This year has seen a big change for myself personally and I have been going over it a lot in my mind. It’s not physical it’s a mental change. I think. I’m not sure how to define it.
At some point this year I gained new followers on twitter, I still don’t know what post or tweet caused it, suddenly I was in touch with more people with disabilities and I have become more aware that I am not alone with my concerns.
So I decided to become more active on social media in issues involving the disabled community. Have I caused any change in the world, no, but I am still finding my feet in this regard.
There does seem to be a big move against casting AB’s (able bodied) actors in disabled roles. So at this point I should address the elephant in the room.
My own films are guilty of this. It is something I have always been aware of and it is why I have taken extreme care with my actors to make sure they are honest in their portrayals, taking the melodrama out of the situation.
There are many reasons why AB’s are used. In my own case when I was at film school we had to use fellow students who were studying acting. However for the next 3 films I did in fact ring agencies and ask for disabled actors. You can only hear the phrase “There’s no market for that.” so many times before you feel like you’re asking in vain.
A cheat can be “We need flashbacks to when they were well” this of course leads us to the stereotype that all disabilities are caused by accidents.
Recently an actor in the US was questioned by disabled people about how he felt playing a disabled person when he himself was not disabled. His response was one of the worst I’d seen. He dismissed the concerns and tweeted out a picture of himself with standing with his two paraplegic consultants. One of whom was an actor in his own right. The whole situation just got worse and worse. I would have preferred if he’d engaged with his disabled fan base better, being rude and dismissive is unhelpful. It’s great to have a disabled character on screen but they could achieve more if they were disabled.
There are a few things I can accept. Budget and safety concerns can affect the casting of a disabled person but they should still be given the opportunity to audition. From there you can talk to them about their disability and what they can and can’t do.
I guess this is an issue I’m passionate about because I feel I can effect some change here and it is my hope to address the balance in a web series in 2017, I am hoping to once again be prolific in my script writing. Maybe I can bring some disabled people in on smaller roles thus creating a demand and then agents can have a better look at their books.
I’m also considering applying for the disability advisory panel at Auckland Council. My main inspiration for this is my amazing friends who have been standing up for diversity much longer than I have. They’re smart and I have learned a lot from them and I hope to take those lessons and apply them to the disabled community .