People and Places
28/05/2020
Comedy gold grows horns down south

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Words are falling like saccharin-coated swords somewhere in Balnarring Beach. Dropping like laughter bombs across the page, ready to guffaw and cackle-crackle through your internet browser or on to your living room floor via the box. AFI award-winner Trudy Hellier has been hunkering down and throwing words around on the Mornington Peninsula for 10 years and she wouldn’t have it any other way. This writer and actor – think performing in more than 40 productions including Blue Heelers, Round the Twist, Dr Blake, Frontline and Sunshine – has been renting a beachside shack with other creative cohorts and the result has been more than productive. The AWGIE Award and RE Ross Trust Award recipient explains: 

“I spent holidays as a teen at Merricks Beach with friends, exploring the rock pools and nature reserve. They were long summer days. We’d just take off and roam. I came back to the Peninsula when I was in my 20s, and when I had my own kids, you know, you just want them to have what you’ve had, don’t you?  We found a classic ‘50s house with an amazing view of Balnarring Beach. I’ve been using the space as a holiday home and a writers’ room. My colleagues and I go down to workshop scripts. There might be six or seven of us and we work long hours developing plot, characters and formulating ideas. It’s great because we can spend uninterrupted hours, unlike my home in St Kilda East where day-to-day life interrupts. I take long walks on the beach, which gives me clarity and the space for new ideas to come in. The physical side of being in such a beautiful environment is very therapeutic. I’ve been working mainly on female-driven projects since writing my short film Break and Enter and love working collaboratively. I mentor Victorian College of the Arts screenwriting students and always advise them, ‘You’ve got to find your peers; they will keep you alive’.”

Trudy comes with some real centre-stage writing and acting grunt. Aside, you can hear the pens scratching and the in-the-wings boards clacking. Her play The Furies, which was co-written with Elise McCredie, developed through MTC and funded by Australia Council, premiered off Broadway in New York in 2006. Her short film Foul Play screened at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival and her hilarious web series Little Acorns, co-created with Maria Theodorakis and funded by Screen Australia, hits all the comedy gold spots thanks to a quick-witted script and cast including Emily Taheny and Rachel Griffiths. Her latest drama SHIT, which is based on a Patricia Cornelius play and directed by herself and Susie Dee, was shot in three weeks and is currently in the editing stages.

Trudy continues: “SHIT is another female-led project. We raised the money ourselves, had a 90 per cent female cast and crew and just got it shot between the fires and the COVID-19 lockdown. We recently viewed the first cut. It was really funny – four of us in the editing studio at night-time, sitting 1.5m apart with our own lunch boxes. I can’t wait to get back to Balnarring. We’ve just got funding from Film Victoria to develop a six-by-30-minute comedy series set in a nail salon and we’ll be workshopping it there. And walking the trails with the dog. And going to the beach. And mushrooming.”

Thumbs up to that. En garde!

LIZ ROGERS 

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