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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Disabled Life

My funny old phone.

My move to mobile phones was slow. I didn’t get one till it became necessary, about half way through film school in 1999. It was a brick. Eventually I got slimmer phones that were more robust and now I have a Nokia 33 something or other, It gets calls and texts and that’s all I need it for.

But I would be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes look at smartphones and think about upgrading. It would be great to have access to a map or being able to pull information off the internet where ever I was when I needed it. Then the issues of my disability come up.

I struggle with touch screens, badly. Any small/fine hand movement is difficult. Threading a needle, lacing a shoe, typing on a touch screen. It would take forever. There are voice to text apps but I don’t fancy speaking out loud to myself to send a text on the bus.

Robustness is also an issue. As funny as my old phone is it has survived many falls and drops. When I look at smartphones they look fragile and if one broke within a month of buying it I would end up feeling pretty stupid.

There’s also the fact that I don’t really trust  salespeople that much. A consequence of people pushing the hard sell on me. I once had a woman trying to sell me a book of restaurant vouchers

“I don’t eat out that much”

“But you could go out with your friends and save a lot of money”

“No that’s ok”

“Ohhh my God…I feel so sorry for you…you have no friends…you don’t go out…you’re really sad.” (This is not exaggerated this is what she was saying, there were hand movements and a kind of dance.)

I shut the door and left her making begging noises on the driveway. What she was doing was a legitimate sales technique. If you are selling cars you would make the buyer feel bad about their current car and make them feel better for showing interest in the newer car you are selling. This is how I saw it presented in a bbc documentary about sales techniques.

The other strange one is “Mirroring” where you mirror someone’s movements and speech patterns to try and build an instant rapport. I had an actress (who shall remain nameless) try mirroring me once during a meeting about a script. It freaked me out. She seemed really nice, she actually is I found out later, but something was off and during the conversation I never felt comfortable. We were seated and talking about the script. My foot was angled back due to cramped seating at the cafe we were in. Suddenly I had a foot spasm and it jolted me so my arm kind of slid across the table a bit.

Then her arm slides across the table.

WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!

I wrapped the meeting up pretty quickly, I was weirded out.

She didn’t get the part but we stayed in touch, I put it down to she was trying something out, maybe she was nervous.

Back to my phone situation. I’m sure at some point the time will come when I must upgrade. There will be a teething phase for my new phone and I.

But not today.

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Disabled Life

My phobia

 

Ornithophobia is a type of specific phobia, which is an abnormal and irrational fear of birds.

I am ornithophobic that means I have a fear of birds. It’s a little more complicated then that. There is not a specific thing I am afraid of. Logically I know the bird probably won’t do anything, but if it’s anything bigger then a sparrow I freeze. I’ll wait for people to be nearby and then proceed. Pigeons, seagulls, magpies, swans, pukeko’s ducks, chickens, budgies I hate it and the closer they get the worse I am.

It was much harder when I was young and couldn’t verbalise what was going on. So people would make basic assumptions. I spilled a pot of chips once during a school trip, seagulls all around me and I panicked. “Oh he watched The Birds, it’s just a movie.” I hadn’t actually but that was good enough explanation for some people.

I’m selective about telling people because the inevitable “What do you think will happen?” comes up.  I don’t think anything will happen. The best way I can describe it is that my body goes through the chemical reaction of fear. Like I said I know nothing will happen, but I can’t help it. My mind starts racing, I don’t scream but I am looking for ways around the bird or for something to startle them so they fly off.

When we filmed Rollmance my producer got us The Pumphouse as a location. There was no way around it. The Pumphouse is home to a large number of swans that aren’t afraid of people. I told him I had a phobia and it was serious. We put someone on bird duty. I watched The Birds the night before, I handled it and while it would seem that is my worst nightmare it had no effect on me, it’s a film and I know it’s history. I have friends who perform at The Pumphouse and now a days I can’t go alone. I want to support my friends but I can’t handle the level of fear there. If a group is going I’m fine but on my own, no way.

A seagull got it’s head stuck in a box outside work once, I had gone down 3 flights of stairs and I was tired. So I waited inside. The bird kept squaking and playing with the box. I walked  back up the stairs and got an editor to come down and get rid of it. It was embarrassing.

