Flatshare is a new comedy-drama series by James Barber. Brought to life by the award-winning director, Grant Taylor. It’s an LGBT series that follows the trials and tribulations of four housemates living in Peckham, exploring issues such as sexuality, gentrification and identity. The show features some of the brightest emerging acting talents in the UK including Shaun Cowlishaw (Fools Gold), Andrew Rowe (Great Expectations), Ani Nelson (Brothers With No Game) & Nic Bernasconi (The Man from U.N.C.L.E).
We spoke to James Barber, Flatshare’s writer and creator, to talk about how the web series came about and what we can expect from it.
Presh (Big Picture Film Club): The series deals with multiple themes, from gentrification, sexual identity, class and ethnicity. How have you juggled these different elements in the show’s creation to give each of those issues enough space and time to be addressed?
James Barber (Writer & Creator): It definitely was a challenge exploring all of these themes in just 4 episodes. As a black gay man, I wanted to create a show which was about people who live between the intersections of different identities, the challenges that come with this as well as our ability to thrive within these intersections.
How much of your own personal journey is in these characters?
JB: Writing Flatshare for me was definitely a way of making sense of my own personal journey. It’s so rare that I see people who look like me, who are messy, complicated and flawed on screen. And with Flatshare, I wanted to create a space in which I could exist in my fullness.
We have seen in recent years an increase in more filmmakers choosing to directly distribute their web series’ digitally, on platforms like Youtube, rather than first pitching to a TV network. How did you weigh up the pros of having full creative control over developing the series, versus the cons of not having the resources of a TV network behind you?
JB: I pitched the script to a few production companies who expressed some interest but chose to sit on the fence. For me, the most important thing was getting it made at any cost. As the executive producer, I had lots of creative control, which enabled me to make the show how I wanted to make it without compromise. It took over two years to make due to not having all of the resources I needed, but I was still able to make a show that looks better than some of the things I see on TV.
JB: The campaign did well because I used it as a platform to share the personal reasons why I wanted to make the show which resonated with people. Running the campaign, as hard it was, taught me that what people connect with is a human story which at its core is universal.
Comedian, Lenny Henry recently delivered a petition to parliament calling for a greater number of BAME (Black & Minority Ethnic) writers, producers, directors in UK television, given how underrepresented those groups are within TV production. What barriers would the industry need to overcome to allow for better representation of black writers, producers and directors on TV?
JB: I commend Lenny Henry for raising this issue, because all too often, the focus is