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The Trades TV show creator inspired by personal experience, his family and local tradespeople

Angela Gismondi
The Trades TV show creator inspired by personal experience, his family and local tradespeople
COURTESY OF CRAVE - Robb Wells, who played Ricky on the Trailer Park Boys, plays Todd Stool in the new comedy series The Trades. The series will debut March 22 on Crave.

They have a saying in the film and television industry: Write what you know.

Ryan Lindsay, creator, showrunner, writer and executive producer, did just that when he created a TV comedy series about a group of refinery plant workers called The Trades

“Being born and raised in Sarnia (Ont.), I’m the only artist in my family that hasn’t worked in the trades,” said Lindsay who is the oldest of three boys.

One of his brothers is a pipefitter with Local 663 and the other is a carpenter with Local 1256.

“We’re an artistic family but I think by proximity of being in Sarnia a lot of our family chose to work in the trades,” he explained. “A lot of my friends joined the trades right after high school. My ambitions were in Toronto with the film industry.”

 

The inspiration

He left Sarnia at 23 years old to live in the city. He worked in the industry on smaller film projects and large studio projects in various roles. The Trades was the first show he created of this size to hit broadcast television.

“I had other projects produced but this is by far the largest and in my mind the most important,” said Lindsay.

He recalls the “aha moment” when it all came together.

“At family dinners we would always end up talking about my brothers’ days because of the crazy jobs, the nicknames, the rumours, just all of the humour and comedy that comes along with them working in such a hazardous environment,” said Lindsay. “I feel that comedy counteracts that. They call it a second high school for a reason. It really intrigued me. It started with conversations with my brothers and then we expanded the circle to friends of my brothers.”

 

How it came to fruition

About five years ago, he received a small grant from the Canada Media Fund.

“I filmed a two-minute demo, a teaser, in Sarnia with tradespeople and other local performers from the theatre,” Lindsay recalled. “We shot it in an industrial area and utilized a trailer…While that demo was being edited, I took it upon myself to start interviewing tradesmen and tradeswomen and up to today it’s over 200 people I’ve sat down with and interviewed.”

Creator, writer and executive producer Ryan Lindsay (left) with his brothers Tyson and Kellan on the set of The Trades in Hamilton, Ont. The brothers, who work in the trades, were brought on as consultants.
RYAN LINDSAY – Creator, writer and executive producer Ryan Lindsay (left) with his brothers Tyson and Kellan on the set of The Trades in Hamilton, Ont. The brothers, who work in the trades, were brought on as consultants.

He was inspired by those stories and experiences.

“I had a pilot script that I thought was in a really good place and then started working with Bell,” Lindsay said. “After that I ended up meeting Robb Wells through the industry who played Ricky on the Trailer Park Boys. He read the pilot and watched the demo and really took to it.

“I flew out east to meet the rest of the Trailer Park Boys and Gary, the producer, and then it just became an immediate partnership,” Lindsay stated. “The partnership is my company Kontent House Productions and Trailer Park Boys.”

The show is set in a fictional maritime town called Imperial Valley. The majority of the scenes were filmed in Nova Scotia, mainly Dartmouth and Halifax and the exteriors were shot in Hamilton.

“In Dartmouth we filmed at Nova Scotia Community College,” said Lindsay. “The Akerley campus is a trades school. They have multiple welding shops, they have all the facilities…It was a perfect double for a refinery.

“We had these very skilled faculty members that were able to train our cast on how to weld and how to properly and safely hold tools and help us sell that authenticity,” he said.

His brothers were consultants on the show and they also brought in other experts in the field.

“In the Hamilton days we brought on 20 or 25 other trades consultants,” Lindsay explained. “One of the best welders in the Chemical Valley in Sarnia, he drove his welding rig up and he was welding on camera.”

As for the premise of the show, Wells plays the main character, Todd Stool, a seasoned pipefitter who has aspirations to become site manager at Conch Industries.

“He comes from a family of tradespeople,” Lindsay said. “His dad is a retired carpenter and his sister is living with him and is kind of trying to figure out her life in her mid-30s. She’s tired of working dead end jobs so she joins the Carpenters’ Union like her father and follows in her father’s footsteps, so we get the apprenticeship angle from the female perspective as well.

“We’ve got this brilliant ensemble cast that make up Todd’s crew. You’ve got the pipefitters, carpenters, engineer, electricians, we’ve got all the disciplines of the trades in there at various capacities but we touch on the working dynamic between the disciplines of trades which it’s got positives but there is also spiciness.”

The ensemble cast includes Audrey (Anastasia Phillips, Moonshine), Rod (Patrick McKenna, The Red Green Show), Bennett’s (Tom Green, The Tom Green Show) and Chelsea (Jennifer Spence, You Me Her), among others.

The series will debut on Crave March 22 and two episodes will be released every week. When asked if they will be filming more episodes, Lindsay said, “We have enough content and ideas for 20 seasons based off of these interviews and my family.”

Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.

Recent Comments (1 comments)

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Great article, in particular about the efforts made to give the show an authentic feel. Would love to hear thoughts from industry leaders like “skilled trades ontario” to hear their thoughts on the show’s existence potentially giving the trades a credibility boost with students.

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