Interview with Christa Hill: A Beautiful Accident

By Jilliean Soison

Producer and freelancer Christa Hill shares how, by being adaptable and having the right support systems in place, she was able to overcome the disadvantages and hurdles that come with being a neuro-diverse creative. 

Tell us a little about yourself and your role in the film and TV industry? 

My name is Christa Fiona Hill. It’s also my Instagram handle if you want to follow me there. I am an audience producer on Q&A, a show on the ABC, where, each week, a discussion panel of politicians, social commentators, and change-makers come to talk about politics. My job [on Q&A] is to find and take care of the audience, who will then ask them the hard questions. On the side, I run my freelance videography/photography business, where I shoot corporate videos, events, weddings, and a lot of winery clients.

What’s a movie or TV show you’ve caught up with recently?

The Barbie movie! I know it’s been getting some criticism, but I think it does exactly what the Barbie movie should do. It’s incredibly silly and incredibly fun, and I giggled and cried far more than I expected. I’ve also been watching The Good Doctor, which is about an autistic doctor. Not everyone might be down with the casting, which is understandable. As a neurodivergent myself, I was fine with it. It has great character development and pulled on my heart strings. I reckon I cried every episode. 

Who or what inspired you to pursue film?

When I was 11, my great aunt gifted me my great uncle’s camera. I was obsessed with it, and it launched my experimenting with photography. I started my business while I was still in school, and the producer side of me was thinking, “Ok, so how do I monetise this?”. I thought that if I enrolled in film school, I’d be more adaptable to photography and videography. But it was that moment where [sic] my great aunt entrusted me with my great uncle’s most prized possession and said, “you take this now. It’s yours.” A part of my neurodiversity is that I also hyper-focus on things, so if you give me something early on in life, it’s going to stick!

How do you approach being a producer and a freelancer at the same time? 

The role of a producer in my freelance work is being able to find the opportunities for myself. It means tapping into the producing skills I learnt throughout university and my first few years working for the ABC. And if you don’t have that mindset or skills, it’s really hard to get that space where you are able to be as creative. The creative part isn’t just for freelance, nor is the producing part just for the ABC, but they bleed into one another.

In this industry, you don’t want to pigeon-hole yourself too much; you want to have a wide range of skills because they all help each other. If I just stopped at photography, I wouldn’t have been in the rooms where I am now. Just keep building your little tool kit. 

How has film school helped you in your career?

Not to sound like an ad for Swinburne, but if I had not done my degree, I would not be where I am right now. It’s all about who you meet and the skills you build through meeting those people. How I got into the ABC was entirely through the projects I worked on in Swinburne. 

In my second year, I made a documentary called When Life Gives You Melons, and it was about a boy named Miles who has dyslexia. Later on, I got an email from Swinburne’s Accessibility Department that said the ABC was looking for disabled people who were writing disabled stories. So, I updated the pitch I had done from my second year and focused on where Miles was now. How did he succeed in an environment that was never set up to serve him? The ABC got back to me and wanted me to make a shorter version for the ABC News Channel. This was my foot in the door. 

After they saw my work, they offered me a traineeship in News Breakfast. It was the best and hardest thing I ever had to go through, but it was great because I was paid to learn. After that, they offered me a job in Q&A.

Had I not had the opportunity and the space that uni gave me, I wouldn’t be where I am now. No project was a waste because it was also those moments where I met the friends that I would later work on other projects with. When you work at something you don’t want to do, it narrows it down what you can be. 

What was one thing that was challenging about film school?

I came in as the little kid with her great uncle’s camera like, “I’m gonna be a cinematographer!” But then I started university and I realised it was a bit of a boys club. It was hard for you to wriggle your way to the front of the class when everybody was around that one camera. I found it quite difficult at times to build up the courage to ask the questions, to insert myself, and to press the buttons. I retreated into myself and said, “No, I should only stay in my comfort zone.” I relied on the natural skills that I had; talking to people, making phone calls, and organising. And as much as that did serve me, I didn’t get into cinematography because I didn’t want to push myself to the front. 

What’s it like being a neuro-diverse student/practitioner? 

I found out I had dyslexia when I was in prep [school], but it wasn’t until the end of uni when I was diagnosed with ADHD. I also have issues with audio processing and a little bit of dyspraxia. ‘Neuro-spicy’ is the official diagnosis. It’s affected who I am and my learning my entire life. It’s affected my career in that I came to where I am through diversity pathways. But there was always a voice in my head that said, “You don’t deserve to be where you are because of the pathway you came through.” To which I say, “Shut up, voice!”. 

When it came to being a student, I could put in twice as much effort as my peers and yet receive half the results. It was devastating, especially as a creative where there’s so much passion and identity that you pour into the work that you do. There are areas where the starting line is a lot further back for me, whether that’s taking notes, or little attention span. There was also the getting over the anxiety that exists once you’ve been through the schooling system for years and experiencing the trauma of a system that doesn’t understand you. All institutions could do better and it shouldn’t just come down to the disability department. But ultimately, I had a positive experience in uni. 

I’m also grateful that I was brought up by a dad who was a speech pathologist and taught me self-advocacy skills. He taught me to always stand up for myself and who I am. People need to know because they can’t support you if they don’t know who you are or what you need from them. 

The main thing is getting over the hurdle of imposter syndrome and the story you tell yourself about having a deficit. Because, as much as we say, “it’s not a disability, it’s a different-ability,” I still feel it as [sic] a deficit. 

How would you encourage students who are neuro-diverse and are looking into getting into this industry?

You don’t have to share anything if you don’t want to; everyone’s journey is their own. But I do think it’s really helpful, if you are able to get confident enough to share your experiences. It helps others to understand you more and work with you, and vice-versa. Know that there is space for you and that you bring something great to the table. When you have challenges in life, you build certain skills. I wish you didn’t have those challenges, but I’m really glad you built those skills. 

Christa’s Work: