Romina Accurso hones her skills on ‘The Heights’

Romina Accurso

After several years as a script coordinator, script editor and associate story producer on Home and Away, Romina Accurso earned a promotion on ABC’s The Heights.

She wrote multiple episodes and was script editor on the first season of the Perth-set drama produced by Matchbox Pictures and For Pete’s Sake Productions Peta Astbury-Bulsara.

Warren Clarke, the showrunner and co-creator (with Que Minh Luu), was so impressed with her work he appointed her as script producer/writer on the second series, part of the remit of giving opportunities to new or emerging talent among writers, directors, cast and crew.

“Romina, Hannah Carroll Chapman and Megan Palinka are the core internal script team of The Heights,” Clarke tells IF. “I cannot overstate how hard these three work and how fundamental they’ve been to the success of the show.”

The screenwriter who initially intended to be a social worker credits her experience on the vast production machine of Home and Away with helping to develop the skills she is now applying to The Heights.

“Being script producer means driving the storylines for all 30 episodes, helping the writers and script editors on their scripts and working with Warren on casting,” she tells IF.

“It also involves talking with the art, costume and AD departments and liaising with the executive producers at the ABC and Matchbox.”

One of the challenges for the creatives on the ABC drama is dealing with such issues as sexuality, identity and class while adhering to the PG rating.

“We get to push to the limits of the PG but we take very special care to make sure we are not gratuitous in any way,” she says. “We always think what an eight-year-old, a 13-year-old, a 20-year-old and a parent would be seeing.

“We have a lot of support from the network in doing that. Now that we know the characters and the cast even better, we have found new depths to explore.”

Accurso may be one of the few writers who worked at Screen Australia in a non-creative role: She spent time there as a part-time receptionist and later worked as an unpaid intern on SLiDE, the teen drama co-produced by Hoodlum Entertainment and Playmaker Media for Foxtel’s Fox8.

At the University of Sydney she embarked on a degree as a social worker before switching to a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in film studies and Italian literature.

“Writing for television was something I fantasized about but at the time I had absolutely no idea how to break in,” she recalls.

While undertaking a Masters of Digital Media at the College of Fine Arts in Sydney she spent a semester studying screenwriting at the University of Texas in Austin in 2011, part of her long-term goal of working in the US.

After quitting as a staff writer in Home and Away in 2015 she wrote five episodes of Fremantle’s Neighbours and one segment of the second season of Jungle Entertainment’s Here Come the Habibs! and was then hired as a trainee script editor on Playmaker Media’s Love Child.

Next year she intends to focus on developing her own projects including Positive, a half-hour comedy/drama about a woman living with HIV, which was workshopped by the Create NSW/ABC Half-hour Drama Development Initiative.