Industry Insights - The EFM Podcast

Industry Insights - The EFM Podcast


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00:00:00: NADIA DENTON: Welcome to Industry Insights the EFM podcast presented by the European Film Market of the Berlinale. My name is Nadia Denton I'm a curator and impact producer based in London. This season of Industry Insights the EFM podcast has been produced in cooperation with Goethe Institut and supported by Creative Europe Media which cofunds the EFM's Diversity and Inclusion Initiative. This particular episode has been developed in partnership with the British Film Institute. Today, I am joined by esteemed guests with whom I would interrogate current attempts by the film industry to dismantle barriers for people living with disabilities. How can we, as an industry have more equitable, diverse and authentic representation of people living with disabilities on screen? How do we hold equity schemes and pledges to account? Is a quota system the only way to enforce change? These are just a few of the questions that will be explored while also highlighting the advocacy work of film professionals with disabilities and their pioneering efforts within the industry.

00:01:02: Andrew Miller and Amanda Upson joined me to look specifically at policy making, lobbying and accessibility. Andrew is a cultural consultant and broadcaster, recognized as one of the most influential disability advocates in the UK Who has transformed perceptions throughout his 30 year career. He belongs to the first generation of disabled presenters of British television, becoming the first wheelchair user to run a major UK arts venue. Amanda is an independent producer who focuses on the advocacy of the underrepresented in front of and behind the camera by producing and consulting. She is a contributing member of filmmakers with disability FWD-Doc. Andrew and Amanda I'm delighted to have you join me today. The term ableism refers to discrimination against disabled people. What has been your experience of ableism and what are some of the routine ways our industry continues to get things wrong?

00:01:57: ANDREW MILLER: Which one of us want to go first?

00:01:58: NADIA DENTON: Go on Andrew.

00:01:59: ANDREW MILLER: Okay. Ableism takes many forms. It can be about simple lack of physical access to the auditions and film sets and so on to the deeply ingrained attitudinal issues the disabled people experience every day. There was a survey by Deaf & Disabled People in TV, a talent network of over 1000 members in the UK And that revealed 60% of their respondents reported some form of ableism whilst working in the television industry. It certainly affected my career in many different ways, talented disabled people of my generation were routinely denied places at drama colleges, film schools on the mistaken and discriminatory assumption, that we would never be able to sustain careers in the entertainment business due to our disabilities. Now, I got lucky and benefited from the first wave of positive discrimination back in the 1980s, and I became one of the first disabled broadcasters on UK TV, but there were still huge barriers to overcome, which placed limitations on what I could achieve.

00:03:07: For example when I was auditioned to be a presenter on the UK's leading children's TV show in the early 90s, the feedback was that the Blue Peter Audience was not yet ready for a presenter in a wheelchair. And that really brought my tv presenting career to a halt and I had to change direction becoming a producer and director of arts and music shows. And that went well for a couple of years. And my work was recognized by the British Academy, but actually there was no support mechanisms in place to sustain my career because there was no value placed on my work as a disabled filmmaker. I ended up making my last documentary exactly 20 years ago this year. So I had to change career again moving into the arts and through my advocacy work, I became the UK Government Disability Champion for Arts & Culture, which gave me a platform to campaign to ensure the next generation of disabled talent, didn't have to experience all the barriers that I did and that's been my experience of ableism.

00:04:05: NADIA DENTON: Amanda?

00:04:05: AMANDA UPSON: Yeah, I think for different people it's an ongoing death by a thousand cuts over and over again access is impeded for whatever reason. For me in particular, just with EFM, I was noticing a lot of the podcasts don't have transcripts so I'm shut out of the podcast. What your listening audience doesn't know is I have a hearing disability and I voice for myself, I'm using captions, I have a handful of tools at my disposal but even this didn't go smoothly. So when I go to film festivals or I try to go to film festivals, oftentimes I'm shut out of industry events and I'm one person and there are a lot of disabled filmmakers who, you know like Andrew said, don't have physical access or there's not audio description, it's a routine procedure. And do you want me to answer about one of, about the routine ways the industry sort of gets it wrong? Are we good?

00:05:06: NADIA DENTON: Yeah.

00:05:06: AMANDA UPSON: Okay. So so one of the key things is I don't think that when the industry is focused and focused on inclusion activities oftentimes they're completely leaving out disability and so that would be a good starting point. And I think that the industry is completely missing the fact that inclusion and accessibility are money makers. And we're at a point in the industry where streamers are competing for audience, where people are not showing up at the theaters and the industry is completely ignoring the fact that it's missing out on 1.85 disabled people and if you add in their families, sorry that is 1.85 billion and if you add in their families, that's 3.4 billion that have 13 trillion with a "T" dollars in disposable income. And the industry is not representing those people and it's not accessible to those people. And I feel like it's when you want audience, why would you ignore the third largest economic power in the world above Japan Germany and the UK.

00:06:12: NADIA DENTON: And it's so interesting, I mean Andrew you made this point about the lack of value as a disabled filmmaker andAmanda, you've just so eloquently put forward the actual value specifically in this case in terms of numbers and in monetary terms that the community really brings. So we are aware that the British Film Institute recently relaunched their Press Reset Campaign and have now established a disability and visible different representation panel. Andrew how can we in the wider industry hold these initiatives and efforts to account and what measurements should we use and or expect?

00:06:44: ANDREW MILLER: Well, the BFI Disability Screen Advisor Group that I chair has campaigned to ensure that disabled people figure in the industry's policy making in the UK. We've argued that disabled people in film and TV are the forgotten diversity as Amanda suggested, we've demanded that disabled stories must be told by disabled people and we've highlighted how the industry has failed to include us and when it does so again, as Amanda suggested, often it gets it wrong, badly wrong. And since we formed the group in 2018, we've taken a really tough stance on the outdated practice of creeping up where non disabled actors play disabled roles. We believe it has to stop. But we also recognize that there are some narrative nuances that make authentic portrayal sometimes really challenging for filmmakers. So the creation of a disability invisible difference representation panel aims to assist the BFI ensure public money only supports authentic portrayals of disability by engaging directly with those of us with lived experience. Globally there is no disability representation framework in existence and filmmakers are increasingly aware, sensitivity is required, but they need assistance to achieve it. And that's where our panel can help how it will work is there any film which seeks to obtain funding from the BFI audience fund where aspects of disability are part of the narrative or where a non disabled actor portrays a disabled character that will be subject to a representation review by a panel drawn from our Screen Advisory Group.

00:08:24: The panel will offer a balanced recommendation on the impact of the depiction to support the BFI take a fully rounded and well informed decision, this panel represents we think a major shift and sees the BF I committing to stop funding films in which for example, visible difference, is used as a shorthand for villainy or we're creeping up presents an inauthentic portrayal of disability. And we also believe this initiative is a global first for the film industry. Creative disabled people have been waiting a very long time for positive action like this from a major screen body and I'm chuffed to bits that it's our Advisory Group that has driven this program at the BFI, recognizing ableism and understanding appropriate representation is really vital for all of us to move forward and we think will assist the industry that we all love.

00:09:19: NADIA DENTON: And what measurements should we use or expect? You've spoken with a lot of enthusiasm about the scheme, obviously you are chair of the panel but certainly with me, you know, looking at the various things that come out of the industry, you know, across the spectrum of diversity, at times they can feel to be this fatigue where things are launched? You might hear one or two things about the progress of it but then you think what impact has it really had? So should we, how should we be expecting or looking at measuring what these schemes or what the activity is actually going to do? or what changes brought about?

00:09:52: ANDREW MILLER: That's a really good question. The panel has just been established and we've already built in a review point in a year's time to see what progress it's made. So it's kind of difficult at this point to say what's the change is going to be. What we hope the change will be, will be for the BFI to use its influence with the wider sector. To really get the sector to start thinking about this stuff because I think the issue at the moment is that it's just not on anyone's agenda. So when you see the announcement of something like this it starts people thinking oh well what's that? Do I need to know about it? Oh gosh I better find out about it. I think it's about trying to use influence to change the sector's approach and we've just set the panel up. Let's see what it achieves.

00:10:38: NADIA DENTON: Thank you. Amanda, there's clearly multiple barriers to access of employment which the industry really has barely been able to grapple with. And you know having done our research for this podcast, you know it's clear it starts really from education from university to the actual realities of being on a production set, the long hours, that obviously this favors individuals who might be struggling with disabilities but also the roots into production. What would we say are some of the solutions?

00:11:08: AMANDA UPSON: I think the first solution starts with a shift in mindset and a change of preconceived ideas. I mean those were after all perpetuated false narratives perpetuated by the industry and it's free. Unfortunately it's really hard to do but if people take that mind shift and start thinking about disability as an opportunity instead of a burden I think a lot flows from there. Including disability in the D&I Initiatives and develop some sort of tracking and accountability measurements it sort of goes back to your last question. I think what you measure you can change and one of the things we know from other industries, outside of film and TV is that inclusive teams with disabled people in leadership positions make more money, reach more audience. So it's pretty easy to me involve people with disabilities in leadership positions across the board and everything after that will change.Good hiring practices will improve the industry for everybody. Don't just hire people you already know, drafted job descriptions include a salary range. This is going to help reach a whole bunch of people, not just people with disabilities.

00:12:25: And you can reach out specifically to groups like FWD-Doc, which is the group that I'm affiliated with, it's a global group, we're predominantly based in the US and Deaf and Disabled People in TV as a UK group. You can reach out to them to hire talented filmmakers and look if disabled people are in the leadership roles, the long hours would be limited. It's not good for anybody. It's not good for disabled people, it's not good for non disabled people. And if you're a disabled person, you are living in a world that's not designed for you. You are constantly re-engineering and pivoting your entire life every minute of the day. And the result that brings to industry is that you're very resourceful and can be strategic about stuff. There is a way to schedule so that we can avoid these long hours, you know, and I don't think endurance is a measure of one's value for disabled people or anybody else. So we need to improve those practices anyway. But I think the main thing we can do is make sure that people with disabilities are in leadership roles.

