FLY GIRLS: WWII Women Pilots & Crowdfunding A Forgotten History

Fly Girls is a potential mini-series about an important piece of WWII history, the largely forgotten women pilots. Some people might find it hard to believe, but there were women pilots on active service during the war. However, unlike their male counterparts they were restricted to the transportation of planes, and did not engage in air to air combat. Or so you would imagine. The fact of the matter is that, in Britain, transportation of planes also meant flying in a war zone.

Fly Girls is inspired by director Matia Karrell’s discovery of her mother’s past as a member of the MWDC (Massachusetts Women Defense Corps). This corps was a volunteer group who worked out of Boston, plane spotting. However, it is from Karrell’s further research into the WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots) that the premise for Fly Girls originated.

The Project

The Fly Girls mini-series (if successfully made) will centre on the American women Colonel Jacqueline Cochran recruited to take to England to join the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) during WWII. The project has obtained and is obtaining the rights to memoirs written by women involved in the WASPs and ATA on which to base the series’ story. In doing so Fly Girls seeks to uncover a history of American women who have largely been forgotten.

Fly Girls
source: Fly Girls promotional trailer

However, this exploration will not be restricted (as it is in most WWII drama) to the plight of caucasian women. The series will also look at the service history of African-American women, who weren’t allowed to fly for either the WASPs or the ATA and, instead, worked at the Tuskegee airbase alongside their male counterparts.

The mini-series seeks to emulate the success of Band Of Brothers and, similarly, will tell the story of the American involvement in the war from their England base. To this end, Fly Girls will be a dramatic re-telling, not a documentary series, which is a wise decision. Drama is certainly more effective at drawing an audience and engaging it with the subject matter. It also allows Fly Girls’ makers to delve into more personal issues surrounding sexism, PTSD, etc. This might only otherwise be described or imagined in a documentary.

“Narrative storytelling can humanize a time in history that makes that era come alive. It is by experiencing the characters’ lives through their eyes that makes us cry, laugh, or even scream back at the screen.” (Fly Girls Website)

The Production

The story of Fly Girls will begin in America, and will follow a group of women as they travel to England to join the ATA. The series will begin with a two hour long pilot, followed by nine hour long episodes. The cast will be an ensemble and, amazingly, as there were women from twelve different countries flying for the ATA, the series plans to involve as many different character backgrounds and ethnicities as possible. For this the series will obviously be casting from a number of different countries, this will not be an All American show. The series will be filmed in America and England.

The series will be directed by the project’s creator and one of its driving forces, Matia Karrell, and produced by Hilary Prentice, with cinematography by Oscar winner Robert Elswit (There Will Be Blood) and editing by Karl T. Hirsch. Seasoned casting director Ronnie Yeskel (Pulp Fiction) will be charged with finding a cast that works, no easy feat when you’re talking about casting to match real people.

The Importance

I have a personal interest in WWII history, I’ve even studied the representation of women in WWII film, so I’m too well aware of how underrepresented women are within this genre. A lot of this has to do with the small number of service roles women were able to perform during the war. And, of course, the industry seem to think that if you can’t make a WWII film or series about something exciting like the front line, then why make it all?

Fly Girls
source: Fly Girls promotional trailer

From the 40’s films Millions Like Us and The Gentle Sex, to modern television shows such as Tenko and The Bletchley Circle, women’s activity in WWII has always been sidelined. They have always been doing other jobs, important to the war effort, but almost always ones lightly drawn and heavily romanticised. That is to say nothing of their supporting roles in male dominated films. Fly Girls seeks to put women right in the middle of the action. Women who were underestimated, and women who volunteered for work in what would become a dangerous service.

This Series Needs You!

This is where you, reader, comes into the story. The fight to bring Fly Girls to the screen has been long and difficult but the makers are now digging in their heels and crowdfunding what could be the beginning of a very exciting project. Visit this link where you can read more about the project and contribute to the $30,000 the makers are attempting to raise for the project’s start-up costs. These costs will include enlisting a screenwriter and building up an audience for the project, by organising events such as panel discussions where the public can learn about the WASPs and USAF (United States Air Force).

I am excited to see what will come of this series, and I’m delighted that while this is an American affair, Britain and the ATA will also play a major part in it. At the time of writing this article the project has raised $22,948 of its $30,000 goal. Thankfully the project will go ahead whether their goal is reached or not. But there’s still 27 days left till their goal date, so why not let’s help them along?

(You can read more about the series on the official Fly Girls website here. You can also like them on Facebook or follow them on twitter @FlyGirlsSeries.)

Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.
The following two tabs change content below.
I love film, more than people probably, and I will watch pretty much anything. Seriously, anything! I have a postgraduate education in film & have spent an exceptionally long time trying to get inside the film industry. I'm a big believer in treating every film the same, and bringing something new to the film theory table, giving reasons for every argument made. You'll find that I'm an empathetic and fun sort of reviewer, at least, I like to think so. If I'm not watching films I'm doing exceptionally nerdy stuff, like watching documentaries about the history of medicine and collecting photos of old post boxes.