STRIKE: an excerpt from a screenplay
In the lead-up to ‘It Took Pages: Adapting Books to TV’, writer and critic Clem Bastow shares an excerpt from her screenplay-in-progress: STRIKE, a comedy inspired by Aristophanes’ Lysistrata. Clem worked on the screenplay as part of a Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowship.
STRIKE centres around the host of an Antiques Roadshow-style series, who launches a sex strike in order to gain more editorial control and equal pay. In this excerpt, we meet our protagonist in a taxi cafe at a particularly low moment, after following through with the ‘strike’.
Clem, on writing the screenplay:
I was a couple of weeks into my Wheeler Centre Hot Desk spell when a friend sent me a message: ‘Hey! Turns out Spike Lee’s new film is a Lysistrata riff, too!’ My response, as someone who had hitherto felt very smug about having cheated the collective unconscious when it comes to mining Ancient Greek theatre for screenplay gold, was a little like that moment in The Simpsons where the horrified PTA member leaps out the window.
In truth, that horror lasted about five minutes: Hollywood has a storied history of everyone thinking of the same thing at the same time, from Deep Impact and Armageddon to The Illusionist and The Prestige; on some level, to have happened to plug into the same vein as a filmmaker of Lee’s calibre was a bit of a cosmic pat on the back.
More importantly, with the help of the Hot Desk, I was able to actually work on my script. Support opportunities for ’emerging’ or ‘early career’ screenwriters in Australia approach a ‘thylacine sighting’ level of mythic status; to be able to take the time (and the desk and wall space) to work on a script in that all-important notes/outline/treatment/initial draft phase was a godsend.
As is often the case in screenwriting, at least in my limited experience, the sequence excerpted here began its life as part of a different script altogether. However, with the thinking time afforded at my Hot Desk, unfettered by deadlines or the burning ‘need’ to go look in the fridge ‘just in case’, I realised it would work much better as a part of Strike, and even as that other project was quietly retired, this scene went on to live another day.
Lee’s Chi-Raq is in cinemas right now; my project is obviously a long way away from seeing the light of day. Only time will tell if my script turns out to be the Deep Impact or the Armageddon of this year’s (non) battle of the Lysistrata adaptations, but I’ll be forever grateful to The Wheeler Centre for helping me take it from being little more than a bright idea and beginning the process of turning it into a reality: straight into the ‘to be thanked at the Oscars’ document.