The Mother of All Degrassi
By Linda Schuyler
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 ... Read more
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.
Linda Schuyler is the executive producer and co-creator of over 500 episodes of the multi-award-winning Degrassi television franchise. She is a mentor and guest lecturer and maintains an active involvement in community and professional organizations. Linda is a member of both the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario. She lives with her husband, Stephen Stohn, and Scottish Fold cats in Toronto, Ontario.
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 sun is lemon yellow and looks warmer than it is. Inside, it’s Q & A time. Earlier today I gave 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. I have just finished my second lecture, “The Degrassi Story,” which focused on the origins and cultural impact of my life’s work and passion: the Degrassi franchise.
Right now, I am enjoying the conversations that have me 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 Degrassi’s goal of being fearless about subject matter, without ever sensationalizing or trivializing. 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 told earlier: 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 Fitz 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
“Linda cast me in my first major television role — Craig on Degrassi: The Next Generation — and I owe so much to her. I was blown away by her book. Linda shares the origin story of a TV show that paved the way for a young Canadian industry and countless careers. It offered encouragement to millions of fans worldwide. Written with immense honesty, her life story is filled with wisdom, comforting anecdotes, and heartbreak and is a must-read for fans of the Degrassi franchise. ” — Jake Epstein, actor, playwright
“I thought I knew everything about the creation of this show, but The Mother of All Degrassi took me on a trip into the real nitty-gritty of birthing an iconic television hit. Not only a fun, exciting, emotional read but a time capsule into the early days of guerrilla television in Canada. There aren’t many stories of success like Linda’s, and to know that I was a small part of it gave me goosebumps. Now I know what all the adults around me were doing when I was thirteen! The circle is complete, and what a wonderful way to learn about it. ” — Stefan Brogren, actor, director
“A fascinating glimpse into the life of an iconic Canadian television producer whose creative vision revolutionized the way the world makes TV and film for and about teenagers. It’s also the rarely told story of a woman struggling to process her own infertility, while making it in a man’s world on her terms and introducing audiences to storytelling on hot button social issues others weren’t courageous enough to tackle. ” — Zoe Whittall, screenwriter, author of the bestselling novel The Best Kind of People
“Linda Schuyler’s memoir is a portrait of passion, strength, and courage — a gutsy tribute to a creative life of vision and tenacity. Her career trajectory is a road map for young women who yearn to take charge, touch people, and leave a mark. With her finger on the pulse of youth culture, Linda’s dogged determination as an innovative storyteller gave birth to the whole Degrassi phenomenon and a homegrown entertainment platform that helped change lives. ” — Jeanne Beker, journalist, TV personality, author
Tell us what you think!
Sign Up or Sign In to add your review or comment.