Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller, Drama
A new Dexter spin-off series: Dexter’s now in Canada running
a private forensics agency looking for missing persons; their
captors his new target. When an annoying teenager keeps
pestering him for a job, Dexter gets distracted and misses
his chance on a kill, but when his biggest fan intercepts and
does the kill for him.
Narrator: Sean Ballantyne
Dexter: Christopher Huron
Gabe: Brandon Nicoletti
Roop: Rais Moui
Arty: Neil Bennett
Yuri: Daniella Zappala
Mae Ling: Connie Wang
Get to know the winning writer:
What is your TV spec screenplay about?
D for Dexter, originally titled ‘D’, is a spin-off on the original Dexter series, which has Dexter living in Vancouver, Canada, ten years after the events of the season finale. Dexter’s now running a private detective/forensics agency looking for missing persons while hunting ‘monsters’ to satiate his Dark Passenger. In the pilot, an annoying teenager keeps pestering him for a job, constantly distracting Dexter from his target. When he suspects the teenager of knowing his secret, of knowing his past life in Miami, he zeros in on the teenager… but is shocked to discover the teenager is his son Harrison—a chip off the old block.
How does this spin-off fit into the context of the Dexter character and series?
As mentioned it’s about ten years after the events of the season finale. It has Dexter hiding in Canada under an alias doing what he does best. Vancouver’s cold, and rainy, unlike Miami, but it’s still got the water which is a Dexter motif, and Dexter’s back in the mix with a new cast of RCMP officers and forensics investigators. What’s more, I brought back Deb, who is now a figment of Dexter’s imagination. Talking or debating with Deb is Dexter’s way of working through his guilt for what happened to her as well as reconciling his actions toward Harrison. Dexter thinks about Deb so much that he even begins to curse like her now and then in his inner monologue. It’s a subtle tweak to his voice, but it clearly illustrates Dexter had a human side beyond his Dark Passenger. It shows Dexter was an empathetic human being before a traumatic experience gave psychic birth to his Dark Passenger. Throughout the seasons Dexter constantly struggles with his Dark Passenger using Harry’s code to help him. The thing Dexter needed to do was overcome his Dark Passenger or in the very least create his own code. That never really materialized in the series. In fact, it seemed like the opposite happened in the season finale which was confusing in a series that seemed to be about Dexter’s conscious or unconscious need to rebel against his father’s teachings and seize control of his Dark Passenger to reconnect with his humanity. The ending of the Dexter series was a little bit like watching Pinocchio with the alternate ending where Pinocchio never becomes real and dies. In this spin-off, we are dealing with a new Dexter. Dexter has now officially developed his own code and is in control of his Dark Passenger. The only thing missing in his life now is an authentic human relationship. His life drastically changes when teenage Harrison seeks Dexter out and Dexter discovers Harrison is carrying his own Dark Passenger as a result of the trauma he experienced as a child. The spin-off respects what fans loved about the original format yet it has its own approach and tone as we follow an evolved Dexter in the role of an absentee father who is given a second chance. In this series, Dexter ultimately becomes ‘Harry’ which raises the question: Will Dexter be any different than his father? Will he define his son as a monster through a code that robs him of his humanity and individuality and turns him into an instrument of vigilante justice? Or will he do something else altogether? All good questions.
How would you describe this script in two words?
Character Focused. The spin-off is much less about the gore and spectacle and much more about how Dexter reconnects with his human side through his son.
What TV show do you keep watching over and over again?
There are countless shows but if I had to pick one I’d say: Six Feet Under.
How long have you been working on this screenplay?
Three months off and on during the twilight hours when my kids are asleep.
How many stories have you written?
Several. I actually started writing in high school. Way back in the nineties I wrote my first novella, Lions of the Sea, based on the story of the Komagata Maru. I adapted it for the big screen in 2005 and now it’s actually winning awards in the festival circuit including Best Feature. That’s always a good feeling. Truth is, I love storytelling, and I love storytelling in multiple mediums such as the novel, film, and games. Each medium brings to the story unique strengths, advantages, and opportunities. To my mind, the most challenging and rewarding is the interactive medium of video games. I have been a designer and ‘Show-runner’ for some of the best games ever produced including Splinter Cell, Tomb Raider, Prince of Persia and Batman. There is nothing like designing interactive narrative systems and leading a team of writers on a game project. One game project could take up to five years to complete with over thirty thousand script pages depending on how systemic the game is. The almost endless possibilities of story and story permutations within a game are what make this medium so attractive and challenging. It’s just too bad game writers like comic book writers of the sixties and seventies still have to prove their medium is a valid one.
What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)
It’s a tie between Violetta Parra’s ‘Gracias a La Vida’ and Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a Wonderful World’.
What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?
Choosing the vehicle character. I had a lot of friends suggesting I do the spin-off from Harrison’s point-of-view to create a greater separation from the original series. I didn’t think that was necessary. True, spin-offs generally deal with other characters and new situations. But this has both, just not blatantly. This is an evolved Dexter whose humanity seems to have taken control of his Dark Passenger. He’s Harry to Harrison and that is a new situation unlike anything we’ve seen before. How does Dexter take the lessons he learned with his Dark Passenger and pass it on to Harrison? My friends all had their own take on a Dexter spin-off series. Some didn’t think one was necessary and liked the way the original series ended. I personally felt a little cheated and disappointed. Audiences deserved epic, memorable and meaningful after that huge investment of time in Dexter. I don’t feel that happened. A show’s climax is usually the ultimate expression of its main theme. I’m not sure that by Season 8 all writers were aligned on Dexter’s main theme. For me, the main theme was always the struggle between Dexter’s humanity and his Dark Passenger and that theme seemed flawlessly respected up to Season 4. After that the show seemed to be pulling the thematic chariot in multiple directions. Truth is, I’ve got ‘D for Dexter’ planned as a Daedalus and Icarus tragedy. Harrison will get way over his head with a cult of high society killers. The climatic finale will have killers, plural, closing in on father and son with a massive manhunt led by corrupt cops. The climax will be a moment that will unequivocally express Dexter’s humanity and therefore his triumph over his Dark Passenger and it will also express the new theme of ‘D for Dexter’. Namely: a parent’s love defies all even death. Killers. Corrupt Cops. Sacrifice. That’s the way to close the book on a character like Dexter.
Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
Films, games, teaching Tae Kwon Do and raising my children.
What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?
A friend sent me a link to the festival because he knew I had written several spec scripts in the past. I tapped into the link and enjoyed the productions and thought I’d try my luck with my Dexter spin-off. The feedback like all feedback is invaluable. Even if you just get one good suggestion that improves the script it is worth the investment. A few minor adjustments are often the difference between good and great. I often submit scripts to several editors or readers for feedback in order to take my scripts to the next level of polish.
Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
Write what you are passionate about. If you’re not sure what that is, then take your favorite TV series or game and write a spec script within the series. You may not be able to sell it but it shows skills in storytelling and displays knowledge of the characters, format, and tone.
Producer: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com
Director: Kierston Drier
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne
Editor: John Johnson
Camera Operator: Mary Cox