Scrapper director Charlotte Regan recounts her favourite music videos
Charlotte Regan’s new film Scrapper arrives in cinemas today. See it in cinemas with our MUBI GO offer – 2 months for £20.
To Charlotte Regan, music videos have always been “the ultimate kind of art form” – so it’s no surprise that her fizzy debut feature film Scrapper feels innately rhythmic. Scrapper takes us into the universe of 12-year-old Georgie (played by bright young star Lola Campbell), a wise, stubborn, and resourceful kid living alone in suburban London after her mother’s death. But though she skilfully evades social services and makes ends meet through small-time bike theft, Georgie’s independence is upended when her absent young father, Jason (a bristly yet preternaturally tender Harris Dickinson) suddenly appears, determined to be part of her life.
Animated with such compulsively watchable charm that it sticks in your head, like a tune you can’t stop whistling while washing the dishes, Scrapper is a winningly charismatic tangle of joy and grief. Regan is clearly a storyteller with wonderful instincts: she started directing music videos when she was 15-years-old, and has over 200 low-to-no-budget music promo credits to her name. Scrapper, from Picturehouse Entertainment, marks an assured expansion into more long-form narrative for the director, but it benefits from the same joyful inventiveness she brings to her music videos.
What did the transition between mediums feel like? “The shoot was mad long,” Regan recalls. “Felt like I was making Lord of the Rings. But I’ve always thought once you’ve told 50 gangster rappers on a rooftop to act better, it’s not very intimidating to tell a professional actor to act up. The music videos were a great setup for adapting in chaotic environments.”
True to style, Scrapper is full of what Regan calls “music video moments”: shots that reset its rhythms, filmed with the intention of being cut to music. “[With] music videos, every moment on screen really matters because you only get a few frames to draw someone in, or connect to someone,” Regan says. “If the scene isn’t telling you what it’s about quite quickly, then does it deserve to be in the edit?” Here, Regan talks us through five music videos that have had a formative influence on Scrapper or her career – the ones that still have her “mad obsessed” – on the film’s release day (25 August).
Benny Banks – No Doubt
I think it was [part of] the first set of these UK Overstood music videos. People like Joe Black, Benny Banks and Squeaks were from the area I was from. I would watch them when I was 14, 15. I know when you look back at them they feel dated in a way, but I kind of find them timeless. They were what started that movement of performance-based videos that you could film quite lo-fi, and still make look quite good, and cut to rhythm. I think it was what got me quite obsessed with music video culture. It opened my eyes to [the fact you could] make these videos if you wanted to make them: if you got a cheap camera or a flip camera, you could just go out, do performance shots, and cut them together really nice.
This one was what made me want to do music videos, and make films eventually. So it was more a period of life that it influenced.
Gesaffelstein – Hate or Glory
This is what made me really think that you can take characters you recognise from your world and put them into heightened stories, without compromising on your storytelling to do so. I guess I’ve always wanted to take working-class characters that I grew up with and put them in fantasy films or superhero films, but without having to have the gloss of those superhero films, or become what those films just are as a brand, you know? This video is incredible for having that concept at the heart of it, but still staying so gritty – in a way, looking very similar to the Benny Banks video. It’s still so lo-fi – or feels that way – but at the heart of it is this fantasy-esque concept. I just love that, that mixture of two things.
The whole perspective of the music video [influenced Scrapper]. I watched the music video, and I’m like, ‘maybe this is actually happening, or maybe this is the main character’s perspective on what’s happening, and he’s just visualising it as the concept they’ve created’. In Scrapper, those to-camera moments – the tower, the spiders, everything – you’re not really meant to know if that stuff is happening. When Jason comes in, it’s Georgie’s perspective of him. If you went to a 12-year-old and said to them, “What happened last summer?” you’d get a really embellished version of what happened, because kids are just storytellers. I think the music video is similar in that regard. I’m never quite sure if I’m watching reality, or watching the character’s understanding of reality. I love that ambiguity.
Bashy – Ransom
I think this was one of the first storytelling music videos within that grime and rap scene in the UK. I feel like this video had a massive impact on how things move in trends in music videos. It went from performance video trends to everyone wanting to tell stories and have a narrative. So this was another one that was more impactful on the time [I saw it], because it opened all of our eyes to the fact we can actually write a story within this music video that can involve the artists, and that can change the landscape of music videos a bit.
Keaton Henson – You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are
This is (weirdly) one that I would watch almost every day before I went to set. I’ve always been really obsessed with it. I feel like I’m responsible for 100k of the views or something, because I watch it constantly. Just how much performance can say, and do, within such a short space of time. To me, that is the most captivating video to watch. It’s so simple, and it’s just one character, just stood there. It reminded me that frames didn’t always have to be cluttered or have loads going on. If you have a compelling character, you can just sit on them and watch them. Luckily, Lola in particular is compelling enough that I found if the camera was on her, you were happy to just watch her.
P2J – Hands in the Air
This was such a cultural moment. I think it’s what made loads of us want to become music video directors. It was just the energy of it, and the joy of it. We went from performance videos, where everyone was being quite conscious of how cool they looked, to – I mean, P2J still looked cool, but it feels like they’re willing to just be joyful in that video. Which was something that was a throughline from Scrapper: the joy and the energy of it.
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