I was interviewing some kids in Winnipeg while researching my play Seesaw, when a teacher told me that one of the more hyper 11 year olds I met had been busted breaking into a house with another 11 year old and a four year old. When the police asked him what he was doing, he replied, “babysitting.”
I became curious about small kids and crime, and asked the CBC’s Jim Burt to commission me to see if there was a story in this. My first phone call was to the Vancouver Police, who told me that there were at least 4 gangs in the city being run by kids under 12. As I peeled the layers, it became obvious that it wasn’t just a story about little criminals, it was about kids falling through the cracks. If Des (played to perfection by Brendan Fletcher) is a monster, he’s our monster—society, poverty and the system created him.
This was my first produced long-form screenplay. Overseen by Brian Freeman at the CBC, produced by the brilliant Phil Savath, the film was 100% financed by the CBC, whose Jim Burt gave me only one note: “Be honest, be real.” The director, Steve Surjik, loved the first draft and allowed few changes, we had an amazing cast and crew and the result was a brilliant movie that still stands up today.
The only sad thing about this film is that due to budget considerations, the music rights (including songs by Courtney Love and Tom Waits) were only acquired for broadcast. So it’s pretty hard to find.
Gemini Award, Leo and WGC Awards for Best Screenplay,
Grand Prize, Geneva; International Critics Award, Monte Carlo
Little Criminals, the casebook
The screenplay for Little Criminals is a fine publication containing storyboards, interviews, photos and much more. Available from Amazon