ALLEGRA BOX SPLITS - an online eight part series (in development)
A people-pleasing down-and-out pole-dance teacher learns to embrace her life as a middle aged, independent woman via the moves in her class
Set in 2022, in post pandemic Sydney, Allegra Box Splits (also the name of a very difficult pole move) has six ten minute episodes. In each one Allegra has a different female or age related dilemma, hangs out with her friend Pearl and Pearl’s daughter Lucy, her new living companions and teaches a pole-dancing class, focusing on a particular move or ‘trick’. The class resolves each episode and is thematically linked to poignant life experiences as an older woman. Before arriving in Sydney Allegra had reached rock bottom, with the approach of her fiftieth birthday and many other difficult circumstances. Starting pole dancing literally saved her. The trip with the opportunity to teach at the prestigious 'Poles' studio was intended as a major tonic, a new lease of life. The job offer turned out to be an unpaid internship, under a changeable rather curious boss Miss Harriet. An optimist at heart and with the temporary free rent at Pearl’s place, Allegra runs with it to get the experience. (You see she has never actually taught pole before!). Her classes become increasingly popular with ‘tricks’ like ‘Hair Flick’ 'Angel' and 'Cleopatra' re-imagined with evocative female-centric life lessons.
For example when Miss Harriet tells Allegra she has lost her looks and won’t be able to perform in the showcase, she is furious. She teaches ‘Cleopatra’ reminding students there is more to life than beauty. Ironically while the move only requires you to lie on the floor and spread a leg up the pole, the historical Queen herself was a fearless, charismatic, strategic ruler who spoke nine languages and wasn’t even that good looking. Yet she is only mythologised for her potential attractiveness to men. Or in another class after meeting Rod Spent, a crooked business advisor who called her low life for being or Centrelink and lying about her assets. She decides to teach ‘Hair Flick’ to send the proverbial ‘finger’ to those who overly value wealth in our materialistic society, a reminder that people on low income deserve respect too. A range of colourful guest characters joins the pole classes reflecting the eclectic nature of Sydney’s Inner West. Allegra Box Splits also forms a love letter to the local area. Incrementally Allegra moves a little closer to her goal of setting up a pole school there. The dream is that it will be pay-what-you-can and incorporate her brand of quirky, spiritual self-discovery, coined as Pole-osophy
ALLEGRA (lead character) - late 40's, charming, anxious, kind, bent on improving, loves vintage clothing, the consummate chameleon, adheres to the ‘fake-it-til-you-make-it’ school–“My mantra is, your pole is your best friend” and during the series she becomes an unlikely feminist.
PEARL (Allegra’s friend) - 52, former activist turned cynical, witty –“Cupcakes! There’s a fad that should have never left kids’ parties” couch potato who smokes inside, believes pole dancing is sexist but by the last episode has joined a girl band.
LUCY (Pearl’s daughter) – 16, a switched on, erudite idealist, quick to criticise anything below her standards – “Have you been raiding charity bins, stealing from the poor again?” but loosens up due to enjoying her secret pole lessons with Allegra.
MISS HARRIET (Allegra’s boss) - of uncertain age beneath the make-up, compelling, manipulative, at times dismissive and sees the pole studio as a means to an empire – “It pays to understand the language of love, and brand differentiation.”
INNER WEST (local area) – the ‘East Village (NY)’ down-under, home of artists and LGBTIQA+ community, with pop-up performances, protests and famous grafitti’d laneways in a semi-industrial, visually gritty landscape.
The project began when I (Harriet) had gone back to study as a mature age student to re-ignite my filmmaking passion and hopefully career. I was in class with a lot of twenty-year-olds, mostly males and there was a distinct lack of a creative voice that I could relate to, around me. So I decided to make something that connected specifically to my gender and age group, female and middle aged.
At the time I had a flatmate who like me was about to turn fifty. Life was throwing up all sorts of confronting questions about why she didn’t have children, a partner, a house or proper job or successful career. This woman was a unique, interesting, caring, intelligent, creative person who had done so many wonderful things with her life. Yet she was beginning to feel invisible, a failure and worse irrelevant.
I want to produce something that encapsulates this fragile but hopefully freeing age, which brings many challenges and wise realisations post 50. A series specifically for 40–55 year old females and non-binary folk. Viewing for people who want to see and laugh at a more accurate rendition of their age and foibles on screen. I have always been interested in making work that centres on women’s experiences e.g. in my films Lipstick 1994, the ironic search for the perfect red lipstick, Loyal to my Image 1992 about adoption and mothering and more recently Inspiration Plains, a mad-cap comedy about a retirement village for creative older women. Following on from these, Allegra Box Splits will uniquely incorporate feminist concepts and question patriarchal and binary values in an accessible, humourous and often surprising way.
HARRIET McKERN - SERIES CREATOR/ WRITER/ DIRECTOR/PRODUCER
Harriet is an independent Australian British filmmaker with over 30 years industry experience across a range of roles. In 2015 she had returned to study Writing, Directing and Production. Her graduation short Backwards Showgirl Variation, with Janine Burchett as Allegra, provides a proof of concept for this project. https://www.harrietmckern.com/
JANINE BURCHETT – WRITER/ DEVELOPMENT PRODUCER/ ACTOR
Originally from Perth, Janine is currently living in New Zealand, working as an actor and running her own successful drama school. In 2004 Janine wrote, produced and acted in the award-winning short film ‘Gabriel’. Allegra Box Splits will further her longtime ambition to continue working behind the camera as well as in front of it.
GABRIELA LOZA - WRITER/ DIRECTOR/ PRODUCTION DESIGNER
Gabriela Loza is a Mexican-American filmmaker and production designer, currently living in New Zealand. Her first short (as Writer/ Director) Erased is a sci-fi love story and has won numerous awards and was Co-produced by Harriet McKern. Gabriela is currently finishing, ‘Tattooed”, her second short. https://gabrielaloza.com/
FRAN TINLEY - CO-WRITER/DIRECTOR/CO-PRODUCER
Fran is a Producer and Director specialising in factual and comedy content for TV, corporate and online. Broadcast credits include programmes for BBC UK, FoxUSA, ABC, SBS and Disney+. Her clients include Médecins Sans Frontières, Reclaim the Streets and Salvation Army. Fran and co-producer Monica Main won best online comedy content at the WOW Film Festival 2012.
‘Allegra Box Splits' is about being female, finding your inner Phoenix and a new way forward in your fifties