As fans cry out for more diversity and representation in film in the age of “#OscarsSoWhite,” What is it like to be one of the creative talents behind exactly what this industry needs?
At the heart of it, Alice’s Hexer story is the story of friendship, a hint of luck and above all, actively trying to bring about much needed change to an ever-changing, yet all too traditional industry.
“I do work in a kitchen but I’m also making a web show.” In a sentence, Alice Evans’ current life described perfectly well: working to make ends meet, while still putting something she’s passionate about at the forefront.
Alice is currently in pre-production for her web series Hexer. Castings occurred in Cardiff on Friday 21st November 2016. It’s clear she enjoys working on it. “I basically do more writing at the moment but also, the social media.”
Hexer is “Buffy-esque/Community. It’s got like mystery and action stuff and it’s got LGBT themes.” This is not just a show Alice and her team want to make but something they thought was needed.
The web series is set in Cardiff because “It’s cheaper and we live here, so it’s a lot easier, although we are finding at the moment that it is a lot easier to find actors in London.”
Why did Alice not choose to use Cardiff as a London setting for example though, à la Doctor Who?
“It’s just so frustrating. In Class, they just run past a load of Cardiff bins. D’you think people in London are like “That’s not London!” or is London big enough that they’re like “That could be a different part of London?”” She laughs throughout. That is Alice Evans: A joyful character, to whom ethics are key.
Representation is very important to Alice and casting has proven a challenge. They have a character who is autistic, while also trying to ensure ethnically diverse casting. They are covering mental health issues including depression and anxiety too. She is adamant about different kinds of people from all walks of life being represented in Hexer. So much so, that she has accepted CVs from actors who can no longer afford to keep their £140 a year Spotlight CV page active (deemed a must for actors seeking success in the industry).
Hexer really cares about paying as many people as possible, despite its challenges. “We’ve contacted agencies and they’ve said “This person will not work for less than £100 a day” and we’re like, we can’t warrant, in a show about equality, paying some more than we can afford to pay others.” This stresses what’s at the forefront of this project: equality.
Very important to this story is that Alice is not doing this alone or with any old team. Alice is doing this with her friends.
The 24-year-old Cardiff Metropolitan University graduate, also on YouTube as IsJustForShiggles, found her team, through friendship. “Well, it [Hexer] was a bit of an accident…” She laughs. “…‘cause I went to Uni to do English and Creative Writing and I did that and then I finished but in the meantime, I made friends with people who made YouTube videos and they just made stupid Doctor Who parody films but it was really fun.”
The team consists of friends Matthew Ekberg (Series creator and co-writer), Olivia Carass (Co-writer), Erin Stewart (Producer), Lina Langley (Assistant producer) and of course Alice Evans (Co-Writer). Matthew and Olivia also play Reuben Krail and Freddie Gibson, a character who identifies as gender fluid.
There once was a time when the only hope of acquiring production funding was through writing to some wealthy businessmen or women, setting up meetings with them and hoping for the best. However, this is no longer the case.
“We did try a couple of businesses in town and we were like “Could you give us some funding?” and they were like “No, go away.”” So it was, that Hexer went the crowdfunding route. However, it did prove to be quite a challenge.
“It was an experience, ‘cause we weren’t planning to do it, really but then our mate found this website that was doing a competition where you raise money but also you might get entered to win more money” Hexer was fundraised for through Seed & Spark’s competition. Anything on the site which raised over £8000 was automatically greenlit, so could go ahead but the crowdfunding process was a bit of a bumpy ride.
“The ironic thing is we’re trying to make a show for minority groups and because of the system we’re in, minority groups don’t have any money. So, there were people saying “I don’t have any money but I think this is really cool,”” In this instance, people share the link of the crowdfunding page through social media, so hopefully those who can donate come across it.
Those people may sometimes be closer to home than expected. “Our mate gave us £500 and we were like “Did you mean to put five? Have you made a mistake ‘cause I’m gonna have to warn you, right now?” and he was like “No, no. I think it’s really cool and I wanna support you guys” and we were like “Thank you!””
Successfully raising £10000, there was no stopping Alice’s vision. Hexer has benefited from crowdfunding’s power to raise the fanbase or audience for a concept, before it is even fully formed or widely available. This, mainly thanks to social media.
In a tough industry, it is important to recognise the different paths that can be taken to reach the goal of working in production. This, especially true in an age where the “traditional route” is no longer the only expected way to do this.
Alice recognised this and Hexer won’t be on your TV screens, but online. FullScreen will run a competition. If Hexer wins this, the pilot will be on their website, fully challenging the way film has worked for so long. It is important to her that it’s available on this platform, so as many people the pilot is trying to speak to and represent, can see it as possible.
“It’s funny having people who know what it is now be like “I’m waiting” but it’s also terrifying.”
Fans don’t have long to wait, as Hexer begins filming in January. It’s clear the Hexer team’s efforts will permeate throughout the show, bringing a very much needed breath of fresh air to the internet. The show, which aims to challenge the current format of most dramas, will be freely available for your viewing pleasure in 2017.