Looking At Joan Jett's 'Bad Reputation' Documentary Through The Lense Of An Archivist

Oct 30, 2018

Hall of Fame rock musician Joan Jett has been in the music scene for over 40 years. She got her start in the iconic punk band The Runaways in 1975. Since then, millions of fans have celebrated her songs, including “Bad Reputation” and “I Love Rock and Roll.”

Those songs are also celebrated in a new documentary, Bad Reputation.

The film, directed by Kevin Kerslake, looks back on Jett’s career with interviews from Jett herself, her longtime manager Kenny Laguna, as well as other band members and musicians whom she's influenced. 

The retrospective calls on hundreds of items of archived material from throughout Jett’s career. That’s where Caroline Jaecks plays a role. She's the Blackheart (Joan’s management company and record label) archivist for Bad Reputation, and she curated the company’s materials needed for the documentary.

Before the making of the documentary, Jaecks was working primarily in marketing for Jett — a job she originally declined. "I was like, 'I can't work for Joan Jett — that's crazy! I was barely out of college ... I was still very new ... [But] I had a couple good mentors that encouraged me to go for it," she recalls.

Jaecks says her skills in video editing gave her the confidence to work with the "mountains of media" that covered over four decades of Jett's career.

"I was thinking, 'there must be some negatives or slides around here somewhere,' so I just tore the whole office apart. I found a very chaotic filing cabinet full of miscellaneous everything and I just went to work," she says. "There were slides and negatives and there was 16-millimeter film, there was every format of video you could imagine from 1980 on."

A damaged negative (inverted) of photos taken by tour manager Elliot Saltzman in Japan, late 1982, during the I Love Rock 'N' Roll world tour.
Credit Caroline Jaecks

Jaecks notes that Jett was an inspiration to her growing up as she played in bands herself. Seeing Jett throughout the years as Jaecks sifted through performances, photoshoots and every day snapshots helped add a complete picture to Bad Reputation.

The fact that Jett created her own label to house these archives also adds a genuine view of her experiences — both good and bad — for the documentary according to Jaecks.

"Joan was this underdog who just wanted to play music, so she made it happen for herself. So Blackheart still exists as this entity to find young artists who just want to do their thing," she says.

Even though Jett has been very successful and continues to make music, she is "still fighting the exact same fight that every woman in the entertainment business is fighting," notes Jaecks.

Identifying the photographers and years of prints found at the Blackheart office. Top (left to right) Kenny Laguna, Gary Ryan, Joan Jett, Eric Ambel, Meryl Laguna, and Lee Crystal. Bottom (left to right) Kenny Laguna, Joan Jett, Rodney Bingenheimer, and Neil Bogart.Credit Caroline JaecksEdit | Remove

"People will list her as 'one of the best female guitar players of all time' or 'one of the best female rock stars of all time,'" she says. "Why does she have to be the 'girl version' of a rock star? Why can't she just be a rock star?"

Jaecks says it's clear that Jett is one of the most dedicated rock stars who consistently performs to the best of her ability. "It's hard to take a bad picture of [Jett] really, no matter what time period you're going through," she says. "Because [she has a] really gritty, sweaty, ferocious, confident stage presence."

For two years, Jaecks went through the Blackheart archives not exactly knowing what the final cut of the documentary would look like. But after seeing it for the first time at the Sundance Film Festival, "I've never felt such a rush of happiness and gratitude to even be involved," says Jaecks.

She hopes that audiences will leave the documentary feeling inspired by Jett's persistence and the film's message.

"From knowing [Jett] in real life, there's so much consistency in my personal opinion," says Jaecks. "She's just such a genuine person that her character and her aura is unmistakable even in a photograph from a long time ago. It's very clear to me just from looking at a photo that she's just being totally herself."

You can find Bad Reputation on iTunes and all on-demand services found here.