Disabled Life, Film, Theatre

Getting Involved.

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 .

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Disabled Life, Theatre

NZIFF Diary – Green Room

Here we are it’s film festival time again. This year I have a mortgage and funds are low so I’m probably seeing 4 to 6 films, usually I see 13. But the good news is that Green Room is finally here and it feels like it’s been a long wait.

I watched the trailer just once online and from that I knew I wanted to see it with as little knowledge of the film as possible. All I knew was it was about a band who end up seeing something they shouldn’t have and they are trapped in a room with a club full of neo Nazi’s outside. So lets start at the beginning.

(Or just scroll to the bottom for the film part)

2pm The transport system in Auckland is being overhauled and now I have to get off a bus at the bottom of town. A quick check online tells me I have a 1.2 km walk from bus stop to theatre. The film starts at 9:15. It’s the festival so 9:15 means 9:15. No trailers.

4pm I’m home a little later then expected and the weather is looking stormy. Wet weather means a slippery footpath. I’ll leave early and give myself time to get there.

6:40pm I’m off, I get a few metres from the house and it starts raining. Sod it, I keep going. A car pulls up next to me “Hey Ant you wanna lift?”. Stranger danger kids.

7:pm I thank John and Beth (not their real names) for the ride they’ve given me. They seem like nice people and I hope the restaurant they go to is a good one.

7:05pm I get on the bus just as all the rain comes down, HARD! It’s got 20 minutes to sort itself out. As the bus arrives in the city there is a double decker blocking the way. Our driver is pissed! He drives up to the other bus and opens the door to have a yell but double decker driver refuses to open his window, they just eye ball each other for a bit. 2 bus 2 furious.

7:26pm I move quickish through the city and get to the theatre with plenty of time to spare….SO MUCH TIME…I’m quicker than I thought. There is a red carpet, lights and 2 DJ’s playing outside Sky City…this is interesting.

7:45pm Turns out it isn’t. Miriama Kamo and some guy in a sparkly suit introduce a fashion show. There’s maybe 90 people here. It’s outside, it’s windy and rainy. I’ve never seen a proper fashion show I should check this out. It’s a 14 year old designer named George. The first two models come out…I’m hungry so I leave. I’m not a fashionable guy so why start now.

8pm As I find a cafe to eat I over hear a homeless man having a conversation about league. He’s very interested in the bunnies and sharkies. The man in a suit asks him “What’s your story?” “It’s on my board bro just read my board.” He then waits while suit reads his board.

8:10pm I order a pumpkin soup and hot chocolate, I’m cutting back on coffee. The staff are watching my every move, the manager actually met me at the door before I entered the cafe. God I miss coffee.

8:45pm The disabled toilet at Sky City has no soap dispenser. That’s not that interesting except that it’s brand new and they haven’t put one in, this is the second time I’ve seen a brand new toilet with no soap dispenser, clearly an able bodied plot to kill the disabled through spreading disease is afoot.

8:55pm I get to the theatre and have a quick chat with Duncan and Lucia. He’s heard the same things about Green Room…our conversation is interrupted as one of the ushers has seen me and offers to take me in the side door saving me a trip up the stairs.

9:10pm I’m seated third row centre. It’s not that bad. I hope this film is worth it.

THE REVIEW

Green Room – The film has quite a slow build and it feels like it’s the start of a road trip movie for the first 20 mins. It doesn’t take long for a sense of dread to creep in and then things just get more and more intense. The cast overall is pretty great, Anton Yelchin is fantastic as is Patrick Stewart as the club owner/gang leader. I also liked seeing Imogen Poots doing something other then being the pretty girl. The score is unintrusive, I really didn’t notice it that much nor did the camera work seem flashy. Perhaps because the atmosphere is just so nerve wracking. If it gets a general release I wouldn’t mind seeing it again. Honestly the less you know the better. If you like horror or thrillers you’ll enjoy it.

 

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Film, Theatre

A Marathon? Sure, I’ll do it.

Every year I do a marathon with a group of friends. We all prepare individually trusting that the other one’s will just be there and be ready. It’ll take endurance, concentration, water, coffee, no doz, deodorant, a blanket maybe a pillow or a bean bag for the lucky few. It starts at 2pm on a Saturday and I won’t be home till 3 or 4pm Sunday.

The 24 hour movie marathon is not for your fair weather cinema goer who struggles through a 3 hour film or is spooked by a triple feature. If you have taste and no tolerance outside of your taste it’s not for you.

I was invited a few years ago by a friend. I’d never heard of it so I thought I’d give it a go.  It started with an old 50’s film and then Zombieland (Well before the public release) I saw 4 other new releases that year as well as a lot of cult films. The closing film was Commando. This list is severely truncated to only the recognisable names.

Every year since I’ve gone back. Hauling out a hiking backpack I use just once a year. Stuffing it carefully with a blanket, food (both sugary & actual food). My stamina has gotten better and last year I managed to stay awake for the vast majority of it. I faded during the second to last film but was fine for the last film.

This is 12-15 films back to back to 5 min break to back to dinner break to back to back to 5 mins then midnight film,midnight film to back to back to back (sleep is for the weak) to OMG it’s breakfast, to back to back 5 mins break to back to back to can we squeeze one more in? Sure! to back and home.

