Kim Pham was part of the original Testing Grounds pilot program in 2022 when she applied with her project, Bird Hands Beaver A Fish Mint Bouquet (which we’ll be shortening to Bird Hands… for the rest of this post).  With applications now open for the 2024 Testing Grounds cohort, we reached out and asked if she could answer seven questions about her time with the program, and how her practice has progressed since then.

Back in 2022, this pilot program only ran for six months with minimal funding from core costs. It was (and still is) run and produced by Miranda Aguilar with mentorship from Andrea Lim. Though the program has changed a little since then (e.g. the 2023 & 2024  iterations of Testing Grounds is supported by Screen NSW). Testing Grounds as a program is not about building up to a shiny outcome; it’s about having space, mentorship and support in order to grow and learn as an artist producer. These aren’t things that can be easily tracked, and we wouldn’t want to put words in anyones’ mouths. We’re grateful that Kim took the time to answer our questions in her own words.

1.) What made you initially apply to join Testing Grounds?

As an emerging writer who was (and still is) desperately seeking opportunities to learn, grow and be more connected to the arts community, being part of Testing Grounds was a dream come true.

2.) When you joined Testing Grounds, you had a draft of a feature film script. We had talked about working on a second draft; that didn’t happen, but we did film a proof of concept of your script because you had said you want to direct something. How do you feel about that goal changing?

I remember holding back tears when Miranda sat me down and asked me if I wanted to direct a proof of concept for my script. It was earth shattering. I remember crying all the way home because I couldn’t believe it was going to happen. I was ecstatic. I was already so grateful for the opportunity to work on a second draft but the practical experience to develop something from page to screen was a dream come true.

3.) Everyone in this program has a project they’re working on, but the goal is really about your development as an artist producer; how has Testing Grounds affected your artistic practice?

Testing Grounds was such an incredibly invaluable experience because as artists it can be a very daunting and confusing journey trying to navigate the more practical side to art making like budgets, grant writing, preparing proposals and where to seek funding. But all these things make it possible to make art. So, I’m super grateful I got to learn these essential skills that I am still applying in my art’s practice today.

4. ) Has your work on projects outside of Bird Hands… been affected by your time at TG?

My experience being mentored by wonderfully kind and inspiring mentors like Miranda Aguilar and Elias Nohra helped me build confidence in my own work which has really helped me be brave enough to put myself out there more and experiment with different ways to tell stories.

5. ) Where has Bird Hands… gone since Testing Grounds? Where is the project at now? 

At the moment, I am working on adapting Bird Hands Beaver a Fishmint Bouquet the screenplay into a novel. In 2022, I won the Heyman Mentorship Award which has provide me with mentorship with Dr Kathryn Heyman to get my draft ready to submit to HarperCollins. After which, I will receive a full editorial report with the publisher holding the first option to publish the work. Even though the mentorship is only for 1 year, Kathryn is still providing me with mentorship so that I can finish my novel which I’m very grateful for. Early this year, I was awarded a Faber Writing Academy Scholarship for my novel manuscript which by the end of the course, my manuscript will be sent out to agents and publishers.

 

6. ) What are you up to now? 

Currently, I am co-writing for the screen adaptation for The Coconut Children, which was my sister Vivian Pham’s debut novel. Last year, I received a Q Theatre playwriting commission to work on my original play idea, I Lychee You, from its development to a production season in 2025. I am still working on adapting Bird Hands Beaver a Fishmint Bouquet the screenplay into a novel. And lastly, although I absolutely hated studying poetry in high school, last year my poem Amadyla Hijack was awarded highly distinguished in the National Bruce Dawe Poetry Prize. So, naturally, I am now working on a book of poetry.

A photo of the film slate for the proof of concept for Bird Hands Beaver a Fish Mint Bouquet. The slate says Bird Hands, Scene 1F, Shot 1. Director: Kim Pham. Camera: Sivani
A photo of Kim Pham smiling at a library table on the set of Bird Hands Beaver a Fish Mint Bouquet

7.) Are there any last words you’d like to share? (Especially with future participants?)

Being part of Testing Grounds has been singularly, the most rewarding experience of my emerging career so far and it’s also been the most fun and transformative. This is no understatement but Miranda, Andrea and all the amazing mentors and participants of Testing Grounds really helped me make a childhood dream come true. Please future participants, take in the whole experience because everyone at Testing Grounds is there to help you grow and achieve your dreams so please soak it in and give it your all.

Thank you so much Kim for sharing all your kind words! Please check out her website and follow her on IG at kimeleonphilms.

All photos are by Vivian Pham and are from the film shoot of the Bird Hands Beaver a Fish Mint Bouquet proof of concept shoot.

Applications are open for Testing Grounds 2024 until 11:59PM, Monday 1st April. Apply now!