Niki Aken at Charlie’s in LA

Like the rest of the crew and cast, Niki Aken was gutted when the production of the ABC comedy Why Are You Like This was shut down with two weeks filming to go.

Aken is the script producer on the six-part show created and written by Naomi Higgins, Humyara Mahbub and Aunty Donna’s Mark Samual Bonanno, produced by Sarah Freeman for the directors Jessie Oldfield and Adam Murfet’s production company CKOL.

A spin-off of the pilot funded by the Screen Australia/ABC Fresh Blood initiative, the series follows best friends Mia (Olivia Junkeer) and Penny (Higgins) and Penny’s aloof housemate Austin (Wil King).

“Obviously it was the the right call, but gutting for the cast and crew,” Niki says. “It was a normal, human response to an unprecedented situation.

“I am one of the lucky ones as an in-demand writer with multiple projects in active development, which is the only fruitful thing our industry can do right now.”

Among the projects she is juggling, she is lead writer on a young adult novel adaptation for Shay Spencer and Chloe Rickard at Jungle Entertainment; another drama adaptation for Bunya Productions; a miniseries for Fremantle’s Jo Porter and Justin Davies; and a project for Michael Lucas and Joanna Werner.

After serving as script producer on Lingo Pictures/Foxtel’s Upright, she has fleshed out an outline for a second series based on an original idea by Lingo’s Jason Stephens, in collaboration with the creator Chris Taylor, Tim Minchin, Stephens and Leon Ford.

The writers’ room for the Jungle project, which includes Tamara Asmar, is continuing via Zoom.

In addition, she is working with Alison Bell and RevLover Films’ Martha Coleman and Lauren Edwards on Australia Day, a six-part series adapted from the collection of short stories by Melanie Cheng.

“Despite my fortunate position, it’s been a challenging time emotionally,” she says. “It’s a combination of relief and guilt that I have gigs when so many have had months of work snuffed out overnight.

“I think everyone is metabolising the new reality and future on different timelines. The bigger question for me is what financial position the networks and production companies will be in once this is all done.

“But I remind myself that whether a network commissions a show I write has always been, ultimately, outside of my control. I can only do my best work, in the hope that it becomes work for directors, cast and crew later on.

“If things dry up I would progress personal projects – something I haven’t had time to do in years. I honestly can’t say what other job I might do outside of film and television. So I guess I’m lucky I was raised by frugal parents – I know how to make a little go a long way.”

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  1. Don’t feel bad Niki. I don’t even know you, but I am stoked for you!! It is a crazy and daunting time, but it’s also the perfect time for people to be extra creative and to pool together to succeed. Good luck with all of your work and congratulations on getting yourself into the position that you are in! 😀

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