Tracey Fragments with Director Bruce McDonald

Tracey Berkowitz (Ellen Page) is riding around a pre-blizzard urban wasteland on the back of a city bus, naked except for the tattered curtain shes wrapped in, looking for her missing little brother (whom she fears she has hypnotized). Smart and acerbic, but still only a tender 15 years old, over the course of the film Tracey reveals to the audience (and herself) the truth about how she wound up there. In the process, she begins to work through the mystery of her brother's disappearance, which is not all it is first laid out to be.

Based on screenwriter Maureen Medved's novel of the same name, maverick Canadian filmmaker Bruce McDonald employs a dazzling non-linear split-screen style to represent Tracey's shattering anger, and sets the results to a swirling score from Broken Social Scene. The result is a film truly unlike any other- intense, kinetic, and dark, yet breathtakingly beautiful. On screen for nearly every frame of the film, Ellen Page delivers a tour-de-force performance that cements her status as one of the most exciting actresses in film today.

Maureen Medved, Writer: The Tracey Fragments began as a series of dramatic monologues I wrote in the late eighties. I was living in Montreal at the time and was very influenced by modern dance, which was very experimental and took tremendous risks. I wondered if I could do the same thing with writing, and started working on the pieces at night. Soon after, I got stranded in my home town, Winnipeg, for a few years with a serious illness. As I was in a life or death situation, I threw myself into my writing and what Id started in Montreal became The Tracey Fragments.

At that time, Tracey reflected how I experienced the world. The fragments were a melding of dramatic monologue and magical realist fiction, a picaresque series of tales about a young woman who got into terrific jams. She got into the kind of trouble many women experience trouble with men both strange and familiar, bizarre miscommunications, power dynamics, that sort of thing.

In the early 1990s, I performed the fragments as Tracey at punk shows in Vancouver before the bands came on. Eventually I studied dramatic writing at The University of British Columbia and got a lot of encouragement there from all my instructors. I got to work on Tracey, and soon I had The Tracey Fragments that became the novel.

Bruce McDonald: Way back in the 20th century, my friend John LEcuyer turned me onto a novel called The Tracey Fragments. I loved it, loved Traceys voice, loved the writing, it reminded me of a modern day 'Catcher in the Rye.' So I tracked down Maureen, who lived in Vancouver, we had a great chat on the phone and I optioned the book by sending her my cowboy boots in the mail. The deal was sealed. Maureen was hired to write the screenplay. Her first. The first draft was pretty much what we ended up shooting in the spring of 2006.

Maureen: Id seen all of Bruces films previously, so I admired his work and knew it well, but it was when I saw Hard Core Logo that I thought this would be a perfect fit. Nobody else should direct this film. When Bruce and I spoke the first time I knew he understood Tracey. Bruce got the essence of that kind of tragic-comic character.

Bruce: Efforts were made by me and various film producers to get The Tracey Fragments into production, but we couldnt gain any momentum. My day job in 2004 was as a director for a TV show called Degrassi, and someone Id see every morning was Sarah Timmins. Shed had some experience in features and producing shorts and I wondered if she wanted to produce a feature turns out she did. A few days later I handed her a script for The Tracey Fragments. She loved it, and agreed to produce.

Sarah Timmins, Producer: I immediately connected with the voice of Tracey. I felt her story to be tragic but also found her outspokenness and lurid fantasies refreshing. Tracey was such a contrast to the many silent and brooding teenage characters in contemporary film and television. The most crucial early element was finding the right actor to play Tracey. I knew that Ellen Page would be perfect for the role. Around that time her career was just kicking off in the US with the powerful response to Hard Candy at Sundance. It took several months for me to get her the script and get her and Bruce in the same city for a few hours to discuss the role.

Bruce: Sarah watched through the 2nd floor office window as Ellen and I met across the street. I was dazzled right away but what cemented our collaboration on Tracey was Ellens recent discovery of Patti Smith, whom shed
just seen in Amsterdam–Ellen Page and I bonded over Patti Smith and Tracey Berkowitz. She was in! I remember the slightly pale look on executive producer Paul Barkins face as I pitched the visual style of The Tracey Fragments to him over beers at Southside Louis. Sarah had brought Paul on as her senior counsel and this was our first meeting. Kind of like Laser Floyd,I described. The whole movie will be a trip! A journey INSIDE a 15 year old kids head! Multi-screen – boxes – Whatever you want to call it I know the editor, Jeremy Munce and hes a genius!

Paul nodded, the consummate pro. I continued: Low-fi production, small crew, short shoot, digital cameras! And the editing will be hi-fi! This is my vision! Paul didnt even blink So who is going to shoot this, uh, Laser Floyd movie I called Steve Cosens, whod Id met on an American TV series. Wed had a great time working together, so great in fact that it got me fired for our visual audacity which had freaked out the network.

Steve, Jeremy Munce, Sarah and I, along with our designer Ingrid Jurek, watched all the split screen movies we could, The Thomas Crown Affair, the Boston Strangler, the new Beastie Boys concert movie, and a video about krumping that Steve brought in. We poured over photographs and paintings and listened to Horses – the Patti Smith album. We used our great casting directors to secure some of the best acting talent in the land. The team was ready!

We shot for 14 days. Natural light, on location, day and night, inside and outside. We couldnt afford to buy out and close down locations–so we shot most locations as the usual life flowed through them high school kids in the high school, truckers in the donut shop, and the barflies in the Bite and Brew tavern. No money seemed to liberate imaginations and make us fearless.

Steve requested a 1976 tube camera we called The Dick Cavett for special shooting, we used real buses on the road and in studio, real horses, a fantastic wardrobe department, and a great make-up department who rose to the challenge when it was decided that Julian Richings would be playing Dr. Heker–as a woman.

Picture editing took intense work, design, and experimentation. Our main objective was to be emotional–rather than stylishly vacant. The first two months Jeremy created rushes for us to determine whether or not to go forward with the multi-frame way of telling the story. I was super-thrilled when I saw it on the big screen because I realized It works! and I did a little dance all the way home.

As Jeremy was not only pioneering a completely new cinematic style and going boldly where no one had gone before he was also cutting alone. It almost drove him nuts enter Gareth Scales who Id worked with on another TV series. Gareth used his talents and attacked the structure and storytelling, setting a pace and learning the ways of the box. Bringing up the rear, was native Winnipegger Matt Hannam, who began as an assistant but quickly graduated to be the third member of the editing team working on some of the most intense blooms in the film the craziest multi-frame transition scenes.

Sarah: We always said that this would be a film that would be built in post-production but I dont think any of us actually realized how enormous the post efforts were going to be for a low budget film. In the end it took 7 months of cutting, 3 editors, 2 other designers for internal sequences, and one post-production-wizard Christian Moreton – to deliver the film to the lab and to sound. We also needed some musical glue to ground Traceys emotional journey. Bruce called on Broken Social Scene, a Toronto indie collective band who had also composed a score for Bruces film The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess. Brendan Canning and Charles Spearin started work and put together an amazing team for composing and recording. They also did a cover of the iconic Patti Smith song Land:Horses which had been an inspiration for the film from the very beginning.

Bruce: Thats the story so far, but the next part is the most exciting. I hope whoever is reading this takes a friend to see Tracey in the theatres. Im proud of this movie and what weve achieved. We hope you truly experience this film, get inside the dizzy heart of Tracey Berkowitz and be a part of her journey.

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