Leverne McDonnell was an Australian actor and a close friend and colleague. When she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer she wanted to make a statement about voluntary euthanasia, so we made a documentary together about how she lived her life and her death - both with great humour.
While voluntary euthanasia has been legalised in some countries, it is not legal in Australia despite support for it by the majority of the population in opinion polls.
Interview with Director/Producer Fiona Cochrane
Why did you make All in Her Stride?
This is touched on in the film’s synopsis – Leverne McDonnell was a wonderfully talented Australian actor as well as a close friend and colleague of mine for the last 20 years of her life. Not only did she act in nearly all of my films since I met her, she also worked in the production area on many of my films and was a constant sounding board for me.
She had moved to the country some years prior to her death so worked less during this time but we were planning for her to work with me in a permanent part-time job just prior to her death.
I was also her general practitioner, and diagnosed her with pancreatic cancer. She underwent major surgery to try to beat it but subsequently developed liver metastases. When we realized she was terminal we decided to make a documentary about her life – to try to say something about voluntary euthanasia, which we both felt strongly about and which was a subject of discussion at the time (as it still is).
I gave Leverne a Go-Pro (when they first came on the market overseas) to film herself at home with the family, and then the cinematographer and I filmed interviews with her intermittently and with increasing frequency as her health deteriorated. Her family weren’t necessarily happy about being filmed in these situations, which was completely understandable, but they knew it was Leverne’s wishes that we did so and I would have been with them during this time anyway as a family friend and her doctor.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
While this is a film about someone dying, it has a lot of humour and emotion in it – because that was the nature of Leverne. She was a very funny, dramatic and idiosyncratic/ wacky woman.
And if one is interested in the subject of voluntary euthanasia (and we all need to start thinking about it more), one will be interested in seeing it. Voluntary euthanasia has been legalised in some countries but is not legal in Australia despite support for it by the majority of the population in opinion polls.
Why is it called ALL IN HER STRIDE?
Initially this was a quote by a friend used in an earlier cut of the film to describe how Leverne coped with things. In the final cut we took out the quote but kept the term as the title of the film since it is a commonly used expression which hopefully is understood even without someone saying it directly.
Is this a personal or a universal story for you?
Both. It is an intensely personal story of a close friend dying, but is also a universal story as we all have to cope with the deaths of those close to us at some time in our lives.
And the issue of voluntary euthanasia is one that is being dealt with in different ways around the world.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
It has had very positive feedback at film festivals internationally, although perhaps surprisingly not within Australia.
I have had audience members from overseas who have emailed me to thank me for the wave of emotion they felt while watching the film – so I think (and hope) it works on an emotional level without being over-sentimental.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Not yet, but I am happy to discuss the issue of voluntary euthanasia with anyone – any takers?
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on the platform?
As I mentioned previously, the film has been screened at quite a few film festivals internationally and garnered a number of awards but has not been screened by any Australian film festivals or by Australian television, which is disappointing in light of the audience interest in the subject (highlighted recently by Andrew Denton).
I would therefore like to give the film a bit more visibility in Australia.
Who do you need to come on board to amplify the film’s message?
Having just completed the international film festival circuit I am looking at distribution for the film – whether I do this directly or via a distributor (or a number of non-exclusive distributors).
What type of impact and reception would you like this film to have?
I would like this film to be able to contribute to the discussion on voluntary euthanasia – that was Leverne’s dying wish and the reason for the film in the first place.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Why do we give our animals quick, painless and peaceful deaths but seem unable to let the same happen to our human loved ones?
If one has religious or other objections to voluntary euthanasia then one can choose not to do so but why should you impose your views on others who do not share them and have made different decisions for themselves?
Interview: May 2016
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All in Her Stride
Length – 55 minutes
ProducersFIONA COCHRANE & LEVERNE McDONNELL
Producer/ director FIONA COCHRANE has produced and/or directed several independent Australian feature films as well as numerous documentaries and short films. Her recent documentaries include the feature-length documentaries WOMEN ARE THE ANSWER, JOE CAMILLERI: AUSTRALIA’S MALTESE FALCON and RACHEL: A PERFECT LIFE, as well as television documentaries MUSIC OF THE BRAIN, OPERA THERAPY, TUG OF WAR and SCREAMIN’ WHEELIES. Her films have screened at numerous international festivals and received many international awards.
Fiona is also medically trained and continues to work as a General Practitioner in Melbourne.
Looking for: Sales agents, buyers, distributors, journalists and possibly film festival directors although it has already screened at many festivals – see below.
AWARDS & SCREENINGS:
Best Documentary Short at 2015 ReelHeART International Film Festival (Canada), Best Documentary Short at 2015 Mexico International Film Festival, Best Documentary Short at 2015 Indie Gathering International Film Festival (USA), Best Documentary Short at 2015 BLOW-UP / Chicago International Arthouse Film Festival (USA), Special Jury Remi Award for Short Documentary at 2015 WorldFest-Houston (USA), International Gold Award for Short Documentary at 2015 IFCOM Festival (Indonesia), (International Film Competition Festival), International Special Jury Award to Leverne McDonnell at 2015 IFCOM Festival, Filmmaker of the Year Gold Award at International Filmmakers of the Year 2015 Awards (for full awards and screenings go to end of article).
Production company (and funder): f-reel pty ltd
Completed August 2014 and screened at many festivals since then – as shown.
Full list of awards and screenings:
Platinum Award Winner at 2015 International Film Festival for Women, Social Issues
& Zero Discrimination (Indonesia)
Platinum Award Winner for Documentary Short at 2015 World Documentary Awards (Indonesia)
Silver Award Winner in 2014 International Independent Film Awards (USA)
Exceptional Merit Award at 2015 Depth of Field International Film Festival Competition
for Documentary Viewer Impact: Motivational/ Inspirational (USA)
Award of Merit: Documentary Short in 2014 IndieFEST Film Awards (USA)
Award of Merit: Women Filmmakers in 2014 Accolade Competition (USA)
Award of Merit: Women Filmmakers in 2015 Best Shorts Competition (USA)
Award of Excellence in Shorts Documentary at 2016 WRPN.TV Short, Tight & Loose
Short film competition (USA)
Honourable Mention at SaMo Indie 2015 (Santa Monica, USA)
Special Mention at I Filmmaker International Film Festival 2015 (Spain)
Special Mention at 2016 Snowdance Independent Film Festival(Germany)
Best Documentary nomination in 2015 Depth of Field International Film Festival (USA)
Best Documentary Feature nomination at 2015 Great Lakes International Film Festival (USA)
Best Documentary Feature nomination at 2015 Maverick Movie Awards (USA)
Best Documentary Short nomination at 2015 Lombardy International Film Festival (Italy)
Best Director nomination for a Documentary Short at 2015 Lombardy Int. Film Festival
Best Director nomination for Documentary in 2015 Australian Directors Guild Awards
Best Director nomination in 2015 BLOWUP / Chicago International Arthouse
Film Festival (USA)
Official Selection at Women’s Director International Film Festival 2014 (India)
Official Selection at 2015 SR Socially Relevant Film Festival New York
Official Selection at 2015 Buffalo Niagara Film Festival (USA)
Official Selection at 2015 Riverside International Film Festival (USA)
Official Selection at 2015 Louisville International Festival of Film (USA)
Official Selection at 2015 Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (USA)
Official Selection at 2015 Awareness Film Festival (USA)
Official Selection at 2015 American Psychological Association Film Festival
Official Selection at 2015 Orlando Film Festival (USA)
Official selection at 2015 Cutting Edge Film Festival (USA)
Official Selection at 2016 Florida Movie Festival (USA)