This post was originally written on 17 September, 2018. The day after the most amazing arts workshop I have ever attended – when two of my favourite things in the world (film and theatre) collided! I updated it on 19 June 2020. I’m not sure why I haven’t shared it to my blog yet (laziness I guess!) but in a way I’m glad, because I want to talk about it again and again and again! So here is an excuse to re-share! It is such a brilliant and rare example of equal access. I’m not sure I have experienced inclusion like it since. My sincere thanks to everyone from re:group Performance Collective, and to the amazing Alyce Fisher (executive director of Murray Arts) who made it possible for me to attend/participate.
On Sunday September 16, 2018, I attended an incredible workshop on Live Cinema, facilitated by re:group Performance Collective. It was so fascinating to learn about the steps involved to create this crossover experience of film and theatre. As participants we were given the opportunity to recreate scenes from well-known films. The participants Who took on the role of actor were instructed to imitate The characters from these scenes as accurately as possible, whilst the camera operators worked to achieve the same accuracy with angles and shots. It was interesting, particularly as a person who has always been totally blind, to note the important subtleties that needed to be just right. For example the movement of an eyebrow, or the precise timing of a face breaking into a look of horror or discussed.
Because there wasn’t already enough to be excited about, my day was made when I reflected back and realised this may have been the most inclusive arts workshop I had ever attended. When I was in primary school we spent an entire week creating our own films with some professional filmmakers, but no one bothered to engage me in this process. I never received tips on how to portray characters. And as for being kept well informed of any cinematography or special effects… forget it! Similarly with other acting workshops I have attended (even professionally as an adult), I almost never receive enough information about what’s going on around me – or I receive too much – which prevents me from fully participating and comprehending what is happening.
This particular workshop, however, was an exception. The facilitators and fellow workshop participants always made an effort to describe everything that was going on around me, most of the time without being reminded. Even when many of them were madly running around assisting the other actors, camera operators ETC, there was always someone around to keep me updated on Visual details I would otherwise have missed. Nobody assumed I wouldn’t be interested in these details, or that I didn’t need to know about them. When my turn came to act a part, I was given some great verbal pointers on the facial expressions and movements required… there was absolutely none of that “come and touch my face” rubbish! (Just so we’re all clear, face touching is weird and doesn’t help me get an idea of facial expressions at all!)
I can recall one particular accessibility highlight, when I was struggling to hold a big paper sign in frame. Without me even needing to think of a solution, one of the guys grab some black masking tape to place on the black chair we were using, so I would have a tactile guide to follow. This was all done quickly and efficiently, then we just got on with what needed to be done, like it was no big deal. I never felt as though I was holding up the group, that I was different, special, or that I had been assigned a particular person to “look after” me throughout the day. That, right there, is inclusion!
I do not write this to sound overly soppy and sentimental, but as I pointed out to the facilitators at the end of the day, it is so, so rare for me to experience such feelings of independence and normality within a group of people, especially when completing such visual tasks. I am so grateful, and would like to do it all again!
I have been acting out stories since I was a child. I wish I hadn’t had to wait until my adult years to realise that I could learn good acting and camera technique. I never imagined as a kid that this could, and would, be my future. No child (blind or otherwise) should be made to sit in a classroom for an entire week, literally twiddling their thumbs and thinking about what they had for breakfast, while their other classmates get to create media projects that are put on DVD and shown off to their parents. Everyone involved in this amazing live cinema workshop proved to me, and to everyone reading this, that if we all get out of our own little bubbles and do a little creative thinking, anyone and everyone can experience film and drama.