Micharne Cloughley took an unusual route on her journey to landing her first TV drama screenwriting gig on season 21 of NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
The 2011 NIDA graduate served a long apprenticeship as a playwright, working on unscripted TV shows, writing short films and as a casting assistant.
“All the different things I’ve done have informed the way I am working here,” Micharne tells IF from New York where she is immersed in scripting her third episode of the procedural show created by Dick Wolf.
Cloughley was hired as a staff writer on the NBC series by Warren Leight, who returned as the showrunner earlier this year. He started with SVU at the beginning of season 13 when the drama was at a crossroads after losing its co-lead Christopher Meloni. He successfully rebuilt the show around Mariska Hargitay’s Olivia Benson.
He left in 2016 and spent the last few years developing his own projects including Law & Order: Hate Crimes with Cloughley, so she was among his first hires when he returned.
The first episode she wrote, co-written with Leight and co-executive producer Julie Martin, debuts in the US on October 17. She co-wrote the second with Brianna Yellen and Kathy Dobie. The new series will premiere here on Network 10 next year.
“It’s an amazingly supportive team,” she says. “As much as you are aware of this show’s enormous legacy, it comes down to the work, showing up every day and doing the best you can. It is a joy and privilege to work on this show.”
As a staff writer, she says, “I will be with the show for as long as they will have me.” After production on this season wraps in April she is keen to work on her plays and in TV in the US and Australia.
Her latest plays, for which she is keen to find homes, are 43 Stages of Grieving, a quirky piece about a pregnant, dying robot, and A Dream Panel of Real Women, the latter penned when she was a creative arts fellow at the National Library of Australia.
She spent several years as a casting assistant with Nikki Barrett, working on Kim Farrant’s Strangerland, Michael Petroni’s Backtrack, Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner and Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken.
While her initial motive was to supplement her income (“there is no money in writing theatre”), she gained valuable experience from being in the same room as those directors.
Before NIDA she worked as a coordinator on factual series including Eyeworks’ Gangs of Oz, You Saved My Life and Missing Pieces and Endemol Shine’s The Power of One.
Her playwriting credits include The Way They Live, which was staged at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, 99 Phone Calls You Shouldn’t Have Made, Masters of F*** All, Not That Kind of Doll and One Flesh.
Right now she is fulfilling an ambition she had when she was a child, which she wrote on a list as “to work on TV sets (anything),” recalling: “I wanted to be a part of a world creating other worlds.”