Tristram Baumber’s long journey to professional screenwriter
Tristram Baumber studied English and creative writing at the University of Wollongong with the aim of making a living as a screenwriter.
That was 20 years ago. Since then his life and career have taken several twists and turns – but he is now reaping the rewards of persistence and determination.
“It took me a long time to get good at writing,” he tells IF. The turning point came in March 2017 when Aquarius Films’ Polly Staniford and Angie Fielder hired him as an in-house writer.
He had been working with the producers on several projects including a rom-com feature and they were able to put him on staff thanks to a grant from Screen Australia’s Enterprise People program.
For the next two years he worked on multiple projects including the second season of Matt Okine’s Stan sitcom The Other Guy and The Unlisted, an action sci-fi thriller created by Justine Flynn which follows two 13-year-old identical twins who team up with a group of underground vigilante to stop a powerful corporation from imposing control over the world’s youth.
“Working across Aquarius Films’ entire slate was a game changer, a huge boost for me,” he says. “Hopefully I will be working with them for years to come.”
Baumber is also grateful for ABC head of comedy Rick Kalowski, who championed Timothy, the half hour comedy he wrote which starred Stephen Curry as a corporate high-flyer in Hong Kong who retreats to his parents’ house in Wollongong to rebuild his life.
The show screened on the ABC as part of Mental Health Week in 2014. He has not given up hopes it could turn into a series, probably with a different cast as Curry and Peter Rowsthorn and Denise Scott (who played the protagonist’s parents) have moved on to other things.
He’s excited by the footage he’s seen of The Unlisted, which was commissioned by the ABC and Netflix, and much enjoyed being part of the writing team with Mithila Gupta, Timothy Lee, Jane Allen, Greg Waters, Natesha Somasundaram and Chris Kunz.
“I think viewers are going to love the Indian Australian family at the centre of the story. Justine, the cast and the directors [Flynn, Rhys Graham, Nick Verso, Lucy Gaffy, Neil Sharma and Rebecca O’Brien] have done a brilliant job in bringing her concept to life.”
Doubting his ability to write, he moved to the UK for seven years, working in the field of technical transmission for Channel 4 and MTV, returning in 2011.
A year spent in Spain with his Spanish wife, writer Elena Terol Sabino, proved fruitful as he forced himself to write every day. During that time he hatched the ideas for Timothy and a few other projects including The Assistant– the feature he has developed with Aquarius.
The latter’s set-up revolves around the dynamic between a high-powered female executive and her male assistant. He hopes Kacie Anning (with whom he collaborated on The Other Guy) will direct.
Future Boy, a sitcom he created about a 21-year-old girl who is keen to escape her parents and move into a share house, is in development at Ian Collie’s Easy Tiger. The twist: The girl’s son of the future invents a time machine after his mother dies, aged 85. So he, aged 45, slips through a portal into the 21-year-old’s kitchen.
Baumber is part of the writing team together with Corrie Chen, Niki Aken, Melissa Lee Speyer and Lawrence Leung on Lucky Lee, a Chinese-Australian comedy-mystery based on Collie’s idea. The plot revolves around an Aussie woman who teams up with a Charlie Chan-type detective in search of a missing person.