SARAH-MAUDE BEAUCHESNE: KEEPING IT REAL AS A DIGITAL NATIVE

At just 27 years old, Sarah-Maude Beauchesne already has an impressive track record. She’s the author of three novels, a blog and now a TV series, the new teen drama L’Académie. For this perceptive young writer, the internet and social media are a natural extension of her work, one she embraces with a rare authenticity.

“I started blogging because I wanted to share my experiences,” explains Sarah-Maude. “I had a visceral need to tell my story. And I guess I also needed to prove I could write, to have my work validated.”

Sarah-Maude’s blog, Les Fourchettes, is now 7 years old, which makes her a seasoned veteran in the world of web content. Since turning 20 she has been sharing the ups and downs of her romantic life along with broader reflections the life of young women today. Unsurprisingly, for the voice of this hyperconnected generation, Sarah-Maude is adept at using social media, especially Instragram, to connect with her audience.

“It seems like I was on Instagram before anyone knew it existed! I’m not shy, and I’ve always loved putting my life out there for all to see. So what I’m doing now professionally is a natural outgrowth of what I’ve always done for fun,” she notes.

A KNACK FOR SOCIAL MEDIA

While other people are busy crafting communications strategies to develop a successful online presence, and even bringing in professionals to manage their digital footprint, Sarah-Maude doesn’t have to. Like many millennials, she wields her smartphone and computer like an extension of her brain. And mastering online codes is a big part of what has brought her where she is today, successfully living her dream of being a writer.

“Social media is totally natural for me. It’s instinctive. And I’m convinced it has helped me come across as a real person, rather than just someone doing their job or, worse, someone trying to sell stuff every chance they get. Of course, there’s always some editing involved in how we present ourselves online. We all want to look like we’re having fun all the time. But that’s not an act, in my case. I really am having loads of fun.”

A real person hanging out in her real home, wearing her real clothes and having a drink with her real friends: that’s exactly the authenticity that has earned Sarah-Maude such a loyal following. She often revisits the diaries she has kept since she was 8, to help remember what was on her mind when she was younger—another habit that helps her speak to teens in their own language.

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L’ACADÉMIE: A CRASH COURSE IN SCRIPTWRITING 

Sarah-Maude is never at a loss for words. She’s been writing regularly for years, from her blog to published books. But working on the script for L’Académie was a whole new challenge.

“Scriptwriting is a different art form, one I knew very little about,” she explains. “I knew some of the basics from working on Le Chalet, but with L’Académie I really got a sense of what it was like to fit the ideas we carry around in our heads into a very tight frame. Television has its own set of constraints, rules and budget issues. It was like trying to balance an equation. An incredibly joyful process, for sure, but I also shed a lot of tears!”

A self-taught writer who shelved postsecondary studies to write poetry, the one thing that made her truly happy and “what she does best,” Sarah-Maude says the learning experience involved in writing L’Académie was like a year of university.

With the support of her scriptwriting colleagues (Kadidja Haïdara, Annabelle Poisson and Yannick Éthier) and various TVA teams, Sarah-Maude is very proud of what she accomplished and feels like the finished series perfectly reflects what she had in mind.

 

OUT OF THE SHADOWS AND ONTO THE INTERNET

No matter how brilliant a writer Sarah-Maude is, she’s still a self-professed bundle of nerves. But the internet helps. Spending time online has helped Sarah-Maude develop credibility as an author, because it offers an unparalleled forum for connecting with her audience.

“Screenwriters and authors both usually work in the shadows, behind the scenes,” she explains. “Do you know who wrote your favourite movie or TV show? Didn’t think so. But you can’t have a movie without a story. My goal is to be a well-known face and personality, not just the voice behind the story.”

It’s a goal that makes perfect sense in Sarah-Maude’s case, since her personality shapes her writing. When she gives us a glimpse of the person behind her signature style, it’s clear that the two form a single cohesive whole.

In a word, she’s authentic.

Is there a downside to putting yourself out there so fearlessly? Trying to please everyone, and dealing with criticism (which gets especially virulent online) can take its toll. Because she puts her life on display on the web, Sarah-Maude makes a point of keeping both feet on the ground, surrounded by family and friends she can count on when facing uncertainty or tough times.

“If my friends think I’m cool, and a good person, then it’s all good. That’s all that counts. I’m honest enough to be confident in my message. And I’m ready to stand up for myself if I have to.

 

THE VOICE OF AN UNTETHERED, CONNECTED GENERATION 

She may be an exceptional talent, but Sarah-Maude Beauchesne is also a typical member of the new generation of workers who want nothing to do with traditional 9-to-5 jobs and are ready work wherever there’s WiFi.

Today’s young people are connected and mobile, just like the smartphone and laptop that never leave their side.

“I think my generation is much more in touch with our own needs than our parents’ generation was. We put our own needs first, and won’t stick with a job for 20 years if it’s not making us happy. Some say we’re lazy, but we’re just allergic to hierarchy and tradition. I think we simply aren’t willing to accept being unhappy.”

And speaking of work, what’s Sarah-Maude’s favourite gig so far: writing novels, blogging, or creating the script of L’Académie? That’s a tough question.

“I fell in love with scriptwriting. Working in TV is really incredible. But I think that the physical feeling of working on my blog, Les Fourchettes, is actually more immediate and intense,” notes Sarah-Maude. “It’s the most familiar experience of writing for me, and the one that makes me happiest so far. It’s very pure, and free—almost therapeutic.”

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