English and French studies grad wins best screenwriter award

The award for best screenwriter at Sudbury’s 2009 Northern Ontario Music & Film Awards went to Glendon grad Amanda McLachlan Darling on April 25 for her original, feature-length screenplay Pieces, which has yet to be produced.

McLachlan Darling recently moved to Sudbury from Toronto to be with her husband. "I’m thrilled that in this northern mining community there is a place for art,” she said in an interview with The Sudbury Star. “And if there is art, there is a place for me."

She is an unusual combination of academic and athlete. She holds an Honours double major BA in English and French studies from York’s Keele campus (2003) and was awarded the Bryce M. Taylor Award, which is presented to the female athlete within the interuniversity sport program who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, enthusiasm for life and the consideration of others. Last year she also earned a master’s degree in French studies from Glendon with a specialization in literature. “I have a passion for stories and storytelling, although linguistics holds a strong appeal as well. The Glendon master’s program allowed me to deepen my knowledge of literature as well as explore my interest in linguistics.”

Left: Amanda McLachlan Darling

McLachlan Darling has been writing since childhood. Her mother kept her early pieces, recognizing that she had a way with words. She wrote her first novel at the age of 15 – according to her “a really bad version of Lord of the Flies” – and her first screenplay shortly after – “a really bad script for ‘Star Trek’.”

“Once I realized that I could not be a professional dreamer, I chose to be a writer instead,” she jokes.

With her strong inclination towards dialogue and visuals, the choice of screenwriting seemed a perfect fit. When a small independent film producer was looking for low-budget scripts, McLachlan Darling developed a story focusing on a girl who wanted breast implants, babysitting a boy who needed a heart transplant. The result, Change of Heart, is currently in post-production with Sterling Productions in Elora, Ont.

McLachlan Darling’s own story is connected to York all the way. She met her husband, John Recoskie (LLB ’07) through the York fencing club. They were married in December 2006. She was still finishing her MA when he got a job offer with a law firm in his hometown of Sudbury. McLachlan Darling complements her writing time with teaching part time at Collège Boréal and Laurentian University. She had not considered teaching as a career choice, but learned to love it through an exchange program organized by York’s undergraduate Department of French Studies, working as an English-language assistant in Pau, France, for two years.

She wrote Pieces when she was new to Sudbury and, as with all of her works, it has an autobiographical component. “My husband was gone all day, working the long hours required of junior lawyers, and I was alone in a strange environment. Pieces shows that isolation, but in a different setting. Cali, my main character, is just as unsure of her future and her identity as I was at the time. At the end of the film, just like at the end of my journey with this award, Cali has a better sense of who she is and where she belongs.”

As for her next steps, several production companies are reading Pieces and considering it for filming. As a low-budget film, it has a better chance of seeing the light of day, but it is set in Sudbury in the winter, and a lot of the scenes take place outdoors. “I’m thankful that I’m the writer and won’t have to stand outside all day in -20 C weather,” she laughs.

Submitted to YFile by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny