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TV/Film Conversations with Gen-Z Filmmakers: Anna Mouzouri

Nov. 12, 2020
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Unlike stories about teens that were crafted by people in their thirties, nowadays young people are taking control of the narratives written for and about them. From politics to queer love and identity, Gen Z wants to talk about it all. Conversations with Gen-Z Filmmakers is a series in which Adolescent speaks to varying female filmmakers about how they got started, their work, and their experience in the industry.

A few months back, behind-the-scenes snapshots of Mina’s bedroom—a part of Fruity’s production design—attracted online attention. A sneak peek of the script reveals the bedroom’s detailed description: “A collage of celesbians (celebrity lesbians) is pasted onto the wall. About 100 starlets, characters, and more established lesbians look down on Mina.”  

The walls are dotted with posters, magazine cutouts, and small trinkets. There are plenty of decorations imperative to a teenage girl’s bedroom: pink Polaroid cameras, indoor plants, string lights hung from the ceiling, records and flower stems taped to the wall. “Everything about [Mina] is in that room,” Anna commented. “Your bedroom isn’t just somewhere you sleep in, especially now when we spend so much time there.” 

After months of delayed filming due to COVID, Fruity is currently at its editing stage. Adolescent caught up with director Anna Mouzouri over Zoom to chat about bedroom culture and lesbian loneliness in her first high-budget film.

Adolescent Content: I love Fruity’s Instagram page—the BTS set design and crew introductions are all so cute!

Anna Mouzouri: Thank you! The Instagram reflects the film’s aesthetic—it’s bright, it’s cute, and it’s just a happy place. We wanted to [introduce] people to our crew members because everyone always just knows about the actors. My team was all female, and I wanted to give them recognition.

Adolescent: What inspirations did you pull for the set design, especially for Mina’s room? 

Anna: [Mina] lives in a small town so she doesn’t know anyone queer in real life. Everyone that she relates to and looks up to [is] from the media. We got posters of Carol, Pose, Cara Delevingne, and Ashley Benson—just a lot of that lesbian pop culture. We also pulled a lot of inspiration from Lady Bird, including the writings on the wall.

Adolescent: Bedrooms are an integral part of teen culture, especially among Gen Z. Is this something you wanted to explore with Mina’s room?

Anna: Yes, of course. Everything about [Mina] is in that room, and that’s where we see her for the majority of the film. That’s where she [feels] the most comfortable. With Gen Z now, I’ve seen all these people on TikTok redecorating their room to fit a certain aesthetic and it looks so cool. Your bedroom isn’t just somewhere you sleep, especially now when we spend so much time there.

Adolescent: Is Fruity your first film?

Anna: It’s my first film that isn’t a student film. I went to film school, so I made a few shorts while I was there. But this is the first one that’s going to be seen by a wider audience.

Adolescent: Was getting your film funded by BBC a difficult process?

Anna: It was a massive process. I applied two years ago with a documentary pitch on the topic of lesbian sex and the taboos around it. I got shortlisted, but was heartbroken because I didn’t get it. Then [the following] year I applied again with Fruity. I was worried that I wouldn’t get it again, but I did! It’s a scheme called New Creatives. They’ve given me funding, training, and the tools to get started. 

Adolescent: How has the funding allowed you to further your film?

Anna: Everyone that I brought onto the team were my friends from college and friends I met from Twitter. (Laughs) But the funding allowed me to get a casting director, so I got to do different kinds of casting processes and [take on] more experienced actors. Also, the production design was a lot of money. Apparently fruit costs a lot more than I thought. 

Adolescent: How did you get started with filmmaking?

Anna: When I was 16, I was on Twitter and I met a lot of people who were into film. I became obsessed with everything Wong Kar Wai had ever done. I watched Chungking Express, like, once a week. It was fixed in my mind that I wanted to make something like that. But I never thought there’d be an opportunity because everyone in my family’s in science. So I just went into it blind. The first year [of college] was scary because I didn’t know anything. Everyone seemed to know so much more than I did, but I kept pushing and learnt a lot outside of school.

