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Aquarius Films and Decade Films to produce ‘Most Admired Woman’

Leading independent production company Aquarius Films will produce a feature film based on the acclaimed biography Sister Kenny: The Woman Who Challenged the Doctors, written by award-winning science writer Victor Cohn. Rising writing talent Becca Johnstone has adapted the book into a screenplay titled Most Admired Woman.

An Aquarius Films and Decade Films production, the film is produced by Angie Fielder & Polly Staniford for Aquarius Films and Ray Quint & Andrew Handelsmann for Decade Films.  Fielder is an Academy Award-nominated producer known for Lion starring Nicole Kidman, Dev Patel, and Rooney Mara. Staniford produced  Vertical Entertainment’s Berlin Syndrome starring Teresa Palmer, directed by Cate Shortland (Marvel’s Black Widow). Quint’s credits include the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s AFI award-winning mini-series “Bastard Boys” with Jack Thompson, and Handelsmann is noted for Warner Bros.’ Circle of LiesMost Admired Woman is being developed with assistance from Screen NSW.

As waves of polio epidemics sweep the world in the first half of the 20th century, Most Admired Woman tells the heroic story of a fiery Australian bush nurse who travels to America with her revolutionary and life-saving treatment. Scoffed at by the patriarchal medical fraternity, Elizabeth Kenny riles against her detractors, fights tooth and nail for her methods to be accepted, and ultimately saves the lives of thousands of children. It is a fight that takes her from ramshackle outback huts to Washington’s corridors of power. Along the way, Elizabeth’s obsessive commitment to her cause pushes her to the edge and threatens to compromise her relationships with those closest to her. Eventually recognised for her ground-breaking work, she is honoured as the “World’s Most Admired Woman”, beating Eleanor Roosevelt for the prestigious title.

“Becca’s script is powerful, funny and incredibly moving. She is an enormously talented writer who has crafted a perfectly pitched triumph of the human spirit story with a complex and thoroughly entertaining female protagonist. We took this project on as we were interested in telling a story about a remarkable woman who is an unsung hero. As COVID is for this generation, polio was the most urgent health crisis of its era, so telling the story of the amazing work that Elizabeth Kenny did in the face of that terrifying disease feels particularly resonant now,” producers Angie Fielder and Polly Staniford stated.

“We’re proud to be telling the story of Elizabeth Kenny – a largely forgotten Australian crusader who overcame intense prejudice to provide hope to families at a time of unimaginable panic. Risking her life to rescue children from the ravages of polio, this inspiring and poignant true story explores the timeless struggle of those who dare to defy the expectations of their gender and class. We’re delighted to be collaborating with Becca and the Aquarius team on this exciting project.” said Ray Quint and Andrew Handelsmann. 

After spending time at the National Film and Television School in the UK, Becca Johnstone completed a post-graduate degree in screenwriting at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. Upon graduating from AFTRS, Becca was awarded the Foxtel Award for Exceptional New Talent. Becca has worked in TV writers’ rooms across Australia and interned in Feature Development and Acquisition at Icon Films. Her original TV drama, Bayou, won the inaugural Australian Writers’ Guild’s ‘What Happens Next’ prize. The script was also selected to launch their new‘Script Showcase’ initiative. She currently has active feature projects with Bruna Papandrea/Made Up Stories and Angie Fielder and Polly Staniford/Aquarius Films. Both films received development funding from Create NSW in 2020. Becca is excited to be working on her own slate of projects, both in Australia and the US. Notably she is working with renowned Australian author, Lily Brett, adapting her award-winning novel Lola Bensky into a limited series. She is represented by Keith Sweitzer at Paper Road Partners.


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