TEENAGE GIRLS, ALIENS AND UNICORNS: THE WEIRD AND THE WONDERFUL IN ALEX TAYLOR’ S SPACESHIP.

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Forget about tales they tell you in The Virgin Suicides, Sixteen Candles, Dazed and Confused and the rest of the over-embellished, over-stylised teenage flicks. Yes, we’ve all been teenagers, and we can all agree than none of the situations, love stories or formulaic relationships are not even remotely close to what is actually feels to come to the age of female adolescence.

Being a teenage girl, your body is undergoing transformations beyond your control, any feasible connection and mutual understanding with your parents has vanished somewhere at the age of 14, and the pertaining feeling of alienation and otherwordliness becomes your status quo.

‘I am bored of kissing humans’ – such is an opening phrase of Alex Taylor’s Spaceship a unique example of one of the most peculiar and organic stories about the cryptic and confusing lives of modern youth. Spaceship has combined the most remarkable examples of how teenage girls attempt to carve out a certain niche for themselves, but fail to adhere to the mundanity of everyday.

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But this failure is nothing but beautiful – Alex Taylor has created his own special microcosm inhabited by cyber goths with braces, girls with blue hair, their vampire boyfriends, punks and misfits. They are happy who they are and are completely okay with not fitting in – but who needs to fit in when a aliens, vampires and unicorns are much more interesting companions for life? Spaceship is a film where genuinity and purity of its female characters meets the beauty of improvisation, creating a documentary-like lovesong to teenage innocence.

 The film’s core is located on the intersection of the stories of its three female protagonists – Lucidia, Tegan and Alice. Lucidia, not fully recovering from an early demise of her mother, is implied to be abducted by a supernatural force (or as what her friends choose to believe in). She lives with her reticent and introverted Finnish father, whose stereotypical northern European coldness creates a barrier between him and his daughter, who finds a retreat in experimenting with her visual style.

You can say with complete confidence that Alice has not descended from this world. A beautiful, blue-haired fairy, she centres the most extraordinary energy around her in the film, gifting everyone with a slice of her magic. She walks her boyfriend on a leash in the middle of the day, and finds closer affinity to the mystical creatures rather than people. Whereas Tegan is the most confused and timid of the group, who is hit with the burdens of the outlandish teenage life the most. The film is shown as her long path to finding herself, where she also becomes very close to Lucida’s dad Gabriel, who she feels an unprecedented, sometimes even sexual connection with.

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No one is really shocked as when Lucidia suddenly disappears, as the kids of this Surrey suburb have had strong believes that most of them have been abducted by aliens at some point in their lives. Moreover, Lucidia’s friends are genuinely happy and even slightly envious of her, because by being somewhere else, far away from this world she has finally found harmony with herself and finally let go of her grief.

I have never seen such an enthralling array of colourful and confused characters. They all have isolated themselves from any traps of real world, but are happy and confident talking about dreams being chased by vampires in the forest and how much they want to be unicorns instead of people. Spaceship is made for all of those who never felt like they belong (and for those who still continue to do so), because teenager are gentle creatures who are forever offbeat.

Trying to deconstruct and understand what on earth is happening in this wonderfully bizarre film, Girls on Film speak to Lara Peake (Tegan) – read as we talk adolescence, social media and, of course, aliens.

Thank you so much for finding time to speak to us! We can all agree that Spaceship is very, very weird – are you excited about it finally being out next week?

Yeah, it’s going to be interesting to see how it’s perceived off everyone. It’s kind of got a a mixed audience – you’ve got the adults who think of it as a bit nostalgic, because it reminds them of their childhood and wanting to escape and find who they are. And it is also really relatable to a lot of my friends who’ve seen it – they really like the music, the look of it, the costumes. I really want to see how it’s picked up!

So how’s this journey been for you – being casted, to filming, post-production, festival circuit and now, finally – it being out in the UK cinemas? Has anything changed for you since then?

I guess when I was cast I was at college and living teenage life. I was just planning on carrying on with A Levels but I knew that I always wanted to act. So I guess project like Spaceship was a great thing to work on as an early thing because Alex, the director, was happy to cast us, just normal teenagers, rather than go down a very traditional acting route. He was very eager to find people and learn from them- he would always talk to you, find out stories – he would be like ‘Right, lets put that in’. I remember creating the plot as we went along because that’s just his style and how he likes to find out about different characters. So I guess from being cast to now, I’ve definitely found out new things about myself, through being cast and meeting Tallulah and Alexa, and going away from home. And I guess being in that age you develop and learn new things. And now it’s released, two years later, still every time I watch it I get all the memories flooding back because it wasn’t just a job, it more of like a whole experience – a very nice part of my life!

Definitely! It’s like finding yourself a whole new family for two years!

Yes, we are still so, so close!

So judging from Spaceship and his other shorts, Alex understands teenagers extremely well – he just knows who they are and lets them be weird. Was working with him similar to  having this cool older brother?

Definitely! We used to joke about that – because of his approach, he likes to just approach teenagers and to just start talking to them. Most of the cast in the film he just found on the streets and we would just laugh about how did he just approach people like that and ask them ‘Do you want to be in my film?’. He is not afraid to do that, and he’s just like a little kid himself! He would just go up to teenagers and ask ‘Do you want a beer?’

It’s so great to have someone like Alex to introduce you to the world of cinema, especially considering this is your first feature!

