Faculty Connections Launch Writing Grad into Arctic Air

By VFS Web Team, on January 19, 2012

As we posted recently, CBC's Arctic Air features a healthy contingent of VFS alumni. And Writing for Film & Television grad Derek Thompson is one of them.
Throughout an intensive year in workshops, lectures, and hectic production cycles, Derek proved himself as a writer worth vouching for -- as illustrated by a VFS instructor who saw an opportunity to help open a door just after he graduated.
It's worth noting that Arctic Air's series premiere garnered the largest audience for a new CBC drama in 20 years -- and that can only mean good things for the alumni contributing their talents. In the midst of production, Derek answered a few of our questions about his much-envied gig.
Can you describe what you do on Arctic Air?
Derek:  As Script Coordinator, I'm responsible for managing and distributing scripts.  My main role is to work with the writers to ensure that scripts are polished and ready for production before they are released.  I collaborate with the writers at each stage of development - from breaking story to outline to script - and provide feedback wherever needed.  Depending on the circumstance, I may be asked to write/rewrite scenes or dialogue.  I also do research on a variety of topics, depending on the demands of the episode (e.g.  aviation procedures, search and rescue, life in Yellowknife, etc).   Separate from my duties in the story department, I manage clearances for the show.
How did you get this gig?
Derek:  It's all about timing and who you know, I suppose.  The previous Script Coordinator had to leave the show, so the Supervising Producer made a few calls in search of a replacement.  One of those calls was to Kat Montagu, one of my favorite instructors at VFS.  Kat and I had a good relationship and she was always supportive of my work.   She felt that I could handle the gig and put my name in the mix.  I interviewed that afternoon (a Thursday), was offered the job that evening, and started the following Monday.  Since our program was ending that week, the timing was perfect.  A big 'thank you' to Kat!
What are some of the projects you worked on at VFS that you're most proud of?
Derek:  It's amazing how much writing we do in one year at VFS.  There were a lot of projects that felt good --  an original high school sitcom (Flunk), several spec scripts, our live sketch comedy show, a web series (Midday at Noon), and a feature-length drama (Seasoned by Sam).  The feature was a story I wanted to tell for quite a few years and it was the writing sample that Kat read before recommending me to the producers of Arctic Air, so it was easily my most satisfying project.
You've got an advanced academic background. How did you adapt to the one-year model at VFS?
Derek:  It certainly solidified my appreciation for caffeine.  It's an intense program, but if you're in it for the right reasons, you'll love every minute.  I wasn't used to six hours of lecture per day (or seven or eight), but because the content was so relevant to the scripts I was working on in the evenings, I felt like the time was well spent.  I still refer back to the notes I took in those classes as I work on new projects today.
Congrats on the gig, Derek. Best of luck with the rest of the season!

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