Inside the WGC Awards with nominee Mark Farrell

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Leading up to the Writers Guild of Canada Screenwriting Awards on April 23, Playback will catch up with some of the nominated writers to talk about their craft and what’s up next.

Mark Farrell is a screenwriter whose writing credits to date include the comedies Dan for Mayor, Corner Gas and This Hour has 22 Minutes.

Here Farrell, who is nominated for a Writers Guild of Canada Screenwriting Award in the TV Comedy category for the Dan for Mayor episode “Ethical Dilemma,” talks to Playback about his nominated script and the future of screenwriting.

PB: What does it mean to be nominated by your peers?

This one is definitely my favourite. It’s the best kind [of nomination] – especially since it’s for the Writers Guild. For something like the Gemini Awards, it’s the episode as produced, and a lot of things can change. So for the Writers Guild Award it’s nice that it’s an actual script that you wrote.

PB: How did you approach writing the script?

It was a later script. In the first part of season two, Dan being mayor caused problems for his friends. But in this one, his friends caused problems for him. So it was neat to write because it broke the mold a bit.

With this script in particular, we were in a bind and a little behind. I thought the script was going to be shot a little later and that I’d have a little more time on it, but all of a sudden it was being prepped. So I had to rush through a second draft.

We had a room, and Jenn Engels, Carolyn Taylor, Kevin White, and Paul Mather were there, and at one point Tim McAuliffe and Mark De Angelis. Everyone kicked in ideas and helped me break the story.

So they certainly deserve my thanks.

PB: How, if at all, was this script a departure from your comfort zone?

The speed that this one had to be written at was definitely out of my comfort zone. That was the biggest thing. I was lucky as a producer that I could be a little easier on myself and accept a crappy first draft, but the speed with which it had to go from being written to being shot was just tough for me.

PB: CTV has a reputation for creating online content to go along with its TV series. As transmedia continues to grow in popularity, is a multi-platform approach something screenwriters need to be considering more?

I think screenwriters should be involved, and I think most producers feel that way. But it’s hard to imagine what things are going to look like in a few years.

I imagine that different sites and portals will have different demand characteristics than TV shows, but they’re still going to exist and you’re still going to have to tell a story and do all the things that screenwriters do.

PB: How will recent government cutbacks effect how you do/get work?

I feel really badly about the cuts. But if you’re writing a script, you know what the budget of your show is, and you just have to write with that in mind, and not think about the industry or cutbacks. If you have a job, you just have to try to write the script or show the best that you can.

I know that’s not a great answer, but you have to think bigger in terms of whether this is the right country, province, or anything for you [to work in].

PB: How will you celebrate if you win?

I’ll be really happy. The great thing about the Writers Guild Awards is that there’s a bunch of writers around. I don’t get to see a lot of people who do the show-running and creative producing that I do. So win or lose I’m going to see people from different fields who I wouldn’t normally see.

I’m not expecting to win. There are some really good scripts up there. And if I do win I’ll be happy and say, “Good, there’s one for the old guy.”

PB: What’s up next for you?

I’ve got a couple things, but I don’t like talking about stuff that’s not going ahead. I’ve got a couple things that are my own and I’m sort of involved in two other projects that are close to going. But I don’t want to say anything until they’re green-lit – if they’re green-lit.

Photo: cornergas.com

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