Foot in the Door is a four-part interview series where Alistair Baldwin speaks with early-career screenwriters about breaking into the industry, what their entry-level jobs look like, and where (ideally) they might lead.
In this part, he speaks with Nikki Tran, the writer and producer behind the award-winning web series FRESH!, which follows the staff of a Melbourne fresh food market.
Alistair Baldwin: What’s your job - and, more importantly, what does that actually entail?
Nikki Tran: I’m a writer and screen producer. It’s a bit difficult balancing both at times. I feel like the writing side of my work suffers because ideas take time to germinate. Often - unless you have deadlines - it’s easy to put your writing projects and creative time aside for the more pressing and concrete tasks that producing entails. The producing side involves a lot of emails. A LOT.
AB: How did you get to where you are now? Would you consider what you’re doing now an entry-level job?
NT: My work is not entry level in the sense that anyone without experience can pick up my responsibilities and run with it. Although, in the industry I am still considered ‘emerging’.
There’s bit of screen industry knowledge that I’ve learnt over four and half years of film school, freelancing as a videographer and writer and producing my own projects. Some of that knowledge is technical, but more importantly, I’ve picked up valuable skills in how to problem solve and manage and communicate with different players in the arts, and in film and TV.
My writers group always say, “circles rise together”. Find people who love your work and whose work you love and help each other grow.
AB: Is it the kind of job within the industry you ultimately want to do?
NT: Yes! I would eventually like to create my own television series (or long-form online, what’s television these days?) and see it through all the stages of production. I think the sort of trajectory I’m embarking on now is putting me on that path… I just need to make room to write more!
I would also like to work across mediums, especially as a writer – theatre, VR/AR… I feel like we’re in an age where story is king, not so much the medium through which it’s conveyed, and the overlapping and merging of disciplines is an exciting future for storytellers.
AB: Do you think your perspective as a young person is valued?
NT: I’ve never been asked this before... and it’s taking me a while to really think of an honest answer.
It seems that collectively young people often need to take it upon themselves to make noise in public conversations to fight for our future. I don’t feel like, as an individual, I have been asked to contribute meaningfully to any conversation that affects the way I live or work. Perhaps for me, I feel that more strongly because I am a young person who is also a woman of colour, I need to push harder for my voice to be heard.
AB: Now that you’re in the industry, what was the biggest misconception you had about working in film and television?
NT: That I could ever earn a stable income. Or, that I could ever earn a stable income and not get burnt out. I’m literally greying and I’m only 28.
AB: What advice would you give to someone aiming to get their foot in the door of the industry?
NT: My writers group always say, “circles rise together”. Find people who love your work and whose work you love and help each other grow. If you need to take a break from the creative industry because it’s burning you out, do it. Opportunities will always come around!
Alistair Baldwin is a screenwriter and comedian based in Naarm/Melbourne. He has written for The Weekly, Hard Quiz and Get Krack!n (in which he also appears in as a very tired P.A.). Follow him on Twitter: @baldwinalistair.