00:13:33: ANDREW MILLER: Amanda is absolutely right there and it's a critical issue because they're virtually are none. There are virtually no disabled people in leadership roles, certainly in the UK industry, I don't know how it is in America Amanda, but but there are virtually none. And it's, it's the real issue that we've yet to crack. And once, I think we have disabled people not just doing diversity roles, but actually delivering leadership within major film companies and broadcasters, I think that's when we'll start really seeing a major change in representation and how everything works. But at the moment, until that happens, we were not in a level playing field.

00:14:13: NADIA DENTON: And just touching on that point about the leadership Andrew do we think that some of this is gonna need to start in terms of education and so the empowerment of individuals living with disability as well as a sort of, approach from the industry to allowing these opportunities, because reflecting on all that has been mentioned about the changes that are needed, and the timescales, how much longer is this going to take? You know, are we going to lose another generation of young people who feel like I can't have a career in the creative sector because of, the pace have changed and how long it's taking and just the difficulties in measurement?

00:14:48: ANDREW MILLER: It's a really interesting point, Nadia. When I started out 30 years ago, there was nothing like this, there were no initiatives, none whatsoever. And what we've seen in that 30 years is very much a stop-start progress. So you have little spurts of enthusiasm and growth and focus on this and then it goes away and people think it's the issue has been fixed and they move on to the next thing, and then it comes back a few years later when it's been proved not to be fixed. And so we go through phases and we do make progress, but the progress is achingly slow.

00:15:27: NADIA DENTON: Yeah, I have far too say. I recently learned that of the 120 actors that have been nominated in the history of the Oscars for playing disabled people, that only one or two have been actually disabled. How can we break through the reluctance on the part of the industry to cast disabled actors? And is it actually going to take extreme action like naming and shaming? Are we really just going to have to push with some level of militancy to try and propel what feels at times to be a quite complacent industry into action?

00:15:55: ANDREW MILLER: Well, this goes back to creeping up that that that we mentioned earlier and actually I double checked the statistics on this. And the fact is in 95 years of Oscar acting awards, 61 nominations were for actors portraying disabled characters. 27 actors, one including Tom Hanks, Daniel Day-Lewis, Al Pacino, Eddie Redmayne and only two of those Oscar winning actors were disabled people. Marlee Matlin for "Children of a Lesser God" in 1986 and Harold Russell all the way back in 1947. So that gives you a flavor of how extreme this lack of representation in Hollywood is, but also illustrates the benefits of cripping up for non disabled actors. Now, the simple fact is disabled talented bones, but opportunity is in very short supply. The industry responded immediately to the accusation of racism following the Black Lives Matters process in 2020 and it now needs to supercharge its diversity initiatives to take account of disabled people. We represent 20% of the UK population. I think the figure is 17% globally and that requires changes to policy and proactive recruitment, especially to those senior influential positions we've already talked about. It's very marked to see what impact disabled people can have when given some authority. I've seen it in my non-executive work at the Arts Council of Wales when I was on the board, we introduced a free national arts access scheme which has now been run out across the UK, the Royal Shakespeare Company, we've just announced the first authentically cast Richard III. Now I'm not saying these things wouldn't have happened without me, but bringing that lived experience to the boardroom certainly has helped.

00:17:45: NADIA DENTON: Right, indeed Andrew. And you made a comment, Amanda. Or you made, you said something which to me is almost like a mantra, I think could be a mantra, which is disability as an opportunity.

00:17:57: AMANDA UPSON: It's a 100% opportunity. It is the unrecognized massive opportunity. I mean, you asked, what's it gonna take for the industry to change? I think the lack of relevancy should be causing the industry to change on its own. I mean, the consequences: stay relevant or lose audience to youtube creators. You know, and I think when I asked people, have they seen the Oscar nominated films or do they want to see the Oscar nominated films and no one has except people know “Coda”. Um, and there's a reason for that and I think that's the opportunity and studios and streamers and the industry can get behind that and recognize the opportunity and use it to their advantage to stay relevant. You can't ignore one in four people. With that much disposable income and expect your industry to continue to thrive. So if that doesn't work, I think naming and shaming has its place.

00:18:59: NADIA DENTON: It certainly does. And just very lastly, I'm mindful of members of the community who will be listening to this. Some of them young people who are sort of coming up into their career or at least entry level between you both Andrew and Amanda. I wonder if you could share words of wisdom or just a statement of encouragement because at times when we talk about the challenges and the difficulties, the mountain just seems so high to climb. And as much as we're advocating and fighting for changes, I can imagine there are individuals listening to all of this and just thinking, you know what, it's just not for me. What statements of support would you put out there for individuals who might be listening to this and taking all of what we're saying in a very personal way as a lived experience.

