Catherine Hill: Deep Impact

May 12, 2022
With her feature debut Some Happy Day, the Melbourne filmmaker embraces the social realist with the affecting and timely parallel stories of a frazzled homeless woman and a troubled social worker.

How did Some Happy Day emerge as a project?

I’m passionate about Australian stories and have been working as a script editor and dramaturg for decades. I’ve also been in the privileged position of being employed as a crisis worker and case manager, supporting men and women surviving without a home over the same period of time. When you work one on one with someone over months you get to know them and appreciate their journey. It was their stories that inspired me to write Some Happy Day and it was a great community of independent filmmakers who encouraged me to jump into the deep water and make a feature film.

How did you go about writing it, and choosing particular storyline?

When I first started working in Welfare I was partnered with an incredible social worker. She had a huge impact on me, but even more on the people she supported because she was so good at empowering them and helping them map a way out of their crisis. But when they left her room, she fell apart. While she could help others, she couldn’t help herself. I loved this dichotomy, and it was one I wanted to explore in Some Happy Day. The character of Frances the Social Worker is based on my colleague. I also know the impact of what a single engagement can have and that was the other storyline I wanted to develop, how one meeting at the right time with the right person can change your life. The lives of both the women in my story are changed completely because of a meeting in a Crisis Centre.

Did you ever consider also starring in the film; if not, why?

I love women who direct, write, produce and act. They are inspiring. I was too old to play either of the main characters and while I would have loved to have played a smaller role, I had too much to do. I had to quickly learn the ropes of directing and producing a film – big jobs. I was blessed having found Cecilia Low and Cameron Zayec who came on as producers and of course my husband and composer Abe Pogos.

How did you cast the film?

The role of Tina was written for Peta Brady. I’ve had the pleasure of directing Peta in theatre and working with her as a dramaturg. Peta is an extraordinary writer and actor. She also works as a drug and alcohol worker and knows the world of the film intimately. She read all the drafts and gave feedback and also assisted with the rest of the casting.

Did you watch other particular films as inspiration before embarking on Some Happy Day?

I knew I wanted it to be stripped back, simple, honest. I rewatched works of the Dardenne Brothers and Mike Leigh. I also had another look at Paul Ireland’s Pawno and other social realist films.

What is the significance of the title of the film?

Some Happy Day is a title that offers hope. For our character Tina, even when she is surviving without a home, she is hopeful that she can turn things around. We tested this title with several others and all our friends and family voted for Some Happy Day because it suggested a better future.

Do you have concerns about possible homelessness in old age?

It could happen to any of us. We’ve witnessed that with the droughts and fires we’ve experienced recently. I also have a friend who was recently unwell and became preoccupied with the fact that she could become homeless. Once your savings run out, what do you do? If you have to depend on Centrelink, how can you even find an affordable rental. Housing for the Aged Advocacy Service have released figures that 405,000 women over the age of 45 are at risk of homelessness.

Because you have this direct connection to the homeless, how did they cope during Covid?

During Covid we had a direction from the Department of Human Services to accommodate everyone to meet the lockdown requirements. We placed thousands of rough sleepers and others experiencing homelessness (people couch surfing or living in overcrowded or inappropriate dwellings) into motels. It happened overnight. And this support, for Melbourne at least, was provided for close on two years. However, once the lockdowns were over many were exited back on to the street. Some were lucky and secured case management and transfer into affordable housing, but now it feels like we are back to square one. Except we don’t have access to as much accommodation anymore now people are back travelling. A lot of the motels have no vacancies or prefer not to book rooms for those who are experiencing homelessness.

Is your impact campaign deliberately timed for the election?

No, but part of our campaign is trying to get people to consider the power of their vote. You should check out the housing policies of the major parties. We have a housing crisis, and it is impacting everyone.

What is the objective of your impact campaign?

We have engaged a wonderful Impact Producer, Rowen Smith from Screenkind. We want to humanise homelessness through the story of Tina to challenge general assumptions about homelessness and inspire behaviour change; from engaging with those who are experiencing homelessness, to donating, volunteering and advocating for a National Housing Policy that affords every citizen a home that is secure, safe and enables them to live with dignity.

We have created additional doco films to support this. And these are provided with the film as part of our Impact Package.

We want young people to see the film so we can inspire the next generation of advocates.

We want people to be able to use the film to fundraise for organisations supporting those surviving without a home. We love the idea that you can be raising funds for an issue while learning more about it.

We are also creating a volunteer induction package so that volunteers working for services supporting those who are homeless can get access to our Impact Package and other resources.

We are also trying to raise funds for an Educational Package so we can get the film to Year 10-12 students.

Big goals for our small film.

What are your thoughts about this current government in terms of homelessness and also the arts?

We need massive investment and commitment in social and public housing from both federal and state governments. I’d encourage everyone to sign up to the Everybody’s Home Campaign which is advocating to fix a broken housing system.

We need commitment to a Housing First approach for the most vulnerable and marginalised, this is where housing comes first and then services and supports are provided.

Regarding the Arts, wow, we need massive investment. We need to get more Australian stories made and aired. Stories shape our culture and if we are not seeing ourselves reflected back, we lose a sense of who we are.

We also need diverse stories that reflect our world.  As an older woman I’m aware of how much change we need to make to reflect the real world.

The Centre for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University noted that in 2020 only 29% of protagonists were female and there was a precipitous drop in major female characters from their 30s to their 40s – falling from 31% of the roles to just 13%.

Can you tell us how people can see the film and also what the future plans are?

Our film will continue to do event screenings around Australia. We have screenings at the Ritz Cinema in Randwick Sunday May 15 at 4pm and Monday 16th at 6.30pm, and then in Castlemaine Victoria at the Royal Theatre June 16th.

You can help us make an Impact by hosting a screening with all information available on our website. www.somehappydayfilm.com

And we will soon have the film available on video on demand and that will be via our website as well.

Will you make any more films?

I’d love to. I have a story ready to go, but at the moment all my time is committed to getting this film out there. [Producer] Sue Maslin said once you’ve made the film, you’re only 50% of the way there, getting the film to your audience is half the job.

 

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