Disabled Life

Got drunk, got a job, got fired, got rehired.

When I was at film school a lot of my class mates got experience on big sets as assistants and runners. This was beyond me. Nobody is really comfortable with a disabled guy in a position titled “runner”. Then I fell into a good idea.

It was a Friday night and I was at a bar having a few drinks. Around 3am I went into the disabled toilet where naturally the house band were storing their gear. I tripped on a drum kit on the way out and fell at the feet of a casting agent.

(This conversation happened years ago when I was less then sober so it’s not verbatim it’s just the gist)

“Are you ok?”

“Yea”

“You’re with the film school people?”

“Mmmhmm”

“Can you be at DeBretts at 7 I need extras for a short?”

“I’ll see you then”

I taxi home and get 2 hours sleep. I wasn’t a big drinker so no hangover. I get to set half an hour early. I was keen to see as much as I could. I was halfway through my film school course so just seeing a professional set in action was really important. Now that I’ve been on more short film sets I realise what I was seeing was rare. This film had some money behind it.

I’ve bought a couple of shirts, I look good (I did deal with it) and I’ve arrived on time. The crew start to arrive. The lighting truck is being unloaded and the agent I spoke to 3 hours ago is impressed I made it. Suddenly a shorter woman is scoping me out. She pulls the agent aside and they turn their backs to me……The agent approaches.

“I’m really sorry…the director …has asked for you not to be in the film.”

“Did I do something wrong?” I hadn’t been on a set like this I was really worried I’d done something like dressed wrong or not assisted with coffee. I had no idea and it was embarrassing to be asked to leave my first set.

“The director doesn’t believe….she doesn’t think it’s realistic to have a disabled person in a bar.”

“You found me in bar”

“I know she’s the director I can’t do anything…that’s just how it goes.”

Make no mistake I have memorised that director’s face.

I pack my stuff quietly and fight the urge to hurl abuse.

The actors arrive as I’m packing. The crew are not looking at me. I trudge off…a hand drops on my shoulder and I turn around.

“Hey Ant! Are you hanging out with us today?”

It’s my friends ex girl friend. Honestly I don’t know her well enough to call her a friend but it was both nice to see her and a little sad.

“Nope. I was asked to leave.” I don’t go into the why as there are too many people around and I don’t want the reputation of being difficult before I’ve done anything. But she reads me like a book and goes off to speak to the director.

I can’t fill you in on the conversation but there was a committee pow wow of four.

I’m in the film, at the back of the bar, on a stool, another extra is put in front of me. So I’m on the set but I won’t be seen.

Doesn’t matter. I’m on a set WHEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

At lunch I am seated with the main cast and then during a break I make my way to the crew table. (The separate cast & crew thing never sat well with me and I haven’t encountered it since).

The crew are really informative and I learned a lot during that break. The director came from a rich family and they were funding the film, the break was because the natural light was mixing in with the artificial light.

“Shouldn’t the windows be blacked out?”

GRIP “Yep”

Camera op “Just waiting on the director.”

I spend the break asking them questions and they’re happy to answer.

The whole shoot went longer then it should have but it was a huge boost to my confidence. It wasn’t a lot of fun but it was a huge learning curve for me.

I saw the film a few years later by chance at a festival.

It wasn’t good. I tried to find the film online just now and I can’t.

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