Sunday Shorts: The Greta Fragments

Honor Wolff in The Greta Fragments.

Directed by Nic Barker
Starring Honor Wolff, Isabelle Ford, Alex Cooper and Kaarin Fairfax.

The Greta Fragments is a story about finding yourself, then having to do it all over again.

Article by Nic Barker

I’ve always been interested in the sort of filmmaking that allows for a lot of spontaneity and freedom on the day. Through my experiences making shorts and my indie feature Short Distance, I’ve come to the conclusion that the more freedom I give to the actors to try things and take risks, the more varied and interesting the material becomes.

The Greta Fragments is, like all of the improv based films I’ve worked on, a cocktail of talented, thoughtful actors buying in to the project, a few ideas and brief scene descriptions we thought could be interesting, and a healthy dose of good fortune. The first piece in the puzzle was Honor Wolff – a brilliant actor that I knew as a family friend in my childhood. How fortunate I was that our respective mothers ran into each other, resulting in me getting sent Honor’s showreel. I knew immediately from that reel, and our subsequent conversations that I needed to work with her. Those chats became talks about a character that became Greta – and from there we leapt straight into a freeform filmmaking process of shooting scenes here and there, not knowing what would come of it.

Kaarin Fairfax in The Greta Fragments.

Honor brought on board two other amazing cast members to the project, Izzy Ford and Alex Cooper. I knew neither prior to rocking up on their respective shoots but the small scale nature of the filmmaking seemed to help put everyone at ease. Indeed, our crew was at most 2 people, myself operating a Canon C100, and sound recordist Brett Woolgar.

The Greta Fragments also gave me the opportunity to work with the amazing Kaarin Fairfax. For someone of her experience and stature to not only work on this experimental little project, but open up her home for us to film in, was incredible. There was material we shot with Kaarin that was more planned that ultimately didn’t suit the edit, but was pretty amazing – but after that scene we just kind of thought it’d be cool to film her and Honor just chatting – and that’s the stuff that ended up in the film. You just can’t plan it!

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Our shoots involved us arriving on the night of filming (we all have day jobs!), meeting for maybe the first time, chatting about what we wanted to film or try out, where it might fit with previous material, and then jumping straight in. No lighting (which may be evident in most scenes), no large crew, no set blocking, no end point. We’d roll for sometimes half an hour, review, chat and go again.

Our initial plan was a feature (though there was nothing concrete in terms of story planned) – however one week during time off from work I just started cutting and tinkering with a non linear structure, and started to enjoy how each story fed the next, creating a portrait of a young woman at a crossroads in her life. Not only is our protagonist at a point in her life where she feels torn in different directions,  but the non linear, unpredictable editing mirrored the freeform filming as well. This was a film of Fragments through and through.

Honor Wolff in The Greta Fragments.

I know that this isn’t a film for everyone, nor is it perfect in any way. But in leaving so much unplanned and spontaneous, perfect was never the point. My favourite filmmaker working today is Joe Swanberg, whose improv-based approach has served as a massive inspiration to the way I make films. I love small films about people, moments in lives and stories that ring a little too true sometimes. That’s what I think we made with The Greta Fragments. That’s why I hope you enjoy it, warts and all.

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