The Writers Guild of Canada is pleased to announce that showrunner Dennis Heaton is the WGC’s new president, elected by WGC council to serve the 2,200 members of the Guild from May 1, 2018 to April 30, 2020. Dennis is an award-winning screenwriter based in Vancouver; currently showrunner of the upcoming Netflix show, The Order.
“We’re very excited to work with Dennis,” says WGC Executive Director Maureen Parker. “His showrunning experience will hold us in good stead as we go into Independent Production Agreement bargaining within the next year.”
Dennis has been a member of the WGC since 2001 and has served on the Guild’s council since 2012. He was showrunner of the internationally renowned police procedural Motive (CTV/ABC seasons one and two), and has written for The Listener and Blood Ties, among other shows.
“It’s great to be the new WGC president,” says Heaton. “I’m looking forward to building on the Guild’s past successes, as well as facing the challenges ahead.”
In addition to electing a new president, the Guild also has a new council, responsible for setting policies and overseeing Guild activities. The 2018-20 WGC council is made up of experienced screenwriter members from across the country: Vice President Andrew Wreggitt (Mayerthorpe), Treasurer Mark Ellis (X Company), Marsha Greene (Mary Kills People), Alex Levine (Orphan Black), Anne-Marie Perrotta (Max & Ruby), and Michael Amo (Pure).
The WGC’s new council, along with Executive Director Maureen Parker, is ready to move ahead in a time of industry flux, and to continue the Guild’s ongoing work on behalf of Canadian screenwriters.
The Canadian Film Centre (CFC) and Bell Media are pleased to welcome renowned writer/producer Dennis Heaton as the Executive Producer in Residence of the 2017 Bell Media Prime Time TVProgram, presented in association with ABC Signature Studios. From September to December 2017, Heaton will lead the story room as well as the soon-to-be-announced television writers selected to participate in this year’s program as they work together to develop Heaton’s original series.
Dennis Heaton is an award-winning writer and producer whose work spans multiple genres and formats, from animation to live-action, web series to feature film, half hour comedy to hour-long drama. Heaton is currently executive producing and writing for Ghost Wars, a new horror series for SyFy and Netflix. Heaton recently completed showrunning the internationally renowned police procedural Motive. His additional live-action credits include Call Me Fitz, The Listener, JPod, Blood Ties and the feature film Fido. When not working on live-action projects, Heaton sneaks off to write episodes of animated shows, create web series and write and direct short film projects. Motive and Call Me Fitz have both received multiple Canadian Screen Awards nominations, including Best Drama Series and Best Comedy Series, respectively, which Call Me Fitz won in 2014. Heaton has also been nominated for four Gemini Awards, four WGC Screenwriting Awards (winning for his Yvon of the Yukon animation script, “The Trouble With Mammoths”) and nine Leo Awards (of which he won five). His 2009 web series, My Pal, Satan, won Best Web Series and Best Theme Song at the New York Television Festival. His 2006 short film, Head Shot, premiered in competition at the Berlin International Film Festival, won Best Canadian Short Film at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal, and went on to play in film festivals around the world. Heaton has multiple projects in development, including Damage Control, a new police procedural with Lark, NBCU and Corus Entertainment, and the feature comedy Larry’s Awesome Kegger, which he hopes will be his directorial debut.
The Bell Media Prime Time TV Program, presented in association with ABC Signature Studios, delivers a real-world story room experience and an intense professional and project development process for six TV writers a year. The program has attracted some of Canada’s most prolific and successful showrunners to lead the story room as Executive Producer in Residence, including Michael MacLennan, Graeme Manson, Avrum Jacobson, Peter Mohan, Shelley Eriksen, Karen Walton and Brad Wright. Alumni of the program have gone on to create their own series and write for hit TV series, including Tara Armstrong, whose is currently in production on Season 2 of her series Mary Kills People (Global TV); Andrew De Angelis, whose first comedy series, What Would Sal Do?, aired on CraveTV in March 2017; Blain Watters, who wrote for Season 1 of Between (Netflix); and Karen Nielsen, who is set to write an episode of the next X-Files revival season. The program also helped develop smash-hit Emmy Award-winning series Orphan Black, which recently saw its series finale, in the 2008 story room, and Travelers, whose second season is set to premiere this Fall on Netflix, began its development during the 2014 Prime Time TV Program.
Link: Q&A: Motive showrunner Dennis Heaton bids farewell to beloved crime drama
“Before I got the (cancellation) news I was thinking about Season Four, and Season Five, and Season Six. I had a story arc for Angie for Season Five that I was originally going to write Season Four to. And then I got the news, and what ended up happening is that I took those ideas for those later seasons and incorporated aspects of them into the arc for Season Four. In a way, Season Four is actually Seasons Four, Five and Six.” Continue reading.
