I am delighted to announce that Antidote, which I wrote based on a story by the wonderful Amy Ginsburg Harvey, has won its latest Best Screenplay award at the Thinking Hat Fiction Challenge.
Antidote is a TV pilot that follows the story of teenage Bella and her twin brothers, as they deal with the aftermath of an extinction-event-level virus, that wipes out most of the human race. It is set concurrently during the event and a few years after. Bella is no ordinary young girl. Since the event, she seems stronger somehow… more perceptive to the world around her… and God help anyone who gets in her way.
I love writing female characters – I feel a duty to contribute to helping undo a century of poor writing for women – although some get it right (mostly women still, sadly), I think that women have been misrepresented by the movies and TV for a long time. I’m inspired by the writing of Sally Wainwright in the UK, who writes strong women – if you’ve ever seen Happy Valley… my word, that’s a great series – that’s how women should be written. Another great example is Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag and Killing Eve. But here’s the thing – you don’t have to be a woman to write great women. Albeit it does help to have someone like Amy give you feedback and help you get it right. So if you are a male writer, find a woman to check that you are doing a good job. My wife reads and helps edits all my screenplays, and she always keeps me on the straight and narrow.
So Bella is complex and broken… but underneath, strong – a fighter… women don’t have to be wives or damsels in distress or someone to hop into to bed with the male protagonist. Like in real life, they should be conflicted, complex, take charge, stand up for themselves, win, fail, stand, fall and Bella does all those things in spades. As a male writer, it’s my duty to get these things right in the same way it’s my duty to make all my characters real.
It was Amy that wanted Bella to be all those things and working with her was a delight and an education – you see Amy IS Bella in her own way – so it was important to Amy that no matter how bad things got, Bella always, deep down held onto her humanity, stayed real. She’s not a superhero – she’s flawed, makes mistakes, does bad things… but she stays real all the way.
So, thanks again to the Thinking Hat Fiction Challenge for recognising Antidote – Let’s hope that someone reads this pilot and decides it’s something that should get made. Amy and I think it should, naturally.