After reading my friend Eli Saslow's narrative non fiction story about a family dealing with the tragedy of the opioid epidemic, 'What Kind of Childhood Is That', I found a haunting story in the New Yorker called 'The Addicts Next Door'.
I then developed an idea, incorporating this landscape and issue, into a story that my wife and I referred to as 'a reverse Age of Innocence'.
Ellen, a thirty year old woman living in a Charleston, West Virginia nearly has her life ruined after an affair with a married man, who comes from a large family of Appalachian politicians, lawyers, and police members, is revealed. Outcast by the patriarchy and tight knit community, who ignore her assertions that she was the one betrayed and hurt by a man who lied about his marital status and intentions. As Ellen struggles to regain her footing, a chance friendship with another outsider, a former addict, leads to an outing of the dark forces lurking beneath the surface of the family in status, whose own brother, a respected doctor, is selling Oxycodone illegally, contributing to numerous overdoses and several deaths in the surrounding rural communities. Set against the backdrop of a divided social, economic and political landscape, Ellen clears her name and reputation, and manages to effect change in her community.
• I wanted to make a female character driven film, inspired by my frustrations with the way women like Monica Lewinsky and Paula Broadwell were treated and had their lives ruined, while the men involved in their affairs were quickly forgiven and continued to climb up the career and social ladders. I wanted to believe that the industry could get behind a cultural examination like this.
• And of course I was inspired by turning the situation in Edith Warton’s ‘The Age of Innocence’ on it’s head, and pairing it with an investigation into the opioid/Oxycodone epidemic raging in the bible belt and rural America.
• The lead role is for an actress in her early 30’s - something I hoped the industry could get behind.
But nobody in Hollywood was interested.