In the writer’s room with Skye Leon
Skye Leon is a Yangkaal and Worimi woman based in Cammeraygal Country, Sydney and was recently selected as the NSW recipient of the SBS Emerging Writers’ Incubator. Skye has three wonderful siblings, two beautiful nephews and while she hates piña coladas, she loves getting caught in the rain. We caught up with her to hear about how the placement is going and how she got started as an emerging writer.
What were your motivations in applying for the SBS Emerging Writers’ Incubator?
I want to continuously refine my craft, so the idea of spending a year placed with experienced creatives, reading scripts and pitches and peeking behind the curtain of Jungle’s development process was very enticing.
Why do you want to be a storyteller?
I’m a Yangkaal and Worimi woman who grew up on Lardil Country in the Gulf of Carpentaria. I was taught stories that helped me understand life and what it means to care for Country and community. When I was about eight my family moved to the mainland, just outside of Cairns.
I saw my very first movie on the big screen (George of the Jungle, what a classic) and far less enjoyably, I encountered racism for the first time. I internalised shame and sadness in the face of prejudice I did not understand until I was old enough to process it.
But as a child my family, our culture, faith and movie nights always brought me comfort and hope. Whether set in a galaxy far, far away, or somewhere closer to home, the movies I grew up watching encouraged me to consider what life was like for others. They taught me to be open, brave and have hope in humanity’s capacity for kindness and courage. So now I want to create stories that encourage and empower others too.
This initiative was very competitive. How did you make your application stand out and what advice would you have for anyone else thinking to apply?
I have to thank the Bachelor of Arts Screen: Production staff at AFTRS whose guidance in my final year of study really prepared me for such an opportunity. They reminded me of the importance of knowing my own story, as well as the great value of researching where I align with a company and how I could bring my own skills and experiences to a team.
I reached out to Jungle before my interview and they also encouraged me to think of my differences as assets, because different perspectives benefit a company trying to connect with multiple audiences.
I encourage future applicants to reach out to the production company to gain insight that will help them interrogate not just who the company is, but why they want this opportunity and what they can bring to the table.
Why do you think initiatives like this are important?
For Australia to grow into a more inclusive society we need more inclusive storytelling, but there are many gifted storytellers who still find it difficult to access the same opportunities and have the same influence as those with certain privileges.
With more equitable access, like what this initiative strives to provide, less people will be left behind or misrepresented. Also, these initiatives don’t just benefit the creatives who have historically found it difficult to access opportunity – they allow companies an opportunity to benefit from a perspective they might not have encountered before. Change doesn’t come without blind spots being pointed out and growth edges being flagged by people who just want to be respected, valued and included as they intrinsically deserve to be.
You’ve now started your placement with Jungle Entertainment. How have you settled in so far?
Very well! The team has been welcoming and I must give a special shout out to Sarinah Masukor and Chloe Rickard who have made me feel like a part of the team from the start.
What is your key focuses as a screenwriter? What kind of stories interest you and what do you want to write?
I want to tell Australian stories that explore both the past and present from diverse perspectives. Because when we understand our past and the impacts of colonisation, for example, we stand a better chance of challenging its legacy.
I am especially drawn to drama laced with comedy or comedy laced with drama. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve got a few rom-coms in me. Why would I want to lie anyway? Rom-coms are great. Full of good quotes to use in profiles, especially when you aren’t sure how to sign off!
You previously had a career in youth work. Do you think that will have an impact on the kind of stories that you tell and the perspective you will bring to a writer’s room?
Absolutely. Youth work gave me a deeper understanding of the power of empathy, intentionality and kindness. I want to be as intentional in a writer’s room as I was in my youth work because my goal of encouraging compassion and kindness remains unchanged.
You mentioned that you enjoy writing for comedy. Can you tell us what attracts you to that genre?
Laughter. It’s the best medicine and the most trojan of horses.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
“…and world peace.”
– Gracie Lou Freebush (Miss Congeniality).
Get connected with Skye on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/skye-leon-259b561ba
images: 1 & 2 - Skye Leon. Photography by Jubilee Chan.