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The Pitch

“Give my regard to the boys and kill all the rednecks you can.”


Don Chafin, County Sherriff,

Logan County, West Virginia. 1920

Today 'redneck' is a derogatory term referring to racist, reactionary, working-class, white-men, from the rural, southern states of the USA. 


But in fact the name 'rednecks' was first applied in the 1920’s to the diverse community of politically radical union coal miners of southern West Virginia, who wore a red neckerchief to identify themselves to each other as they fought for their civil rights against the mine owners and corrupt state officials who dominated their world.

Rednecks, is a dark, industrial, western, that adopts the techniques of hugely successful historical dramas such as Vikings and Hell On Wheels, to create an entirely new fiction but inspired by historical characters and situations. 


Rednecks is Deadwood meets The Wire meets Succession.

Rednecks, is set during the West Virginia Mine Wars of 1919-1922. This brutal fight for civil liberties between the miners and the mine owners involved a shooting war as violent as any in domestic US history.


Western-style gunfights broke out on the streets of mining towns across the counties of southern West Virginia as violent intimidation, rape, lynching and brutal murder became a part of daily life.


All this culminated in the three weeks of the Battle Of Blair Mountain, when 'armies' of thousands, slugged it out in the mountains with rifles, machine guns and the first aerial bombardment by the US Air Force on American soil.

To the miners it appeared that the rights of free speech, free assembly and freedom of movement, only applied to the rich and they were faced with the question of what an American should do when employers backed by corrupt forces of law enforcement, deny them their rights at gunpoint?

For miners like Reuben Forrester in Rednecks, the answer is easy - you fight! 

But his nemesis, Ward Drummond, owner of the Weeping Coal & Coke Company, is not going to give up his wealth and privilege that easily and is equally determined to use ‘any means necessary’ to crush Reuben and expel the union from southern West Virginia.

Some of the real historical figures who inspired Rednecks:

Reuben Forrester, 26, was born and raised on the family farm near the mining town of Weeping, in West Virginia. He is a psychologically traumatised veteran of WW1 and a defiantly independent recluse. He doesn’t like people and simply wants to be left alone. But the legal shenanigans of mine company solicitors means he is cheated out of his land and has to become a miner to earn a living. But in the end it is this misfortune that ‘saves' Reuben because in the darkness of the mine he discovers the light of friendship, loyalty and community.

And the community of miners in Weeping is led by Aaron Buckner, 38, a Black miner who almost dies in episode one but is ’saved’ by a vision of a Black Christ and as a result becomes a radical, end-times, pentecostal preacher who sees the mine owners as agents of the anti-christ.

Reuben’s best, and at the start of season one, his only friend, is Weeping Town Constable, Jed Hicks, 28. Jed tries to protect the miners legal rights and is not afraid to do so through the barrel of a gun. Jed’s achilles heel is that he is in love with the Mayor’s wife, Belle Tuttle, 25... and she with him. 

Ward Drummond, 49, is the mine owner who cheats Reuben out of his land. He is the epitome of Southern, aristocratic, entitlement. He is repulsed by ordinary people and despises democracy. He knows his class were put on earth by God to rule over the trash of humanity - both white and black. He is at first startled by the miners resistance to his tyranny but his fear soon hardens into a ruthless determination to defeat the miners at any cost.

His daughter Savannah Drummond, 22, is a Southern Belle with a social conscience and is going to have to decide which she likes more - being rich or being Reuben Forrester’s lover.

And overseeing it all is Irish firebrand, Mary Harris, 83, known to her friends and enemies alike as Mother Harris. Harris is famously foul-mouthed as she courageously tries to organise the miners so that the fight for their constitutional rights has at least a chance of succeeding - despite the seemingly bottomless pit of money and bullets men like Drummond are prepared to spend on stopping her.

Load sixteen tons, what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. Saint Peter, don’t you call me, ‘cause I can’t go; I owe my soul to the company store.

Coal miner and folk singer George S. Davis, 1904 – 1992

Rednecks, the series, will take place over 3 Seasons of  8 episodes each.

Series One opens with a literally explosive Episode One (Script Available) in which the tensions between mine owners and miners results in gunfights and violent subterfuge, all played out against the high-drama of a deadly mine disaster caused by sloppy safety protocols. Reuben Forrester and Jed Hicks lead the rescue attempt but the coal dust in the mine catches alight and Ward Drummond attempts to put out the fire by sealing the mine entrances with explosives, leaving dozens of miners buried alive . 


