Artist Profile: Catherine Hill

Written by: Fiona Gruber
Catherine Hill says inexperience was sometimes a plus when making her first feature film, Some Happy Day. The shoot involved 60 actors, 60 crew and more than 150 community supporters.
“It didn’t occur to me that a huge cast would be a problem; that was definitely a bit naïve,” she says. The film tells the story of Tina, a homeless woman desperate to make a better life for herself and Frances, a social worker, who has problems of her own.
The action takes place over the course of one day and was filmed in and around St Kilda, the suburb where Hill, an actor, writer and director has lived and worked for nearly thirty years.
When she first moved to the area, Hill says, she became fascinated with her neighbours, the transient residents of the boarding houses that remain a prominent feature of the local community.
“They were such an eclectic range of people and St Kilda has one of the highest number of rooming houses of any suburb in Australia. I went to the Sacred Heart Mission [to do further research] and they suggested I volunteered there; I did so for twenty years,” she says.
Her work there and also at St Kilda’s Salvation Army Crisis Centre led to her becoming a social worker and to a coal-face appreciation of the challenges facing the homeless.
“I am so grateful I have a house to go back to,” she says “and I am inspired by their resilience.”
The fundamental causes of homelessness stem from a history of trauma, in many cases childhood trauma. And unless there is persistent intervention that is ongoing, she continues, we won’t be able to achieve an end to homelessness.
“With this film I wanted to humanise the homeless and for people to reconsider street dwellers,” she says.
Professional actors play the main characters; Peta Brady is Tina, struggling in a relationship and desperate for a stable home and social worker Frances is played by Mary Helen Sassman, with James O’Connell and Cameron Zayec taking the male leads.
Other roles went to students from the National Theatre, another local institution, and the homeless people played a variety of roles too, explains Hill.
“We did workshops and offered them roles but never as homeless people; these were roles in the library or in shops,” she says.
The film has been made on a $80,000 budget and there’s been a four year gap between end of shooting in 2017 and the movie’s release.
But the passion behind the project has kept it on track, says Hill. Others agree;
Tim Costello, Director of Ethical Voice and a tireless campaigner for the dispossessed describes it as a “sensitive, gritty portrayal of the shadows we all carry and the courage it takes to find our way through.”
And courage is at the heart of the film, agrees Hill.
“Homeless people want agency and what everyone else has. They want to make good decisions,” she adds and they also hope, often against experience, to win through to a better life.
“The film ends on a hopeful note,” says Hill; “hope sustains my work and their lives.
Some Happy Day opens on February 20th 2022 at the Classic Cinema, Elsternwick, on the World Day of Social Justice and this showing will be a fundraiser for the Sacred Heart Mission, St Kilda.
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