I sometimes envy people who have a hard center, people who are emotionally numb to the world’s horror; as a highly-emotional man the hardest thing about my life these days is living it.
Ironically, I often find myself seeking out outlets for my emotions, despite the toll they may have on me; books, artwork, videos (of a certain nature, of course) and most of all, television. In my house, television is not just a medium… it is a religion.
TV brings us together. We gather to watch meteorologists try to predict the weather – and fail miserably. We gather to see watch newscasters attempt to explain the chaos dominating the current political landscape. And of course we gather to watch programs that both entertain and hopefully, if the writing staff has done their job effectively, enlighten.
And this brings us to today’s guest, Dan Trotta. As one of the newest members of the Murdoch Mysteries writing staff, Dan is responsible for helping to create one of the most poignant, moving and entertaining episodes in the show’s eleven season run, Dr. Osler Regrets.
Once a starving playwright and then a teacher at the college level, Dan eventually took a crash course in script writing at the storied institute known as the National Screen Institute, which led him to a position reading and tweaking scripts for Montreal’s Muse Entertainment. That in turn led him to the Canadian Film Centre, which led young Dan to secure an agent (he eventually untied said agent once they signed a contract) before doing the writing thing full time.
Dan Trotta wrote a few Lifetime movies, shopping lists, love letters to Bea Arthur, and a few other things before landing a producing/writing gig on the groundbreaking series, Blood and Water. After his bookie signed over a gambling debt to MM showrunner, Peter Mitchell, Dan joined the Murdoch writing staff.
The rest is 5×5 history. Mixed with a heavy dose of my unique “creative license” of course. The truth is, I’m sure Dan himself would tell you that his past is irrelevant; it’s the present that matters. And that present, kids, is glorious. Murdoch Mysteries has evolved over the past decade to become one of the most polished, well-constructed (on all levels from writing to set design) programs on television in any country or platform.
Dr. Osler Regrets forced Murdoch’s Inspector Thomas Brackenreid to question his own mortality and the viewer was right there with him every step of the way. That’s the power of television at it’s purest, friends; when we share a fictional character’s journey and apply it to our real lives. I demand more of my TV choices; I want to watch programs that make me feel something, and Dan’s scribery more than fits the bill.
And now it’s time to turn things over to today’s honored guest.
ONE) You have a theatre background, specifically in playwriting; have you seen Hamilton? (My daughter, a Broadway fanatic, especially when it comes to all things “Lin”, threatened to disown me if I didn’t lead with that question.)
I haven’t seen Hamilton! I’d love to, but tickets are difficult to come by from what I know.
(Actually, they’re easy to get online. It’s paying for them that’s not exactly difficult… it’s painful. But my daughter will tell you that it was the best two grand she ever spent.)
TWO) Do you enjoy the challenge of adapting your writing style to a show like Murdoch Mysteries that often merges historical fact and fiction?
It is a real challenge, and I do enjoy it.
I think the most difficult part of the transition has been getting used to the actual cases, and how those are revealed. There’s a very specific way it’s done, and that is definitely the most challenging part. Luckily the other writers are geniuses so I’ve had great teachers 😉
(Diplomacy/forging strong relationships is an art form and Dan is mastering them quickly it seems.)
THREE) You work in turn-of-the-century Toronto but modern-day TO is your ‘hood; what’s your favorite GTA restaurant?
There’s a place I always go back to, and it’s not even all that close to me. It’s called 7 Numbers, near Avenue and Eglinton. There are actually two locations, but the one on Eglinton is run by the mom, while the other is owned by the son, I believe. It’s completely non pretentious – just good, authentic Italian food. Highly recommended.
FOUR) This is your first season, but as a scribe have you developed a fondness for a particular MM character?
Well, I’ve found something to enjoy/latch on to in just about every character, but I think Brackenreid is the most fun to write for, at least in terms of dialogue.
I’ve always liked the gruff, no nonsense style of his. Also “bloody hell” is just a great way to get out of a scene – but I’ve had to pull back on those. I think I used it 4 or 5 times in the first draft of the Osler script. I was gently informed that it was way too many.
(Not as far as I’m concerned.)
“Who the bloody hell is this ‘Hook’ fellow, Murdoch? And what the bloody hell is a ‘blog’?”
FIVE) Writers often look at feature films differently than the average viewer. If you could rewrite any film, from any era or genre, what would it be?
Another great question.
Off the top of my head…I’d say there are a few scenes in Touch of Evil that could use a rewrite, if only to make it an even more perfect film. I’m sure I’ll write you back in ten minutes with a completely different answer, though.
(Sadly, I couldn’t wait. Time is money after, all. What? I don’t get paid to blog? Shut up.)
I want to thank Dan for being here in a virtual sense today. As a failed, hack writer I envy Dan Trotta more than I can ever articulate, especially since Murdoch Mysteries is my favorite show of all time. In case you hadn’t noticed.
See you in the lobby and on the CBC, kiddies…