Children's International Co-Productions

Canadian Screenwriter

Just a note: This article is talking about kids shows that have two production companies working together. I just took out the parts that talk about Shirley. There were pictures with this that I hope to get up on the site soon!

Shirley Holmes is the only all-Canadian co-production. It began with the creative concept of Sherlock Holmes' offspring from the Winklemania in England (the original Shirley was a six-year-old who appeared in a series of children's books) and came into being with Forefront and Credo, creators of the series. This effort feeds into Shirley Productions in which Credo partner Kim Todd produces the show. The story team includes executive story editors Therese Beaupre and Beth Stewart, and writers Susin Nielson (1998 Gemini Award winnier for Best Writing in a Children's or Youth program for the pilot episode), Patricia Finn, Jordan Wheeler and Tony Di Franco. Helena Cynamon, a Forefront partner and Shirley Holmes executive producer, is also indluded in the script approval process.

"The only time writers, or anyone else, can get confused on a co-production is when the creative say is not firmly vested with someone who is representing all the other parties," says Todd. "In our show, I'm that person and I have the trust of Forefront and Credo. I really appreciate Forefront being our partners."

While Shirley Holmes is about the 13-year-old great grandniece of the legendary Sherlock Holmes, there are creative caveats limiting Shirley's ability to emulate her socially unpalatable relative. After all, Sherlock was not the sort to recieve the Michele Landsberg Humanitarian Award for his affection for women or his recreational use of drugs. Shirley has inherited the great detective's logical mind, his capacity for deductive reasoning, and his ability to see the less than obvious. "Shirley is a less introspective and better adjusted Sherlock," says Therese Beaupre.

Beaupre, who has had a lifelong affinity for crime writing, says the series has evolved considerably from its first season, which was more of a homage to Sherlock's adventures. "Now it is a matter of keeping the mysteries accessible to the eight to 13-year-old audience. The motivation in most mysteries come from dark, complex human flaws." While wanting to maintain the integrity of the mystery narrative, Beaupre strives to avoid weighing it down with too much consequence.

Susin Nielson - who wrote the series bible - came to the series after work on De Grassi High, Ready or Not, and Madison. Neilson thought writing a youth-oriented mystery show would be novel in a market dominated by youth thrillers such as Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark?. Shock or green vapours could be replaced with wit, humor, and a play with the balance between good and evil. "It was liberating to write a girl character who was eccentric and never embarrassed to show it," Neilson says. "Shirley is remarkably okay in her own skin."

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