The worst was inside a food court. I was seated with a friend who knew about my phobia but didn’t take it seriously. A pigeon flew on to our table, my friend started laughing until he looked at me, I wasn’t making a sound, I can’t remember much but he told me later that he had never seen anything like it. He got rid of it quickly because I looked terrified.

There is a photo of me as a baby in hospital, I had a bit of surgery back then,  there is a set of plastic birds above me. It seems I associate birds with surgical pain.

My phobia doesn’t effect my day to day life that much. But it is an annoyance when it does.

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Disabled Life, Film, sport

Martin Crowe

Originally this was a facebook post but I wanted to share the story with more people and expand on it a little. There was no media coverage of this at the time it happened.

One story I have about Martin Crowe. Craig Julich-Serventy and I filmed an interview with him for a producer (Footage now non existent as the producer took it and never called back.) His brother Jeff and I set up a cricket game at Northcote college. The interview was about the Cricket Max concept that they had devised.

Northcote was where I had captained an indoor cricket team and a social cricket XI, the social XI was also the only XI, I sometimes thought of it as “The first XI that turned up.” Being disabled and captaining in cricket I had a bit of attention from media and was able to turn that into something positive for a small school, there were 400 plus when I went there. This was only a few years after I left.

Jeff rang me to say that Martin would be coming. It was a third form vs fourth form cricket game. No media there (apart from Craig and I with a faulty camera). The two brothers played against each other (Martin 3rd form, Jeff 4th form). Martin had retired and his knee brace was almost space age. I remember him smiling during the game and each kid that got to bat with him or bowl against him was having the time of their life. The school setup a commentary table and two students called the game. As Martin batted he sometimes let the ball go through and pushed for singles and then crack! He belted the ball into a wall. It was an incredible show he and Jeff put on, It was quite amazing to see how much joy he brought to everyone involved. His enthusiasm for cricket was still there and I am glad that I got to see it first hand.

I can’t tell you who won but I don’t think that’s important.

 

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Disabled Life

A bit of a ramble about PG.

I’ve been ill for a bit so I wasn’t able to write as medication makes stringing sentences together a bit awkward, sorry.

A lot has happened. Mostly NZ broadcaster Polly Gillespie let out all her dislike of the disabled. I won’t link to it, you know how to google. Bullet points though.

  1. Polly hates it when disabled people misuse their parking card by letting able bodied people  go to the shops while they sit in the car.
  2. . Polly needed to desperately go poo, so she used a disabled toilet. A disabled man yelled at her because he needed to go toilet too. Polly points out that she is legally entitled to the toilet.
  3. Polly wanted to punch the man in the wheelchair…but she didn’t. Saint Polly!

On the first point. Polly is neglecting the existence of invisible disabilities. This can mean a lot of things. The best example is a chronic pain condition. If you see someone with the parking card, they have access to the space, leave it at that. Maybe they are misusing it but you really can’t judge it by looking at them. Please just leave it because if you’re wrong you’re going to make their day much worse.

The second point…F**K OFF! Yes legally you have a right to the toilet. But morally come on. Look legally you don’t have to stand for pregnant women or the disabled on the bus, you don’t have to make way for them or assist them in any way. PEOPLE DO IT BECAUSE IT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO!

The man in the wheelchair shouldn’t have behaved the way he did either. Not because of invisible disabilities necessarily, Polly G has a level of notoriety that means if she had a disability you’d know about,  he may have recognised her going in. My own attitude is just to wait till the person comes out. If they shouldn’t have really used it, they know and a level of guilt means they will be a little more choosy next time. I’m fine with pregnant women using them or people with broken legs. A friend of mine when pregnant used the disabled toilet at work because she needed the handrail to help her stand. It’s fine no need to explain yourself 🙂

Disabled people though do REALLY need those toilets for a variety of reasons. I never needed them till 4 years ago. Because of my kidney issues I now need to use a small device when going to the toilet.I don’t really want to go into it too much. But I need to clean the device after use and the less transporting it around the less chance of infection or hospital.

