TV, eh? | What's up in Canadian television
TV,eh? What's up in Canadian television

Cardinal: Writer Aaron Bala dissects “Mama”

Aaron Bala’s journey into writing television is an interesting one. His first gig after attending Humber College for writing and production was managing the social media account for CTV’s sitcom, Satisfaction.

“It was really awesome,” Bala recalls. “I got to be on set all the time and I got to help them shoot some videos and edit some stuff for all of their web content.” Attending the Bell Media Diverse Screenwriter Program was followed by internships at 19-2 and Saving Hope. The latter put him under the mentorship of Patrick Tarr. So, when Cardinal was greenlit for a third season, Tarr called on Bala to join him. And what an episode for Bala to be credited with. In addition to giving us some background on Mama, it propelled the story towards its conclusion next week.

Here’s what Aaron Bala had to say about “Mama.”

Congratulations on joining the Cardinal team and being a part of the franchise. With it airing not only here in Canada but sold around the world, you must be pretty excited to be a part of it.
Aaron Bala: Oh for sure. I saw the first season and I fell in love with it. And getting to be a part of it is probably one of, if not the greatest writing experience I have ever had in my career so far.

A quick question about the writing credit on ‘Mama.’ The story idea came from Noelle Carbone. And then it says teleplay from yourself and Patrick Tarr. Can you explain how that all worked out?
AB: When I got hired it wasn’t a given that I was going to get to write anything. But, Patrick was outfitting for me to get something and Noelle Carbone was originally supposed to write this episode, which was the preface to the finale. And then what happened was she wrote the outline for it. Hence the story by credit, and then she had to go. And so, it kind of fell into our laps and Patrick was like, ‘Here, you’re up on deck. Let’s go do this.’ It was great to have these two great writers that I got to work off of, Noelle who had the outline. To look at and build off that, then hand off to Patrick to finalize it. And, then hit it out of the park.

This was a big episode. We were getting a little bit more background into Mama and her affect on this family that she has. Was this daunting at all for you? A bit of jitters? 
AB: Oh, for sure. Always. Writing is always daunting. It is never not daunting. But you know, I think the great thing about the show is, it’s six episodes in and we can really build it so that you are left with mysteries with characters that we can start closing those mysteries sooner rather than later. And, as much as it can be terrifying, it’s also really gratifying when you get to write those scenes that explain what the audiences have been wondering for so long. And, especially, when you can write some scenes that are explaining things that audience doesn’t realize it yet that’s going to get explained in the finale, and some of that stuff is super cool too.

One of the scenes that struck me in this episode was the ghost of Catherine, and Cardinal saying, ‘I don’t want to see you anymore.’ I thought that was a beautifully shot scene. 
AB: That is certainly the brilliance of this show, is saying as little as possible and yet saying so much. I remember that scene. That is something Patrick really, really pushed for and just this moment where [Cardinal] has been pushing this case for so long and you know, he finally finds the guy who has been sending the letters. And it is over. But she’s still here. And, I think it is a meditation on what grief is like for all of us and still stuck with seeing people that have passed on and moved on from us. I think it is also potentially in the back of his mind like maybe this case isn’t over yet.

Maybe there is a little more to this. But he is still broken and he doesn’t want to push anymore. You see him get so angry and I think it is great because you have that scene with his daughter just before and see how their grief is manifesting in different ways.

We also got more insight into what Dr. Bell is like and the control he has had over his patients over the years. That verbal chess match back and forth at Dr. Bell’s house … Cardinal walking forward and then he’s walking back. Man, just so well done. 
AB: I think that is probably my favourite scene in the entire episode. I just love it, love it, love it so much. In the books, Dr. Bell was always my favourite character.

I just thought he was so different than the other books had and he was a real cerebral character and I really liked that. It was funny because we left the room one day and were talking about our favourite characters and we all had someone different we really liked. And I thought that was so emblematic of what you want in a writer’s room. So for me, that scene is just so beautifully acted and written. You said, ‘chess match’ and I think that is the perfect word because you come off that scene with the woman that has been talking to Catherine on her computer. You walk out of that scene and you say, ‘Dr Bell did this, he is responsible.’ Then you walk into this Dr. Bell scene and Cardinal is coming with fire and fury. But, Dr. Bell, he almost prepared in a way.

But not in a, ‘I know I am guilty’ but, in a way that he knows that anyone commits suicide that he knows someone is going to come and believe it is him in the end no matter what. He just diffuses all of Cardinal’s beliefs that Dr. Bell is the guilty party and Cardinal leaves that scene and I’m like, ‘Yeah no, Cardinal is chasing ghosts. Dr. Bell didn’t do this, he needs to move on.’ Then you have the whole tag scene with his wife at the end and we kind of just pulled the rug just a little bit out.

I would agree with you about being a favourite character because nothing scarier than a guy who is in your mind and messing around. 
AB: And yeah, we’ve seen a lot of the characters who have guns and we happen to this season as well. I also just like the appeal of this character who may be just as menacing as those other characters but from a totally different way. You know, bullet wounds can heal sometimes, but some of the mental scars don’t.

