Award-winning playwright Theresa Ikoko’s debut feature goes into principal photography

Nigerian British playwright Theresa Ikoko’s debut feature film ‘Untitled Girls Film’ has started production…

Theresa Ikoko won the Alfred Fagon award in 2015, for her play ‘Girls‘, and now she has teamed up with BAFTA award-winning director Sarah Gavron (Suffragette, Brick Lane) to bring to life her first screenplay. She worked with co-writer Claire Wilson (Partners in Crime). Her story will focus on girls whose stories are rarely on seen on the British big screen.

Untitled Girls Film (working title) is produced by Faye Ward (Suffragette, Stan and Ollie, Wild Rose) through Fable Pictures and Ameenah Ayub Allen (The Selfish Giant, Brick Lane) who have a longstanding relationship with Gavron. The film has been backed in development and is being funded in production by Film4 and the BFI (awarding funds from the National Lottery) with additional support from Wellcome. Executive producer Altitude is handling international sales and will be releasing the film in the UK and Ireland.

The story and characters have been developed in a unique work-shopping process with non-actors and will show the spirit, joy, and resilience of young women rarely represented in British cinema.

The film will capture a group of multi-cultural schoolgirls in the fast-paced and ever-changing world that is the backdrop to their lives. It is a big-hearted story about friendship and being a teenage girl in contemporary London. The narrative follows a 15-year-old schoolgirl Olushola Joy Omotoso, a British Nigerian girl known as ‘Rox’ to her friends. Rox’s mother leaves her and her young brother, Emmanuel, to fend for themselves. Determined to avoid being taken into care and to stick with her little brother against all odds, Rox abandons her home and hides around their London neighbourhood with the help of her loyal friends. Whilst documenting some of the harsher aspects of the lives of these young people, it also shows their resilience and determination – and the transformative power of female teenage friendships.

Writer Theresa Ikoko says, “There are few things as powerful as female friendship. Key to this project has been a special group of young women, many of whom are growing up down the road from where I did in Hackney.” Co-writer Claire Wilson agrees that the girls have, “breathed life into the creation and realisation of this story”. Ikoko continues, “I hope these girls give the gift of joy and love to the many young women who will soon see them – and through them, *themselves* – on screen.”

Director Sarah Gavron says “I set out wanting to convey what it’s like to be a teenage girl in the rapidly changing world of today. The writers, Theresa and Claire worked with the girls and have created a compelling narrative that captures the visceral experience of growing up in contemporary London. The filmmaking team and I have put in place a framework that aims to allow for the film to have a spontaneous, naturalistic feel, and to bottle the exuberance and resilience of our eclectic cast of girls.

As a team we wanted to make a film that conveys the intrinsic experience of being a teenage girl in the rapidly changing and uncertain world of today and to explore the emotional power of female friendship. In preparing the film we have worked closely with our cast of girls over an extended period of time. The film making process itself will be structured in a way that we hope will allow us to capture their natural rhythms and spirit”

The filmmakers have assembled a cast and crew that reflects their personal and professional commitment in filmmaking to diversity and inclusion. From the beginning, producer Ameenah Ayub Allen set out numerous opportunities for new entrants on the ground (several recruited from You Make It, a charity which empowers low income, minority and underrepresented young women in London) and for junior-mid level crew who are progressing to their first jobs in more senior roles through a new initiative from the BFI Film Fund with support from seasoned senior crew and HoDs, Majority departments have significant BAME representation and overall the crew is 75% female, reflecting the protagonists of the story being told on screen.

Gavron, wanted a female DoP to capture the female teenage aesthetic, as well as a female 2nd Unit DoP, whose teams have evolved to be entirely women. The production team includes casting director Lucy Pardee (The Devil Outside, American Honey, Fish Tank), director of photography Hélène Louvart (Lazzaro Felice, Pina, Beach Rats), production designer Alice Normington (My Cousin Rachel, Their Finest, Suffragette), costume designer Ruka Johnson (Obey, Trendy) Editor Maya Maffioli (Beast, Kingdom of Us) and hair and make-up designer Nora Robertson (Stan & Ollie, Johnny English Strikes Again).

The film is shooting on location in and around East London

Film4 and BFI present in association with Head Gear Films, Metrol Technology, Kreo Films, Altitude Film Sales and Wellcome, a Fable Pictures Production.

Read TBB’s 2016 interview with Theresa Ikoko:


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