‘Learning Through Osmosis’: Millie’s Time at the ACTF

Millie Holten
3 Sep 2018

Hello — I’m Millie Holten, a third year screenwriting student at the Victorian College of the Arts. I recently completed a two week internship with the Australian Children’s Television Foundation.

As part of my third year course students are required to undertake a placement at any organisation of their choice. In my second year I undertook a Writing for Youth Market subject, taught by Meaghan Rodriguez (The Sleepover Club, Silversun). I adored the module and, for the first time, considered that I might one day write for children’s television. One week, Meaghan invited Bernadette O’Mahony (ACTF’s Head of Development and Production) to talk to us about the kids TV landscape in Australia. Bernadette was nice enough to leave her email should any students want to get in touch and I did so to ask if they would consider taking me on for my third year internship.

My two week placement began in July 2018. On first impression, the bright orange ACTF offices were a sweet fever dream of open plan working, with a very nice coffee machine and life-sized puppets that would occasionally surprise me if I saw them out the corner of my eye. Bernadette’s assistant at the time, Holly Tosi (now working on Neighbours), was my main point of contact over the next fortnight. I was taught how to use the photocopier, whizzed around the office for quick introductions, and given my first task — reading an ACTF funded series concept and writing up my thoughts on the project. Aside from the occasional photocopy job or doing industry research, script coverage and discussing the projects and my thoughts with Holly and Bernadette were my main duties over the two weeks and I adored it.

Puppets in the ACTF office – Fitzroy, Melbourne

In what I can only imagine was a test (or learning opportunity, or both), neither Bernadette or Holly would tell me at what stage of development the scripts were at when they were handed to me, or in the first instance their own opinions of what I was reading. Early into the internship I’d written up a report and handed it in, only to be told that said series would be shooting in a couple of days. Luckily, I’d really enjoyed that script and the overall process made me confident that both my and the ACTF’s tastes were aligned (phew). The ability to write a prompt, clear and concise script report is now in my wheelhouse and has been utilised since. By reading and writing reports on so many scripts in various stages of development, discussing and getting feedback on my reports, and gaining insight into the ACTF’s opinions and the market responses I became infinitely more aware of the current kids TV market and the standard of kid’s TV in Australia. I was even able to read the original Mortified! series bible, the undeniable gold standard.

Behind the scenes of Mortified

Just being around the ACTF allowed me to learn through osmosis, including many details about the industry that you simply aren’t told or taught unless immersed within that environment. Holly was up for answering any of my questions, and Bernadette was keen to get me talking to everyone who worked there. This included Roberta and Tim, the International Sales Managers, and Janine and Peter, who worked in school education and curriculum. They were each generous with their time and, interestingly enough, all said that their jobs were made easier when the stories were strong rather than if they have a shoe-horned educational purpose.

A few weeks after my internship ended Bernadette invited me back to sit in on a writers workshop of an ACTF funded series, which was being held at their offices. I’ve signed an NDA so I can’t go into too much detail (also, I just like telling people that I’ve signed an NDA. It’s intriguing, right?). This was my first time sitting in an actual real-world writers room. Watching them plot out episodes, story beats and refine their series bible — the three days flew by and I can’t wait to see how the series turns out, especially after experiencing it in its infancy.

If you’re considering an internship at the ACTF, I cannot recommend it highly enough. The entire staff really cared about it being a learning experience and were unbelievably generous with their thoughts and time. I came away with marketable skills that I’ve carried through to further script coverage internships, as well as industry knowledge that I would not have gained elsewhere. Fingers crossed I’ll get to one day work with the ACTF again.


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