Week of: Friday March 12, 2021
Lindsey Addawoo is an award-winning writer and director from Toronto. I like to describe her as visionary and the next BIG person who we should all look out for - she's on a roll...Learn how she got started and what she's currently working on below:
How did you get started in your career?
"I wrote my first script in 2015. It was a project called ‘Diagnosis’ at the time (later changed to ROOM 219) that I’d been submitting like a madwoman to every possibly screenwriting competition I could find. I had read like ONE screenwriting book – ’The Screenwriter’s Bible’ by David Trottier – and was paying for feedback with every submission. It was pretty crushing, expensive, soulless work (especially knowing you weren’t ever going to place), but I did it just to get the feedback to become better. As luck would have it, I was part of the callbacks for a submission to a one-week screenwriters mentorship residency in the Bahamas through a company called Screencraft in conjunction with the Bahamas International Film Festival. Our group was mentored by the heads of productions like Game of Thrones and Napoleon Dynamite, and I forged friendships with some amazing people whom I’m still close with today.
But if that mentorship taught me nothing else, it showed me that my work had value, and that I was on the right track. As a super green writer, this meant everything.
The following year I was part of a pilot film leadership program called BlackWomenFilm in Toronto. It was headed by the AMAZING Ella Cooper and is still actively running today. The biggest take away, once again, was the relationships formed from that program: specifically with fellow mentees Lu Asfaha and Kyisha Williams, as well as mentors Alison Duke and Ngardy Conteh-George, who I’d go on to work with later.
I had made it known the kinds of stories I wanted to tell: smart, Black, supernatural shit rooted in some sort of cultural mythology, but make it gritty. Was never really into making things you’ve seen before, a mindset that I didn’t know had jived with a few of my peers in the program.
Immediately after, Kyisha hit me up with an idea: a Black queen in a Victorian era with succubus-like powers. She kills fuckboys who betray her and claims her throne. It was called Queen of Hearts. Of course, I was down! After months of prep and pitching and applying for funds, we formed a team alongside producer Alicia DeFour, and eventually got funding from one of the last BravoFACT grants (RIP to that grant) in a pitch competition. We worked with editor Lu Asfaha and hired filmmaker Alicia Bunyan-Sampson (also BWF alumna) who was our script supervisor on set. Then we made the damn thing!
The prodco Alicia DeFour worked at was looking to hire for an entry-level gig on a show they had in development at the time. I interviewed, and was brought on as story coordinator for the reboot of CBC’s Street Legal. It was a huge learning curve, but I was amped to rise to the occasion. We worked for about 10 weeks in the writers room, and I learned how a season of television is broken story-wise, what it’s like to see different writers’ thought processes, and when/how to pitch in a room. In the room, script/story coordinators in Canada are kinda like flies on the wall; we observe, we take notes, we work up the courage to pitch our shitty ideas, and we sometimes get coffee. I was just happy to be a part of the conversation.
I worked on another show called Good Witch (Hallmark), but because it’s a co-pro between Canada and the US, it was a much different experience. I was hired on for the production portion of the job, which meant everything from keeping track of last-minute changes/continuity with the scripts in rotation, to clearing items with a clearance team in LA, to coordinating with the art department for copy and names of props, to doing boring purchase orders for the accounting team. As a writer, it wasn’t the most glamourous gig, but it taught me a lot.
My most recent gig has been on CBC/The CW’s Coroner as story coordinator. The team is BRILLIANT, and our writers room consists of Canadian superheroes. Morwyn Brebner is our leader, who brilliantly led our team of Avengers: Noelle Carbone (Wynona Earp, Cardinal), BIPOC TV & Film founder Nathalie Younglai, Seneca Aaron (Nurses), Marsha Greene (Private Eyes, Mary Kills People), Shannon Masters (Burden of Truth), Chris Roberts (Orphan Black, Frontier), MOTION, Leah Cameron and Jhanik Bullard.
