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Died Young, Stayed Pretty

The documentary Died Young, Stayed Pretty explores the influence of outsider artists on the visual aesthetic of the alternative music scene

Died Young, Stayed Pretty is a documentary about people who make gig posters. Each time a good band comes into Seattle, Minneapolis or Chapel Hill, artists will make posters and put them up around the town – beautiful, dangerous crazy things which people often pull down on the way home and put up on their walls. Advertising bands ranging from Nirvana to Bob Dylan via the Butthole Surfers and Death Cab For Cutie, a few of these pockets of outsider artists have been drawn together by the site where you can apparently find every gig poster ever made. Through the site the director  Eileen Yaghoobian gained a fascination with this world and spent three years travelling around the US interviewing the artists about what they do and why they do it. The result is an incredibly inspiring film, taking you into the workshops and minds of a huge variety of people whose only link to one another is a love of art and music.

Dazed dialled up a quick transatlantic phone call with director Eileen Yaghoobian to find out what inspired her to make Died Young, Stayed Pretty...

Dazed Digital: Where did the idea for the film come from?
Eileen Yaghoobian: My brother died and I was clearing out his apartment when a friend sent me a link to to cheer me up. I have always loved the music and I instantly connected to the graphics and the twisted dialogue within the pictures.

DD: Despite the fact that some of the artists are now very successful, the film captured this real sense of the underground...
Eileen Yaghoobian: Well, one critic who saw the film said that I wisely chose not to create a narrative and let the people in the film speak for themselves. It was really important that they had their own voice. Also, the composer, Mark Greenberg did a great job on the score of this film; the music really draws you in.

DD: How did you find all the artists?
Eileen Yaghoobian: I did a lot of research. I was very well prepared before I even started to contact people and I knew I wanted to avoid New York and LA. I wanted to tell the story of this other landscape, which was producing this stuff. I went to Flatstock, this poster convention in Seattle and also one in Austin. I had this sheet with 30 names on it when I got there and I came out with like, 250 hours of material. It was three years of location filming in about 23 states. There really was no budget so I was staying with these people, sleeping on their floors for up to ten days. They were really generous. It was the only way I could afford to do it. It is possible to be transparent in filmmaking and I really wanted this to be transparent and have a truth about it, I really wanted to capture that.

DD: There seems to be some difference of opinion among the artists in the film as to whether there is a scene or not...
Eileen Yaghoobian: I come from a fine art background and really wanted to get away from that individualism of that and tell the story of the posters, not the artists. Before the site there were all these pockets of people, and it was all very separate. But the site has dissipated lots of the individual styles, which you would find in different towns. Like in the opening sequence of the film one of the artists is talking about the use of a pink octopus and how he found out everyone was now using pink so he would never now use his octopus image again. Through the site people are influencing each other, and people are swapping ideas that they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise and the styles of the artists are developing in a different way.

Died Young, Stayed Pretty opens at the ICA on October 10.