Ashleigh Mounser graduated with a Bachelors of Creative Arts (Creative Writing) (Deans Scholar) from the University of Wollongong in 2015. It was an undergraduate degree she pursued because she loved writing, but she never expected to be overwhelmed with career options. Ashleigh says, “I always planned to do an honors year, but when I finished my degree, I was really uninterested and I couldn’t think of a good idea for a thesis project.” Ashleigh is now studying screenwriting at the Australian School of Film, Television and Radio, and pursuing a career in film and television writing.
In the months between finishing her degree and her graduation ceremony, Ashleigh travelled o Southern Africa, and made a last-minute decision to reroute her flight home from Johannesburg to Florida, where she had spent six months of her undergraduate degree. In Miami, she spent time on set of ‘Questions and Comments,’ a film she had written while in America, that was subsequently directed by a graduate director as her thesis project.
“It’s a challenging course, and I’m the youngest, but I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”
Ashleigh returned to Wollongong ready to apply for honors. She pitched her thesis project – a comedy television series about a group of eclectic and multicultural students sharing a house – to her subject coordinator, Joshua Lobb, who explained that the University was not the best place for a student pursuing screenwriting. Ashleigh says, “Joshua recommended the Australian School of Film, Television and Radio, which I’d never heard of, but I did some research and found that it had a really amazing reputation in the industry.”
Ashleigh attended several open days, and decided to apply for three courses; Advanced Diploma of Television Writing, Advanced Diploma of Film Writing and a Graduate Certificate of Screenwriting. Ashleigh says, “Even though I had a degree in creative writing, I didn’t know where I sat in terms of screenwriting experience. I knew it would be silly to spend three years on a Bachelors of Screenwriting, and I knew I wasn’t ready for Masters, but there were a few courses in between.”
Ashleigh spent the next month’s backpacking through South East Asia and perfecting her application for the Graduate Certificate, which was due first. Ashleigh says, “the graduate certificate was the more advanced course and it can be quite competitive, so I spent a lot of time on my application.” When Ashleigh returned from South East Asia, she discovered that she had been accepted to the Graduate Certificate. Ashleigh says, “I hadn’t even applied to the Advanced Diploma’s yet – but I didn’t see the point once I was accepted to a more advanced course.”
Ashleigh is now eight months into her course, and says she made the right decision. “It’s a challenging course, and I’m the youngest, but I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.” The course is split into three parts; theorists and meetings with industry professionals on Tuesday nights, incubator sessions in which the students critique each other’s pitch bibles, treatments and rough drafts on Thursday nights, and collaborative practice every other weekend, in which the writers come together with composers, editors, directors, script editors and producers from other courses to develop collaborative skills. The graduate certificate is designed to work around a full-time job.
Ashleigh says she is now considering a Masters of Screenwriting in 2018. She says, “it’s really competitive. AFTRS only takes six students per course, per year and if I get in it will be two years full time. It’s a very intense course load. If I don’t get in, I have a contingency plan which involves South America, South Korea, lots of writing and trying to sell my first script. So I won’t be too disappointed.”