Lights, Camera, Compassion: The power of film to create conversations that matter

Categories: Community Engagement.

Live the life you please is the most recent of a number of films I’ve produced on palliative care. However this is the first time the story has focused on one country.  My home, Australia.  Having travelled the world for the past 15 years to share the life changing stories palliative care can bring to those who receive it, it felt like the right time to explore what it means on my home soil.

Part of the great unknown of releasing a creative project is the doubt- will anyone want to see it, will people like it, will they tell their friends to see it?  And that questioning voice can be heightened to an almost crushing volume when you release a feature film on the lived experience of palliative care.  Particularly when you were told from the start by every commissioning editor (and half your friends and family) that ‘NO ONE wants to watch a film about death….’

But for a filmmaker who doesn’t like to be told ‘no’ I took this as more of a challenge than a directive.  So Mike Hill, myself and the team and I got to work and the result is Live the life you please.

It’s a feature documentary that aims to improve awareness and access to essential palliative care and related health services for all Australians, and help start important conversations about living the life you please right until the very end.

It was during the time just before we released the feature film, when we were still biting our nails in nervous anticipation, that a remarkable thing happened.  We put a short film on Youtube featuring one of the Live the life you please participants. It’s  a film we thought might be too hard for many to watch but was too beautiful not to share. It’s called Choosing to die at home.

To our surprise the view count almost immediately took off, amassing an impressive 308 thousand views and over 4000 likes in a matter of weeks.  We began to be hopeful, maybe we were onto something?  Perhaps the commissioning editors were wrong.  People do want to know about end of life care.

So in spite of being told that Australian audiences wouldn’t be interested in seeing this film, especially not in a cinema.  The film was picked up by a national cinema chain and screened in over 65 locations, with over 100 sessions watched by thousands of cinema going audience members.  In fact, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive and the media reported on the film over 170 times.

A big success for a film about death.  Only it’s not about death, that’s the myth we had to bust.

As Simon Waring the film’s Presenter noted, the film is really a series of love stories.  And although that wasn’t what we’d set out to create, he’s right.  It is all about love.

With the theme of compassionate communities: Together for palliative care being the focus for World Hospice & Palliative Care Day 2023, this film showcases just that.  The remarkable experiences people can have when they receive whole person care delivered by carers, family, friends and multi disciplinary teams when and where they want it delivered.  We explored what happens when people receive care during life’s most testing moments and the life changing impact not only for the patients but also for their families.

“Live the life you please is a touching, compelling depiction of the importance of palliative care to the community, and sets the bar for what quality palliative care could look like.” Ed Hawke, Palliative Care Australia

Many who have watched the film remarked on how it empowered them to start an important conversation with their own family about what they might want towards the end of their own life and what their wishes might be if they had to face a life limiting experience.

The hope for the film now is that it’s message is shared far and wide about the possibilities that come from being able to access good care that’s well delivered.  Mike and I were not slowed by the nay-sayers but rather buoyed by the generosity of the people who shared their stories.

With over one million Australians using aged care services and more than 80,000 requiring palliative care every year, we knew it was important for people to find a way to start difficult conversations about their wishes for themselves and their loved ones.  We needed to show Australians what a difference quality palliative care and related services can make.

After all, if you don’t know what palliative care is, how can you advocate for it?

“We hope that many people will hear of it [Live the life you please] through family, friends, and the media as it’s a conversation we should all have with those close to us.  Also, it will open many people’s minds and eyes but especially their hearts so they can live the final stage of their life exactly as they wish.” Audience member after attending a screening.


  1. Hi Sue, Thanks for all you’re doing to bring this important conversation to the fore. I’m an end of life Doula in Auckland NZ, and we are looking forward to seeing the movie next month at an online private screening. I hope you get a chance to put it out in cinemas here also so that the public of NZ can see it. Congratulations on your courage 🙂 xx

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