Calling the Shots on Call Me Fitz

BY Jaime Weinman

“It’s as close to a U.S. model of showrunning that I've come across,” says Sheri Elwood, creator of Call Me Fitz. A TMN show about a Rat Pack-obsessed sleazeball, it's a dark comedy in the vein of HBO and Showtime – the lead character spent the first season finale getting kidnapped by three women who threatened to cut his penis off - but a very Canadian production right down to the star, Jason Priestley. Yet in a somewhat un-Canadian fashion, the creator is in charge. “Every wardrobe choice, camera filter, line of dialogue, casting idea, music choice, filters through me,” Elwood says.

Other writers see themselves as there to help support her: co-executive producer Dennis Heaton, who has been there almost since the beginning, describes himself as “a kind of Vice-showrunner, ready to step in if the showrunner is unavailable, and otherwise going to mall openings and meeting with the Prime Minister of Uganda.”

Matt MacLennan, who joined as a co-producer in season 2, likes to joke that his function on the show is “whatever Sheri and Dennis tell me,” while story editor Jeffrey Detsky maintains that “everything comes through bringing Sheri’s vision to life.”
It helps that the show is on TMN, which is trying to build a brand of half-hour comedy-dramas similar to the U.S. products it imports. Ironically, Elwood, who wrote the show on spec, pitched it in the States for a while - but U.S. networks wanted her to make Fitz nicer. “How can you make a show about a morally bankrupt guy without the morally bankrupt guy?”

With the relatively “informal” structure at TMN, as well as the production company Eone/Amaze. Elwood says a “very limited number of voices weigh in on this particular show.” So with Elwood in charge and Heaton acting as “kind of like a consigliere, but I don't get to order as many hits on people,” the staff gathers to write the 13-episode second season, which was greenlit before the first had even started airing on TMN.

The “room,” located near Halifax where the show is filmed, consists of eight writers during the development period and five during production. “It was me, Dennis, Matt, Jeff and Niko Troubetzkoy,” Elwood says. “They stayed on staff till the bitter end. In the earlier development room, we also had Adriana Maggs, Heidi Gerber, and Kyle Muir.”
Since Fitz is serialized, the first order of business in development is to figure out what the 13-episode season’s main plot will be. “I have an overall idea for the season going in and then we collectively jam to make all of the pieces fit,” Elwood says. All eight writers are free to contribute ideas about the arc: “Anything’s up for grabs,” MacLennan says. “If you have an idea about anything, then pitch it – you never know - it might turn into a big part of the season arc.”

Please see the print issue of the magazine for the complete article.

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NOVEMBER 29, 2018
  • Writers Talking TV

NOVEMBER 29, 2018

Writers Talking TV

Writers Talking TV, presented by the Writers Guild of Canada, is a writer-to-writer interview held at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto.

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