Michaeley O’Brien was born in 1966 in Mudgee, NSW. She grew up in Gulgong, a small town located 300km north west of Sydney. After completing high school, she attended Charles Sturt University in Bathurst and completed a Journalism degree. Whilst at university, she wrote a play, which won her a three-month attachment at AFTRS, which eventually turned into a year. She completed a Certificate Scriptwriting in 1987.
After waitressing for four years, Michaeley’s sister, who was working at Home and Away as a Set Dresser at the time suggested that she do a script submission for the series. After three submissions, Michaeley was given an episode to write for the series. Her friend, Michael Offer, subsequently suggested that she do a submission for A Country Practice, however, after completing her submission, the series was cancelled. Thankfully, Channel Ten quickly picked it up and hired Michaeley as a Trainee Script Editor.
In 1994, A Country Practice was axed a second time. Luckily, John Hugginson, who had been a Script Producer on Home and Away during Michaeley’s time freelancing, was hired as the Script Producer for Blue Heelers and he asked her to move to Melbourne as a Script Editor. She remained in the role for a year, as did John, until they both moved back to Sydney to work on Water Rats. John then became the Network Script Executive at the Nine Network and Michaeley stepped into the role of Script Producer for a year.
Afterwards, she went back to freelancing and wrote for Australian dramas, such as State Coroner, All Saints and Stingers. During this time, she wrote a film script and a television concept with her university friend, Sarah Smith, which they pitched to the Nine Network. Despite almost getting greenlit to go to series, their pitch lost out to another, which eventually became McLeod’s Daughters. Michaeley wrote the pilot script for McLeod’s Daughters and moved to the in-house writing team and after Script Producer, Susan Bower was promoted, Michaeley became the Script Producer for a year in 2002.
After leaving the role (which she only intended to stay in for a year), she became a freelancer once again, continuing to write for McLeod’s Daughters, and eventually writing the penultimate episode. She also wrote scripts for Blue Heelers, Out of the Blue, Neighbours and Rescue Special Ops. In 2013, she became the Head Writer of the award winning ABC series, Serangoon Road, with Kym Goldsworthy as Script Producer and Timothy Lee as Script Editor.
In 2013, Michaeley and Sarah’s concept from fifteen years previous went to production and eventually aired on the Seven Network in the form of the high-rating telemovie, The Killing Field. The film was shot in her hometown of Gulgong and went to air in February 2014. A year later, a series based on the protagonist entitled Winter went to air, which Michaeley and Sarah were Script Producers and writers for.
In 2014, Michaeley’s first full-length play, Phoenix Rising (see below) was performed. The play, written and directed by herself, and acted by Kali Newcomb and Kathryn Maloney, was shown over three nights. In 2016, she directed an adaption of David Tristam’s Little Grimley comedies, which also showed in Gulgong. All performances were sold out.
“What connects an obsessively competitive horse rider at a cross country event in 2014 to a housewife cooking Bombe Alaska in Alabama in 1969? Then there’s the society woman being interviewed for a reality tv show and the corporate businesswoman summoned to see the school counsellor about her niece. Only it’s not the niece that’s the problem… Over five very different situations the characters wrestle hilariously with a specific problem – not realising they’re accidentally tussling with some of life’s big questions. Each character has a secret. Each act has a twist. And something completely unexpected connects them all.”