What exactly is a storyliner?
Kim is one of four storyliners for the Aussie TV soap Neighbours. "It's the storyliners' job, in conjunction with the story editor, to make up the plot each week for Neighbours," says Kim. "We're currently up to episode 4863."
The spartan storyline room, simply dubbed "the room", is hung with TV Week posters of cast members, past and present. Furnishings are limited to a table and chairs, whiteboard, telephone, TV and video and several bags of lollies. "The room is full of our DNA," Kim jokes. "We even have our lunch breaks in here while we watch tapes of episodes."
What does a typical working week involve?
"Each week we plot five episodes. As a group, we discuss the major stories for the week and then plot scene by scene. We'll talk about which characters will be in a particular scene, the emotional beat of that scene and the action that happens," Kim explains. As each episode is plotted one member of the storyline team drops out of the group and starts typing up a scene breakdown. "Then we do it all over again the following week. It's relentless," Kim says.
Kim's week is typically 38 hours, Monday to Friday but she comments: "It's all-consuming. You're constantly thinking about possible storylines and on the weekend you're prepping stories for Monday morning's pitch. You're never really not at work."
What are the people you work with like?
Hundreds of people are involved in producing a television show. Kim's in the Script Department, working directly with the story editor, script producers, script editors, script coordinator and the executive producer. "The Script Department is separate from the studio, but the departments work closely together," she says.
What are some of the pros and cons of the job?
"I'm basically paid to make up stories," Kim says, "It's a unique job because I get to make up stuff and live out the crazy situations through the lives of the characters. It's a huge creative outlet." Kim describes the constraints of the job as having a limited budget to work with, dealing with the 6.30 pm time slot - which means the stories can never be too risqué and the relentlessness of producing two and a half hours of original drama each week.
How did you become a storyliner?
"When I first left school I did a journalism degree, then became an actor for 10 years and then went back to Uni and did an advanced diploma in screenwriting. From that, I started writing freelance scripts for Neighbours. But there's no clear path - everyone comes from a different background," Kim says.
What sort of skills and qualities do you need?
"You need to have an obsession with people and relationships and stories," Kim says.
"You need good storytelling instincts, an ear for dialogue, and the ability to make drama out of small moments." She also mentions being enthusiastic and being able to write and handle criticism without taking offence. "You have to have the sort of personality where you can be locked in a room for eight hours without going insane. And you can't be at all private," she stresses, "We share a lot of information about our personal histories so you need to be able to talk about every grotty detail of your life and be prepared to see it on screen."
Are there any tips for getting a job as a storyliner?
"The industry is very competitive. I lined up an unpaid attachment with the show, which was a great way to see how it all works," Kim says. "Enthusiasm, persistence, talent and an obsession with storytelling is the key. Insatiably watch all genres of film and television and study the craft of screenwriting."
Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).