AFI Movie Club: THIRTEEN – American Film Institute
Thirteen Film Still - Evan Rachel Wood and Nikki Reed



THIRTEEN, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, is a poignantly honest depiction of the coming of age of a teenaged girl (Evan Rachel Wood) who struggles with the allure of drugs, sex and petty theft incited by a troubled, new friendship. The Production Designer on the film is AFI Conservatory alum Carol Strober (AFI Class of 1991) and Hardwicke has also spoken to AFI Fellows at Harold Lloyd Master seminars. 

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THIRTEEN – Reelgood

Watch this exclusive video from the AFI Archive featuring co-writer/director Catherine Hardwicke discuss making THIRTEEN.


Movie Trivia About Today’s Film

DID YOU KNOW? THIRTEEN marked Catherine Hardwicke’s directorial and writing debut. Prior to directing, Hardwicke worked as a production designer on feature films, including VANILLA SKY and THREE KINGS. 

DID YOU KNOW? Catherine Hardwicke co-wrote the film with Nikki Reed, who was 14 years old at the time. They wrote the script – which is based on real events in Reed’s life – in six days over Reed’s Christmas break, at Hardwicke’s home in Venice Beach. Also featured in a starring role, Reed went on to win an Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance. 

DID YOU KNOW? Although Nikki Reed based the character Tracy on her real-life experiences, Catherine Hardwicke believed the girl should not play the lead role herself and Evan Rachel Wood was cast in the part. While Wood had been a successful child actor, THIRTEEN marked her entry into more adult roles and propelled her to stardom. 

DID YOU KNOW? Director Catherine Hardwicke pieced together a $2 million budget through independent investors. The film went on to gross over $10 million in its domestic and international release. 

DID YOU KNOW? Principal photography was largely captured with hand-held cameras on16mm film in Los Angeles, over the course of 24 days. Locations included Venice Beach, Hollywood Boulevard and Melrose Avenue, as well as Portola Middle School in Tarzana. 

DID YOU KNOW? Child labor laws protected the young performers from working long hours, so the film was shot relatively quickly. The underage actors were also accompanied by parents and social workers during sex and drug scenes to be sure the youths were not exposed to dangerous situations or substances. Cigarettes were filled with catnip, and the crushed pills were actually vitamins. 

DID YOU KNOW? Mark Mothersbaugh – front man of the popular 1980s band Devo – wrote the score for THIRTEEN. Also included on the soundtrack were Liz Phair, Folk Implosion and teen girl band The Like. 

DID YOU KNOW? THIRTEEN had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, where the film was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize and Catherine Hardwicke was honored with the Dramatic Directing Award. Her success led to a distribution deal with Fox Searchlight Pictures. 

DID YOU KNOW? THIRTEEN prompted controversy for its frank depiction of teenaged life and for portraying teenaged girls’ sexuality. Catherine Hardwicke noted in interviews that she was interested in exploring the consumer culture that encourages children to grow up too fast, and to realistically portray complex emotional experiences. 

DID YOU KNOW? THIRTEEN was honored with an Academy Award® nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Holly Hunter. She was also nominated for a Golden Globe in the same category, and Evan Rachel Wood was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama. 

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.


The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

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-Although THIRTEEN is about young teenagers – and was co-written by a 14-year-old – it was rated R and therefore became inaccessible to viewers under 18. Why do you think Catherine Hardwicke chose to make a movie about young teens, which they themselves were unable to watch without parental supervision?  Do you think THIRTEEN should be seen by younger audiences despite its rating, or do you believe it might encourage kids to mirror what they see onscreen? 

– In what ways does THIRTEEN differ from other teen movies that you’ve seen? 

-In interviews, Catherine Hardwicke described the genesis of THIRTEEN as a means to distract Nikki Reed from her newfound seventh grade obsession with make-up and boys, and to prevent the girl’s downward spiral of attention-seeking through self-destructive behaviors. Under Hardwicke’s care and mentorship, the two penned THIRTEEN in six days, with Reed sharing intimate details of her young, troubled life. By recreating real experiences onscreen for millions to witness, do you think Reed comes away with a healing, cathartic experience in THIRTEEN? 

-THIRTEEN tells the story of a young girl’s coming of age during a time in which consumer culture was particularly notorious for using highly sexualized imagery of female teenagers to bolster profits, and some critics of THIRTEEN commented that the film may have been similarly exploitative in its representation of American girlhood. In interviews, Catherine Hardwicke insisted that she was not making a sweeping statement about all teens, and that she was only interested an accurate portrayal of the pressures that kids endure. Do you think THIRTEEN goes too far in depicting the precociousness of its characters, or do you see it’s imagery as a necessary way to convey the real-life challenges teens have in a world that introduces them to sex and drugs at an early age? How does Hardwicke construct scenes to ensure the gaze of the camera is not exploitative? 

-Describe the friendship between Evie and Tracy. Did you ever have close friends in your early teens that influenced your behaviors, or deeply informed the way you saw yourself? Why do you think youths are so likely to copy each other, and how can they be helped to avoid falling into self-destructive behaviors? 

-THIRTEEN was hailed for its realism, both in its narrative and in how the story is told through cinematic devices. Pick a scene you find to be the most realistic and explain how the camera is used to create this sense of realism. 

-How do you think the experiences of young teenagers have changed since THIRTEEN was released? Do you think the explosion of social media exacerbates the dangers of coming of age? 

-How would you rate THIRTEEN? 

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