June 25 08

Her name is Tracey Berkowitz. Fifteen. Just a normal girl who hates herself.

Normal. Yes. Possibly. Everyone in her high school hates her and calls her “it”. her mother drinks and smokes too much. Her father is a total deadbeat and uses his belt on his kids. She has a total rockstar boyfriend, but only in her mind. her little brother thinks he’s a dog.

Oh, and also? he’s missing.



 (image courtesy of Alliance Films)

The Tracey Fragments is the story of Tracey Berkowitz’ (or zero-itz or 40-below-zero-itz, as she says) search for her missing brother. Director Bruce McDonald presents Tracey’s (played by a brilliant Ellen Page) story in literal fragments. He splits the screen and tells the tale, originally told in Maureen Medved’s novel of the same name, in a non-chronological, non-linear way.


 (image courtesy of Alliance Films)

i got a chance to speak with Bruce McDonald this afternoon to talk about the movie, which comes out on DVD July 8th, about teen angst, and about the amazing score, done by the always brilliant Canadian band, Broken Social Scene.

Bruce was charming. and highly pocketable. (If you are new to Ali-speak, I tend to want to put people I like in my shirt pocket and take them home with me) The only regret I had was not asking begging him to put me in his next film. oh, and there was the blabbering. I blabbered. A lot. Because I liked the movie. A lot.


 (image courtesy of Alliance Films)

AM: Why don’t you walk me through how the book, The Tracey Fragments, became the screenplay and then became the movie…Did Maureen Medved write the screenplay, did you write it together?

BM: She ended up writing it herself which is fairly unusual. Often, writers are already worn out by the time it comes to the screenplay and because its a harder job writing a screenplay than a novel, they usually don’t. But she was really up for it because she’s a really really big movie fan…she lo-oves movies. The book was recommended to me by a friend of mine and i thought, “wow, i love this girl, i love this writing”…and i didn’t want to initially go through the agent, so i found out where she lived in Vancouver and i sent her my cowboy boots in the mail. It was low cash flow time for me and i thought, well, my cowboy boots are very dear to me, so i thought i’d trade those boots for a book option and it worked out well and now we’re cookin’ up something else. she’s great and so enthusiastic.

AM: And the ideas for the split screens and the fragmenting of Tracey’s story…did that come from you? from her?

BM: The screenplay was done and we were pitching it to the money people and i was trying to think of something that would make it appealing…and i guess we were trying to channel being 15. i thought, gosh..how would a 15 year old make this movie? and, we thought a 15-year-old would probably be kind of fearless and want to do something cool and something different and we thought that the split screen and playing with the narrative and jumping around a bit would work.

AM: It certainly worked. I’ve never seen that before in a movie, and I thought it was fantastic…were you or are you nervous some people are going to find it too different. too, well, i guess fragmented?

BM: yeah, well, some people find it a bit too much, but those are just the uncool people and are quite happy to watch, you know, old reruns of MASH or something…and they don’t need anything like this and it’s fine. but when people like you make that discovery and think it’s terrific and something new and different…that’s when it becomes worth the risk. and we’ve been really lucky that Ellen Page has become really famous. I’m sure people are out there being like “hey, what’s Ellen up to now?” and it’s a great way to introduce people to a pretty wild and fresh sort of style.

AM: Did you always have Ellen Page in mind to play Tracey?

BM: Yes, she was always on our radar. Our producer Sarah Timmins really insisted that we meet and consider her for our little film. and she had already done Hard Candy and X-Men and it all worked out quite well.

AM: Oh yes, she’s perfect….(blabbering. ali blabbering about how amazing Ellen Page was in the movie. how she was so believable as a 15-year-old girl..)

BM: do you remember being 15?

AM: It wasn’t that long ago for me. hahah. i totally remember being 15 and it’s interesting because i was talking with some friends about how the teen angst-y movies for us were…

BM: Breakfast Club?

AM: well, anything John Hughes. Boy from the wrong side of the tracks. It was all very, um, pretty. i’m loving that this movie goes to a much more dark and angry and broody place. it’s really what high school kinda is for a lot of people. is this a trend, you think, to have a more realistic type of teen angst film?

BM: People turn to the idealized stories of the high school world because that’s kind of what we all wished it was. and those stories will always be popular because they are a way for us to escape the tragedy of our own lives. and every once in a while it’s pretty electrifying to see someone like Tracey, to see somebody that’s weirdly close to a real and bizarre and tough experience of what it’s like to be, well, 15 years old.

AM: I love how Tracey has a relationship with her dream boy in her mind…because that’s kind of exactly what happens in high school…

BM: yeah, you have rockstar dreams..

AM: i still dream that i’m going to be a rockstar

BM: and you probably will be.

(see that? Bruce McDonald thinks i’m a rock star!)

AM: I love that Broken Social Scene did the music for this film. I’m a huge fan of Canadian music. What else are you listening to these days?

BM: i just heard the new Brendan Canning, he plays base in Broken Social Scene and his new album is coming out in a couple of weeks…something for all of us…it’s pretty groovy. I love Stars. Big fan of Amy Milan.

AM: have you heard of Lights?

BM: i don’t know Lights.

AM: she’s kind of Feist-y and Emily Haines-ish.

BM: great. she has one album?

AM: she has a 6-song EP. i downloaded it from itunes. i think it’s called Lights

BM: such a modern girl.

AM: blabblers about possible illegal downloads.

BM: I’m just down the street from a great record store..I’m going to check it out. great!

AM: So, what’s next for you?

BM: Being a big fan of music…I’m trying to come up with a story that would be a cool music movie…kinda like The Song that Remains the Same or Purple Rain or A Hard Day’s Night.

AM: Kind of like Across the Universe?

BM: exactly! there’s a story but there’s tons of music in it. I’d like to make a movie about a robot girl who gets her masters and then runs off and joins a band…

AM: and everyone loves a good robot girl story. almost as good as zombies.

BM: What is your favorite music movie?

(shit. I don’t know.)

(crap. crappity crap crap.)

(i’m embarrased. mind is blank.)

(we then discussed across the universe…and the Bob Dylan movie, I’m Not There…and Moulin Rouge and it was GREAT)

(and then he said)

BM: well, you have good taste there!



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