The World Turned Upside Down

Maybe if we tell the truth about the past,
maybe we tell the truth about the present.

Ken Loach

Genre: Period Drama
Anticipated length: 90 minutes.
Location: Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex
Style: A bottom up multi-ethnic 17th Century period drama reminiscent in style to the recent BBC drama Bleak House and Ken Loach’s The Wind that Shakes the Barley.

Historical Context
The World Turned Upside Down (TWTUD) depicts the turmoil created by the myriad of factions born out of the religious and revolutionary fervour of the English civil war. On St. George’s Hill in Surrey the “True Levellers”, led by Gerard Winstanley, cultivated the land and distributed the crops without charge, envisioning England as “a common treasury for all” to the outrage of landowners. In the villages, towns and cities radical non-conformist religions were springing up to the consternation of the established church.

Synopsis
James Garwood, a young revolutionary soldier, interrupts a May Day celebration to warn his friends and family of the betrayal of the Levellers and the approach of Cromwell’s army. He invites them to join the “True Levellers” on St. George’s Hill where they will level the land and make it a common treasury for all. In the village he finds his former sweetheart, Rebecca Wright, and his old friend William Bailey, a radical non-conformist. William declines to travel with him to St. George’s Hill preferring to stay in the village to spread his message there.

While James is building a new world on St. George’s Hill, William tries to create a better one in the village. His charm and charisma soon win the heart of Rebecca but, before they can start a life together, William’s actions in the parish church spark a witch hunt. Meanwhile James and the True Levellers fight the hired thugs sent by the landlords to drive them from the land. Captain Gilbertson accuses James’ Caribbean mother Maria of black magic. She is drowned as a witch. A distraught Robert Garwood attacks Gilbertson who has him arrested for treason. The witch hunt becomes more intense finally resulting in the execution of William and the arrest of his now pregnant girlfriend Rebecca.

James gallops back to the village vowing revenge. He slits Gilbertson’s throat in the night, breaks Rebecca out of prison, then returns to St. George’s Hill to find the settlement destroyed. He and Rebecca set sail for America in search of a better life.


Locations
The feature will be filmed almost entirely in the village of Little Woodham; an historically accurate re-creation of a seventeenth century village built in Gosport, Hampshire and the Weald and Downland Open Air museum in Sussex. They represent a fantastic opportunity to exploit what are essentially standing sets with huge production value for a fraction of the cost of building those sets on a studio back lot. Other locations will include Butser Hill, the Devil’s Punchbowl and Buckler’s Hard all on the south coast of England.

Opportunity Analysis
We have identified the following target audiences as being key to the successful distribution of the TWTUD:

American and European audiences
TWTUD will be in a very strong position to appeal to the US and European audiences as the subject matter covered is directly relevant to their histories. The writings of Gerard Winstanley and the seventeenth century English dissenters directly influenced the French and American revolutionaries. The American Quakers, Baptists and other religious sects emerged from the non-conformism as preached by William Bailey.

When the American Congress set out their political principles in the Declaration of Independence on July 4th 1776, the ideas were taken straight from the English Levellers a century and a quarter before: We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

From “The Levellers and the Tradition of Dissent” by Tony Benn MP (BBC History, June 2001)

Ethnic and Left-leaning audiences
The ethnic nature of some its key characters will enable TWTUD to tap into modern multicultural audiences who have been ignored by period drama in the past. James Garwood’s father is a well-travelled merchant naval seafarer whose wife, James’ mother, is Caribbean.

Gerard Winstanley is often championed by the Left and was seen as ahead of his time. He is heralded as the inspiration for the writings of Marx. He saw the earth as a precious “common storehouse for all” and his environmental policies regarding land cultivation and crop rotation are still popular with environmentalists today.

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