It wasn’t long after Tihemme Gagnon graduated from the Writing for Film & Television program that she began to find success in the industry. Before VFS, she had already weathered three years in the Canadian Forces, during which time she became one of the first women to earn a top candidate award for a combat arms course.
The entertainment industry couldn’t be that much harder, right?
Now an instructor in the VFS Writing department, Tihemme has written for such locally produced series as X-Weighted and Crash Test Mommy, and has also produced or acted in a number of shorts.
Her writing continues to get noticed on the international stage. As we recently posted, she was in the running for the top spot in the Page International Screenwriting Awards‘ original TV Drama Pilot category. The results are out now and Tihemme has won gold!
4,412 scripts in total were submitted to the Page Awards this year. According to their website, Gold Prize winners will receive $1,000 cash as well as memberships, subscriptions, and gift certificates to industry services and publications. Perhaps the biggest prize though, is the cred Tihemme has gained in winning her category and the attention that is sure to follow.
So what’s the script about? In Tihemme’s words, “The Last Gate” follows a Metis military prisoner who is transferred to a remote, one-of-a-kind civilian women’s prison camp as the newest member of an all-inmate disaster response crew.
“While serving with the Canadian Forces in the early 1990s,” Tihemme says, “I was also a volunteer at various Canadian federal penitentiaries. As a Métis raised in both non-native and First Nations communities, my parents were somehow able to insulate me from any racial strife that may have stemmed from my mixed heritage.”
“So it was quite alarming as an adult to walk into this volatile environment where loyalties were divided on the basis of race, and aboriginals frequently made up more than half the prison population. In this gang-driven world of ‘us and them’, where would someone with my lineage fit in? What would it take for a Métis woman like Holly [the series' protagonist] – a military prisoner with no race-based loyalties to her fellow inmates - to survive in a place like Camp Assiniboine? Identity and redemption are what ’The Last Gate’ is all about.”
When asked how this win might affect her already well-established career, Tihemme was optimistic:
“Since first developing ’The Last Gate‘ as a student in the VFS Writing Program (where I now work as an instructor), I’ve pitched this show in its various incarnations to quite a few producers and all four major Canadian broadcasters. All of them turned it down. So I shelved it and moved on to other projects, dredging it up occasionally to submit to a handful of competitions.”
“When I saw the Page Awards results, I was surprised. This is a significant U.S.-based competition and ‘The Last Gate‘ is unapologetically Canadian, and some might say ‘niche’. It was kind of bittersweet, too, because even though it’s fantastic to be validated as a writer, there was little hope the show would ever get made here at home.”
“But then, since the announcement, my dream director, a couple of reputable Canadian production houses, and one of those four broadcasters reached out, all requesting to see the script again. So, who knows?”
Congrats, Tihemme! We hope to see The Last Gate soon!