We need to take action in order for change to happen. Sitting idly by and letting things go on as they always have just means that we’re allowing inequalities to continue to exist, says screenwriter Karen Walton, perhaps best known for her cult horror film classic Ginger Snaps. Speaking up and taking action is something Walton has done over the course of her career, which has included writing stops on shows such as Orphan Black, Flashpoint and The Listener.
Walton also helps share this message and teach others in the writing community. She just completed a stint as the Executive Producer in Residence at 2016 CFC Bell Media Prime Time TV Program where she mentored seven emerging television writers. She also runs and founded the inkcanada Facebook group which is well known in the Canadian TV industry and serves to bring together “Canadian Screenwriters and their sketchy friends.” She recently spoke about her experience as a woman working in the industry and the joy of teaching others as part of our Women Behind Canadian TV series.
The TV Junkies: Can you share a little bit about your background and how you got into writing for television?
Karen Walton: I was born and raised a Cold War Navy Brat in Nova Scotia; my family moved to Alberta when I was a teenager, where I graduated high school and got an Honours Degree in Drama from the University of Alberta. I am also an alum of the Feature Film Writing program of the Canadian Film Centre (CFC). I am an entirely accidental screen and television writer. I did not grow up dreaming of being a screenwriter.
As with all things to do with my career, I didn’t ‘get into’ television so much as fall into it. The great talents Adrienne Mitchell and Janis Lundman were on the hunt for young blood for a terrifically unique and wonderfully provocative half-hour drama called Straight Up. They were working with my then script mentor at CFC, Al Magee. Al asked me if he could show them a sample of my work. All I had at the time was a movie treatment in progress, a werewolf movie called Ginger Snaps. They dug it. My first TV job was a single script on assignment, thanks to those women.
TTVJ: As you’ve been a part of different writing rooms over the years, how often did you find yourself in a male dominated room and how did you deal with that situation?
KW: All of my experience has been in male-dominated rooms, with two exceptions: Straight Up, and Suzette Couture’s The City. Some were awesome experiences, some were not. In hindsight …