“Eventually, I hope to become a showrunner, or work in TV and create TV shows,” Nelya Valamanesh tells us when we catch her in between gigs, on the line from her hometown Adelaide. “Anything I do, it’s all about representation at the end of the day, and just making sure we’re getting new voices out there, voices that maybe we haven’t heard, or don’t get as much airtime.”
Whether she’s DJing, writing as a journalist, creating theatre or making films, Nelya’s MO is simple: “I try to make sure that I am representing people of colour, women of colour in particular, and queer people of colour as well in the choices I make.
“I think that we have a big role to play in our point of view, our worldview, the nuances that we might see that someone that isn’t from our culture or our gender won’t see,” she says.
We bring up that after 100+ years of a male-led storytelling tradition in film and TV, it’s marginalised voices that actually bring something new to audiences. “I think that’s a really valid reason to have more diversity, because at the end of the day we all have different worldviews, and if we’re not seeing people from different backgrounds, or different genders, or sexualities, or whatever, you’re not really getting that full flavour of the story.”
Nelya’s latest production, web series Rules to Being a Fuckgurl, promises to be something that we haven’t seen in Australia in particular, and after 3 years in gestation, it’s quickly gaining momentum, awarded $25,000 through AFTRS’ National Talent Camp, and a $5000 grant from Adelaide Film Festival and Closer Productions.
A 6 x 15-minute comedy/satire web series about the political and social struggles of being an independent woman in her late 20s, Rules to Being a Fuckgurl is tapping into a new way of telling and consuming stories, according to Nelya.
“A web series is a launching off format that’s more accessible for people that have more of a niche audience, or something that’s maybe not as marketable for the big channels. But it’s also a really good testing platform to find your audience. A show like Broad City, for example, started as a web series, and Amy Poehler saw it and decided to become the executive producer and bring it to a channel. Insecure with Issa Rae started off as web series Awkward Black Girl…
“Rules to Being a Fuck Gurl is not very mainstream, but saying that, the platforms that we’re all using are changing. Netflix is becoming more and more raunchy every day. I feel like the whole ‘not suitable for work’ thing is no longer really an issue as more diverse voices are coming out and telling their truths, and I think that’s really exciting because I love shows like that, and my friends, and a lot of the people in my circles love shows like that.”
In her quest to get more diverse voices on our screens, Nelya’s base in Adelaide is both a blessing and a curse. “It’s the whole big fish in a small pond thing. I am blessed in the way that I know more people and have more connections. Everyone’s so close. You’ve heard of a lot of different people, and the higher ups are more approachable because they are literally just a phone call away. But at the same time, as a queer woman of colour, we don’t really have that much representation.
“If I want to find a director from the same background as myself, that’s just not feasible. I can only dream of finding someone in that kind of world that has the same kind of ideas…. but saying that, I do have one friend who is also a brown queer girl filmmaker in Adelaide. She’s more of the children’s section, though and I’m like the MA-15 version… It’s just funny because we’re always like, ‘We’re the only ones here. Where are all our peers?’ But saying that, it goes both ways.”
Head to https://www.nelyavalamanesh.com/ to find out more.