Short documentary, long disability
Documentary filmmaking isn't all it's cracked up to be. That goes for the filmmaker and the
subject alike. In my case, as a subject who was unprepared, it was hard work and stressful for much longer than I had expected. The project started out with lively discussions and grand ideas. However, at some point I felt that I was losing any say in the direction of the film. However, the completed short film is something with which I can be happy.
Making the film
We thought it would be interesting to show the impact of physical disability on my day-to-day life. It coincided with my attempts to begin a relationship and this became the main focus of the film. The filmmaker, Pete Gleeson, and I were friends and as a result the initial agreement was a little vague. It was rushed and a concrete timeframe was not specified.
Filming was disorganised and arduous. It also went on a few months longer than I expected. This situation in addition to other changes in my life was a drain on my energy. As people with disabilities are sometimes the subject of such documentaries, I think the inefficiencies of filmmaking and potential for exploitation of people with disabilities are important issues. There was a great amount of filming and discussion that intruded on my normal life.
While Pete was making and even screening the film, there were long periods without real communication between us. I found that discomforting and I thought that he was being reticent. Being separated by geographical distance didn't help the situation.
Eventually I saw Pete's final version of the film. It was a little confronting, but I did not object to the way I was represented. There was protracted persuasion about using extra footage for an expanded documentary. I wouldn't agree to that though. After lengthy conversations and more words in emails between us than all the words I've ever written for DiVine articles, we decided to finish the project.
As Pete congenially puts it,
The process was just as much of a drama as the outcome.
Something to tell you
The eight-minute documentary
Something to tell you is the culmination of all the work. It represents a small snapshot of a point in my life two and a half years ago. Simple in format, it shows a very concise video of the difficult process of getting myself into bed. In a voice-over I narrate an email where I reveal my disability to a possible date. It is powerful in showing one tiny fragment of my day. It is effective in showing the predicament of someone with a disability like mine having any romance.
Unfortunately, I appear semi-naked in the film. Regardless, I think the film is still an overwhelmingly positive representation of someone with a chronic disability. Both Pete and I are very proud of it.
Something to tell you has received awards for Best Short Documentary at the 2011 ATOM awards, Best Script (my writing) at the Bondi Bay Film Festival, Best Documentary at two other Australian film festivals, and an honourable mention at the 2011 Canadian International Documentary Film Festival.
It has been screened at Picture This... International Disability Film Festival in Canada. Another 12 festivals have screened it including ones in San Francisco, the United Kingdom and St Kilda, Melbourne.
Coming to a screen near you
Something to tell you is appearing at ACMI in Melbourne on Friday night in the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival, where it is nominated for Best Australian Short (film) award. From the beginning this is exactly the sort of forum I hoped it would be presented in.
I definitely have no future aspirations in the film industry, but I am positive that another film could be made about the making of the film.