You will not see a Marvel or DC logo grace the screen, you won’t know what’s coming at any time, you may know of one film before hand. You will have some expectations that won’t be close to what you’ll see if you’ve never been before.

There is a mixture of new features, old features, classic (not necessarily Citizen Cane or Hitchcock). There might be 4 or 5 mainstream films. Beyond that is so far beyond that I can’t even tell you for many reasons. Mostly it’s against the rules.

The rules. No phones or talking during the films. Doesn’t matter how bad you think the film is, how insightful your observation, how funny you are, noise pollution, light pollution, it won’t be tolerated. I once saw someone yelled out of the theatre for bag rustling at 3am. Don’t talk about what you’ve seen. Really try to control your stink.

This is where hardcore film people go. I have friends whom I only see here.  It’s a bizarre community where some people wear pajamas for 24 hours and others wuss out and drive home for a couple of hours to sleep or shower (wimps, unless your actually working the event then go for your life.). The most overwhelming sense of this community, for me, came a couple of years ago.

My friend had passed away about a month before the event and there was a sombre mood among my friends. I missed her badly. The marathon is broken up by smaller items and games between films. There is also a section honouring people in film who have passed away. Yes like the academy awards but it features people they may have missed. Right at the end they put up a photo of my friend. It was a nice touch.

It’s a good experience and if you’re curious you should go and at least try to stay for the midnight film.

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Disabled Life, Film, Theatre

Mt Actor

I’m 40. A sometimes writer/director who hopes to make a feature film or tv series at some point in my life. I discovered I wanted to be a director at 24 when I went to film school because I’d being rejected from a radio course 3 times. However the drive behind film school was acting.

I have acted since primary school. I wrote plays, skits things that were performed in assembly’s all sorts. It has enabled me to meet a variety of people and certainly made me a better director. I couldn’t play sport  (Eventually I would play indoor cricket for 4 years) so I used acting as an outlet for energy and to fit in with other kids (I would never call actors normal and neither would they).  I went to Sydney’s theatrefest at 16 with Theatre Unlimited (a 70% disabled theatre group) and got to perform over there

My first break as it’s called was a ridiculous piece of luck that will never be repeated. A notice at college was looking for extras for a music video. I was in a wheelchair but hey it’s just extras, who cares. I go to the audition and am shown into a room. There’s a few girls with legs stretched up the wall, a few I know from school. I realise I’m the only guy and their all wearing dance gear. A head pops through the door, sees me, pops out. Two heads pop in eyes bulge and they disappear. This woman in a suit enters and wheels me out to a carpark where theres two guys a desk and a lamp.One guy is just staring at me. The other is telling me that they are really looking for dancers for a kids show called The Early Bird show. I tell them I have theatre experience. Suddenly the starer starts waving his arms around.

The song is called “It doesn’t bother me” and the concept involves a band made up of giant birds and people dancing in the rain, unbothered. BUT WAIT!!! Wavy hands has a new concept and it’s me in my wheelchair and there’s some skaters doing tricks and I do one in my chair and it’s cool and then I met some girls doing double dutch and blah blah. Essentially I meet people, they challenge me, I respond, we’re mates and then random people dance in the fountain at Albert Park.

They changed the concept of the video and I became the featured attraction. The song played once at 8:30am and was never seen again. It was directed by Grant Lahood and was one of his first paid jobs. I met up with him years later and he looked over a script of mine for me.

After this I performed in school plays and a few other things. Then after film school I decided to have a real crack at acting. I enrolled for an acting class, a good one, good reputation and I did well I thought. Then I made a phone call that just shattered me.

“Hi I was wanting to talk to someone about representation?”

“Sure, how much experience do you have and how old are you?”

I run off my cv I have about 20 years at this point. I tell them I’m disabled. There is a pause and a deep breath.

“You have a good voice, you sound young and a lot of experience….but your disability is really off putting.”.

I’m stunned. I don’t know what to say. I say thanks and goodbye as an automatic reply. I have never named the agent and I never will. But it was some pretty cold shit.

I can’t say I gave up on acting at that point but I became less confident in myself. Lots of  actors go through knock backs but I can’t change this, I can’t ignore it and I can’t improve it with a workshop.

To make myself feel better I decide to go audition for a local theatre production of Pride & Prejudice. I have played Puck in Midsummer nights dream.  A very physical role that I was given the opportunity to take on by Lexie Matheson. To this day it is my all time favourite role.

I prepare to audition for Mr Darcy and Mr Collins. When I go in for the audition there are 20 other actors. All in a circle. You step into the circle and read the scene, are given some direction, read again and are then asked if you’d like to be considered for other parts.

My turn in the circle. I read Darcy. No direction. I read Collins. No direction. No consideration for other roles. I end up waiting for an hour in the waiting room before being told I can go home.  The directors prejudice just kicked my pride in the nuts.

That’s almost it for theatre.

Almost.

I channeled the anger into my writing and redesign my feature script Defensability into a play. After much thought I realise I can’t direct a play. I asked my friend to direct it as she’s more experienced in theatre then I am. I do take on the role of Kelly and I do get to play a lead in something I wrote. I didn’t chase an agent though and I’m not sure I will now.

Acting for me is still something I like but writing and directing are my passions.

I hope to return to them soon.

The featured image was taken by Adam Baines on the set of my short film Rollmance.

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