When Bec Pecaut’11 was 14, they saw the classic coming-of-age film Juno, written by breakout screenwriter Diablo Cody. “I was so taken with it I turned to my dad and said, 'I want to do that.’”
Now a working screenwriter themself in Los Angeles and Toronto, Pecaut recently took to Branksome Hall’s social media, with a casting call for their directorial debut, a short film that will serve as a “calling card” for a full-length film featuring their award-winning script, The Terrible Child.
The script is a labour of love, revised through 60 drafts over a seven-year process. Having lost their father to cancer when they were 16, Pecaut’s tumultuous experience of grief, loss and exploration furnishes the script’s terrain.
“High school is supposed to be this time where you’re absorbed by school, friends and social life,” explains Pecaut. “I didn’t want to be different from my friends so I had two versions of myself; at home I had a horrible, angry period as a reaction to grief, a feeling of how unfair it was, and that caused a lot of guilt and shame.”
It wasn’t until their graduating year, as a member of the inaugural IB Film class with teacher Jillian Strimas, that Pecaut won the Film award and was given a little taste of the “encouragement to maybe go out and do it.”
Having graduated from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study with a self-titled degree in “Storytelling,” Pecaut went on to complete their MFA at the University of Southern California’s School for Cinematic Arts in the Writing for Screen and Television program. There, their script for The Terrible Child received the Jack Oakie Endowed Scholarship for Comedy in Film and made it to the semi-finals of the 2018 Slamdance Screenplay Competition in Los Angeles and the 2020 Showtime Tony Cox Screenplay Competition in New York.
As part of their longtime interest exploring girlhood and queer cinema, Pecaut is concerned with what they call “alternative stories of girlhood and coming of age,” citing such films as Ladybird and also Moonlight as inspiration.
“That age is a time when your emotions are extremely private and we were taught not to express them,” they say. “So there’s a sense of duality and no room for anger or more negative feelings, and no space to represent them. So in my work I am mining alternatives.”
With production starting in September, the script is currently in development with OPC Productions in Toronto and will shoot in their childhood home.