The Hat Shop

Created by Laurel Parker, The Pitch 2024

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Madame Renée (52) runs a smart hat shop in town, but it’s all a front for the private club behind that appeals to the sophisticated gentleman of 1962. Renée (real name Rita) has reinvented herself as a sophisticated milliner and makes good money from both enterprises. But Renée can’t escape her working class roots and links to notorious local gangster Lenny Kane. He’s demanding protection money, even a profit share. Concurrently ambitious Detective Vickers threatens to close her down. Thinking quickly, Renée offers to help catch Kane, a bigger fish, in return for immunity from prosecution. He agrees, and Renée lures the reclusive Kane to her club. She laughs when he offers to buy her out at a low price. Before he can lose his temper, police raid the club. Renée’s arrested too and furious at the double cross. Renée slumps in disbelief as the van drives away: her dreams evaporating. She bangs on the van walls fruitlessly. Eventually it stops and Vickers waits to help her out. She’s dishevelled and shouting, but stops in mid-rant when she sees she’s outside her shop. Vickers has kept his word but had to arrest her to make it look real for Kane.

Biblical Connection

The inspiration is Joshua 6, verses 17-26. In the search for stories, the fall of Jericho was considered: could something in the destructive sound elements turn into a script? However, in the verses about the siege by Joshua, there was mention of intriguing spies hidden by a harlot in a brothel. To create a ‘spies within a brothel story’ felt more like a feature as it would have layers of complications to resolve. In addition, writing about a brothel didn’t seem dynamic enough for a short and it’s already been done well in the TV drama “Harlots”. However, if it was set in a sophisticated private club in the 1960s, any nefarious activities could be suggested without showing any, presenting the club as a shadowy speakeasy and shot film noir style. A dynamic businesswoman is making a good living from both her businesses, with the front of the hat shop for the club mirroring her deceit of presenting herself as the same class as her rich female clientele. Just as Joshua brings down the walls of Jericho, Renée/Rita’s world could crash down under pressure from either the police or from Lenny Kane. Like the clever harlot in Jericho,