00:19:42: AMANDA UPSON: I think the best thing I can say is don't concede your power, anybody, any disabled person has inherent power. We have power in numbers. We have power of the purse and to go around and concede that power is not necessary. So to continually stay in your power and recognize that there's a lot of supportive organizations like FWD-Doc, which is, Deaf and Disabled People in TV. And there are lots of other groups like us that are advocating for people. That's a really helpful thing. Just know you have power and know you have value.

00:20:25: ANDREW MILLER: Absolutely right, Amanda. And look, this is a very challenging industry for anyone, but it's particularly challenging if you have lived experience of disability and yes, you're going to face big challenges to overcome. But as disabled individuals were used to dealing with that and I think the rewards when things go well can really be fantastic. And there is, there are support mechanisms now I mentioned before, there wasn't when I started out 30 years ago. These support mechanisms are coming in and I do get a sense that the industry is beginning to wake up to the issues that we're talking about. The fact that we're having this conversation is an example of that. And so I feel some degree of confidence that there is a moment for people to really grab and get engaged and not to give up. Yes, it's challenging, but I'd encourage anyone who wants a career in this industry, yeah to to keep to keep going and fight for it.

00:21:30: NADIA DENTON: Thank you so much Andrew and Amanda. I mean I definitely agree there is a sense that there is a momentum starting to build and all we can continue to do is to make sure that that ball is rolling and you know it doesn't stop. So, I really appreciate your insights, it has been wonderful to have you on the podcast today. Thank you. I am now pleased to welcome Kyla Harris and Dr Grishma Shah. With Kyla and Grishma, we will explore the role of activism, creation and sustainable careers in the push for equal rights for disabled film professionals.

00:21:59: Kyla Harris is a filmmaker, writer and activist who applies an intersectional approach to her work. She is a member of the Disability Screen Advisory Group for the British Film Institute. Kyla advocates for people who share her own identities as a queer disabled woman of color along with filmmakers with disability FWD-Doc. She co-wrote a Toolkit for Inclusion and Accessibility in association with Doc Society and Netflix, as well as the FWD-Doc Engagement Pack. Dr Grishma Shah is an artist and psychologist who consults with filmmakers, film festivals and production companies at various stages of the creative process. Her objective is to champion stories of diversity, inaccessible spaces, to introduce new narratives of beauty and worth into the global market. As a visual artist Grishma, infuses heritage and components of mixed media into her artistry. She is currently a consultant for the 1in4coalition. Ladies it is great to have you both with me.

00:22:58: The British Film Institute led Press Reset Campaign calls on the industries to do a number of things to broaden our access including recruiting responsibly, disability engagement, setting targets, equal pay, access and allyship. Similarly the 1in4coalition have called for institutional ships in Hollywood. For many in the industry, the call may feel daunting Kyla. What are some of the practical ways that you would suggest colleagues can take these steps forward?

00:23:25: KYLA HARRIS: Yeah. I think that's a great question because we're all looking for that practical way. How can we almost make sure that we're dotting the i's and crossing our t's? But I think that the larger work at hand is to really recognize the like disability and disabled experience as a community and a culture to understand and value that's equal to non disabled culture and community and just as broad. I think as filmmakers, producers and companies, I think we need to be really honest and take responsibility within our companies and within the structures that we do have. And the hierarchies that are in film and be really transparent about things like pay gaps.

00:24:14: So, you know, for instance the TUC which is the Trade Union Company in no gosh, I don't know the TUC in the UK they have published data saying that there is a 39% pay gap between male non disabled people and female disabled people in the same industry and that's shocking, really. And that's a stark figure that just shows and it's really indicative of not just the inequality in employment, but larger inequality in society. I think also we can really take from the cultural changes and shifts that have been happening towards the positive globally. Especially from the Black Lives Matter phenomena and brilliance, because I think we really need to move from allyship towards coalition. Allyship is very much an individual activity of what can I do as an individual to potentially support this cause. Whereas coalition is looking at how groups with a common goal or similar purpose can move towards that goal. So for instance, it benefits disabled people to have sustainable working days, like perhaps 4 hour working days or 10 hour working days rather than the kind of 12 hour minimum that we often see in the film industry. And that doesn't benefit just disabled people. That benefits people with caring responsibilities, including mothers, it benefits anyone that wants to have any kind of balance and sustainability in their career.

00:25:53: NADIA DENTON: Grishma, you're one of the consultants to the 1in4coalition and having looked at the various sort of pledges or statements of activities that employers and members of the industry can undertake, it seems really simple. I mean when I was reading it, I felt like, oh my god, these are like quite straightforward things and still our industry is struggling to, you know, come to terms with them. So in your own experience of having worked on the coalition and just as an artist yourself, what would you suggest as some of the kind of, if you like baby steps, that some of our maybe less progressive or less open colleagues could take to start to address this issue around access for people living with disabilities?

