Brixton film-maker Maddie Quarm is tackling a big subject in an unexpected way – and looking for £5,500 so that she and her team can get you laughing and thinking about women, power and film.
In the era of #MeToo, a reboot of the steamy nineties thriller Basic Instinct is the setting for a film-within-a film drama that she and her team are all set to make if the money can be raised.
Stone’s character in the original movie famously manipulates a room of red-blooded male interrogators with her bold allure and lack of underwear.
There has never been a better time to question this portrayal of female power, says Quarm.
With writer Anna Castelaz and producer Arianne Smith, she is leading an all-woman team to make a farcical short comedy: Go for Alayna.
It will follow Alayna, an aspiring director who is working as third assistant director, organising business on the set of a reboot of the 90s classic.
Everything is going well until the lead actor turns up on set with fully hairy, natural legs to play the Sharon Stone femme fatale character. Alayna is has a dilemma – convince her to shave, or lose investment for the film, leaving her fledging career in tatters.
“Both women are fighting for their own version of power in the industry,” reflects Gonzalez, who wants the film to examine how the portrayal of strong female characters has changed over time.
“In the 90s, they always wanted to bring it back to how sexiness was power. When you were conceiving female characters, that really was the limit to where you could go with it. We’re trying to revise the sense of what that female power is.”
With Alayna being coaxed by her boss, Jim, into supporting these archaic ideals of how female leads should be presented, the conflict of career versus convictions strikes a personal chord with Quarm, who tells me that sexism still leaves a bad smell in certain parts of the industry.
“I’ve worked in sound departments for film and TV – a predominantly male area. On a few occasions I found it to be a bit of a challenge. It’s more accepting now, but there are still not that many opportunities for women, or not the same opportunities.
“Men in power might view us as weaker, or too emotional to be in the same situation that a man might be in.”
This may sound all too familiar to readers following the #MeToo movement that inspired women in the film industry to give personal accounts of sexism they had experienced.
Frustrating the situation might be, but Quarm maintains that the adversity has only helped to further inspire the team to spark radical change. “It’s really exciting to make a film that addresses these issues. It’s something that’s very close to my heart.”
When we face challenges at work, the gut reaction might be to protest on a soapbox with a megaphone, But Quarm and Gonzalez agree that framing the film as a comedy is an important choice for them.
“We want people to find that it’s OK to laugh and think the situation is ridiculous, but then go away and think about what they’ve watched.
“It’s also about making the situation less daunting, where sometimes feminism can come across to some as this taboo thing. It should be about bringing people together and comedy is a great way to go about it.”
Meeting the team for the first time, their passion, dedication and good humour shine throughout our conversation.
However, their efforts risk going for nothing if a crowdfunding target is not met – and the deadline is fast approaching.
With 70% of the funds needed pledged on Kickstarter, donations will help to fund the hire of technical equipment, crew and cast fees, props, travel expenses and shoot locations.
To thank any of you parting with hard-earned cash in support of the film, the team are offering rewards that range from tickets to the premiere and after-party, the opportunity to be an extra, and even having your name appearing as Executive Producer in the credits.
They are hoping their short film will remain long in the hearts and minds of viewers, in Brixton and beyond.
To learn more about the team and the production – and to help get the film made – visit their Kickstarter page.