SCREWED - A drama series proposal
SCREWED is a drama series set in a Canadian maximum-security penitentiary. Unlike most shows in the genre, SCREWED features the stories of the correctional officers – the prison guards, commonly called screws – and the challenges they face in their work, day after day.
Far from the clichés of the cruel, corrupt or lazy guard, correctional officers must be discerning, quick and in excellent physical shape to thrive in their harsh work environment.
SCREWED goes behind the walls of Kingston Pen, Canada’s most famous maximum-security institution, where a microcosm of society’s best and worst traits is revealed. Based on over ten years of studies and interviews, this series presents real stories of correctional officers (CX), as some rise to the daily challenges while others struggle in this complex environment.
In the concrete canyons of physical and psychological violence, the correctional officers must maneuver carefully - but with authority and compassion - as they interact with a cast of volatile inmates. Cell searches, drug overdoses, investigations, betrayals, fights and murders are part of their daily lives.
The challenges they face fuel some of them as they become masters at handling tense and difficult situations, while others get trapped behind walls of repressed emotions. After years of grueling work the psychological toll is heavy.
Recently graduated from the correctional officers’ college, MAUDE and her friend TILA are assigned to the same units as PAUL, an old screw who has been ruling KP for decades and CRAIG, a young and impulsive CX with a keen eye to find contraband, and trouble. Caught between the inmates and the management, Maude, Paul, Craig and Tila must enforce the often changing rules and constraints imposed by the WARDEN.
Series main characters
MAUDE, a rookie correctional officer in her early thirties, toughens up when she enters this ruthless world of physical and emotional violence. Maude is spunky and fires back at the inmates or CXs who insult her. Lacking experience, she has yet to learn how to outsmart the cons and gain the trust of her colleagues.
Maude learns early on that no one can be trusted in this jungle, not even her colleagues. The President of the unit, a charismatic and very powerful inmate, tries to seduce and corrupt her, but Maude stands up to him. Maude will have to protect herself and her loved ones when the President’s threats reach beyond the walls of the penitentiary.
PAUL is a larger than life character, witty and swift. After more than 30 years of service he’s seen it all: fights, murders, riots and hostage takings. Despite reaching retirement age, Paul can’t seem to leave the job behind. His experience and tough-love approach make him respected by his colleagues and the inmates. Paul is direct and frank with people, so you better be solid to work by his side. With his sharp intellect and humor, Paul manages to defuse the most volatile situations. He’s right most of the time, but when he messes up it’s on a colossal scale. Ultimately his main goal is everyone’s safety.
35 years ago his mentor gave him a motto, the 3 F's: be Firm, Fair and Friendly with everyone. Paul could have risen in the ranks to become a correctional manager or even a warden. Instead he fights for better working conditions for his colleagues, a fight which constantly puts him in conflict with the managers, the keepers, and the warden of the institution.
TILA is a 25 year-old woman with a piercing gaze and a troubled past. Several years ago she was caught in the grip of a violent boyfriend who was a member of a notorious street gang. He was later convicted and incarcerated at KP for several years. Tila even visited him at KP, but he has since then been transferred to another institution. It’s all water under the bridge as Tila tries to reinvent herself as a correctional officer while hiding her past. The best of her graduating class, she learns quickly and asks a lot of questions about the inner working of the penitentiary. Her past catches up with her when JUNE, the institution's investigator (SIO) unmasks her. Is she an informant planted by a criminal organization?
CRAIG is an adrenaline junky fueled by caffeine and power drinks. The inmates call him HOTHEAD because of his explosive temperament. In his mid-twenties, he seems to have a sixth sense for finding contraband. Craig finds the caches of tobacco and drugs, the brew being made, and the dangerous shanks used as weapons. Younger than Maude, he has been a CX for 5 years already and is up for promotion.
In pure Mediterranean tradition, Craig still lives at home with his parents and is a video game and sports car junky. Feeling emasculated by his overbearing mother, he brings his frustrations to work. Under Paul’s guidance throughout the season, Craig will mature and find meaning in his work.
SCREWED is a series about dedication, making a difference and protecting society. It is also a series about resilience and survival in which our protagonists, so focused on reaching their goals, are likely to lose their psychological and physical balance.
SCREWED is a microcosm. A world with its own values, class systems and power structures - more akin to the animal kingdom where violence is omnipresent and survival instincts reign. It is a social system where information, protection, drugs, sex, and sometimes life itself are traded as currencies. It’s a world of clans, affiliations and festering internal wars. Bikers, members of street gangs, native posses, pedophiles and rapists are all required to be segregated from each other to mitigate the risk of violence.
To excel at their jobs and not get swallowed by the daily emotional grind, correctional officers have to master the codes of these subcultures and rise above them with a broader vision. Everyone is on guard in a penitentiary. In order to glean information and defuse potentially explosive situations, the correctional officers must carefully observe the inmates, study their patterns and behaviors, read their energies, sounds, smells and body language. Our heroes become players in this highly complex and elusive game where the line of conduct between what’s right and wrong is tenuous at best and generally flexible.
Caught between the inmates and the management, MAUDE, PAUL, CRAIG and TILA must observe, foil, tame or confront the beasts living in this jungle, while respecting and adjusting to the ever-changing rules and constraints imposed by the management. Will they escape unscathed?
Series creator, Executive Producer
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Montreal, QC. H2S 3K4
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Series Bible, presentation documents, episode synopsis and script for the Pilot episode are available on request.
Video and still images are excerpts from Working On the Edge, produced by LISTO FILMS for UCCO-SACC-CSN.