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Published on July 9th, 2013 | by PRESENCE


Step into Flat3

The Flatmates
Flat3 is a hilarious web series following three twenty something Kiwi Chinese girls and their misadventures in life, love, flatting, and “figuring out to be more than just ching-chongs.” To top it off, it’s made here in Auckland!  Each episode is only 7 minutes long (perfect to sneak in over a lunch break) and you’ll find yourself in shits and giggles.

Meet Lee, played by Ally Xue, a shy, conservative girl with big dreams of being an artist but she soon realises living with mum won’t get her anywhere. To break free, she literally runs off to flat with Jessica (played by Go Girl JJ Fong) and Perlina (Perlina Lau).

Jessica is an aspiring, enthusiastic actress but her boy crazy, gullible ways can get the best of her.  She takes Lee under her wing and is determined to find her a hot man, but she might just have to get out of the way.

Perlina seems to be the most responsible of the three with a stable, professional job. Her bossiness keeps order in the flat from making sure there’s enough toilet paper and full fat milk in the fridge. She’s a rationalist who knows what she wants but her blunt tactlessness can push people away.

These girls are cute, quirky, socially awkward, and fall into tricky situations with a cast of other oddball characters. This is a fresh, humourous parody of being in your twenties exploring friendships, careers, relationships, things that happen “down there” (or shouldn’t), and then some.

Making the Web Series
So how did it all begin? JJ explains last June she and Perlina had an idea about shooting a comedic theatre piece with Asian actresses. They picked up Ally who they had previously worked with in a Chinese production, The Secret of Dongting Lake. Inspired by shows like Sex and the City and Girls, they wanted to do a light comedy along the same lines. They approached award-winning director, Roseanne Liang, creator of My Wedding and Other Secrets, to write the script and together Flat3 was born.

“We collaborated on the concept by sharing experiences of things we’ve done and were embarrassed about. I wrote the first draft and they put their own ideas and language in,” says Roseanne.

“The characters are essentially exaggerated versions of ourselves,” says Perlina.  “We wanted to do something relatable, modern, contemporary and situational. It doesn’t really focus on the fact that we’re all Chinese and it’s not meant to make a statement about cultural identity. We were all raised here so we’re all Kiwis. We felt there was an imbalance portrayed and we just want to appreciate who we are.”

Roseanne says, “We’re not ashamed of who we are but we’re seeing a certain type of representation out there and I guess we’re rallying against it. It’s who we are and where we come from that informs us but it’s not a focus on the show.”

With a shoestring budget of $1,000 between the four of them and tight timeline (Ally was moving to Sydney in February), they had to be resourceful and act quickly. It was now or never.

Using their networks, they brought together small crew of friends who donated their time, equipment, costumes, props, and skills from editing to music composition. They filmed locations with only the necessary crew (about 6 at a time) at places around town like food courts, bus stops, cafes, and the waterfront.

JJ had experienced working on a 48 hours film before and production of Flat3 was similar x 6 – hectic, fast, crazy and intense! She says, “When you don’t have enough people and need to get something done you just gotta do it yourself. We all had to play many roles at once.  I was production manager, actress, makeup artist…”

They worked round the clock over 6 weekends from November to January with the Christmas hiatus in between.  On February 2012, Flat3 debuted on YouTube and the rest of the episodes were released weekly thereafter.

The show has been tremendously well received already with 36,000 unique views online! Male and female viewership is about 50/50 and 71% of the audience are from NZ and 12% from the US.

Flat 3’s fan base is growing and being engaged with as the “flatmates” share the online marketing responsibilities; Ally manages the website and blog, JJ looks after Facebook and Perlina tweets.

What’s in Store for Flat 3?
What’s been so creatively fulfilling and gratifying for the girls is that the hard work has paid off having put together a series with limited time and budget. They are especially grateful for all of their friends who put in their time and energy for this project. JJ says, “Everyone who worked on the series was there because they all genuinely wanted to be there. There were no expectations, no strings attached.”

So what are their future plans? Roseanne says, “Well if we’re dreaming big, it would be picked up by an HBO type channel. We’re still having fun so we want to stay in the web for now.  We like the creative freedom and the wide reach. The web series is opening up doors for young filmmakers. There are smart people writing smart scripts out there. I’m still learning and I know there’s still a lot more to discover with the 7 minute film.”

Perlina, a Director’s Assistant at TV3, says “The web series won’t replace TV but it will grow, and expand the possibilities of what you can do on the web. It can be art because you’re not limited to what you can do.”

They’ve managed to get more funding to pull Season 2 together and it will be out end of October. JJ says, “Next season will open up some darker storylines and you’ll see another side of the characters.” Brilliant, can’t wait!

Check out Flat3 at www.flat3webseries.com and tell your friends! To help keep this awesome web series going, show your support at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/flat3-webseries.

Written by Lauren Orlina

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Started in 2008, PRESENCE ZINE (originally called Presence Magazine) is a window into a lifestyle of bohemian coolness. It is for people looking for something new: bands, writers, comedy, photography, fashion designers and artists.

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