When I graduated from Uni, I knew I wanted to write, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about. I decided to get a job in which I was writing every day, so when inspiration struck I’d have the skills to turn my ideas into something solid. I was lucky enough to do work experience with the Home and Away script department, and was then hired as a script assistant. After a couple of submissions, I started to write scripts for the show. This experience was invaluable and taught me so much about how to structure a story, write action and dialogue and work to tight deadlines.
After a couple of years I got itchy feet. I had a boss who kept telling me to ‘Get out and see the world while you’re young!’ (Actually, he said ‘Get out while you can!’ but I chose to put a more positive spin on it!) I took his advice, booked a one-way ticket to Spain, and ended up waitressing in the Canary Islands for over a year, then travelling around Europe.
When I came back, I did an odd assortment of jobs before getting back into scriptwriting and becoming a script editor. I worked on Home and Away and Headland, then left to co-run an independent scriptwriting project called Represent. For me, Represent came about because I had finally figured out what I wanted to write: I wanted to tell strong stories about culture, which reflected multicultural Australia today. We worked with a group of Sydney-based teenagers from countries as diverse as Sierra Leone, India, France, China, Tonga and Pakistan, teaching them the fundamentals of TV writing and turning their real life stories into a pilot and bible for a half-hour television drama series called The Space Between. This work saw us nominated for the inaugural Kit Denton Dis-fellowship. It also helped me win a British Council scholarship to do an attachment with Jimmy McGovern in the UK on Series Two of the award-winning show The Street.
Since then I’ve also written for All Saints, Winners & Losers and Wonderland. How it works is there’s a team in the office who make up all the stories. My job as a writer is to flesh those stories out, write dialogue and action, and bring the episode to life. Each episode has one writer, who could be working from anywhere. For example, I wrote for Wonderland whilst living in Arnhem Land – and yes, it was definitely interesting mentally teleporting myself from Yirrkala to Coogee!
My favourite TV dramas are shows like The Wire, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, Mad Men and Six Feet Under – the ones where characters aren’t ‘good’ or ‘bad’ ,they’re just human. There are many Australian dramas I love too, my all time favourites being Love My Way and Brides of Christ. There are a huge number of talented writers, producers and creators in Australia but, in general, I’d say our networks need to trust writers’ creative visions and be braver with the TV dramas they choose to make. I think, I hope, this change is happening slowly but surely…