The beauty of the Arctic Air writers' room is that there are no flawed egos.
—Jordan Wheeler, writer
Arctic Air is a Canadian Screen Awards nominated series that
stars Winnipeg actor Adam Beach. But it also has another
Winnipeg connection. Cree writer Jordan Wheeler is a scriptwriter on the popular program, now in its second season.
Wheeler has been writing for television for 24 years and previously worked on North of 60, Renegadepress.com (he won a Gemini award for that one), and Cashing In. When he's not writing for the show, he spends his time story editing, writing and golfing - the latter which could account for one of the scenes in this week's episode that Wheeler scripted.
So SCENE wrote down five fast questions for him to answer.
Warning: tiny spoiler alerts!
What was the most challenging part of writing this episode?
Keeping the police out of the narrative as much as possible so that it's our hero Bobby who drives the story and saves the day. Luckily we've established that he was something of a player so when we need information that only the police have, he gets it from a female cop he may or may not have had a fling with.
But that plot point is very subtle and never explained. If you happen to know Bobby, your own imagination will fill in the blanks.
What is your favourite scene in this episode?
Sheesh. I love them all. Bobby catching his niece in the act. Krista dealing with Dearman on the DC-3. Dearman at the golf course because I got to play one of the extras. But for reasons other than the story I'll say the rally at Sombe K'e Park in Yellowknife.
Adam Beach and Pascale Hutton in "Arctic Air" (CBC)
We actually shot it there and it was our first big crowd scene in Yellowknife where we required a lot of extras. There was always concern whether we would be able to get people out or not up North but in the end we had plenty. And between setups Adam went around and introduced himself and said hi to everyone. I thought that showed a lot of class.Arctic Air is written by a team of writers. Could you describe what that's like?
It's great. Imagine five people in a classroom with open air offices and windows built in (season two's production office was in a closed elementary school) who all share a high degree of creativity, intelligence and fairly common world views who get to sit around and make up stories based on research and discussions with experts in the fields of aviation, mining, Indigenous culture and a multitude of others.
The beauty of the Arctic Air
writers' room is that there are no flawed egos. Energy is spent on breaking stories rather than trying to outsmart or outflank each other. I've heard horror stories from other shows where meetings don't even take place. Where personality conflicts result in outbursts where people yell and swear at each other. That would be an intolerable environment and I would be quick to walk to away.
Thank Creator I've had the chance to work with producers who value strong storytelling and personal chemistry. The lunchtime banter was always fun with bellowing laughter echoing down the hall. You've been a writer for a long time. Have you learned anything new from the other writers on the show?
A lot. Among them would be trying not to hang onto a cool idea even if it doesn't fit the narrative. It may remain a cool idea but to bend over backwards and make it work would be to the detriment of the overall story. Case in point, tonight's episode was once named based on a play on the the title of a Sherman Alexie book, Tonto and the Lone Ranger Fistfight on a DC-3
That title was predicated on Bobby and Dearman duking it out on the plane. But that would have meant taking Bobby off the ground and, more or less, out of the story for two acts. I initially resisted it but in the end it was the better way to go because it allowed Bobby to continue playing detective, to remain pro-active and still save the day.
Left to my own devices I may have stubbornly held onto the initial notion and if it was a short story or novel I could have made it work. But this is television and it's a different animal. Beyond that, facts, finer points of grammar, history, anecdotes -- the collective body of knowledge in the writers' room was immense and I soaked up as much as I could.
What is the one thing you will remember most about working on season two of Arctic Air?
Beside the production office was a farm and there were cows. And in one episode we had a guest star named Aggie and we all had a great time watching her in the dailies. Aggie is a polar bear. I'll always remember the polar bear and the cows.Arctic Air airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC-TV.