00:26:38: GRISHMA SHAH: Yeah, I know that's a beautiful question and my goal is not to repeat, you know, anything that was already said, but the first thing that I think of and and perhaps this is the psychologist in me coming out is, when we're young, we want to explore things, we want to have fun and if there's a concern that we encounter, we see it as a challenge. And Carol Dweck, she has this amazing psychologist, she coined the term Growth Mindset and Fixed Mindset. And basically with a growth mindset, that's what kids generally have, they recognize, okay, I'm going to learn something from here and they use the challenge to get better. But for some reason as we get older, like the challenge becomes what you mentioned is daunting and so perhaps the first thing that we really need to do is flip the script on that, and that small things can have like a really big impact. I believe because when you're looking at access or you're looking at disability as a way of exploring how your film will reach more people, whether it's as a filmmaker or a film festival or a production house, then we realize that access isn't just good for humanity, it's good for business.

00:27:49: So I wanted to share like just some simple things. So when you have a meeting, you know, you can make sure that everyone in the meeting can participate fully and to do that you need to ask your team early on. Hey, what do you need to be able to fully participate? And that only not shows the team that the organization is invested in them and that they care about their opinions. But it also shows that this is a two way street or it's very reciprocal and for whether it's an in person meeting or a virtual meeting these days because of covid. Sign language interpreters can come on, even human captions can come on zoom and that way they type in real time. So people know exactly what the conversation is about. I know a lot of people really like automatic captions and zoom provides that, which is a great first step. But it can easily turn a word like "talk" into a word like "fuck" and then change the whole context of the meaning. So these are simple things that can be done.

00:28:48: NADIA DENTON: Wow, I don't think we've had that kind of language on the podcast before.

00:28:56: GRISHMA SHAH: We're here to have fun!

00:28:58: NADIA DENTON: Jack Thorne spoke eloquently at the Edinburgh TV Festival McTaggart Lecture about the fact that the industry still does not value disabled talent nor employ them to tell disabled stories. What mental and moral shifts do we need for the industry to really address this issue in a meaningful way?

00:29:16: KYLA HARRIS: I think that we really need to identify ableism, ableism is at the core of understanding equality for disabled people and not only just for disabled people, but equality really at its core. And I think that to do that, we have to look at it as being equally as harmful and as structurally woven into the fabric of society is as equally as racism, homophobia, sexism and transphobia. And I think we need to start using that word, really calling it out so that it comes into common parlance. Because as soon as you're able to identify something like that, it's easier to put a name to it, and then change that, change the behavior that comes along with it and change the attitudes in the mindset. And I really loved that Dr Shah was saying about the Growth Mindset, and I think that one way of doing it, is being curious about what is ableism. What does it look like on all of these kinds of platforms and levels and ways? I've done a huge amount of work myself, just personally too, kind of undo the ableism that we know that we all have. And when I first had my accident 20 years ago, I went from being a non disabled and not really knowing anything about disability, to being quite the loudmouth activist that I am today.

00:30:39: And I think a lot of that was once I understood the social model of disability which we use here in the UK looking at how we are disabled by society. You know is a verb that it is the structural barriers in place that disables us. Yes. We also have conditions and so on and you know, disability within our bodies, but really there's no amount of smiling at a set of stairs that turns it into a ramp. And I think that's really important to identify that it's not just kind of attitude is everything. And I say that in kind of ridiculous quotes that's going to help, that's going to help us. It's really doing the hard work recognizing what's out there and coming into coalition with us.

00:31:26: NADIA DENTON: Dr Shah, Grishma with your psychologist hat on. What would you say are the mental and moral shifts that we need from the industry to really address this issue?

00:31:37: GRISHMA SHAH: So I'll put on the psychologist hat and I'll take it right back off and bring you the artist's perspective as well. But I'm so pleased. I work with 1in4coalition to add the “A” to mainstream Hollywood and I also co-direct the Chicago Chapter of ReelAbilities Film Festival, with the fabulous Revecca Torres and Matt Lauterbach and our mission there is to share the human experience of disability because disability is a lived experience and very human. And one other thing is that disability is extremely intersectional rather, so you can be gay and disabled or brown and disabled or like me brown, a woman and disabled. And I think a lot of stories, at least I believe, have made us think that disability is either a punishment or result of some evil deed or for very old people or that people with disabilities they don't want to work and this list can go on and on and on. But it's really not that way. I mean if you were like me growing up, you probably broke someone's arm or broke your own arm playing and that's a very good example of the temporary disability. So some disabilities can be temporary and some can be permanent. And there's this animated movie called "Luca" and Massimo, I believe that's how he says his name, Massimo, he has one arm and he says this so beautifully. That's how he came into the world.

