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  • Annette Dawm

Making More than Flipcharts with Bec Hill

Bec Hill is an Australian comedian, television/podcast host author and artist, but that doesn’t mean she has everything all figured out yet, and that’s okay. “…I have ADHD,” Bec explained, “so I’m good at throwing myself into projects which excite me, but terrible at time management. So right now, the way I ‘balance’ it is by working 24/7 and pulling the occasional all-nighter-- which I don’t recommend because it stops everything from being fun. But I have achieved balance in the past, so I know it’s possible and am working on regaining it.” (Bec also wanted people to know that she is taller in person and did not attend art school.)

From an early age, Bec knew she wanted to be a part of the entertainment industry: “When I was five, I played the evil witch in a class play of Snow White. Except my concept of ‘evil’ was ‘naughty’, so I portrayed the witch as a bratty child who threw a dramatic tantrum every time she was angry. I expected the audience to gasp at the pure evilness of my character as I wailed and thumped my fists on the ground, but instead, they laughed. And I liked it. I’ve been chasing the laughs ever since.” This led her to start working as a comedian (with other day jobs) straight out of high school.

Like many kids who grew up in the 1990s, Bec loved watching Art Attack. It not only inspired her viral paper puppetry videos but her own TV show, Makeaway Takeaway. Any Art Attack fan would instantly recognize the similarities between the two sets. Both are brightly coloured and use a ton of PVA (white) glue. In one episode of Makeaway Takeaway, Hill created a 3D picture of an ice cream sundae using glue and shaving cream/foam. “We obviously tried making each thing at home first to make sure we weren’t setting any impossible tasks for the viewers!” Hill said the craft dried overnight at home. However, the projects made while filming the show usually dried quicker under the studio lights.

The main thing Bec wants viewers to Takeaway from the show is to “Stop throwing things away! I used to only use recycling and ‘rubbish’ because I couldn’t afford proper craft materials. Now I choose to use it. It gives me ideas! I’ll look at a shiny toothpaste box and think, ‘Ooh! This could be a pair of sunglasses for this spider I’ve drawn!’ Almost everything we used on the show (even in the paper puppetry segments) was rescued from my (and the production team’s) bins.”

Bec credited Art Attack host, Neil Buchanan as the inspiration for the first flipchart character she created in 2005: “Well, the first mechanism I made was a simple down/up tab to give a stick-figure a mouth which opened and closed…. It was based on a technique I remembered seeing Neil Buchanan do for a greeting card. He was a huge influence on me and one of the reasons I’d always dreamed of hosting my own arts and crafts show!” Following her first flipchart, Hill continued to experiment and add new mechanisms each time. “This is how they went from being super basic, to comprising of multiple elements and unconventional materials (like balloons, tights and lights). So, it’s taken me more than 16 years to figure out what I know now-- but I hope I never figure out how to create all of the moving parts for my paper puppetry, otherwise they would be a lot less fun to make!” She continued.

“In 2011, I was asked to send an audition tape for a tampon ad, so I made a flipchart for it. When they turned me down, I uploaded the video onto YouTube where it sat quietly until I performed the piece in my Edinburgh Fringe show. Over night, it went from a few hundred views online to more than 20,000 (which was a lot at the time!). Not long after, I made a flipchart to accompany a song by my friend (and fellow comedian) Jay Foreman, which also hit more than 20,000 views. That was when I realized that it wasn’t just a one-off. Now I have about 20 flipchart videos up (out of 40 or so flipcharts, because not all of them turn out well!) and my channel’s had more than 5 million views. It’d probably have more if I focused all my creative energy on it, but I don’t have the same drive as professional YouTubers do. I’m happy to let it slowly build on its own while I work on other stuff.”

Speaking of working on other stuff, Hill is hopeful that there will be a second series/season of Makeaway Takeaway. “I’ll also be releasing the second and third books of my Horror Heights series in 2022, which I’m very excited about. Most of all, I am looking forward to the day I can easily visit home again. The restrictions have been very tight in South Australia (for good reason) and I’m really starting to miss my family (and the sun)!”

Finally, when asked about the advice she would give to anyone wishing to follow in her career path, Bec Hill replied: “Don’t follow my path (or anyone else’s) too closely – otherwise you won’t discover any hidden talents or interests. Oh, and read, The Artist’s Way if you can. It’s a little dated and ‘spiritual’, but the core lessons are invaluable. (Don’t beat yourself up if you struggle with it -- I don’t know anyone who completed the course on their first attempt, myself included).”

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Photo by Karla Gowlett.

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