What have you learned about yourself as a writer? Again, you from Saving Hope to Cardinal now, what have you learned about the whole writing thing and yourself? Have you figured out what your strengths are?
AB: I think I am starting to learn where some of my strengths are, and I am leaning towards structure and themes. I think as the more shows I work on the more that is revealed, and the more you see others do it as well as you, you learn from them. I think what Saving Hope and Cardinal have really pushed me towards is finding the emotional cords of the characters and pushing them emotionally in ways. It is easy for me to say, ‘and then they do this crazy thing at the end.’ But, it is harder for me to say, ‘and then this thing effects them so deeply to their core.’ But, that is what television is. We don’t watch television for what happens. We watch for how it happens to our characters.

Anything you are working on that you can tell me about?
AB: I am on Private Eyes, which I think is on my resumé. Which, you know, has been a great fabulous show. I like staying in the crime space.

Cardinal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Thunderbird Entertainment announces collaboration with Cherie Dimaline and Jennica Harper to develop The Marrow Thieves series for TV

From a media release:

Thunderbird Entertainment Group Inc. (TSXV:TBRD) (“Thunderbird” or the “Company”), a global multiplatform entertainment company, is thrilled to confirm that author Cherie Dimaline will work with TV writer and producer Jennica Harper to adapt Dimaline’s  award-winning novel, The Marrow Thieves, for television. The series will be produced by the Company’s scripted division with Dimaline and Harper set to executive produce alongside Alexandra Raffé and Ivan Fecan, who is Thunderbird Entertainment’s Executive Chair of the Board.

The Marrow Thieves is set in a dystopian future where Earth has been ravaged by climate change. Wanted for their bone marrow, which contains the lost ability to dream, North American Indigenous people are being hunted by government recruiters and used as unwilling donors. The story centers on Frenchie, a highly resourceful Indigenous teenager, and his companions, who together embark on a journey to the old lands in the hopes of surviving and reuniting with loved ones.

Dimaline is a Métis author and editor whose fiction has been anthologized internationally. Renowned for many accomplishments, her most recent novel, The Marrow Thieves, won the Governor General’s Award for English-language children’s literature and the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers in 2017, the same year it was named a Native American Library Association Honor Book. Last year, The Marrow Thieves won the Sunburst Award, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Amy Mathers Teen Book Award, and the Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature. The Marrow Thieves has also been a finalist for the Trillium Book Award and the Ontario Library Association’s White Pine Award. Singer Jully Black represented the book on CBC’s 2018 Canada Reads, and it was later recognized as the bestselling Canadian book by CBC Books that same year. The Marrow Thieves has been a Canadian bestseller for over a year and continues to hold a spot on the Globe and Mail Canadian fiction list, nearly two years after publication.

Harper is a Vancouver-based TV writer and producer, whose background includes work on the current hit crime drama Cardinal, ABC summer thriller Somewhere Between, and popular crime drama Motive, among others. Most recently, she served as the co-creator, writer and showrunner on the comedy Jann, a fictitious take on the life of Jann Arden, which will premiere later this year.  She has been nominated for a Canadian Screen Award and is the recipient of both a WGC Award for Screenwriting and a Leo Award.

In addition to being a Canadian bestseller, The Marrow Thieves is set to be published in the United Kingdom and Australia, as well as translated into German and French. It will also be a spotlight book at the 2020 Frankfurt Bookfair.

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Island of Bryan premieres April 7 on HGTV Canada

From a media release:

Starting Sunday, April 7 at 10 p.m. ET/PT, HGTV Canada gives viewers an in depth, personal look at the Baeumler’s struggle to transform their beachfront resort in the new Canadian original series Island of Bryan (13×60). Taking on their biggest challenge yet, Bryan and Sarah Baeumler move to the Bahamas with their four children to overhaul a run-down resort into a booming business. Despite the stunning backdrop of Bahamas’ white beaches and crystal blue water, they quickly discover that this is no vacation. Faced with daily hurdles and unforeseen challenges from construction delays and design limitations, Bryan and Sarah must work together to turn their embattled piece of paradise into the stunning dream of the Caerula Mar Club.

After a successful second season of Bryan Inc. – the #1 program on HGTV Canada last spring* – fans will experience the Baeumler’s bold and risky adventure first hand, seeing the step-by-step progress of the resort as it is transformed – from the hotel block and the private villas, to the poolside and the main club house. The final result is a beautiful boutique hotel that marries Sarah’s distinctive style with modern Caribbean design concepts and Bryan’s high level construction standards.

Island of Bryan is produced by Si Entertainment in association with Corus Entertainment’s HGTV Canada. New episodes will be available On Demand and at HGTV.ca each week after broadcast. Viewers can travel behind-the-scenes with exclusive Island of Bryan content at HGTV.ca, including tours of the Baeumler’s favourite rooms and spots around the island, fun videos of their four active kids (a.k.athe “B Team”), Q&A with Bryan and Sarah, and more.

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