00:33:04: And I also have one arm and though I didn't come into the world like that, you know, I was diagnosed with the tumor when I was 16. Just hearing that made me feel welcomed and I love the fact that Jim LeBrecht, which is 1in4coalition's co-founder, was a consultant for "Luca". So it's really important in order for us to do these mental or moral shifts and to make them meaningful to be vulnerable enough to like talk about these access points. And it not only helps folks with disabilities, but other people too texting, potato peelers, ramps that help baby strollers. I mean all of these things were created with disability in mind but are universal. Even close captioning. Not a lot of people know that 80% of folks that use close captioning don't identify as disabled. So I could be at a bar and it's so loud and I don't like my date and so I decide, okay, I'm just gonna read what the captioning is on the tv and understand what's going on in this game to pass my time. So how beautiful is that? You know. Diversity isn't just gender or race related and disability isn't just straight white men that are wheelchair users. It's like a huge spectrum.

00:34:16: KYLA HARRIS: Absolutely. Oh yeah, I love to bring intersectionality into all of my work because we aren't just one person or one thing, one identity. But I wanted to kind of talk just a little bit further on what you said, Grishma and think about the idea of "Nothing About Us Without Us", which is the slogan that we use in disability culture. And I think in a lot of cultures to talk about how these stories that we see represented, like representing disabled people, should be told by disabled people and at the very least consulted and not just one disabled person, but several. Because we are all so different as well. Some of us use the term people with disabilities, some people, some of us use the term disabled people, some of us use the term whichever stage we're at with understanding our identity is disabled people. And so there is no kind of standard in a way, there is no standard that you're going to get. And so I've seen a lot of films where someone has said, oh yeah, we consulted a disabled person and it's like, well it's not really going to do. Just just the kind of this one disabled person, because we are so, there's so much variety as well.

00:35:27: GRISHMA SHAH: Yeah, there should be a lot of conversation about it, you know, I heard this term the other day, Healthy Conflict. And wow, I was just so in awe about that because conflict is very uncomfortable and people don't like to have it. Imagine having a conflict with your partner on valentine's day, it's just not very good. But then a healthy conflict, that might just make your relationship even better or allow you to learn something that you didn't know and make for a really good story about a character that just comes into the world as they are. And children start to realize, hey, I'm coming into this world, we can be so different and that's okay.

00:36:10: KYLA HARRIS: And I think it's also about changing the concept of healthy, even. You know, like I'm disabled, but I'm also healthy. Like that's, and that's okay and you know, being sick is okay and like this is, I think. Representation of disabled sick and disabled people, chronically ill people has been so so damaging. And it's just starting to change. We have such an awful history of representation, that I think that we're still just even trying to start undoing that and unraveling that right now. And I think that because of that there's a lot of fear about all of this, about the subject matter about talking about it. It probably feels like unhealthy conflict rather than the healthy conflict category. And I think that people are afraid of being sick, people are afraid of pain. People are afraid of difficulty. And yet that's just a part of life that's a part of living. And I don't think that there's anything really to be afraid of those things.

00:37:21: GRISHMA SHAH: It's interesting you say that because, I'm I guess I'm at this age where a lot of people in my surroundings or maybe it's covid, who knows? Um, but a lot of kids are having, a lot of people are having kids rather. And so my friends are having kid number three or kid number two, or what have you. And I was just like, don't you remember the pain from kid number one? And they're like, oh yeah, it was really painful, but I'm like, so then why are you having kid number two? And they're like, because it's so beautiful and I'm just like, huh, so, pain can be beautiful. So pain - why is it that some things that are painful are scary and you don't want them. And some things that are painful aren't scary and you do want them. And again, like what have we been conditioned to believe? And, in the words of our co-founder, Kaitlyn Yang, like how serious are you about including more of the world's industry that has been marginalized since the invention of cinema, since like the 18, late 1800? Right? We really want to be able to flip that script about how we're talking about disability from that medical model and use it more from like that social model.

00:38:34: NADIA DENTON: That was so beautiful. Grishma, I was like wanting it to go on...

00:38:41: GRISHMA SHAH: Or were you lik, how do I make her stop?

00:38:43: NADIA DENTON: No, no, no. It's all, I mean for me it's so fascinating because it's the richness of the lived experience, both the pleasure and the pain. And Kyla you speak eloquently about intersectionality and it's true and what you're saying that some of these things really do frighten people. You know. But at the same time there's a lot of power in it. And having looked through the FWD-Doc Engagement Pack and Toolkit, I can see there's some energy that you were able to bring to that because of that lived intersectionality. I wondered if you could tell us a bit more about the work you went to and putting it together and also your hopes for how it will bring about change in the industry.

00:39:22: KYLA HARRIS: Well, I'm so excited that you felt that energy because I think it's so beautiful when a disabled lead team comes together and creates together. It's so fizzy. That's all I can describe it as it's effervescent and exciting because you get to live in symmetry with that with that pain and that beauty and that vibrancy. And there's a certain term that Mia Mungus coined called Access Intimacy. And it's when you recognize another person's access needs and requirements. And you feel open to talk about yours and they feel that equally open to talk about theirs, and that transparency and openness is unparalleled, and it makes, I don't know when I experience it, it's exciting. It's so exciting and it's a huge hotbed for creativity and that's what it felt like putting together the Engagement Pack and the Toolkit.

