Tassie Cameron - Rookie Blue's Top Cop
BY Matthew Hays
After completing a Masters degree in film studies at NYU, Tassie Cameron returned to Canada to do a stint at the Canadian Film Centre. That led her directly into the television screenwriting world, where she’s since written a broad range of genres, from children’s TV to MOWs to the critically-acclaimed adult drama about journalism, The Eleventh Hour. Most recently she’s been writing for two popular cop series which have sold to both Canadian and American broadcasters, Flashpoint and Rookie Blue. In April, she was awarded the 2011 WGC Showrunner Award. Cameron sat down to talk to Canadian Screenwriter about how showrunning and writing Rookie Blue works, and how she oversees and manages the process.
Lately you’ve been doing a lot of cops.
(laughs) I worry that it’s because I’m lazy. It’s great television and drama, so in a sense it’s easy. I love the world of police, of what they deal with every day. It’s an incredibly dramatic job. It’s not something I’d want to do, but I admire those who do. I did a show called The Eleventh Hour, about journalists, and I did that for two seasons. It was so hard to make journalists active and dramatic on television. I was so desperate to do something where the stakes and stories were kind of built into the profession. I did Would Be Kings, a miniseries about cops, and it seems like I’ve done only that since.
How do you break story for Rookie Blue?
I have a writing team that wavers between five people and eight people. We sit down at the beginning of the season and talk big picture and general themes and what soap beats we want to hit that season. Who’s going to die, and the story arc for that season. I really try and pick a theme that will help us all for the season. For example, in season 2, we decided on “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” We put that up on the board and tried to make sure that most of the characters had an arc that reflected that statement. The idea was, there’s nothing more dangerous than a rookie who thinks they know what they’re doing. The first season was about someone on the first day on the job who has a gun and doesn’t know what they’re doing. The second season, we decided the only thing more dangerous than someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing is someone who thinks they know what they’re doing. We landed on that and it was very helpful in working out the character arcs for the season.
How much research do you do?
We do a lot of research. We meet a lot of cops. Different kinds of police officers come in and tell their stories. As well as reading a lot of books and articles and collecting them, we interview police officers about what their first couple of years as rookies were like. And then we start talking about story ideas. Ideally the writers have some connection with an idea. For example, in season one I wrote an episode about a little girl who goes missing. It was an Amber Alert story, and it was tied in with my own fears of being a bad mother, because I was pregnant. You look for ideas that resonate with the writer, even if it’s in an oblique way. Then we do a bit more research and then we talk it out. That’s very helpful—you’ve got five or even eight great minds sitting around talking about what would be a good break, or what if this were to happen. It can be very helpful as you’re figuring out what the big picture is going to be. Then you can go away and do your private work, and bring it back to the room and get feedback then.
For the complete interview, please see the print edition.