Oh yes! He’s just such a positive thinker, it definitely generates his creativity by always having an open outlook on everything. He doesn’t really judge, he’s happy to meet the most wacky people and create the best characters!

Describe Tegan – did you feel close affinity to her?

Ever since I read the script, I really related to the character. I mean the script – it was used, but the actual film was kind of devised from the script. The character was immediately very similar to myself, especially at the period in your life when you are on the customs, going through the teenage life and becoming an adult. You could really understand some of the dialogue, how she’s thinking and how to reach to some of your friends. You’re just eager for some sort of security, you want ultimate freedom and the ability to escape and be who you want to be. So all of that combined with the physical aspect of the character, you know the partying, and the dress up.

So you went through that phase yourself, not really knowing who you are and dressing up crazy?

Oh yes – you just constantly experiment with your style, where you want to sit. I think we are all pretty similar to our characters – we used to do loads of improvisation, and you could just shoot any of that, and I think it was a bit of a struggle to get out of character sometimes

In the film Tegan forms a close bond with Lucidia’s dad Gabriel – how would you describe their relationship?

I think it would be weird to ignore the fact that there is a bit of sexual tension. I mean it is suggested, her parents are not really mentioned, you never hear about where her parents are or what they’re doing so you can say that she is looking for a father figure, but at the same time it’s like the character is really experimenting with her sexual side, she’s really lost. I think that is normal for teenagers, maybe not normal – but probably it goes through their minds, thinking about more adult figures. Maybe as well the fact that she doesn’t really know who she is, but she wants to fit in.

There is a heavily dominating element In the film of being ‘somewhere else’, far away from the world, and having more in common with mystical creatures than people – why do you think teenagers are so disconnected from the real world?

I genuinely think because It’s crazy how much people spend on their phones nowadays, it’s probably 60 per cent of everyone’s lives, especially teenagers! We are constantly watching television shows, reality shows, looking at unrealistic roles models. Everything is kind of heightened online, on social media. I find it so weird sometimes how you are completely different, like almost a split personality online, and it is a completely different world. There are so many fake accounts, you can just be completely new.

You can even create a new personality for yourself!

Exactly. And it’s dangerous that at the same time you would probably be really scared to just say ‘I’m not gonna have social media’, because you would be so disconnected then.

It seems that nowadays to have to have Twitter or Instagram account to be someone – without that, how are you going to present yourself to the world? That’s the only way unfortunately!

It’s so weird because you’re always like ‘How am I looking online?’, ‘How do people perceive my online presence?’. It’s so odd that it’s so necessary to the actual world.

Yes! When I was young, back in the day, we didn’t have that, it was great. We just talked to each other, and climbed trees – it was great!

How was your school experience like? Were you an outsider yourself or one of popular kids?

I went through a lot of friendship groups, from year 7 to year 11. I’ve always been in big groups, I’ve never just had one or true friends. I was never a part of the popular crowd when I started school, but I think by the end I was. But not in like a way where I was fickle, wanting to be the most popular girl in school. It was more just like I was drawn to different people, just whoever I made friends with. I never fell out with the groups I moved from. You change in those five years, I think I had three different groups – in year seven there was a group of about eight of us, in year 9 I had about the same, and then in year and eleven you just go to parties and make loads of new friends

Who did you want to be when you were 14-15? 

I never really have any huge role models. There were people I looked up to and admired, but I never was like ‘I want to be that person’. I think I’ve always –  know it sounds cringey – just wanted to be myself, just be genuine and true to yourself. I would say what I think but not be too direct of course. I always wanted to act, so there was always that, and travelling and working.

What was your favourite band?

I’ve literally got the most eclectic music taste because of my mum. My dad is into this soft rock like Blur and Oasis, whereas my mum was so random. My music taste was all over the place, I was obsessed with the Jonas brothers back in the day, but obviously got over them very quickly.

Do you think it’s sad that there are no more Spice Girls/Britney posters and instead everyone exists in a fake world of images and questionable idols? And our experience experience as teenagers has been warped?

It’s definitely got ups and downs to it – it’s such a new thing, I don’t think we’ve seen the long term effects of it yet. You don’t know the impact it’s going to have. It is sad I guess that there’s sometimes just too much of it when you’re in a company of people. My cousin always says to me ‘You’re never on your phone when I’m with you’. It can definitely be overboard, but it’s all about getting the balance. But at the same time you can learn a lot from being online, we’re lucky to have it – you can access so much stuff. W hen I was doing Spaceship, I used loads groups and communities on Facebook to find people – you weren’t able to do that back in the day, you would’ve had to go around knocking on people’s doors.

Do you believe in Aliens?

If it’s a straight yes or a no, it’s  a yes.

Which mystical creature would you most likely associate yourself with?

Don’t know that many mystical creatures! I’m looking at gargoyles right now. I would most probably be a unicorn or a seahorse?

And to finish off – a question taken from the film: would you rather go all the way up into space or all the way down to the bottom of the sea?

I would go all the way up into space..There’s so much more to look at! But that says something about your personality, doesn’t it?

Oh, it wasn’t a personality check, I promise! Well, thank you so much for finding time to speak to us – I think there should be more films like Spaceship out there, it will definitely find it’s devoted fanbase. I promise that I will go to the premiere wearing my weirdest outfit and it’s going to be great!!

Spaceship is out in the selected UK cinemas on Friday, May 19th. 

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