00:40:24: We look at, what's the industry do we want to create? What have we experienced? What can other people learn from our experiences, both good and bad in the film industry? And how can we kind of pay it forward to disabled people that are coming into the industry? But also allow non disabled people to access our world because it is an entire world and it's a world full of stories and full of complexity and and full of magnificence, true magnificence. And I think that with the practical and theoretical advice, that we could give to filmmakers, both in the Toolkit and the Engagement Pack. They were put together by Little By Little Films, FWD-Doc and spearheaded with the producer Lindsey Dryden, who intersects with Grishma as well because Jim LeBrecht is a founding member of FWD-Doc and these are free, almost bibles. Really in the, in the kind of size and weight of these resources. But what they do is they, I think that they allow people to really enter at any stage of understanding of disability.

00:40:37: You don't have to have kind of identified disability. You don't have to know anything about disability. You don't have to be a disabled person to come in and start understanding our world. And we do that by looking at disability justice and starting with these kind of founding principles like the social model versus the medical model. And then we apply them to filmmaking and we give examples and quotes from disabled filmmakers and disabled talent, to really bring that "Nothing About Us Without Us" - slogan that I keep on talking about. So these are our stories told by us to help everyone.

00:42:13: NADIA DENTON: That's so beautiful. And there's a term that you use, Kyla, which I'm going to steal, a world full of magnificence. And I want to put it to you Grishma, because as a storyteller you obviously create worlds and your work spans the personal and the public in terms of your consultancy but obviously the work that you've created for yourself about yourself as an individual. I'm interested in your cultural exploration of disability in South Asia, in the south asian community and how it intersects with notions of beauty. So how is the interrogation that we're talking about and some of the things that Kyla has referenced helps you to grow as an artist? Because of course it's not all about the sort of politicization and activism all the time. Sometimes you just want to be in that creative space.

00:42:59: GRISHMA SHAH: So for me just really exploring all of these things was very, very personal, but then also painful. Because I've been grappling with this idea of beauty and words since I was a child. And I'm sure I'm not alone, especially identifying as a woman or as a female. And I remember being young and thinking oh am I like light enough? Is my skin light enough? Am I pretty enough? I knew I was cute, which was good. That's good. Okay at least I'm cute. Um So that was good. I mean seriously, y'all should see folks in my family, like some belong in Hollywood. Even my sister is exceptionally beautiful and as I turned 16 and then I became an amputee at 18. I started realizing that the world was seeing me very differently. It might even be fitting to say that I became invisible because there's a certain blueprint in south asian culture which we then identify as south asian called "desi". So in desi Culture, you know, there's like a blueprint, especially if you're a woman, you know, you you're that dutiful daughter and you're that dutiful wife, then you're that dutiful daughter in law and then you're that dutiful mother and then you become a dutiful mother in law. And so you know, there's that blueprint that you need to follow. And if for whatever reason that blueprint doesn't get followed the world doesn't look at you as worthy. Oh you're not married. Oh you are not a mother. So these are certain milestones that are really, really important and I'm pretty sure that it just doesn't, you know, stay within desi culture. I think this is common for many cultures. So in order to get married, you have to be beautiful enough. And so what does it mean if you have a disability? And through the research that I did with my dissertation, and I invite you all to listen to it - it's a podcast dissertation. We look at how gender and skin tone and caste and religion and disability kind of like intersects with all of these things.

00:45:12: And something that I realized from the storytellers is that there's this thing about invisible disability and visible disability. And if you're a woman and you have an invisible disability then that's okay. But if you are a man with an invisible disability then that is not okay, because then it starts to question those masculine traits of what it means to be a man, which is to provide for your family and be that financial bread winner. But for the woman, you need to be beautiful enough, you need to be able to take care of people and things like that. So an invisible disability is okay. You also need to give birth to beautiful children. And so what happens when you're someone like me who clearly has a visible disability when she's not wearing her prosthesis? Well that means that you may not be worthy enough, even if you are fair skinned, even if you are a size zero, even if you are super duper intelligent, but because you have that physical disability the world at least in basic culture, may not see you as worthy, or beautiful.

00:46:22: So what can I do to flip that script? How did we learn these things? Where did we learn these things? Why do people think that having a disability is like a punishment from God? So I started exploring religion and I realized that it has nothing to do with religion. It's somehow these stories were being created and then these stories started teaching us about how some people are worthy of beauty and respect and some people aren't. And I really want to flip the script on that and I think the best way to do that is through film and animation and books, so that we can teach the younger generation at the same time the older generation; hey, like these are our perceptions, how did we start to think the way that we do? Let's explore that. Everybody is beautiful, everyone is magnificent. So why is it that when you see me, you think I'm less magnificent than someone else?

