Currently in L.A. executive producing season one of the upcoming series, Ten Days in the Valley, Stephenville native Sherry White is surrounded by Oscar buzz for Maudie, a love story starring the ineffable Sally Hawkins as Nova Scotian artist Maud Lewis and Ethan Hawke as her rough-and-tumble husband Everett.
For penning Maudie, White already hooked the 36thAtlantic Film Festival’s Best Atlantic Screenwriting Award and a Writers Guild of Canada Screenwriting Award.
“I had just left Paramount Studios where we are filming Ten Days in the Valley,” White recalls about the WGC win. “I turned onto the 101 when the first text came in from my agent Lesley Harrison. I snuck a peak at that. But then my phone kept dinging with friends who were at the awards letting me know. I had to try to keep my eyes off the phone.”
Directed by Aisling Walsh and shot in Newfoundland with Mary Sexton as the local producer, Canadian distributor Mongrel Media released Maudie in national theatres in April.Thanks to Sony Pictures Classics, it hits U.S. theatres and other foreign territories later this year.
White’s long journey from page to screen began in 2004.
“I didn’t have a clue what I was at for the longest time, it being the first time I’d ever tried to write something based on a real person,” White says. “At first, I thought I had to include every fact I learned and somehow jam it into some chronological timeline. I tried for a long time to tell the story of her life. Then, after a number of years of writing something that just seemed like a string of scenes, I started to work with a director who came on as a consultant.”
That consultant was French-Canadian director Jean-François Pouliot, whose credits include La grande séduction (2003), the original French inspiration for The Grand Seduction (2013).
“At some point, he asked me if I wanted to write a life story or a love story,” White continues. “And I realized at that point that the story I was most connected to with Maud was the love story, how love that didn’t look like love could still be love, and that it took Everett being loved for him to learn to feel love.”
While collaborating, White and Pouliot began a relationship that proved how life and art are often inextricably linked.
“I worked with Jean-Francois on the script off and on for years and ended up in a relationship with him for four years,” White says. “Eventually, we split up, he left the project, and the film kept evolving. But there was a lot of discussion about love and relationships and attachment during the evolution of this script.”
With Maudie racking up awards and rave reviews, White is set for this fall’s ABC premiere of creator Tassie Cameron’s Ten Days in the Valley. It stars Kyra Sedgwick as an overworked television producer and single mother who navigates the disappearance of her daughter and the implosion of her controversial police series.
“It’s a different kind of show, and it’s scary because until an audience watches it, you don’t really know what you have on your hands,” White says. “Audiences may or may not connect with it. Who knows? But the making of it has been a complete joy.”