Saturday, 30 October 2010

Waiting for the call...

In twenty minutes, I'm due to be interviewed by Skype by a New York based network called Family network about the origins of my series PUNKY.

I'm as nervous as a kitten and it's ridiculous! It's not as if I don't know the answers - I only spent three years developing Punky and her world!

Fortunately, I don't even have a webcam - I barely have Skype! - , so I don't have to worry about what I look like. And I am so happy to have an opportunity to talk about this idea that I lived with and sweated over and fought for and which is finally in production.

So where did it come from? There were germs sown when my sister Karen, an occupational therapist in the Central Remedial Clinic would bring children home that had special needs. One autistic boy smashed my little red kettle. I couldn't understand why the rules were different for him than for me.

Then there was the fact that my mother made no secret of the fact that she worried all through the pregnancy that there might be something wrong with me. She had seven other children. She was 46 and a quarter when I was born. She was told I'd be a fool or a genius. She always said she hadn't made up her mind yet!

In more recent years a friend of mine told me stories about her younger brother, David, who had Down's syndrome. I loved them. I loved his perspective of the world. The way he interpreted it and could make the mundane, make things we take for granted, fresh and new.

My partner has a son who is severely autistic. My daughter was six when they met and she really didn't know what to expect. She tried to make him notice her, to talk to him, but she was a child and under his radar. It's only in the last ten months that he has registered her and she has been so thrilled every time - when he stopped after she called him, when he almost-sort-of 'hugged' her! -, when he pointed out that we were leaving her behind. He knew she was one of the family.

But the relationship he and his sister have is really special. I've never seen anyone so loved as he is and he is mad about her. It's probably because of her that he hugs and loves to be cuddled - on his terms.

But it's not easy being the sibling of a child with special needs and I decided I wanted to explore that relationship. Honestly, with humour and in a way that would make children more accepting of difference. They begin that way. It's only as they get older that they become judgemental.

But I also wanted to tell stories, to create a world, from her perspective. I wanted her to be the lead, I wanted her to decide how we interpreted the world and what was happening in it.

And so Punky, albeit in a slightly different incarnation, began. She emerged in a very funny animated short that hasn't been made yet. Then she dived into a live action/ cgi film script but there were too many stories in it for it to work fully. When I started toying with the TV series element, I knew I wanted it to be funny, to be honest, to be imaginative and to fell real, albeit as a cartoon. As children enjoyed the entertainment, they would be learning to accept difference.

The Irish Film Board weighed in with their support in the form of a Development Loan in 2007. I worked with Barbara Slade (Rugrats, Angelina Ballerina) as script consultant and then worked with Aidan Hickey for a while. But it was a hard one to get right - to work as a commercially attractive series a producer would feel able to make, and yet live up to everything I wanted from it.

Gerard O'Rourke of Monster liked the sound of it and the talks began. He supported it long after another producer would have turned tail and run because he really, really believed in it. Jason Tammemagi liked it too and came on as Director and so the saga began to roll towards the full scale production that is taking place now.

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