When a young schoolteacher decides to teach her Grade 8 class about filmmaking and creates a documentary that ends up being broadcast internationally, she sets in motion a career of storytelling for an age group largely ignored by TV executives … and creates one of the most-loved television franchises of all time
Includes fabulous behind-the-scenes photos and stories for Degrassi fans
Linda Schuyler, co-creator and executive producer of the long-running Degrassi series, shares her personal stories about the grit and determination necessary to make it as a woman entrepreneur in the bourgeoning independent Canadian television industry of the early 1980s.
After surviving a near-fatal car accident in 1968, Linda found her life continuing to veer in unexpected directions, ultimately leading her to use her innate abilities as an educator to become a successful storyteller and businesswoman.
Linda’s deep fondness for teenagers has made her a champion for adolescents. In The Mother of All Degrassi, she shares her strong belief that television is all about the story, and a good story is all about making the political personal. Through anecdotes and introspection — and some great behind-the-scenes stories for Degrassi fans — Linda examines her philosophy to dream big, think small, meet life head-on, and always keep an open heart.
About the author
LINDA SCHUYLER, a former grade 8 schoolteacher, produced and co-created the multi-award winning Degrassi series including The Kids of Degrassi Street, Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High.
Excerpt: The Mother of All Degrassi: A Memoir (by (author) Linda Schuyler)
January 28, 2020.
In a converted 1940s movie theatre, I am looking out at row upon row of upturned faces. Wilfrid Laurier University has invited me to speak to students at their Brantford campus as part of their “People Make History” series. Outside, the midday sun is lemon yellow and looks warmer than it is. Inside, I have just finished my first talk—“Head On … Reflections on Life”—about my childhood as a British immigrant growing up in small town Ontario, my teen years during the 1960s, my work as a junior high school teacher, and my long career in the film and television industry. My second lecture this evening is titled “The Degrassi Story” and will focus on the origins and cultural impact of my life’s work and passion: the Degrassi franchise.
Right now, though, it’s question time and I am enjoying the conversation. I am also reflecting on how my filmmaking life has simultaneously been a teaching life, spent with and for young people. For years, I shied away from identifying as a schoolteacher, wrongly thinking of it as a second-class job, an irony that isn’t lost on me in this brightly lit lecture theatre. Then a student asks me if there is a simple theme that resonates through each episode and every Degrassi series.
I think for a moment. I’ve already waxed eloquently (I hope) about youth empowerment and the inclusive Degrassi message that “you are not alone.” I’ve discussed our goal to be fearless about subject matter, though never sensational or trivial. I’ve talked about the importance of celebrating diversity and have mentioned the cornerstone of each story: that young people make their own choices and live with the consequences. These are all ideas I have articulated many times: in boardrooms, production studios, outdoor cafés, and press interviews. But there is, I realize, something else. There is my own story that I have just finished telling: how, as an eight-year-old immigrant to Canada, I was mocked and tormented by my Grade 3 classmates. My plummy British accent was constantly mimicked.
Ohhh, listen to Limey Linda — slimy, Limey Linda.
Need to go to the loo, Lindy Loo? Ha, ha, ha!
And worse, they would chant, “Hey, Brit girl. Yes, you, shit girl. Go back to where you came from.”
Recalling these voices, I shudder slightly, even sixty-five years later. Then I think of the numerous Degrassi bullying stories I have told over the years: Joey with Yick and Arthur; Dwayne and Tabi with Joey; the mean girls and Spike; Spinner with Rick; Craig and his dad; Paige with Manny and Ashley; Holly J. and everyone; Bianca, Owen, and Fritz with Adam; Maya and cyberbullies; Lola and the shamers … the list goes on.
There’s an expectant hush in the air as I collect my thoughts.
Finally I say, “I consider Degrassi to be probably the world’s longest running anti-bullying campaign.”
“The Mother of All Degrassis is a must-read for fans of the show. Just as Degrassi did, Linda’s story will inspire readers everywhere. Her decades-long persistence and passion will be a guiding light for any budding storyteller seeking to break into the world of television and film.” — Michael Grassi, TV writer and executive producer, Riverdale and Supergirl