By Beatrice Tridimas
Model, writer and director, and mental health ambassador, Florence Kosky, has her finger in many a pie. At only 23, she’s already directed and written 5 short films, including the highly acclaimed All The World’s A Stage (2018) and the award winning, The Otherworld (2017). Her new production company, Waddon Productions, a collaboration between her and her sister, is the ‘female answer to the Coen brothers’ and a budding creative and entrepreneurial partnership.
Entering the film industry from her modelling background, Florence was met with a few looks, but her passion, creativity and strength has fuelled her success. She is using her platform to speak out about the female experience and raise awareness around mental health, being an ambassador for the Mental Health Foundation and a supporter of Papyrus.
For the first in our Celebrating Women Series, I spoke to Florence about her experience as a woman starting out in the film industry and how she’s using her creativity to empower and inspire others.
Florence has just started crowdfunding for her latest project, her very first TV show, If I Go Down To The Woods Today, a mystical drama that follows the protagonist, Sarah, as she navigates the demons of her relationship through the West Country woods.
Congratulations on starting the funding for your first television show, that’s very exciting! Abuse is, sadly, prevalent in all areas of female experience, in particular, there’s a huge issue with it in the film industry. It’s really important for women to find a way to tell their stories, and it’s really big for you to open up and share your story, what’s that process been like?
I think because it’s less buried in metaphor than I would usually do – because I’ve done films on mental health, death and stuff like that before, and it’s been coming from a place of personal experience, its always been much more layered in how I’ve told the story, like allegories and stuff like that.
I’m a little bit nervous that people who knew me at that time in my life will watch it and see exactly that, I guess, but I don’t know why that feels like a bad thing? I mean, logically, I think that should be a good thing, but, you know, vulnerability is always scary.
Writing it was very cathartic and weirdly, in a way, it allowed me a larger deal of empathy and insight into the guy I was in a relationship with because you have to write it as a three dimensional character, you know, you can’t just write this person’s a monster and everything they do is awful, so you have to sort of dive into the why would, how would someone be feeling in that situation, a little bit, which I think can be really difficult but can also be a really good thing because it stops you holding on to anger and it allows you to sort of forgive people.
A lot of what you do in your creative work goes into supporting women, I really loved your film about periods, but how do you want to use your voice to speak out about the issues women face?
For me, I think a lot of it comes naturally because we write what we know and we make what we know and to me that is female experience, and so like the period film and l just did a short film called A Bit of Fun which is about female friendship, I did an art film called I’m still I which is about consent…
But, you know, it’s just the stuff you come in contact to in your life that you think about, so it comes sort of naturally.
But, I do also feel like I have a responsibility to sort of lift other women, female creators up.
It’s all well and good to look at the nominations coming in during awards season and get pissed off that there’s no female directors nominated or whatever, but if you don’t do anything about it, then ranting on social media is sort of a mute point… I’ve literally just done the first round of a film club that I’m going to try and do quarterly that shows short film projects by female directors.
Do you feel like you face challenges that men don’t being in the film industry?
I think there’s definite elements of that, I’ve been really lucky in the film industry with who I’ve worked with. I’ve been surrounded by really amazingly supportive people who have lifted me and I’m really grateful for that, but, of course, there’s little things that we come into contact with…
Especially coming from a modelling background… I remember going to some film festivals in LA a couple of years ago when I was promoting All The World’s A Stage and meeting some producers and they’d ask me out for a drink, but say it’s for work and then when I’d go to the drink and chat about work then they’d talk about how surprised they were that I was smart?
Being on set, you have to sort of unlearn – I find women, we’re very apologetic, and when you’re running a set you can’t be like that? Which is awful because we’ve been socialised to be like that since we were kids and you have to unlearn that and that’s been really tough… especially if it’s a very male heavy crew where you’ve got like 30 dudes in cargo shorts lifting lights, you sort of have to take up the space to get them to do what you say.
The consent film I did, the art film, which is like all shot on super 8, was a whole female cast and crew and it was such a lovely environment to work in. We carried that through, everyone who worked on it in post-production was female, and it felt like the most nurturing, supportive female environment.
Because we were dealing with such an intense subject matter, I think just having an environment where everyone just innately understood what we were doing, what we were talking about and didn’t have to explain it was really important and really lovely. In the actual camera department, it’s not very balanced… I’ve never worked with a properly professionally trained female director of photography, which is really sad.
You’re setting up your own production company with your sister, what’s that been like?
We sort of wanted to do a female answer to, like, the Coen brothers… but it’s also cool because it means we have now a platform, an opportunity to lift up other creators and it goes beyond women as well, for me. I really want to focus on working with other LGBT creators, more racially diverse creators because I think that’s still really underrepresented.
Your 2018 short film, All The World’s A Stage, raises awareness about mental health and suicide, it’s a really powerful, moving piece and I know that you’re also an ambassador for the Mental Health Foundation, I was wondering if you could tell me more about the work you’re doing for mental health, and how it relates to your experiences in the industry?
So, I, where do you even start with this?
The response [to All The World’s A Stage] was actually really amazing, I got some really amazing messages from people who said they’d been suffering, and it helped them, that was the biggest reward that you could ever have from any type of work like that, you know?
Because, obviously, the industry is run on freelancers, there’s not really an HR in place for us to go to, or if it’s people working in corporations, like the more business side of it, then the HR departments don’t really care if you’re feeling stressed out.
I think particularly, I mean I can only really speak from a directing perspective, but you put so much of yourself into projects, and at this end of things, when you’re only just starting out, you’re putting a lot of your own money and stuff like that into projects and sometimes it can feel a bit overwhelming because you’re like: is anyone ever going to take a chance on me? Am I wasting my time?
And directing, in particular, is such an isolated job, because it’s just you, really, although you’re working with lots of other people, lots of other heads of department, you’re sort of the one guiding the ship and so it can feel a bit like you can’t really, maybe, talk to other people and they’ll understand in the same way, I guess…
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Ah, there’s so many!
I have three people. Ok, so, Alice Guy–Blaché is probably my biggest inspiration because she was the first female director to work in Hollywood ever, and she really broke the celluloid ceiling, for want of a less buzz-wordy phrase, and if she hadn’t done that, then I wouldn’t be able to work, no female directors would be able to work, so she’s probably number one.
But then also, on a more contemporary note, Alma Har’el, the director of Honey Boy, because she set up the platform called Free the Work which is matching women and underrepresented creators in the industry. She’s been so vocal about lifting up other women and supporting other women and her work is amazing and beautiful and really moving.
And also, I’m going to mention a man, Guillermo Del Toro. Just from a creative perspective, I think he’s probably, like, I just adore his work, I think he’s wonderful and his story telling is amazing!
What’s something you know now that you would like to tell your younger self?
Breathe? Any stress doesn’t matter! If you f*** up, you’re going to learn from it and be better from that, anyway, everything’s a learning curve, and stop caring so much what other people think of you because you’re probably not even going to be mates with them in five years time!
Over the phone, I could tell that Florence was an independent, driven woman, determined to find her own distinct space in the industry and support other’s around her to do the same.
You can support her latest project here.