Locks on disabled toilets from the outside is already in use to prevent “nefarious activity” asking for permission to use these toilets is embarrassing and can have the negative side effect of dissuading some disabled people from going out.

On the third point. Where do I mail your medal Polly?

This actually went longer than I intended and Sarah Wilson has a far more elegant style than mine, so if you’re interested and what to read a better breakdown of the issue here please read her blog. Here’s a link

http://www.writehanded.org/blog/2016/02/08/get-a-clue/

I would have written this sooner but I was quite angry and on antibiotics, you understand I hope.

 

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Disabled Life

The cost of my disability.

I have cerebral palsy. I have had it since birth. It’s not deteriorating, I’m not getting worse, I’m not getting better. I’m at a level where I can handle it and it’s not so bad. It effects my hands, in a minor way, and most noticeably my legs.

When I was younger they tried to correct it with surgery. I ended up in a wheelchair, I took a year off everything and made myself walk 1km a day.To get back on my crutches.

I used to qualify for what is called a disability allowance. It helped pay for shoes, crutch tips and a gym membership.

Shoes are one expense people don’t think about. I go through shoes every 3 weeks. Because I kinda drag my feet and they tilt to the side. I try to keep it to $30 or less. I could try a more expensive brand but I have had shoes that barely lasted a week. If I spent more and that happened it would be quite depressing, although worth it for all the people that give me advice on shoes, currently I rock a $12 pair from The Warehouse.

Crutch tips, This is a fluctuating cost. It currently costs me over $18 a week. I am changing at least one tip a day. Later when it gets cooler I’ll spend $18 a month.

The gym. This is my most important expense and if I wasn’t disabled maybe I wouldn’t go, to be honest I think I’d just play sport and do a bit of jogging for fitness, It costs me $251 for 6 months at the gym. I do get subsidies ed $300 every 6 months. Beyond that I spend $35 a fortnight on a session with a trainer. It’s worth it as it makes life easier long term.

Currently I am employed so I no longer receive benefits. The parking permit I have costs $50. I do have a total mobility card provided by the Cerebral Palsy society. That halves my taxi fares (in cabs that accept it, Uber doesn’t seem to) and I have vouchers that lessen the cost. A $40 fare actually ends up costing me $10 in actual cash.

A lot of my costs come about because I’m active, really active. I burn through shoes and crutch tips because I am moving a lot more then other people on crutches It has been a source of complaint for nurses who come round to check on me (for my kidney condition I used to need regular checks at home)  The health service is reluctant to call a mobile, so appointments would have to be booked well in advance and I’d end up taking a day off work and stay home and wait for the nurse.

Being active has undoubtedly kept me out of a wheelchair and in some ways I struggle to see how I would cope in a chair these days. Already I don’t walk home late at night any more, I used to do that.

My health now a days has left me feeling a little more vulnerable and I’m now more inclined to taxi home rather then catch a bus and walk for 10 minutes at 2AM.

Do I feel a loss of freedom? No. Auckland is a fairly accessible city.I suspect if I had ever been able bodied my view would be different. But I haven’t yet experienced a building I can’t get into and easily navigate.

The public at times can be very helpful or unhelpful depending on their mood. As I’ve mentioned in other posts I’ve had several faith healing attempts. Why do I go through with them when they ask? We’ll it’s hard to yell at them because they aren’t pushy they’re often very polite. Also I tend to fall for the “Can I pray for you?” line. I think they mean at home in their own time and it’s too late that I remember they mean right now!

I’m always grateful for help/assistance when I’m out and about. But the other part of the equation is sometimes you can see that the person helping me is getting something out of it as well. A sense of paying it forward I guess.

I’ve had people offer me rides to places if they see me walking in the same direction they’re driving, I am judicious when I accept a ride, and I’ve often asked people if they could place my shopping in my back pack, some shops do this automatically.  I’ve also had someone carry me up some stairs, this happened once. I didn’t ask for it. I was walking up stairs and an Asian man saw me picked me up carried me up the stairs put me down said “bye” and walked off.

Why point out that he’s Asian? Because I’ve had people use me as a reason to abuse Asian people and it bothers the hell out of me. Usually when I’m getting on a bus if they see an Asian person sitting in the front seat they’ll have a yell at them to move.

