Apologies to our global members for a moment of regional pride but it seems that governments are gradually beginning to embrace the economic benefits of the creative industries. Following the Canadian Government’s $1.5billion over the next five years announced in March, we’ve had our own small windfall here in Australia’s cultural capital.
This week the Victorian State government announced $115 million in new funding for creative industries following an extensive consultation last year across the entire portfolio. Creative Victoria as the department is called manages the government’s support for the arts and film sector and with the election of a new Labor government in 2014 it was time for a new approach.
My interest in this consultation was the nexus of disability and diversity and the film and television sectors, which frankly don’t have a lot to say to each other most of the time. Having worked for many years in both film and disability I’ve observed that the two industries have core values that are pretty much the polar opposite of one another. As well a attending a couple of relevant community consultations I wrote a short submission with a number of suggestions. I was surprised and pleased to receive a phone call shortly afterwards thanking me for my efforts and commending my insights and suggestions which I had tried to keep as positive as possible.
The film and television business is largely built on A type personalities and people functioning at the top of their game (or at least pretending to). If you’re ill or impaired for some reason you hide it because to reveal it might jeopardize future contracts or employment. Hours are long and certainly not family friendly. Reliability, punctuality, hierarchy, working harder than everyone else and a willingness to work long hours are all highly valued. On shooting days in particular you’d have to be dying to call in sick, and I mean visibly dying and carted off in an ambulance, not just feeling like you’re dying.
When working with disabled people by contrast, flexibility and accommodation of individual needs is paramount. Understanding that some people can’t arrive at work before a certain hour, that others cannot work for long periods of time or that sudden illness may make some people appear unreliable is all part of the gig. Once you get used to all of this however it all just seems reasonable and common sense.
Over more than 20 years working with disabled people making films and television I’ve learned how to make it work. While there’s a lot of tricks such as how to provide accessible catering, managing schedules and providing an accessible film set that I have in my working tool kit, there are a couple of fundamental things that I’ve learned that bring both sets of expectations into a middle ground.
From the film production industry I’ve learned not to take things so seriously and that shooting days almost never need to go on for 10 or 12 hours or more. I’ve learned that honesty about one’s capacity is incredibly helpful and liberating and that you can always schedule around people’s needs. My motto is to be organized and flexible.
From the disability sector I’ve learned that low expectations are a burden for disabled people and that many are never challenged to improve and excel. Expectations of professionalism are as welcome as good access.
I hope that some of the programs that will be rolled out by Creative Victoria in the wake of this funding boost will help to bridge the gap between mainstream media production, that has largely ignored disability to date, and those who rarely see people like themselves as part of the media landscape. Funding must be provided to open pathways across the film and television production sector for more disabled people to participate meaningfully on both sides of the camera. When this happens the whole community will benefit from a truer reflection of who we are in the stories that are told about us.

Before I sign off I’d like to welcome all our new DisabilityBusters.com subscribers and thank you all for your support. Stay tuned for new programs and news as often as we can bring it to you… like not too often because we all have lives, but often enough so you know we love you and want to keep you busting along. Season 12 of No Limits will be going live in early May with younger looking presenters (we’re working backwards so they just get younger every season like magic… or cosmetic surgery) and great new stories, so don’t go away now and don’t forget to tell your friends and colleagues all about us.
Sarah Barton
Principal, Disabilitybusters.com

Author

Sarah Barton
Hi, I'm Sarah and I'm the creator behind Disability Busters. I've been making films on disability for over 20 years.

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