Do What You Love
Where are they now? Class of 2010 School Dux, Sarah Lang shares her career pathway since leaving St Catherine’s.
What is your current position and what does it involve?
I am a Junior Scripted Development Producer with Princess Pictures. This long job title essentially means that I help the company to develop new television shows. I am responsible for workshopping new show ideas, reading and editing scripts, researching stories and preparing pitch documents. I can be across as many as a dozen shows at a time, from brand new ideas all the way to shows on air at the moment. It is creatively challenging but very stimulating – I can find myself writing a pitch for a children’s series, discussing the plot of a murder mystery and reading a script for a sketch comedy, all in a day’s work!
What is your career background?
I graduated university five years ago, and have been working in the TV industry ever since. My first job was as a script coordinator on Fat Tony & Co, a spin-off of Underbelly, and I was way out of my depth as a brand new graduate. They teach you a lot of things at film school, but not the really important stuff, like how to fend off six other departments to get access to the photocopier! As well as scripting, I have branched out into several other roles, such as casting assistant, production secretary and production coordinator, on a range of shows including House Husbands, Wolf Creek, Rosehaven and Get Krackin’.
What have been two of your greatest career achievements to date?
As I am only one member of a large department, I can’t lay claim to the accolades and awards that my shows have garnered, but there are some more humble achievements that I am proud of. One was the first time I saw my credit appear on TV – squished in tiny, unreadable font at the bottom of the screen – when Fat Tony & Co aired. It was a bit of a dream come true, and the small thrill of catching yours and your friends’ names on screen never wears off. Another was being able to take my family and two of my ex-teachers from St Catherine’s backstage at The Weekly with Charlie Pickering to visit me at work in the studio. It is difficult to explain to people what I do every day, but somehow, seeing me in amongst all the action convinced my parents that I have ‘made it’ in the industry!
What challenges have you faced professionally and how have you dealt with them?
The biggest challenge of my career is being a freelancer. My generation and those currently in school are entering a workforce that looks very different to that of our parents. We are often expected to market ourselves, to be flexible, and to get creative in order to find work in our chosen fields. A full-time job at a fixed workplace, year in year out, is simply not the reality for many people my age, and we must become accustomed to a degree of instability and uncertainty in our professional lives. Although this is a huge challenge, financially, psychologically and even physically, it does bring some great rewards. Over the past four years I have worked in five different cities in Australia, and I have had to develop the grit, resourcefulness and independence that it takes to manage my own career.
Thinking about your career progression, what study did you undertake post-school and how was it beneficial?
After finishing School, I went straight into a Bachelor of Film and Television at Bond University. I knew I wanted to study hands-on production instead of academic film studies, and I knew I wanted to experience living out of home, and I certainly fulfilled both of those wishes. My studies were highly beneficial, in terms of the technical skills that I learnt, but even more so in terms of the clarity that I gained about my areas of interest, and the like-minded people I met in my course. It took the full six semesters of my degree to narrow down exactly what I enjoyed and where I felt most fulfilled inside the film industry, and I feel fortunate to have done so – many of my friends have undertaken postgraduate studies in pursuit of that key understanding. Of course, there is no substitute for getting out there and actually doing whatever it is that you love.
Reflecting on your time at St Catherine’s how do you feel the School/staff/students assisted you?
There were several members of staff who played important roles in nurturing my interests and pushing my abilities while I was at School. I most admire how the staff and School supported my career decisions despite not always understanding them. After being a very academic and ambitious student at School, it came as a surprise to many people that my choice of tertiary study was less academic and did not require a high ATAR, however my teachers and peers respected my choices without judgement.
What advice would you have for current St Catherine’s students, particularly our VCE students, when selecting subjects, tertiary courses and careers?
My advice is not to be afraid – of non-traditional careers, of trying different types of study, of taking a year to work or travel before university. Fear of making a mistake or of disappointing others is sometimes a major factor when selecting subjects and courses, but it can paralyse you into inaction. I believe that navigating your career path requires a lot of self-knowledge and introspection, and the only way to learn about yourself is to get stuck in and make some mistakes!
My experiences so far have taught me the following: You will always score better in a VCE subject that you enjoy, as opposed to one that scales well or that looks good on paper. You will get more out of a tertiary course if you really want to learn or develop a skill – if you don’t feel this urge, your time might be better spent in a workplace. It is impossible to predict what your career path will look like in 25 years, so set short-term goals and look forward to one day working in a role that you haven’t even heard of yet!