Adolescent: What’s your process like?

Anna: I’ll make a schedule and then just go along with the pace. Especially with the script, the story changes every week. Everything changes all the time when you’re collaborating. I worked a lot with Alice Seabright, one of the directors of Sex Education. We’d meet all the time on Zoom to go over the script. After every meeting with her, the script changed.

Adolescent: Is Alice only consulting or is she a part of the team?

Anna: [She’s] sort of both. With the New Creatives scheme, they assign you a mentor. Alice was assigned to me, [because] she deals with similar themes in many of her own short films. She sent me all the documents that I needed because it’s my first proper film and she’s so experienced. She also gave me a list of industry people. I’m so grateful.

Adolescent: What inspired you to make Fruity?

Anna: My school only taught straight sex, and I wanted to make this film to show the effects of that. Mina is so uncomfortable with the idea of intimacy. For a while now, [she’s] been trying to masturbate—but she just can’t. She can’t do it without getting any sort of fruit-related thought in her mind. I want to show how lonely it is to be a lesbian right now. Because I feel like there are safe spaces for gay men, but all the lesbian bars are dying out. Like Mina, I’ve been there. It was so easy to write because I was writing from my own experience. 

Adolescent: Can you tell us a little about the character of Georgia?

Anna: Georgia is this cool lesbian from the big city. She knows [lesbian] culture and she has the access points. She dresses differently and she’s super confident. For instance, in the supermarket scene, Georgia fondles a melon and that alone intimidates Mina. For Mina, seeing a lesbian in real life instead of on a screen is a major turning point. 

Adolescent: What were some major setbacks during the making of Fruity?

Anna: It was stressful because at the very beginning I was also doing my graduate film, Yes Mistress, a documentary about a 60-year-old dominatrix named Sherry Lever. When we got green-lit for Fruity, COVID happened. So everything was online and it was hard to keep a schedule because we couldn’t meet each other.

Adolescent: Yes Mistress really caught my attention because of its subject matter. How did you meet Sherry?

Anna: I was searching on Twitter because obviously there’s a community of people for that. I messaged her, and she spoke a lot about female supremacy in her work and how she reverses gender roles in what she does. [My subject matter] is usually real people, especially women. I’ve made a few shorts about aging women—the first was Intergalactic Empress Stah Power Girl. It’s about this circus performer [whose work stopped] when she reached a certain age. People expected her to retire, yet she kept pushing, kept creating new stuff and performing. 

Adolescent: How do you feel about the portrayal of queer love and the queer identity in recent releases?

Anna: I think they’re great. Especially in films like [The Miseducation of] Cameron Post that are more accessible to younger people. I loved Portrait of a Lady on Fire but I’m aware that the market for it is sort of catered toward film fanatics. I love period dramas, but there are films that aren’t spoken as much about like D.E.B.S, But I’m a Cheerleader, and Imagine Me and You, which are light-hearted sapphic comedies. We definitely need more than one [lesbian] film a year. 

Adolescent: How were you able to stay creative during quarantine?

Anna: I was [rewriting Fruity] trapped in my room, specifically a very small dorm room. I really couldn’t do it without those sessions with Alice Seabright, because she was coming in and telling me what she thought. After every Zoom meeting [with her], I’d [be able to] write more.

Adolescent: What’s your plan after Fruity?

Anna: I want to find another funding opportunity to make either a narrative film or a documentary about the lesbian bar scene. I read an article about it a year ago—how these places are closing down and there are only two left in England. That’s crazy, so it’s something interesting that I’m trying to explore. I also want to do more fashion films, so I’ve been contacting people about that. I just want to consistently make more fun stuff.

See more of Anna on her social media, and follow Fruity’s Instagram to stay updated.