RLC alum rankles Netflix at the writers strike

Peter Hume ‘84, writer and producer, on his path from RLC to Hollywood to Netflix headquarters

by Glen Herbert

Some might have seen a familiar name in the New York Times this week. Peter Hume '84 was in Manhattan picketing Netflix with the writers’ strike.  “I have 26 years of continuous service,” he’s quoted in the article, “and I haven’t worked in the last four because I’m too expensive. And that’s mostly because Netflix broke the model. I think they put all the money into production in the streaming wars, and they took it away from writers.”

Hume is a television writer and producer based in LA, though his first step toward that life was as a student right here, at Rosseau Lake College. He arrived in 1981.

He didn’t come seeking anything beyond a change, maybe a challenge, maybe just something different. “It just gave me a sense of independence,” he says. “I really didn't know what I wanted to do at the time, but it did give me the confidence to take bigger risks than I would have taken otherwise."

He feels that, as Canadians, we tend to be less prone to really engage in expansive thinking. “Americans are more peripatetic,” he says. “They’re more likely to get up and move to where everybody is. Canadians, in a weird way, just kind of are born in a circumstance, and they stay in a circumstance … they’re much less likely to move, even to Vancouver.”

At RLC, though, being more expansive was impossible to avoid. “You were meeting people from around the world, that kind of opened the world up a bit. I think it makes the world a little bigger, and more accessible, and you could dream about taking bigger risks than if you’d just gone to your local high school."

Those risks, that sense of independence, ultimately lead to Hollywood. For most of the people he would have known at the time, it was a destination on par with the surface of the Moon. Some people went there, but not us.

But he did, and it didn’t go unnoticed. One of Peter’s best friends is fellow RLC grad David Straiton '83, a television director based in LA. Straiton is known for his work on many things, including The Firm, Blood Drive and Star Trek: Enterprise. “He wouldn’t have done it unless I did,” says Hume. “100%. I moved to LA and he started thinking, ‘Oh, I could do that too.  He’ll never admit that. But it’s true. And he’s done very well for himself.  You don’t wanna compare IMDB credits with Straiton’s.” He then admits that, in reality, it was probably RLC that gave David “the guts to make the jump into this crazy, impossible career.” 

He’s worked on a long list of shows including Flash Gordon, and Jack of Diamonds for which he was nominated for a Gemini award for Best Writing. He’s been honoured by the Writers Guild of America, gathered lots of kudos from fans and colleagues, and otherwise has had a lot of fun along the way. As he admits, it’s an exciting life. While he has many producing credits, if you ask point blank what he does the writing is what he mentions first and where his passion lies.

“When you’ve created something that’s really strong. When you’re writing and you know you have something that is good. It’s just a metaphysical thing—when you’re writing and you connect to something that’s bigger than you, you’re in the flow and all that. It doesn’t happen all that much, but when it does, it’s great. Those moments are rare, but they tend to mean something, and they tend to translate to other people. You know, writers are so self-loathing—I hate everything I do—so if you think something is good, it often is.” He says after a pause, “it must be easier to be a dentist. But then I’d hate that.”

The fact that these two people in their current roles spent time at a small school in rural Ontario can seem improbable, and perhaps it is. Combined they have more than 130 credits in IMDB, including writing, producing, consulting, and directing. But Peter notes that many of the skills that lead to his success were earned here: gaining an ability to act and think independently, to express ideas, and to work effectively with others. “It was useful to give you a sense of what life is like,” he says, meaning that life is hard, it requires something of us, and that you get out of it what you give.

Peter returns often to a cottage on Lake Rosseau, and he visits the campus when he does. “It’s weirdly very similar,” says Peter. “Disturbingly similar! Everything is smaller than you remember. And there’s a very particular smell. It’s a little time machine.”

When I ask what advice he would give to young people hoping to enter the entertainment industry he says with a laugh, “Don’t! Or have rich parents! But the advice I would actually give would be to be bold and work incredibly hard. Because there’s always going to be someone smarter or better connected. There may be someone better than you. But there’s not going to be anyone who works harder than you. Just stick with it and get better.” His life is proof that it works.