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08 September 2014

Team Ugly List: Final Blog

This is the Final blog entry from the Team Ugly List, Abby, Alex, & Jess fill us in on the experience so far…

Just over eight weeks ago returning from the iFeatures residential in Sheffield we had only a small inkling of the work that lay ahead of us to revise and put together a package for our project The Ugly List. In the last eight weeks, it has been a roller coaster ride for the team as we’ve each had to deliver a crucial piece of work for our package. It’s no exaggeration to say that our project has progressed massively. The treatment, completely re-written, has fully embraced the supernatural genre and Abby, our writer, has worked hard to place our characters in as much jeopardy as possible whilst strengthening the genre, thematic and emotional underpinnings of the story. Director Alex went on a massive genre tour, watching everything she could find in the supernatural and teen area before cutting together and creating a suspenseful and compelling sizzle reel that showcases the tone and territory of our film. Producer Jessica created a sharp Project Presentation Pack which pulled together our goals and ambitions for The Ugly List – covering the director’s vision as well as comparable films and box office takings for similar films and also marketing and sales strategy and how we are going to reach our target demographic of teenage girls. 

Over the course of this development process and as we’ve been writing these blogs, we’ve made several observations about the challenges of making and marketing a film targeted at female audiences. As we sought out relevant reference films, it was striking how few recent films, within our genre, featured teenage girls in central roles. Our film The Ugly List centres around six teenage girls. It’s very much a genre film and yet as we put together our list of comparables, we had only a small handful of English language films over the last 20 years, which were told from the perspective of young women and which we could draw on. 

Accepting her Oscar last year, Cate Blanchett challenged the idea that films for and about women don’t make money. This summer, that notion has once again been challenged in several ways and it is clear that films for and about women are making ripples. In Lucy, which has topped the UK box-office for two weeks and which smashed the American box-office, Scarlett Johannson laid waste to the notion that a woman cannot carry a summer blockbuster action movie. On the Independent scene, Amma Asante’s Belle about about the experiences of a mixed-race woman in Eighteenth Century England was a highly successful “sleeper hit”. And later this year, Gone Too Far from another black British director Destiny Ekaragha, will have a cinematic release – making this year an unprecedented one for black British female directors. There are ripples and changes but it is crucial to keep up the momentum and not become complacent. In film roles, both above and below the line, women are under-represented and there still aren’t enough films for, about and by women filtering through. 

Celebrating the recent breakthroughs has reminded our team of the importance of telling our stories. We will continue to develop The Ugly List and hope to see it all the way onto the big screens. The plurality of stories from women and about women can be served only by embracing the whole spectrum of these stories be they popcorn genre movies or independent spirited period pieces or low budget guerrilla films. 

We’ve been honoured to meet so many brilliant, tenacious, determined filmmakers as part of iFeatures and in writing these blogs, for Women in Film & TV, about our journey with The Ugly List, we take heart that we are part of a determined movement that is slowly but surely changing the landscape for women in film. 

Written by Abby, Alex, Jess | September 2014


More About ‘Team Ugly List’

Alex Kalymnios – Director
Alex is an award-winning film-maker with her shorts having been screened at numerous festivals across the world.  Named a Broadcast Hotshot in 2009, Alex has spent the last seven years directing TV drama. Credits include Waterloo Road (BBC1), Eastenders (BBC1), Becoming Human (BBC3), Hollyoaks Later (E4), Hollyoaks (Channel 4), Seacht (BBCNI) and The Cut (BBC2). In 2012, Alex was nominated for a BAFTA Cymru for her work on Becoming Human.

Abby Ajayi
Abby started her career working in script development before getting her first writing credits on BBC drama series, including CasualtyHolby City and Eastenders. She was selected as a Broadcast Hotshot and went on to write The Future Wags Of Great Britain (Dir: Destiny Ekaragha) as part of Channel 4’s Coming Up strand. Abby adapted the feature-length TV movie Three Wise Women for The Hallmark Channel USA, and, in 2011, she was a Fulbright Scholar at the New York Film Academy. Abby is currently writing the feature Blackheath for Lionsgate as well as developing several original film and television projects.

Jessica Levick 
Jessica graduated from the National Film and TV School Producing MA in 2008, having previously worked in international sales at Film4. Her first feature, the critically acclaimed BFI- and adidas-funded documentary Personal Best (2012) was released theatrically in the UK by Verve Pictures. Jessica has worked as Associate Producer on the low-budget feature film Legacy, starring Idris Elba (The Wire, Luther), and as Line Producer on the BIFA-nominated Warp/Film4 science-fiction short film Dr Easy. She has produced a number of award-winning music videos and short films, featuring, among others, Vicky McClure, Natalie Press, Sheila Reid and Riz Ahmed. Jessica is currently in development with Ffilm Cymru on My Romantic History, a feature adaptation of the award-winning play by DC Jackson; to be directed by 2014 Screen Star of Tomorrow Keri Collins. Jessica runs Magnified Pictures.