Tassie Cameron (Rookie Blue, Flashpoint) is one of the speakers at the upcoming Toronto Screenwriting Conference on April 6 and 7. She shared her thoughts on the conference, cross-border diplomacy, and keeping the rookie in Rookie Blue.
What do you want to convey at the Toronto Screenwriting Conference?
I don’t really have anything to convey, beyond the fact that one can actually have a career as a Canadian screenwriter: I’m just happy and proud to be there, in such great company, representing for Canadian content, series and writers.
I’d rather answer questions any day then try and tell people what I think they should hear. But I guess I’m hoping I can help demystify the process — encourage great new writers that it’s possible to get a series on the air that you’re proud of and part of — and help share any shortcuts or helpful hints that might make life as a screenwriter in this country a little easier.
What do you hope to get out of it?
While I’d love to meet the other guest speakers — many of whom are heroes of mine — my only real agenda is to be as honest, open, informative, and helpful as I can be: to give back to the city I love, to the amazing new writers that are out there, and to the community that nurtured me.
Have conferences like this played a role in your career development?
I was lucky enough to go to the Canadian Film Centre — so conferences and speakers like this were part of the daily fare. But yes, every time I got to meet or listen to an honest, interesting human being who was doing this for a living, it both relaxed and inspired me. It’s not brain surgery, right? It’s just cool people, telling stories, fighting the good fight, working insanely hard for what they believe in, and trying not to be jerks along the way.
You’ve had a diverse career in various genres and formats – is that what it means to be a working writer in Canada?
Yes, definitely. Unlike the US, you’ve got to be a jack of all trades up here, if you want to work on a regular basis. And I’m starting to think that’s our national secret super-power. Because you can’t be too specific up here if you want to work consistently, it means you have to be — get to be — pretty solid, fast and informed about a bunch of different genres. Which teaches you new skills, keeps you flexible and open, and gives you tons of different kinds of experiences to draw on. Nothing’s ever wasted — it all just becomes part of your tool-box. Which means you end up with a pretty damn cool tool-box.
You’ve also spearheaded a couple of the major cross-border successes — what do you think it takes to work successfully with an American broadcaster in the mix?
Big, open, diplomatic ears. You need to listen really carefully to what your US partner is looking for — figure out how it aligns with your primary Canadian broadcaster — and then forge whatever creative peace needs to be brokered in between, making sure both networks feel heard and answered to. It’s a delicate dance, but when it works, it’s magic. Ideally both networks are on the same creative page from the beginning, which makes life a lot easier.
What would you say is the legacy of Flashpoint’s success?
Flashpoint opened the doors for all of us working in this country. It was smart, emotional, polished, prime-time storytelling that not only grabbed Canadian viewers, but crossed a bunch of borders and raised a bunch of bars. And it looked and sounded gorgeous. It was huge for Canadian television.
What’s new for Rookie Blue this upcoming season? How do you keep it fresh as the core cast loses some of their rookiness? Has the balance shifted at all in the serialized vs episodic elements?
There’s lots of new stuff in store for this season: new characters, new dynamics, new revelations. We’re trying to keep it fresh by not being afraid to change a little bit as we go along — and we’re trying to keep it honest by changing in the way that our rookies do. They’re growing and learning and shifting, and we’re trying to reflect that growth within the series. We also seem to be adding a new “rookie” every season, which helps refresh our premise.
And I think we’ve maintained a pretty steady balance between episodic and serial storytelling. All our episodes try to tell at least one good crime story, beginning to end; but at the end of it all, we’re a character-driven show, and we let our main characters drive the narratives, as we always have.
Anything else you want to add?
Nope … just excited to see you all at the TSC!