Saturday 22 November 2014

Interview with Alli Parker

Alli Parker is an Australian writer, script reader, filmmaker, production secretary in TV production, a beater with the Blackburn Basilisks Quidditch Club, president of the Victorian Quidditch Association, and an international silver medalist (2014 Global Games) at quidditch. Also, she likes chocolate.

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born in Melbourne, Australia, and that’s also where I grew up.

What kind of a family did you grow up with?

I feel I am incredibly lucky to have a family that is so relentlessly supportive— everyone backs each other one hundred and ten percent, every time. Looking back, I was brought up in a family that had a lot of passion for things, and I feel that that’s certainly rubbed off on me.

Where did you go to school?

I went to school in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

When did you first take an interest in storytelling?

I was always an avid reader—from a very young age I always devoured books and stories. I wanted to write novels, but whilst I started with great gusto, I lost steam through the middle and could never figure out the endings. After I discovered Harry Potter, I found a Harry Potter role-playing site that let you create a character and write the stories from their point of view. I wrote solidly there for several years, and during that time I discovered screenplays and realised I’d found my medium.

What was your first paying job (in any field)?

My first ‘proper’ paid job was at Hoyts Cinemas. But the very, very first job I had was working in the canteen at my local football club.

These days you work as production secretary on TV. What was the career progression that landed you in that job?

That’s a tough one—in actuality, I’ve been working in the industry for years now. For this specific circumstance, I returned from London in 2012 and exploited contacts that I had to get a hold of several email addresses of various line producers in Melbourne. I managed to get a gig as a runner on the end of the first series of House Husbands, then was fortunate to piggyback my jobs, one onto the other, until I was offered the role as a production secretary on a film called Healing. I’ve continued on as that role since, although I do detour into script assisting at various points and hope to stay there more permanently.

• You keep fit by playing quidditch. You play for Blackburn Basilisks, you’re president of the Victorian Quidditch Association, and a member of the 2014 national side (the Drop Bears) that won the silver medal in Canada earlier this year. I don’t know anything about Quidditch (other than it looks unusually violent for something invented by literary types). Isn’t it irritating to have to lug a broom around everywhere?

Mrs Doubtfire practises for a game of quidditch
Quidditch is a wonderful distraction. For someone who has no background in sport, to be involved in a game that needs no experience to start playing, it’s been a fantastic adventure. The broom is not a weapon, you just have to stay on it (not as hard as it seems) and, as a Beater, I play an adapted form of dodgeball—throwing balls at people to stop their attempts at goal. It’s probably too wordy and lengthy to describe on the page, but I can guarantee you that there is likely a quidditch team near you—so get down to a game and check it out if you’re interested!

The Drop Bears in Canada, 2014.  Alli is back row, sixth from the left,
not counting the tall gentleman standing immediately behind her.
Alli in action back home.

You attended the London Screenwriters’ Festival in 2012. Give us your impressions of the Festival.

I’ve attended four out of five Screenwriters’ Festivals, the only one I’ve missed being earlier this year (2014) as I was working at the ABC
   As a result, I can’t be too specific because there is always so much going on! I’ll give you some condensed highlights: 
   The first year I went was 2010. I met the people who became my core group of writing friends whilst I was in London, including my future co-writer, who I now am convinced I can’t live without! 
   The second year I went was 2011. I was fortunate enough to meet David Reynolds (who wrote Finding Nemo and The Emperor’s New Groove) in between sessions, and proceeded to gabble uselessly at him about how much I adore The Emperor’s New Groove, only to have him respond with equal vigour and excitement, to the point where we quoted the same line of the movie together. 
   The third year I went was 2012. I proved to myself my dedication to writing when I snuck out of a session with David Yates (director of the last four Harry Potter films) to queue up for speed pitching! 
   The most recent time I went, in 2013, I think the biggest highlight was seeing how far delegates I’d met in the first year had come since we first piled into Regent’s College and decided to introduce ourselves.
   It’s a fantastic experience and an amazing community of people, but I’ve learnt that if you’re going from Australia or America, it really pays to have something properly ready or something that you really want to get out of it. And take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way.

With your heavy schedule, do you get much writing done these days?

It’s tough to manage writing around a (minimum) 50 hour working week and quidditch at the weekends, but I’ve long since discovered I get intensely grumpy when I don’t write, so it is really for everyone’s benefit that I do. It’s really become about making it a priority.
   I’m lucky in that my co-writer is based in London, so usually by the time I get home from work, his day is starting so we can do a few hours of writing before I’m completely wiped out. Then I generally play catch up on the weekends and, because I’m often restricted in what writing I can get done during the week, manage to get a lot of things done in one hit, if I’m having a particularly disciplined day.
   At the moment, I’m working on a rom-com feature script as well as a sitcom pilot. Then there are all those other ideas that are bouncing around and being developed—there’s always something on the go.

What are three things you wish someone had told you about working on a TV show when you were starting out?
  • People are unpredictable, so just try to roll with the punches.
  • If you enjoy your job, make sure you really enjoy it, because the next one might not be so good.
  • Relish the breaks—the time you get off between jobs can be a distant memory when it’s 1am and you’re still in the office, waiting for them to call wrap.

If you had to suggest just one screenwriting book to a newbie writer in Adelaide, which one would it be?

Up until a few years ago, it would’ve been Screenwriting Updated by Linda Aronson, which covers all the basics of most structures that are around these days and is a fantastic introduction to screenwriting. But these days, it’s definitely Into the Woods by John Yorke, which is my absolute saving grace when it comes to structure, character and development.

What are your ten favourite (favourite, not ‘best’) movies of all time?

In no particular order (and for all differing qualities): 
Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert (1994)
Mary Poppins (1964)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
500 Days of Summer (2009)
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
Love Actually (2003)
The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
The Blues Brothers (1980)
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
What If

What’s next for Alli Parker?


Here's the last few minutes of Australia's match against Canada at the Quidditch Global Games 2014. If Australia win, they have a guaranteed silver medal.

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Alli Parker seems to be hardworking and imaginative on and off the quidditch field. I had been humming and haaing about buying Into the Woods but have now pre-ordered the edition coming out on 2 June 2015.