When you wake up in the morning, are you grateful that you don’t live with a disability or a disease? Chances are, it never enters your mind. Unfortunately, many of us do know somebody that isn’t so fortunate. The fact that many of us take so much for granted also keeps us from appreciating hardships of disease and disability that some families experience daily. Not only does a disability or debilitating disease effect the individual with the condition, it also impacts the family. The majority of us will never know the full scope of a family impacted with such adversities, unless it is exposed on screen or God forbid, it happens to you.
The film, Never Steady Never Still explores the life of a mother living with Parkinson’s and the impact on her family. There is triumph and there is sadness within the film. It will inspire and it will take your breath away. It will also make you appreciate your good health and feel empathy for others affected by a devastating disease. The film was written and directed by Kathleen Hepburn and was her first soiree into feature films. I had the great privilege of speaking with her about the film as well as viewing a screener while VIFF was in town. It was eye opening.
“This story allows us a window into the life of a family impacted by Parkinson’s. Where did the inspiration come from?”
“It actually came from my mom living with the disease for the past twenty four years. I started writing the script in 2012 and finished it in 2015 while working at Emily Carr as a film technician. I wanted to demonstrate the impact the disease has on an entire family. ”
Once Kathleen had completed the script, she posted it at the school. Shirley Henderson is remarkable in her portrayal of the mother living with the disease.
“How did you find such an amazing actress to portray the mom?”
“I was already a fan of Shirley Henderson who plays the lead. We contacted her through her agent and made an offer. We also contacted Nicholas Campbell through his agent as well. I think having them both attached had helped secure funding and distribution. It made us look like we were taking the project more serious while having a creative team behind the project. For the rest of the cast, we auditioned through K. K Casting in Vancouver.”
Apart from Shirley, Nicholas and Theodore Pellerin being flown in from Montreal, the rest of the actors were cast locally.
There is some wonderful panoramic cinematography in the film that showcases the majestic countryside. The setting for the film is a house by a lake surrounded by trees.
“Where were the locations for the film shot?”
“We had actually used three combined homes to create the illusion of one home. We shot the family home in Fort Saint James but because the home had no running water. We would use one home for a bathroom scene, another for exterior shots and the third for interior scenes. Another location was in Fort Saint Johns and the other was in Turner Valley, Alberta.”
“What this a difficult film to make considering it is a personal story?”
“I really didn’t, its just the reality of situation. I had grown up around the condition and it’s the life I’ve always known.”
“What is the message in the film you wanted to convey to the audience?”
“ I wanted to show the beauty in the persistence of the mom. When faced with the gravity of the situation, there is beauty in how you carry on. Often with a family affected by the disease, there is so much resistance to tell them what you want to say as well as being open with your family, because a lot of people are afraid of hurting each other and that’s often what holds us back from communicating with family. I feel like people that have watched the film walk away feeling like they need to talk to their family and tell them that they love them. That is the reaction I was hoping for.”
Kathleen had funded the film through Telefilm, the Harold Greenberg Fund and Women In The Directors Chair Award through the In Kind Sponsorship Award received in Banff. I think its terrific that great scripts are recognized for their potential and receive funding to showcase stories that are impactful.
They shot for 21 days over the course of two seasons through the winter of 2015 and finished in the summer of 2016.
The film has premiered at TIFF and also screened at the Atlantic Festival and the Calgary Film Festival before arriving at VIFF. After Vancouver she will be travelling with the film to Busan Korea. Incidentally, it is the home of the Asian film market.
“What makes you want to make films?”
“My drive to make films stems from a curiosity about the world and wanting to explore what its like to be someone else and live a different life.”
Kathleen has plans for her next film. She’ll be co-writing and co-directing a film based on a relationship between two Indigenous women. It will explore the correlation between their lives after one has escaped a violent partner. Although the two women have come from different places in their lives, they also have much in common as Indigenous woman. The film will explore their relationship over the course of the two hours they have together.
If Never Steady, Never Still is an indication of Kathleen Hepburn’s story telling talents, count me in for her next film. I look forward to seeing her next project as it nears fruition.