I could not have asked for a better room. I have learned SO much about how good television is done. I have learned what it takes to be an EXCELLENT forthcoming, generous, compassionate person who extends that love and generosity to her troops. It has been nothing short of an amazing experience. Morwyn cultivated such a safe space for us all to bring our whole selves – the good and the bad – to the show. We laughed. We cried. We virtually hugged through Zoom. We sent each other gifts often. And most of all, we were patient with each other. The room often felt like therapy, and for a show that tackles the everyday stresses of a coroner with mental health struggles, it was very on brand.
You just won’t get that on any other show.
As a new writer, it can be DAUNTING to speak up in a writers room. Morwyn and her team of titans graciously made me feel like I was welcome to speak and didn’t make me feel dumb if what I had to say totally sucked. I think healthy creative self-esteem is so important; we’re all artists, and we’re sensitive about our shit."
What was a memorable yet life changing moment that you’ve cherished?
"I think there was one day in the room where I talked about my brush with cancer. I talked about the step-by-step experience of it and showed pictures of my journey that I documented back in 2018. It was met with such love, care, and understanding; I felt both seen and heard. There were tears that day. I will never forget it."
Your favourite project you’ve worked on till date?
"I think my favourite project I’ve worked on (and still am) is NO CHURCH IN THE WILD. It’s about Jonestown survivor Leslie Wagner-Wilson, who escaped Jim Jones’s hellscape in Guyana the morning of the massacre in 1978. Reading her book, listening to her speak, and talking with her on the phone has given me such a ferocity in my own life it would be criminal not to amplify her story. My writing partner and I, Richmond Obeng, have been working on this for a years now. We put out an 8-part mini doc series and just let Leslie just talk. She is so vibrant and charismatic, we thought just giving her her time to let her be the auteur of her own story was the way to go. The world needs to know what happened during that time, and who better to tell it than the Black woman who survived?
Our goal is to use that as a calling card for a much larger project. So stay tuned."
Any advice you would give to individuals trying to get where you are?
"Do the work. We’re in a weird place in history where non-BIPOC creative heads actually want to work with us…and (gasp!) LISTEN. But that doesn’t mean you don’t get to do the work. Read the screenwriting books. PA on all the sets. READ ALL THE SCRIPTS YOU CAN GET YOUR HANDS ON. Go to BIPOC TV & Film, LIFT, BWF etc. events and workshops. And don’t just “network”… actually connect with people on a real ass level.
Everyone’s past the fake shit. Especially after a tumultuous year like 2020."
Working on any upcoming projects, we should know about?
"The aforementioned NO CHURCH IN THE WILD, as well as SHADES, a stylized documentary that explores colourism in the Black community through dance and personal stories. It’s been a slow burn, but it’s coming."
With the world’s current state how have you been able to move your career forward?
"It’s weird. This is the first year I’ve been completely debt-free and…not broke. I worked on a FANTASTIC show and learned a TON. I got an award for a film I co-wrote and got into Reelworld Film Festival’s E20 program with amazing mentors. I finally got an agent, and I recently started a production company that I’m looking to get off the ground in the new year. I also managed to stay cancer-free. And yet, with all this, I find it so incredibly hard to celebrate anything. Thousands of people have died this year, Black and Indigenous people are being kidnapped and murdered, and I’m Zoomed all the way out. The exhaustion is real.
I’m trying to reconcile the cognitive dissonance I feel. There has been so much trauma, tragedy and tribulation that I feel almost uncomfortable celebrating my personal wins.
Hopefully, as I reflect during the holidays and the beginning of 2021, I’ll be able to better process the sheer and utter mess of 2020.
Going forward, I hope that Zoom doesn’t become the norm for writers rooms. I hope we’re all able to safely move through productions safely (aka masked and socially distanced). I pushed through the weight of 2020 in hopes that in 2021, I can finally have my chance to shine.
I breathe through it all. Eat and try my best to work out. I try to sleep as much as I can, and play with my puppy, Hodor. It’s a luxury to be able to work in this industry, and a privilege to be healthy and able to balance. I can only hope that things improve for everyone with time."
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