As the series goes on, the tragic fall out from the mine disaster changes the political atmosphere in Weeping as the miners realise they have very little to lose and decide to assert their constitutional rights.


Reuben’s home and livelihood is taken by Drummond and he has no choice but to work in the mine and very soon becomes a union agitator.


In the mine town of Weeping, Drummond has hired the Cogden-Hines Detective Agency to assert a form of privatised martial law. When Weeping Town Constable, Jed Hicks and Town Mayor Percy Tuttle, try to defend the legal rights of the miners, they are fired on by agents of the Cogden-Hines Detective Agency and Mayor Tuttle is killed. In reply Jed Hicks shoots dead several Cogden-Hines agents, including Burman Hines, the brother of the agencies owner. 


Drummond uses what is soon named “The Weeping Massacre” to justify an ever more brutally oppressive regime in the mines and mine towns. But Jed, Reuben, Mother Harris and the miners become ever more determined to assert their legal and constitutional rights and the violence escalates. The corrupt County Sheriff, Doyle Quinlan, charges Jed Hicks with the murder of the Cogden-Hines agents but it becomes clear no jury will convict Jed and the  end of Series One will be the revenge murder of Hicks by 30 Cogden-Hines agents on the steps of the County Court in Garrison.

In Series Two, Hicks' murder will in turn spark Reuben, Aaron and Mother Harris to lead a full blown revolt by the miners across West Virginia that will lead to the Magan County War and three weeks of trench warfare between 4,000 mercenaries in the pay of Doyle Quinlan and the mine owners and 7,000 striking miners.


When Federal Troops arrive the miners believe they have ‘won’ because they assume the Federal Troops have come to West Virginia to protect them as they assert their constitutional rights. But the hope their ‘victory’ gives them is short-lived because once they have surrendered their weapons the Federal Troops arrest 300 of the miners leaders including Reuben and Aaron.

In Series ThreeReuben is put on trial for treason and his life, while Quinlan and Drummond start to impose their brutal plutocracy across Magan County but find that the Federal Troops and a new found community spirit mean they have to moderate their tyranny. Ultimately no jury ‘of his peers’ will convict Reuben of anything, let alone treasonand he is acquitted on all charges.

Postscript: To pacify Quinlan and Drummond,  the UMWA in West Virginia expel Reuben from the union but he continues to fight for miners' rights. Coal miners in West Virginia genuinely trust Reuben and many consider him a hero. In 1933, in the wake of the New Deal, Reuben becomes president of the Magan County district of the UMWA.

So why tell this thrilling and fascinating story now?

In the decades after World War Two, for tens of millions of blue-collar Americans, "the American Dream” meant a secure, well-paid, job-for-life, with health insurance, paid holidays and a good pension.


In industries like mining, manufacturing and engineering, if you were loyal to the company and worked hard, you were rewarded with respect, a comfortable living, financial security and the prospect of a better life for your children.


But for many millions of Americans this version of 'the American Dream’ is over - increasingly replaced with powerlessness, precarious employment, financial insecurity and a forlorn future.


Historically, this blue-collar version of ‘the American Dream’ actually only existed for the 50 or so years between the early 1930’s and the early 1980’s. In the 1920’s the billionaire owners of industry fought a bitter and bloody war against their own employees to prevent this blue-collar 'American Dream' being realised. And since 1980 the institutions and legal framework that created the blue-collar 'American Dream' have been dismantled and a monopoly of power, wealth and political control have been reclaimed by the rich. 

Yet in the USA the summer of 2023 has been dubbed by some as the “Summer of Labor”. ‘Class’ has once more become a determining factor in US politics and culture - alongside the rural/urban divide and the economic reality of the fly-over, rust-belt states.

Workers across the US economy including nurses, actors, screenwriters, hotel cleaners, restaurant servers, Amazon workers and auto workers, to name but a few, have all taken industrial action to try to improve their pay, terms and conditions. And perhaps most surprisingly, polls indicate that the vast majority of the general public supported these industrial actions. It appears that many of us feel that it is perhaps time to curb the power of the twenty first century commercial robber barons that appear to be the real rulers of the USA.

In this context the idea that the term ‘Rednecks’ was originally used to describe working class progressives, rather than right-wing, working class reactionaries, seems almost unbelievable. Yet it is true and perhaps the struggles of the miners West Virginia in the 1920’s to gain their fair share of 'the American Dream' will speak to the millions of Americans still trying to achieve those ends today in the 2020’s.

The Pilot Script & Bible can be downloaded from here.

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