1. I don’t like the front seats, my legs get cramped and I’ll have foot spasms.

2. They maybe unaware it’s a disabled section.

3. It may not be the disabled section. newer buses have placed the disabled in the middle section of seating.

4. They may not speak English so yelling isn’t going to do anything. One driver actually physically grabbed someone and attempted to move them. I was already seated when this happened. It was really awful.

Good and bad this is the cost of my disability.

 

 

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Film

I was a Shorty extra and got extra yelled at. Till Claire Chitham stepped in.

I wrote a while ago about my time as an extra on a short film. That was while I was at film school, after school I still needed to get a foot in the industry. So I joined an extras agency. I ended up on the street..Shortland Street!

Quickly for international readers Shortland Street is a 5 nights a week soap set in a New Zealand hospital. Judge Dredd, Jango Fett and Hercules sidekick have all been there. Lots of Lord of the rings actors. I’m going to mention a few names here to give these people props, others shall remain nameless.

It was a 2 hour commute and the pay basically covered my travel. I didn’t make money from it. being disabled the agency sent me out quite a bit. “You’ll just look like a regular patient.”. Once you get there your herded into a room. You need to take 3 changes of clothes, I just took shirts and hats. Changing pants would take to long. Turned my phone off and I sat and waited.

My first time I was just to walk into the clinic and sit down. Coming out of film school the set was really big and a little intimidating. As I stood there waiting for “Background action!” I must have looked pretty nervous as one of the main actors walked passed me and gave me a pat on the shoulder “Hey bro.” “Hey”. That was it. And then I saw another extra just go to town and screw up the shot.

This guy had been telling myself and the other extras about how experienced he was and that he was known for whacky/zany characters. Whatev’s you’re background bro, stay there. The scene is in reception On the reception desk there is a Canteen bandanna box.  The show is promoting the charity. “Background action!”  we all move, “Action” the scene begins.

Everything is going fine. Whacky Zany reaches the bandanna box, right where the main scene is happening, and tears into it. WTF are you doing! He proceeds to try on every bloody bandanna. Maybe his character has brain cancer and a magical bandanna can heal him. “CUT!!” “I think we had a scene stealer in that one.” Understatement. He gets directed to walk to the desk and then sit down.

On my last time job I was to be used in a bar scene (A disabled person in a bar on prime time tv. PROGRESS!). I had been in a few times now and had a handle on what happens so I’m comfortable. I’ve never had a mishap or any direction beyond “sit here.” and “Change shirt”. Naturally shit went wrong.

They are running behind. An extras phone goes off. This causes much yelling from the 3rd AD (3rd AD is in charge of extras) nobody moves. The phone goes again, more yelling. Nobody moves. “If you answer your phone now you won’t be fired!” A woman gets up runs to her phone and we get back into the scene.

“You stop looking at (MAIN ACTOR)!” “Did you hear me?!” “Please look at me when I’m talking to you!”

Maybe say a name?

No one is sure who he’s talking to, I’m facing the other way so I can’t see.

“You in the green shirt!”

Evidently it’s me, pretty sure I wasn’t but ok I’ll just focus on my fake beer.

The scene continues.

“Ok next shot that means you out, you out and you out!”

I am one of the you’s who are out. But I know I’m in shot so I stay seated. There are 3 people at my table who all move.

“Green shirt! I said out!” “Please listen when I am directing you!”

I really don’t like this jackass. “I’m in the shot.”

“What? No. Out.”

I start picking up my cane. I’m sure this is wrong but I’m not paid for my thoughts. I’m background bro.

Then it happens. Claire Chitham a long time cast member has a quick look around at the cameras and scene. She stands up

“No he’s right.” “Stay seated.” Brief but epic. The AD checks his notes. Mumbles a sorry.

The scene continues. I move pretty quickly once the scene is over. I’m not needed. On the way home I realise how much I know about sets and things. I decide to quit the agency. I did extra work one last time for a friend. But I’d gotten enough on set experience at that point.

Years later I met Ms Chitham after a play and was able to say thank you.

Also I now direct my extras personally.

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