After writing several short films Chris Squadrito hit the big time with credits on Hoodlum Entertainment’s Tidelands and Goalpost Pictures’ Fighting Season.
Now the 27-year-old aims to maintain the momentum as he develops TV dramas with Essential Media Group and Princess Pictures as well as writing a feature screenplay.
He began his career as a development assistant to Ian Collie and Rachael Turk at Essential Media while completing a Masters in Screenwriting at the Australian Film Television and Radio School in 2013.
During three and a half years at Essential he met Hoodlum’s Leigh McGrath and Stephen M. Irwin, who subsequently hired him to work on Netflix’s Tidelands, and writer-producer Blake Ayshford, who asked him to serve as script editor on the Foxtel-commissioned Fighting Season.
“At Essential I learnt the entire intensive process of development and production, including time and budget limitations,” he tells IF. “Working in the writers’ room is a big jump for a writer.”
He worked on Doctor Doctor and The Principal and learned heaps from collaborating with Tony McNamara and Sarah Lambert.
On a trip to Brisbane he met McGrath and Irwin to discuss a show which was intended to be a co-production between Hoodlum and Essential but did not pan out.
They asked him to script edit and co-write one episode of Tidelands, the 8-part supernatural drama created by Irwin which stars Aaron Jakubenko, Charlotte Best, Elsa Pataky, Peter O’Brien and Mattias Inwood.
“I have never seen anything like it on Australian television,” he said. “It plays in the sandbox of big genre cable dramas. It was fascinating to be part of a very intensive shoot which had a fast turnaround. Netflix executives were hands-off in the creative direction of the show but they gave great feedback.”
Squadrito came aboard Fighting Season during the workshopping and worked with Ayshford when the show went into production. Directed by Kate Woods and Ben C. Lucas, the series follows a platoon of Australian soldiers who return home after the mysterious death of their captain in the mountains of Afghanistan. It stars Jay Ryan, George Pullar, Marco Alosio, Ewen Leslie, Julian Maroun, Paul De Gelder and Kate Mulvany.
“Blake is the best showrunner I’ve ever seen,” he said. Returning the compliment, Ayshford tells IF: “Chris is very talented, one of those writers who thinks internationally. He is really going places. I am fairly hands-on when it comes to giving feedback on scripts to writers so Chris acted more as a script editor in the UK sense: he worked with me a lot, giving general (and later detailed) feedback on the scripts.
“This also allowed me to run wider ideas past him on the shape of the series and individual story arcs. It was a different relationship than an average script editor has and demanded a high level of skill and maturity to balance the needs of individual screenplays with bigger showrunner/production problems. In this Chris excelled.”
With Princess Pictures and the ABC he is developing the pilot for an historical crime drama set in the goldfields which will have a modern tone.
For Essential’s reactivated drama arm Essential Scripted he is working on a US-set political drama and a circus-set crime drama.
Asked where he gets his inspiration, he replied: “The horrific stuff that is happening in the world. Everything I write relates to the world around us.”
Reflecting on his career to date, he said: “I was 17 when I got a job as a transmedia assistant at Marcus Gillezeau’s Firelight Productions. I have been incredibly lucky.”