Canadian TV is thriving, according to prominent Canadian television writer and story editor Winter Tekenos-Levy.
In recent years, she’s written for the Emmy-nominated Schitt’s Creek, the critically-acclaimed Kim’s Convenience, and long-running show This Hour Has 22 Minutes.
In 2018, she was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for her writing on CTV’s The Beaverton, as well as earning two nominations at the Kingston Canadian Film Festival (KCFF) in the category for Writing, Variety or Sketch.
“A movie seems so crazy to me, I like the world of TV—that it’s a continuing thing that evolves over time,” Tekenos-Levy said in an interview with The Journal.
She will be in attendance for the Behind the Scenes panel discussion at KCFF on March 14, where she will discuss the ups and downs of the creative process, building a career in Canada, and what it’s like to bring characters to life.
“For first-timers, [writing a script] can be daunting,” she said. “If you don’t want to quit after your first draft, you’re not doing it right. It’s always horrendously bad and it never gets easier. My advice is, don’t worry about it.”
This piece of wisdom comes as a reflection of her own journey into the television industry, which started here in Kingston. Before she even knew that writing for television was an option, she was a student at Frontenac Secondary School, an institution that lacked significant arts programming.
“I took calculus, which is insane because I’m so bad at math. In high school, to be cool, you have to be good at math and science—that’s the hot thing.”
She was convinced that pursuing an arts degree would be a waste of time, so she enrolled in the commerce program at the University of British Columbia. After her first semester, she changed her mind.
“That was the first bold choice: do the thing that makes you happy,” she said. “I was [in commerce] because it’s what you’re fed—to always take the thing that’s going to equal more money.”
After finishing an undergraduate degree in the arts, she completed a one-year Television Writing and Producing program at Humber College before interning at Bell Media and working as a production assistant.
“I was reading other scripts and thinking they weren’t very good and that I could do that. I still wasn’t sure if I was funny or if I could write a funny script, but I knew I was interested.”
Eventually, she decided to become a freelance writer.
“The courage to be like, ‘Now I’m actually freelance and I do my own thing’ took years.”
Now she’s writing a pilot for a sitcom inspired by her experience working as a babysitter in her twenties for the ultra-rich. Unlike the process of writing for a network television series, she’s the only writer developing the script for this project.
“You’d think [writing alone] would be more fun because of the control, but I really prefer working with people,” Tekenos-Levy said. “For comedy, you want the richness of everyone’s experiences, you want to hear everyone’s voice. My one brain isn’t going to generate the funniest thing.”
She’s proud that young people are growing up and watching some successful Canadian comedies on television, especially those who are interested in working in the industry one day.
“Doing anything in the arts is a bit of a risk, but there’s lots of good stuff here [in Canada] to sink your teeth into.”
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