Each year, Playback puts out a call for the industry to recommend its best and brightest up-and-coming talent for our 10 to Watch list. And the search keeps getting tougher, as the professionals who make up the screen entertainment industry keep getting better. The selection represented here were carefully chosen with input from a variety of industry sources and organizations. This year’s 10 to Watch were revealed in Playback‘s Fall issue; the stories featured here are longer versions of the Q&As that appear in the print publication.
PATRICK TARR, SCREENWRITER
The buzz: This Toronto-based 2012 Writers Guild of Canada Screenwriting Award winner worked in set design for many years before turning his craftsman’s eye to writing. His highest-profile current project is the recently wrapped feature film The Colony, starring Laurence Fishburne and Kevin Zegers.
You worked in the art department for a good part of your career before moving over to writing. What made you decide to get into writing for TV and film?
I was always writing, but focused on short stories and novels at first. I loved the visual design aspect of movies so working in sets was a great education and also very flexible. I could work on a show for a couple of months and then go travelling and write. But the more I wrote, the more I realized that the things I loved writing – imagery, suspense, dialogue – were all geared to writing for the screen. So I wrote a couple of screenplays, and things just started to come together.
What are the differences in how you approach writing for an online series (in the case of Murdoch Mysteries: The Curse of the Lost Pharaohs, for which he won the screenwriting award) and writing a film script?
My way in to stories is always through mood, theme, and where I want to take the characters internally. So whether those elements get sketched onto one big canvas or thirteen small ones, the approach is always through the big picture.
What was going through your head in the writers’ room, when you were coming up with the story for The Colony?
My co-writer Pascal Trottier and I first started The Colony in 2005. We wanted to write a thrilling genre movie with strong characters that we could get made on a small budget. We wrote the first draft in two weeks and got our producers on board not long after that. Over the next six years of collaboration the project just got bigger and better, growing into a truly epic post-apocalyptic thriller. Even as someone who’s spent a lot of time on its set, I was still saying ‘wow’ every five minutes.
What are you working on and what’s up next?
I finished up a stint on the final season of King as a writer and story editor earlier this year, and The Colony started shooting in North Bay, Ont. that same week. I’ve been working on the upcoming CBC drama Cracked since the spring, and it’s a real thrill having a part in putting together a first season of a series. I’ve also got a feature script in development with Darius Films called Frank, which is a long-time favourite of mine.