Phase Two is a new web-series created by duo Satema Tarawally and Jen Francis.
Phase Two is about five 25/26-year-old friends from London who are transitioning from the last phases of adolescence into full-fledged adult life. The series takes place during a single year where we see the quintet (Andy, Benjii, Cassie, Doe and Eva) find themselves through life. The series is released through Sassy Jams Productions which was created by the ladies as an all-black, all-female writer-producer team who look to create real, raw stories of young adulthood and the millennial midlife crisis around London.
We spoke to the ladies about the web series and what we can expect from them in the future…
We are Sassy Jam Productions, a new venture started by the two of us, Satema Tarawally and Jen Francis. Both working TV producers-we wanted the opportunity to express our creativity in a way that our day jobs don’t allow, and so with a decade of experience within the TV industry between us we decided to just do it; combine our talents and passions to write and produce our own work. Last year we started with a play called Ethan’s Bell that Jen wrote and Satema produced. Before then we spent the best part of 2019 writing, and producing Phase Two, and we don’t plan on stopping there.
Where did the idea for Phase Two come from?
Phase Two is very much inspired by us and our friends’ lives. I think a lot of people can relate to being an adult and not quite getting adulting quite right. From living in a big city to struggling to save, trying to work out your career and your love life, and not actually feel like the grown-up you’re meant to be. That’s basically the inspiration.
What are the messages and key aspects that you want to share?
We wanted to make something realistic for our generation, especially in London life. We’ve seen shows about friends in their 20s before but as you sit there and watch these people who are meant to be your peers living their lives, it feels like they’re a million miles away; it’s just not relatable.
How did you go about developing the storyline?
This was the fun part! I think we started off with one scenario then built the characters and story around that. We thought about all the funny, weird, awkward situations that we’d experienced in one way or another and sort of vibed off of that to create compelling and realistic characters arcs and storylines. The Group Chat episode is definitely one that was inspired by how we live. We also had to mind map how we thought each character would know each other to breathe life into who they are and what would happen to them, what would drive them.
How did you choose your cast?
We did a massive social media search to get the cast then met with potentials after receiving video auditions.
You funded, wrote, filmed and produced the series yourselves, were there any hurdles or challenges you had to overcome?
We both work full time so scheduling with ourselves and multiple actors was a massive challenge that we really didn’t see coming. Jen made a really nice idealistic shooting schedule, but by week one it was pretty much thrown out of the window and we realised we had to tackle each episode as it came. Locations was another big one for us. Trying to convince places to let us film for next to nothing, or better yet nothing [at all] was a lot trickier than we anticipated. We got there in the end but none of it was easy to pull off.
Our budget was the two of us seeing what we could pull together, month to month, and that really forced us to make a lot of sacrifices- were we going to hire equipment or pay a location? Should we get in a cinematographer or should we just pick up the camera ourselves? We’ve made it passed the finish line and we are exhausted. We have learned a lot but what we can undoubtedly say is trying to make a web series without proper funding or a team to share the budget was far from easy.
The web series will be released through your production company Sassy Jam Productions, what made you decide to start up your own production company?
Jen is a writer and writes all the time. I think we spoke about what we wanted to do for so long, eventually, we decided to be proactive. The only thing holding us back was us. It was a great way to front what we were doing and it keeps us motivated. Tt’s always “What can Sassy Jam do next?“
If you had an unlimited budget would Phase Two still be a web series or would you try a different outlet?
Jen has 101 ideas she’s always toying with and some pilot scripts knocking around but at the end of the day, Phase Two would still have happened. It’s realistic and relatable and its something we felt was missing in the market. If we had unlimited money it would be a half-hour series on Netflix; filmed with fancy equipment and a household name or two thrown into the cast.
What would be the best advice for creatives who want to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t give up, and don’t wait around for someone to create your opportunity. It’s hard work, but you’ll soon find you are loving every second of it if it’s what you want to be doing, and for us it definitely is. We’re not exactly where we want to be but we are further than what we were.
What is next for you both?
We want to continue to make content and build up Sassy Jam. Nothing is off the table whether it be a short film, a feature, a documentary or another play. We have a couple of things in the pipeline we are keeping under wraps but watch this space!
Watch Phase Two web series here.