Image: Flunk (AUS)
We have all been through the challenges of high school and adolescence. First love, first heartbreak, new friendships and exam stress are only a handful of testing moments.
This period of our life made us into what we are now, even though everyone experienced it differently. 2019 Official Selection web series Flunk (AUS) & Life of Jess (AUS) chose to explore what life is like for teenagers in the 21st century.
Melbourne-based series Flunk follows Ingrid and Stella, two fifteen-year-old high school students who explore their identity and purpose, all whilst trying to grow up. Struggling to conform to her family’s traditional eastern values, Chinese-Australian teenager Ingrid finds comfort in Stella, who displays herself as a rebel who skips class and disobeys her single mum.
“The word Flunk means to fail and we wanted teenagers to be able to reclaim the word and not feel so much pressure to always succeed,” says Producer Melanie Rowland.
“Being a teenager is an inherently dramatic time in a person’s life. You’re experimenting, learning about yourself, doing things for the first time… you’re discovering who you want to be.”
Everything changes between the two friends when Ingrid questions her sexuality and realises that she is in love with Stella, but the feeling is not mutual.
Flunk is aimed at LGBTIQA+ teenagers. With more than 11 percent of the Australian population having a diverse sexual orientation, sex or gender identity, it is important that this community gets to be represented in series and films.
Rowland explains that Flunk evolved grandly thanks to the feedback of its viewers. By simply taking into account the comments of their audience, they were able to make Ingrid’s experience – as well as other characters of the show – more relatable and realistic.
“One of the real strengths of web series is the ability to interact with the audience and iterate your show quickly. You can find out which elements are working well – be it character, story, tone – just ask the viewers to leave comments.”
Starring established Australian based YouTuber and social influencer Jessica Holsman, Life of Jess shares the ups and downs of high school and starting on the right foot.
Using Holsman’s already existing platform on YouTube, the series comes after “Study with Jess”, a sequence of short videos giving advice on studying, life and wellbeing.
The three female writers of the web series Elle Croxford, Laura Clelland and Sandra Makaresz teamed up with Holsman to create a positive and inspiring high school story.
Clelland explained that they wanted to show teens that “life isn’t always perfect but sometimes the most beautiful things can happen in the most unexpected ways.”
Inspired by her own high school experience, Jess offers life hacks to the students viewing in the hope of improving their own understanding of being a teenager. The entire series was shot in eight days at St Peters Lutheran College in Indooroopilly, Queensland, which turned out to be the school Clelland attended to.
“It was such a buzz to be filming in the same places I spent all of my schooling and there were so many memories flooding back in,” says Clelland.
“I think looking back there are many things in high school that perhaps I wish could have gone a different direction but every moment and every experience – positive or negative has led me to where I am today – so I wouldn’t change a thing.”