Daegan Fryklind (Bitten, Motive, The Listener) is one of the speakers at the upcoming Toronto Screenwriting Conference on April 6 and 7. She shared her thoughts on the conference, forming a writers room, and life as a werewolf.
What do you want to convey at the Toronto Screenwriting Conference?
For the most part, that the talent in Canada is strong enough to make amazing homegrown shows. I’m proud to be sitting next to two great Canadian showrunners who developed their careers and series here. It’s possible, and something that is not out-of-reach for others like us.
What do you hope to get out of it?
We go to camera on Season I following the conference. I’m hoping to get out of my office, really, and talk about this show!! And I’m looking forward to catching up with Tassie and Kevin. And come on … Glen Mazzara? Beau Willimon? Two of my favorite series. Mad respect!
Have conferences like this played a role in your career development?
I started going to the VIFF conference when I was a development executive — keeping up-to-date on financing models and co-productions was an early education in how to start creating a show. There are those who say “just go for it!” in terms of what to write, but then you also have to have a practical sense of whether something is feasible production-wise. Also, it’s just so damn inspiring to hear how other writers do it — how they get up every day and put words to page. Their tales from the trenches. All good stuff!!
How did you get involved in Bitten? Had you read the books, or were they brought to you by producers, or …? What was the draw for you?
Origin story: Bitten…. about 3 years ago, John Barbisan and Patrick Banister of Hoodwink Entertainment brought the books to J.B. Sugar at No Equal Entertainment. They optioned the Elena Michaels portion of Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series. I came on after that and developed the first novel into the first season and we landed with Space. It’s a series about a woman who is torn between two worlds. I’m a Vancouverite who mostly works in Toronto. Sold. (Also, I’m a werewolf. Write what you know!)
Is Bitten your first time showrunning? What’s the biggest challenge in that transition?
Bitten is my first time to the big plate, yes. But I’m incredibly fortunate to have Grant Rosenberg as my co-showrunner and a team of whizbang Executive Producers (No Equal, eOne, Hoodwink) and crew who are seasoned players and who know the ins and outs of production. The biggest challenge is the workload. Not the writing; the grocery shopping — my fridge has been virtually empty since I landed in Toronto on January 15. I wish my dog was a helper monkey some days. Most days.
What did you look for when forming your writing team?
It’s always a mix of personality and talent at the individual level, then mixing personalities and interests to get the right balance in the room. J.B., Grant and I had a development room in November with Denis McGrath and Karen Hill, which was incredibly productive and fun, and our current room is Wil Zmak and Will Pascoe. I’ve worked on the last 4 shows with Zmak so that was a no-brainer. Pascoe has fit in perfectly. And our coordinator Garfield Lindsay Miller was with us in November as well and is the go-to wellspring for fact-checking us on the deep mythology of the books. When you’re building a small room, it’s vital that everyone is a heavy lifter and drama-free … except when passionately arguing over story points.
What’s your theory for why Canada has done so well with genre shows?
We’re positioned in a sweet spot here between US and UK influences and I think that’s really helped shape genre in Canada. And Canadian writers are jacks of all trade — the majority of us have grown up writing both comedy and drama, so genre is the perfect place to play with that full deck. Our VFX houses are top notch as well, so our genre shows can hold their own on the international market. And the Canadian genre fans are outstanding! We announced Laura Vandervoort as our lead at Toronto Comicon and it was a blast. I can’t wait until we can start hitting more Comicons with the show and reach out to the fans.
Where does Bitten fit in that pack – what do you think is the heart of the story?
Bitten. Pack. Nice one. [Editor’s note: puns are my weakness.] We refer to ourselves as “The Pack” all the time. And the heart of the story is exactly that: what makes a Pack? How do you define who is in your own Pack, be it the family you’re born into, or the family you make for yourself. Who has your back? Who will help you bury a body (figurative/literal)? We’re playing with basic, primal stuff — family dynamics, a love triangle, good vs bad when morality is skewed, and some steamy sex scenes. Oh, yes, and there are WEREWOLVES. So basically, everything you’re looking for in one show.
Anything else you want to add?
Thanks to the TSC for putting this together!