12th 5:00 PM and Friday October 19th 7:00 PM

Where: GU Film House Adelaide

How much: $16 – $20

Watch the trailer here.

Purchase tickets here.

Milly: Hi Jessica! First things first, are you a fangirl yourself? Did you have a boyband that epitomised your adolescence?

Jessica: When I was a teenager The Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC were popular, but I was completely dismissive of the whole thing: the fans, the music, the bands. I never paid attention to boybands at all back then… Maybe a little bit of Hanson.

It wasn’t until I was 31 and I heard a One Direction song. It got stuck in my head, then I saw the video clip, and I was like “Aw my goodness, what have I missed out on in the last 15 years”.

That was how this whole thing started, I’d missed out on this amazing phenomenon and I had no one to really to talk about it with. All my friends were in their thirties and didn’t want to talk about boybands so I needed to find other fans to talk about what I was feeling.

M: So, you would say your love of One Direction influenced your decision to make this film about fangirls?

J: Totally, I mean, filmmaking is a very hard thing to do, so you need to find something that you love a lot to keep the motivation going. There was so much I wanted to know, not necessarily about the boybands, but about what being a fan was.

I had this idea about what boybands fans were, but it wasn’t until I was immersed in this fandom that I saw how hilarious, smart and creative they were. I felt a bit silly having dismissed that and wanted to shed light on how interesting fans were.

Many movies that depict teenage fangirls are very dismissive of them and their feelings, which felt really unfair to me.

M: This documentary spans from The Beatles era up until the present day. What is the main influence that the boybands have had on young women and their adolescent years?

J: What is amazing to see it that so many people say to teenage girls, “It’s just a stage, you’re going to grow out of it, you’ll develop more mature tastes”. I really wanted to talk to women across the generations to show how important that thing you fall in love with as a teenager can be in shaping your identity.

With these women in the film, their bands have stayed with them for their whole lives and for some of them have influenced their careers, their ideas on love and their relationships with their families. It’s not just a stage, it’s a seminal part of their identities.

M: Did you learn of something surprising that linked your subjects across generations?

J: When I became a One Direction fan, the internet was a big part of fans sharing their love of the band. When I was a teenager, sharing your love of boybands was more about sharing the music with the people around you.

The presence of the internet was what I thought made the One Direction fandom more unique, but what was surprising was to speak to fans of older generations and see their similarities. They all collected things in memory boxes with concert tickets and newspaper clippings. They all got very emotional when they talked about their favourite song. They all were convinced that at their particular concert, their favourite band member made eye contact with them.

It was really beautiful to see this across many years, the youngest fan was 14 and the oldest fan was 64, showing boybands unite the generations.

M: The Adelaide Film Festival have compiled a list of the most beloved Australian films with people voting for their top three favourite films #YOUMUSTSEE. What would be your top three?

J: Australian filmmaker Kitty Green made an amazing documentary Ukraine is Not a Brothel and Eva Orner’s Chasing Asylum. I think I should say a more classic one… perhaps [Baz Luhrmann’s] Strictly Ballroom? I do love musicals, I remember seeing that as a kid and being dazzled.

M: Thanks so much for your time, Jessica. Looking forward to seeing I Used to be Normal!

Tickets now available, screenings will be followed by karaoke in the GU Film House courtyard.

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