Rocky Horror Show

Flat 21 Is an All-Female Written, Produced and Directed Web-Series Aiming to Address the Gender Imbalance in the Film Industry

5 June 19 interview: Alex Kuster
photos: Georgianna Scurfield

Unless you’re an actor seeking work, the odds of you seeing a casting call for “Sexy zombie pole dancer in lingerie. No pay” or “Mid-20s woman, really attractive - pretty but still accessible” are pretty slim. Sadly, those are two real casting calls, but things in the film world are starting to change thanks to the hard work and dedication from those who have first-hand experience of how male-dominated the industry can be. We sat down with Georgie Levers and Esmee Matthews, the brains behind web-series Flat 21, to talk about how they’ve rounded up the all-star gals of the East Midlands to make the film industry a more level playing field…

Tell me a bit about Flat 21
Georgie: We’re on our way to creating a six-part web series about two girls who have their first bid for independence in a new flat, only the flat is falling apart around them. We are hoping to get a mixture of the girls in the flat and the realities of female experiences, against a horrible, decrepit environment. We want to make it as funny and relatable as possible in terms of the way women are represented within film. We also wanted to get female characters that we actually want to see and want to play ourselves.

And you are creating all of the above with a female cast and crew?
Esmee: Yup, that’s the plan! We put out feelers with the minisodes and had a great response to that. We want to create a bit of a platform for females in the film industry within the East Midlands.
Georgie: We are saying that, by having a female crew, we’re tipping the balance. We are saying that women are working in the industry, and we shouldn’t feel isolated. We should all support each other and not be afraid to come forward and get involved.
Esmee: The majority of sets that we’ve been on are male dominated. We want to change that.

Are you hoping that this will prove there is space for more film work for women within the East Midlands?
Georgie: We want to start a conversation around creating more opportunities and awareness of needing a wider representation in your crew, especially in the East Midlands. But the money struggle within the arts is difficult; another goal for this project is providing paid work.
Esmee: Yes, we want to pay all of our crew! We find that we’re always doing free bits, which is fine – when you’re gaining experience you have to go through that. But there comes a time when you get fed up with it, and that’s when people go to London.
Georgie: The BFI and BBC are trying to find creatives out of London. If we can create this platform and show that we have interest and deserve funding, then we are fighting for representation. Come to us, let us do the work and help us out.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the film industry? Have things improved since #MeToo?
Georgie: It was a long time coming. It’s amazing that it happened during our generation, due to social media giving people a platform for their voices. It’s coming along with representing women in film. We’re trying to fight for our values by sharing our experiences.
Esmee: Just to be equal as well, and get paid the same. There are so many occasions where the male lead has been paid more than the female lead and that is dated and boring.
Georgie: The film industry is meant to go along with the times and represent the society that we’re in.

We’re gonna rebel against things wrong in the industry, show our cellulite, periods and bodies!

What do you two get up to when you’re not working on Flat 21?
Georgie: Sitting in my parents house trying to write!
Esmee: I’m trying to get into acting as a full-time thing. We’re trying to get more directing experience also.
Georgie: I started in theatre and in Nottingham, theatre is more accessible. I started at the Lace Market and got loads of great experience there. We met at Actors Workshop and learned to collaborate with local theatre makers and learned from them. Nottingham has been good for that.

What’s the next step to progress Flat 21?
Esmee: We need money! And a producer. We’re looking into funding options.
Georgie: We want to get people excited and try to make sure we market ourselves properly. We are trying to create an Instagram platform where we do little sketches and try to get the tone of the comedy across. You can dismiss it as a passion project, but ultimately it’s getting our goals across to people.

Tell us a bit more about the minisodes...
Esmee: They are teaser episodes, and you can find them on our website, YouTube and Vimeo. In May Contain Molluscs I pass Georgie a wrapped up tampon, and we show red blood on a tissue. We wanted to address that it’s fine to show that. Then in Tripping Bulbs, I’m in the shower and I do not look attractive, I’ve got a triple chin and am shaving my armpits. In this industry, women are still put on a pedestal. It was a bit of a horror parody.
Georgie: It’s taking the piss out of that, because in horror, women are typically blonde and petite and look like they couldn’t punch anyone.
Esmee: And oh, I can. So May Contain Molluscs focused more on the female, whereas Tripping Bulbs was more about the flat and how crap it is.

Why have you focused specifically on living in a rundown flat as young women?
Georgie: We just have so many stories of people our age trying to start out, working loads of hours only to live in these really horrible flats that aren’t looked after. They never meet their landlord, and have so many problems that they have to fork out money for. We wanted to make it relatable and get across the way the flat is deteriorating, because your environment affects everything.
Esmee: In one part of the series I contract cystitis from the stress of it all. Georgie also comes off the pill. We wanted to show how close and boundaryless female friendships can be.

How can people reading this help to get the web series off the ground?
Georgie
: Get involved! We want to hear from creatives who maybe need experience on set or help us develop the script.
Esmee: It’s a collective, we aren’t precious about it – we were just fed up with how things were going, with the casting calls we were receiving. So we wanted to do something about it. We’re gonna rebel against things wrong in the industry, show our cellulite, periods and bodies!
Georgie: We are looking into crowd-funding soon. We’re doing it by ourselves alongside working full time and other projects, so it’s difficult. If anyone wants to help, then join in!

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