Link: Dennis Heaton Talks Motive Season 4
“One of the most fun parts of doing a TV season is that first week in the writer’s room where it’s just me and my staff of writers and we’ve got the season ahead of us, and we can spitball all the crazy ideas that come out there.” Continue reading.
“If you think it’s cool, let’s discuss it. And if I think it’s cool, let’s fucking do it.” That was the attitude Dennis Heaton had going into the fourth—and final—season of Motive.
We spoke to the series’ showrunner to get his take on upcoming storylines, key recurring characters and Bega vs. Flega, the differences between the American and Canadian TV industries and what’s going to happen in Motive‘s series finale.
Congratulations on four seasons of Motive. That’s a success story no matter what country you’re in. Dennis Heaton: I agree!
Before we get into this season specifically, I wanted to point out that we have a unique challenge in this country with regard to funding and the hurdles that need to be jumped to make television here.
It’s true. The Canadian market is completely different from the U.S. They’re apples and oranges. We’re dealing with CRTC guidelines and Canadian Media Fund guidelines. We’re dealing with Heritage Canada intentions. Every show around the world has its own set of hurdles, it’s just that ours are unique to this country as the ones in the U.S. are unique to their very much for-profit system. There you get more people getting the opportunity to make a pilot because they go with the, “You gotta spend money to make money” format. Their one Game of Thrones is going to pay for their 10 failed pilots. HBO isn’t the best example, but you get what I’m saying. It’s an amazing amount of content that they produce to get that one hit compared to the Canadian model.
OK, let’s talk about Motive. Once you knew this was the final season, were there season markers or storylines you wanted to hit?
Particularly in Angie and Vega’s relationship, the show has always been about them as much as the cases, this very unique office spouse relationship. I love that the fans have the Bega vs. Flega sort of thing, but for me nobody has to decide. It doesn’t have to be either of them, the way the relationships are Vega gets to enjoy both. As we moved into Season 4 and we knew this was going to be the last season, I really wanted to make sure that we did service to that friendship. That became a key element of the season, along with the natural message of all things must change. Life inevitably draws you in different directions and to that end I pitched a series finale to work towards that gives me that satisfaction of knowing what is to become of our team.
At what point did the series finale idea come about?
The idea for what I wanted to do came two to three weeks into the room. It came up while we were sitting and talking about how series end and what’s been a satisfying conclusion of a series and which conclusions leave you unfulfilled as a viewer. We talked the gamut. We talked about cop shows that we’ve loved, we talked about the infamous St. Elsewhere ending, the famous Newhart ending. All of those elements were thrown onto the table and discussed. There were also ideas that I’d had over the years that we’d never gotten to do and those were thrown into the mix as well. The marching orders that I gave everyone, not just in the writers’ room, was to err on the side of cool. If you think it’s cool, let’s discuss it. And if I think it’s cool, let’s fucking do it.
That said, could the finale mean this world was all inside a snow globe?
[Laughs.] I’m not going to give away the ending, but I will say it’s very true to the emotion of the series. And I will also say that it’s the craziest fucking murder weapon we’ve ever used. [Laughs.]
How difficult is it to write an episode of Motive? Does it take a different way of thinking to write a “whydunit”?
We start every season like the first day of camp. One of my first episode pitches in any season will result in myself or one of my writers saying, “Yeah, that’s a great idea … if it was a whodunit.” And then we say, “Right, it’s a whydunit,” and then we go. It’s one of the great challenges about the show: how do we create two disparate characters and smash their worlds together? And, how do we do it so that we don’t create a language for the show and allow the viewers to get ahead of it?
Vega is a Staff Sergeant now; how did you alter the storylines so he and Angie could keep in contact?
It made writing for them fresh again, for me. They weren’t at the crime scene together all of the time so when Angie is talking to him they’re riffing and it has a fresher spin to it, a fresher feel. We see them apart a bit more, but when we see them together in his office or in the bullpen or out in the field, there is more grist for the mill.
Let’s talk a bit about the new characters. Victor Zinck, Jr. has certainly made an impact as Det. Mitch Kennecki.
I love Kennecki as a new character because he’s a fucking idiot and that’s exactly what that character was meant to be, in the wrong place at the wrong time. How he wreaks a certain amount of havoc in the bullpen was a lot of fun. We’ve never had that dynamic before; he’s the puzzle piece from the wrong box.
What can you tell me about Karen LeBlanc’s character?
Karen is great. Her character, Det. Paula Mazur, is a detective on par with Angie in terms of skill level and intensity. It was really exciting to, 1) bring in another female detective to the series, and 2) bring in a female detective who had nothing to prove to anybody.