A small village in the countryside where everyone thinks they know each other. A youth centre where difficult decisions are made. The magnificent landscapes of the Bas-Saint-Laurent. And Brigitte’s homecoming in a chain of events which will have consequences. This is how the dramatic series L’Échappée produced by Amalga begins. While author Michelle Allen's characters try to escape their own truth, her story seeks to be as real as possible in order to reveal the world of youth centres to the audience.
With the film crew (Photo by Eric Myre)
Author Michelle Allen describes herself as being very curious. And that's good, since this curiosity was the starting point for the creation of L'Échappée, as she explains: "About ten years ago, I was working on the documentary series Un tueur si proche, which presents cases of homicides. There were stories of murders happening inside youth centres. It moved me. I realized that this was a world I did not know anything about. I wanted to know more about these centres and the young people who visit them.” Considering that these centres are too rarely discussed on television, the scriptwriter wanted to integrate them into her drama series concept. But that was not the only thing she wanted to explore: “There was also the idea of the countryside. I live in Montreal and very often, when you live in a big city, you do not know much about remote areas. We have prejudices and I wanted to step out of them. And since I also love investigation stories, I thought of starting with an educator experiencing tragedy. I wanted to bring it all to the screen... This is where the idea of L'Échappée comes from.”
The magnificent landscapes of the series (Photo by Eric Myre)
This is not Michelle’s first TV series. She is known for other great hits like Destinées, Fugueuse and Pour Sarah. Still, she studied the theme of youth centres in depth: “Obviously, we must always take dramatic liberties because it is fiction, but we do a lot of research about everything that is staged to make it seem as real as possible. In these centres, there are many rules, there is a parallel justice and it is not simple. That's why we work with great consultants; lawyers, police officers, youth centre staff and doctors, to guide us.”
Despite all this upstream work to be consistent with the reality of youth centres, Michelle Allen is aware that the truth can sometimes be difficult to conceive: “There are many incredible cases of youths being betrayed, injured, assaulted. I read about them; they exist. There are plenty of things that we don’t think are true but that we see in L'Échappée. But in the public realm, we don’t talk much about them and we don’t give the floor to the educators. A social worker has explained to me once that if a youngster runs away in front of her, she cannot grab his arm to hold him back. They have rules to follow and boundaries to respect. So, to present that in a series, to show the dilemma and the drama, to make human characters through it all, and at the same time tell the story in an interesting and non-bureaucratic way, is very complex. Fortunately, in a fictional setting, I have space to tell things like that.”
In studio (Photo by Eric Myre)
Behind the police intrigues of her series, the author hopes that her texts may have a certain bearing on the audience’s perception: “If we could see what the youth centres are doing, maybe we would be more sensitive to these young people who need help. Maybe we would also be more sensitive to the people who work with these kids, who make it their mission, who are under-resourced and exhausted... It's crazy how we often forget those places and people who are vital to the future of our society. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend that it doesn’t exist. This is my concern behind L’Échappée. It's a bit of a form of awareness. We understand that beyond the entertainment, the scriptwriter wants to bring people to think about those issues: “I always want to try to show parts of the world that people see less, to talk about things that the public isn’t really aware of and to talk about them from the inside.”
Viewers seem to enjoy discovering this universe. Indeed, the series has been watched by more than 1.3 million viewers on average each week since fall 2016. Michelle Allen is happy to be able to reach so many people by telling her stories and passing on her message: “All screenwriters will tell you the same thing: we make television to talk to people. Even if we know we’re in the entertainment business and that we must know how to interest and captivate the audience, when we write, it’s mainly because we have something to say.” And what Michelle Allen has to say leaves no one indifferent. Ultimately, while the crime drama L'Échappée takes place in a remote area, it brings us back to universal values that are very close to us: humanity, empathy, solidarity, and courage.
The screenwriter of L'Échappée Michelle Allen (Photo by Julie Perreault)
The third season of L’Échappée will be back on Monday, January 7 at 8 pm, on TVA. Season 1 and season 2 are also available on Club Illico. You can follow the series on Facebook and on the official website.