‘Scrapper’ filmmakers talk magical realism, class and working with children on set of their Sundance premiere (2024)

A tower built with scraps of metal from old bikes at Wimbledon Film Studies in south-west London is the centrepiece of the set of Scrapper, the feature debut of UK filmmaker Charlotte Regan.But all eyes and focus are on street-cast child actress Lola Campbell. The newcomer, who won the director over with her audition tape on which shelaunched into a two-minute rhapsody about her love for home bargains, is well attended to in between rain scenes; a crew member wraps her in a blanket in the chilly studio and another brings a smile to her face with a Frappuccino.

The shoot took place in the summer of 2021 and Regan’s comedy-drama with a magical realist twist made its world premiere in the World Cinema Dramatic competition at Sundance in January, where it picked up the jury prize, and is released in the UK and Ireland today (August 25) via Picturehouse.

Scrapper sees Campbell play a dreamy 12-year-old girl called Georgie. She lives happily alone in her London flat until her estranged father, played by Triangle Of Sadness’sHarris Dickinson, turns up and forces her to confront reality.

Regan, named a Screen UK Star of Tomorrow in 2020, has forged a career making short films and music videos. The young people she met while travelling around UK council estates to make the documentary short No Ball Games in 2019 partly inspired Scrapper and informed the mood she wanted to evoke. “As a child, you grew up not knowing that you have less than other people and I love that about kids,” Regan suggests.

Campbell was street-cast by renowned UK casting director Shaheen Baig, who also found Alin Uzun (“a natural charmer,” says Regan) who plays Georgie’s friend.

When she watched Campbell’s audition, Regan was blown away. “It was this magical moment watching Lola’s tape where you’re like ‘oh, this person’s the one’,”.

‘Scrapper’ filmmakers talk magical realism, class and working with children on set of their Sundance premiere (2)

Source: Courtesy of Charades

Theo Barrowclough on the set of ‘Scrapper’

Ensuring Campbell was happy and felt secure at all times was the priority of both Regan and producer Theo Barrowclough of DMC Films.“The whole shoot has been geared toward making it a comfortable environment, where the normal work stresses get pushed to the side,” Barrowclough explains. “The two of us becoming Lola’s trusted people has been key to getting where we got to because the reality of this film is if you don’t have a great performance at the heart of it from Georgie the film struggles.”

Sundance return

Sundance marked a return for Regan; her second short Fry-Up screened in Park City in 2018. Her first short Standby screened at the Toronto International Film Festival,was nominated for a Bafta andwon a BFI Future Film award.The London-born filmmaker went on to screen several other of her shorts at festivals including Berlin and the BFI London Film Festival. She met Barrowclough in 2018 via the short film fund launched by the social media app, Vero and together they made No Ball Games.

Regan then wrote the screenplay for Scrapper as part of Creative UK’s low budget iFeatures initiative. Barrowclough and then cinematographer Molly Manning Walker subsequently joined the project.

Regan says the three work well together, with the lines between director and producer particularly blurred. “We see each other as teammates rather than the creative one and the facilitator that makes stuff happen.”

“I don’t really like when people have to just stick to their role,” she continues. “It’s important to create a safe space where everyone can have a say, and has created a different sense of ownership, where the film is equally mine as it is Molly’s or Theo’s.”

‘Scrapper’ filmmakers talk magical realism, class and working with children on set of their Sundance premiere (3)

Source: Charades

‘Scrapper’

Further backing came from the BFI, BBC Film and Great Point Media, with Farhana Bhula, Eva Yates, and Jim Reeve the executive producers, with DMC’s Michael Fassbender, Daniel Emmerson and Conor McCaughan. Picturehouse has UK and Ireland rights, with Paris-based Charades handling worldwide sales.

At the beginning of 2020, the film was greenlit for production but was halted following the Covid -19 lockdown. “It was hard,” says Barrowclough. “It was a weird time to make your feature debut when the industry is in transition.”

Filming re-commenced in early 2021, shooting across London and Limes Farm estate in Essex where the crew painted a row of houses bright pastel colours in less than two weeks to mirror the “joy and humour I remembered growing up in those types of communities living on council estates,” says Regan.

Barrowclough makes clear, “We’re not making a Ken Loach film, as much as I have respect and love for those films. What we’re thinking about is where this character sits in the class landscape of the UK.”

Back on the London set, Regan calls “cut” and Campbell changes into some dry clothes. While the crew set up the next scene, Regan and Campbell walk around together to prepare. There is giggling. And then Campbell prepares for her next close-up.

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‘Scrapper’ filmmakers talk magical realism, class and working with children on set of their Sundance premiere (2024)

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