How Patrick Walters turned “Heartstopper” into a showstopper

When it was announced in April last year that Kit Connor and newcomer Joe Locke would star opposite each other in See-Saw Films’ Netflix coming-of-age series Heart strokeexecutive producer Patrick Walters said he felt like he was creating “something very special”.

Fourteen months later and its clear audience is on board, with the queer teenage love story embraced both critically and commercially since its April 22 release.

Created and written by Alice Oseman from her literary series of the same name, the series follows the relationship of Charlie and Nick who, after meeting at an all-boys school, become friends and soon discover that a romance is blossoming. between them.

Along the way, they realize there is a strong community of allies and friends around them, helping them access their authentic selves, but also teaching them that there is no “good way” to get out.

Not only Heart stroke reaching Netflix’s top ten list in 54 countries, but it also earned a 100% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as a 1,700% increase in weekly book sales in the United States.

For Walters, the global reaction reflected his personal feelings during the development of the project.

“It really inspired me with that kind of passion that we now see in the reception it’s had all over the world,” he said.

“So I was really hoping it could connect that way, but most of all I was just trying to protect the adaptation and make it as rich and emotional and satisfying as graphic novels are to read.

“That’s basically what worried me the most, and then you cross your fingers and hope for the best.”

Walters joined See-Saw Films in 2014 and worked as head of development on Top of the Lake: China Girl and a screenwriter on The new legends of the monkeybefore being promoted to Head of TV Development in 2018.

Since then, he has been co-producer of Samantha Strauss’ The end for Foxtel, Sky Atlantic and Showtime, while continuing to develop dramas like Andrew Haigh’s Northern Water’ for BBC Two, Nick Hornby State of the Unionand slow horses for Apple TV+.

Heart stroke isn’t the literary adaptation Walters produced for release this year, after starring as The Essex Serpenta six-part period drama based on the novel of the same name by Sarah Perry, directed by Clio Barnard and starring Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston.

Patrick Walters.

Reflecting on his approach with the various streaming platforms, he said it’s about being specific about where a development can be streamed in the world.

“For something like Heart strokewe really wanted to target Netflix because we felt it was a direct link to the Gen Z screens that we wanted to talk to, and because Netflix is ​​in so many territories it releases globally same time,” he said.

“We just thought it would be the perfect place for it, so we were really targeted in how we approached them and they were very positive about it.

“When you develop something like The Essex Serpentwhich is a very evocative literary period novel, it’s about who understands it, and who wants to protect what it is and really gets it.

“Apple TV has a brilliant director called Jay Hunt, who was so passionate about the novel, and she reached out to us after she found out See-Saw had the option on it and so sometimes it’s that connection with who gets it and understand what it is.”

While subsequent seasons of Heart stroke will be his focus for the immediate future, Walters aims to continue bringing different kinds of queer stories to light, including working with writer/director Harry Lighton, known for his short films such as cave boys and Sunday morning going down.

He said identifying with the creative voice of a writer or director was a key part of identifying new projects to work on.

“You want to feel like you have a creative compatibility with someone and that you’re really excited about how they see the world in particular,” he said.

“So that’s what I’m looking for first and foremost, and then you’re like, ‘Well, what drives you and how can we come up with that in a TV series?’

“You also have to present something that you are passionate about and that you really derive personal joy from. Once you start manipulating an idea to fit what you think a producer or curator or the market wants, it just waters it down. I think the more different and specific something is, the better.

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