“Every production is an opportunity to learn” – Shawn Linden

20 for the 20th – Reel Career Profile Series: Shawn Linden

Shawn Linden is a Canadian writer, director and producer. Born and raised in Winnipeg, he began his career in the local film industry in the art department. Since then, he has written over 30 produced screenplays for both film and TV, and is currently working on directing and producing his third feature film, Hunter Hunter, starring Devon Sawa and Nick Stahl.

When and how did you start in the media production industry?
I wrote my first optioned screenplay in 1999 while I was still in school, but I joined the local film and TV industry around 2002-2003, thanks to the Winnipeg Film Group and Film Training Manitoba.

What area of the film industry do you work in now and why?
At the moment, I’m in post-production on my third film, Hunter Hunter. I wrote and directed that, but I’ve spent most of my time in past few years as a screenwriter. I like it because I can work at my own pace, and lead a fairly unstructured life. Before that, I spent many years in the sets and props department. I like still having the option to work on-set every now and then, because writing is solitary work and I really enjoy being around creative people.

What has been a substantial change in the industry since you started?
I was around before the digital/HD wave, back when everything was still shot on film and continuity photos were dozens of Polaroids on a big ring flopping around on your belt. That and the recent emergence of streaming media, those would be the two big changes to the industry.

If today you could give yourself advice in the past, what would it be?
I would remind myself of the potential for creative fulfillment in every production, at every level of the hierarchy. Whether you’re rising through the lower ranks, or taking jobs you’re not particularly excited about, every production is an opportunity to learn something new.

How did taking FTM training affect your career?
FTM was integral in the early stages of my career. Their training programs and workshops provided skills that have helped me through every stage of my development. I walked in off the street, and they provided a step-by-step path into the local industry, right up to arranging my first job as a trainee in the art department.

What is advice you would give to someone starting off in the media production industry?
Never act grumpy around other people.

What are some of the films, TV series or even books that have inspired you? How about anything new you’ve been into?
I grew up reading old gloomy philosophy and French poetry, and I go back to it pretty often. The Dark Crystal will always be my favourite movie. Reservoir Dogs is the film that made me want to be a filmmaker. Harakiri is the closest I can think of to a perfectly made film. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series is my favourite work that hasn’t been turned into a movie or TV yet. Black Mirror is a great TV series. Parasite is the best movie I’ve seen recently.

Is there something about you or an interesting past experience that you’d like to share with your colleagues?
On my first job on a film set, I had to mop a ballet dance floor while the cameras were setting up, and I came across Patrick Swayze lying unconscious on the floor. I went over and told the Assistant Director, who told me to mop around him, so I did. On my second job, I accidentally set off 20 thousand dollars worth of fireworks.