Femme, the dark edge of London’s queer nightlife

Femme is a BAFTA Nominated film directed by Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping. The film stars Paapa Essiedu (I MAY DESTROY YOU/GANGS OF LONDON) and Harris Dickinson (THE KING’S MAN/BEACH RATS).

Writer/director duo Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping’s FEMME takes a traditionally testosterone-drenched genre and flips it, reimagining the darker edge of London’s nightlife through a queer lens. It was born of their love for the crime-thriller genre, but also – as queer artists – out of feeling excluded from it. This topical film premiered at the Oscar-Qualifying SXSW, alongside the London Film Festival and took home the top prize at the BIFA’s.

Writer/Director Ng Choon Ping is a BIFA winning writer/director. He is set to direct THATCHER IN CHINA at the National Theatre, an epic multi-generational political drama about the troubled return of Hong Kong by the British to Beijing. Recently Ping directed Macbeth at the Bristol Old Vic, and a new adaptation of Strindberg’s MISS JULIE at the Hong Kong Arts Festival. He’s the recipient of multiple prestigious awards in recognition of his work which has featured at the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, and Young Vic.

Writer/ Director Sam H. Freeman is also a BIFA winning writer/director who has just wrapped running the writers’ room for his own original series THE CORRIDOR, with Bad Wolf producing for HBO Max. His serialised thriller ARCADIA is being produced by Scott Free for the BBC, and he recently wrote the lauded episode 3 of INDUSTRY for HBO/BBC. His first original series UNMASKED sold to Disney.

Producer Sam Ritzenberg is a BIFA winning producer whose films have played at major film festivals around the world. As an executive producer, his TV series have resulted in deals with CBS and Quibi. Sam took over the head of TV and Film position at Agile in 2019. Fellow Producer Hayley Williams is a BIFA winning producer. Before landing as a development producer for Agile Films, Hayley was the head of music videos for Agile where she developed and produced for top UK directors. Producer Rienkje Attoh has worked on long and short-form content across documentary, fiction, and animation. In 2020, Screen International announced Rienkje as a UK and Ireland’s Star of Tomorrow.

Sam and Ping, the directors of Femme come to YASS and reveal everything we need to know.

Talk to me about FEMME. How was this movie born?

We were watching the Safdie brothers’ Good Time and Uncut Gems, and thought, we love thrillers, but they’re always so hypermasculine, we’d love to put our own queer twist on it.

How would you describe this movie?

A nail biter!

The movie is reimagining the darker edge of London’s nightlife through a queer lens. Is it based on real events?

The feelings are definitely real!  We began with the idea of “heterophobia”, of how queer people often feel nervous, even fearful, in aggressively hetero spaces, and we thought that’d be the perfect set-up for a thriller.

What made you choose Paapa Essiedu and Harris Dickinson as the protagonists of this movie?

We’ve always known Paapa to be an amazing theatre actor (he was cast before I May Destroy You came out).  And we saw how raw and vulnerable Harris was in Beach Rats.  Both were fantasy casting come true.

What were the most memorable moments during the direction of FEMME?

Seeing Paapa in that glittery top for the first time.  Whenever there was a close-up on Paapa’s face.  Harris doing his own stunts.  Directing the actors to shout profanities for ADR.

How has the London LGBTQ+ scene changed over the years?

I think one of the big things is that so much of it used to be centred around Soho. A lot of the venues there were sadly shut down, and the scene has had to expand out. East London is such a hub for it now.

Do you feel that the world is particularly dangerous for LGBTQ+ individuals?

Yes, hence the rage you feel in the film.

Did you expect that the movie would receive a BIFA award and would be nominated for a BAFTA? What would a potential BAFTA award mean to you?

The BIFA win was a huge, wonderful surprise! Winning a BAFTA was something we barely dared to dream about when we started out on this project. It would be incredible. Fingers crossed!

You have directed some of the biggest theatrical plays along with renowned TV productions. What are the most important moments of your career?

PING: My first job working at the Shakespeare’s Globe, that was pretty cool.

SAM: Working for HBO was a big dream for me, so that’s been awesome. 

What are your future plans?

We have a pretty exciting announcement coming up, so watch this space!

Agile Films produce unique and character-driven films and television that aim to inspire and entertain. They work with rising and established writers, directors, and on-screen talent from both the UK and internationally to develop and produce bold and distinctive stories across all genres.

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