00:47:18: NADIA DENTON: So eloquently expressed, Thank you so much Grishma. Kyla, I don't know if you had any reflections on some of Grishma has said about beauty and storytelling around?

00:47:29: KYLA HARRIS: Oh my gosh, yes! Just being kind of, if I could finger snap in the background. I would be um, just what you're saying is, it just really rings true. I think a lot of this started with capitalism, I don't, I didn't look to religion like Grishma, but I think I look to capitalism to really understand why disabled people are seen as not worthy. And I think that's because like, a lot of people of color being separated from white people in terms of labor, that's exactly what they did with disabled people as well. So disabled people were not being seen as moneymakers, or being able to be as efficient during the industrial revolution really cost us our lives as well. Um, not only were we not able to get jobs, but jobs were seen as the only way of us being able to survive in the world. And not only that, but during the Industrial Revolution in America, there was something called the Ugly Laws. And they actually stopped disabled people from being able to be on the streets. So when you had no prospects of a job, but you had nowhere and but you only relied on that to be able to afford housing, to be able to afford living conditions and a good quality of life. What happened to say that people then stopped you from being on the streets? So as if begging was the only way to earn your money and then you were put in prison for begging under the Ugly Laws. It really, I think was an incredibly damaging time for the majority of the population and I think that we're still feeling the effects of that.

00:49:17: NADIA DENTON: That point about capitalism is like a whole other chapter which I would love for us to be able to discuss it because like it's its own podcast topic. but Kyla and Grishma, it's been such a pleasure to have the two of you join us today. It's been insightful, has been joyous. There's been little moments of pain but you know in the words that you have shared and your testimony there is still so much hope and I really am hopeful that. In the momentum that is building around conversations to deal with individuals living with disabilities and how the film industry can be more proactive that traction will continue to build and that we're going to see some changes based on not just your own individual efforts, but from what members of the wider community are doing. So thank you so much for being with us.

00:50:06: GRISHMA SHAH: Thank you. Is it okay to add just one small thing?

00:50:08: NADIA DENTON: Please, go ahead.

00:50:09: GRISHMA SHAH: Thank you. That is such an amazing perspective that I'm so glad to learn about. Thank you. And there's this thing in the United States, it's called Subminimum Wage and it's legal. And basically what it is, is that if you are a person with a disability, you could be paid less. And there's a documentary that talks about this. It's called Bottom Dollars and we actually screaned it in our film festival and it was a huge eye opener for me. As to trying to understand why folks with disabilities are paid less, compared to like their non disabled counterparts and now understanding about capitalism and this being an ugly, what was it called? An ugly..?

00:50:52: KYLA HARRIS: Ugly Laws.

00:50:53: GRISHMA SHAH: Ugly Laws. Thank you. I'm starting to understand that again, it comes back to someone who had the power to create something called an Ugly Law. And then, and now look at the unintended consequences of it - we're still paying the price for it. It's mind blowing.

00:51:12: KYLA HARRIS: Yeah, I can just read out my favorite quote and I think I've tried to sprinkle this across some events along the EFM. So I don't mind if this gets cut or not, but this is my favorite quote from Mia Mungus, and I think it really sums up kind of everything we've talked about today, really, and I think you can apply it to filmmaking, but life just life in general and this. "Ableism must be included in our analysis of oppression and in our conversations about violence, responses to violence and ending violence. Ableismus cuts across all of our movements because ableism dictates how bodies should function against a mythical norm - A [non disabled] [...] standard of white supremacy, heterosexism, sexism, economic exploitation, moral/religious beliefs, age and ability. Ableism sets the stage for queer and trans people to be institutionalized as mentally disabled; for communities of color to be understood as less capable, smart and intelligent. Therefore “naturally” fit for slave labor; for women's bodies to be used to produce children, when, where and how men needed them; for disabled people to be seen as “disposable” in a capitalist and exploitative culture because we are not seen as “productive”; for immigrants to be thought of as a “disease” that we must “cure”because it is “weakening” our country; for violence, cycles of poverty, lack of resources and war to be used as systematic tools to construct disability in communities and entire countries.”

00:52:52: NADIA DENTON: I'm very happy with that. Thank you so much, Kyla.

00:52:56: GRISHMA SHAH: I hope you keep the part where I said "f-u-c-k". But I will leave it to your discussion.

00:53:04: NADIA DENTON: This brings us to the end of this conversation podcast on Access Beyond and Behind the Screen. From our discussions, we have learned about the multiple ways in which the industry is attempting to address what is currently unacceptable levels of access for people living with disabilities. With the efforts of the 1in4coalition, resources such as the FWD-Doc Engagement Pack and Toolkit and calls for quotas. It is clear that the film industry can no longer make excuses changes of pace and audiences are expecting more. This season of Industry Insights has been produced in cooperation with Goethe Institute and supported by Creative Europe Media, which cofunds the EFM's Diversity and Inclusion Initiative. This episode has been developed in partnership with the British Film Institute. I hope you will tune into the future episodes of Industry Insights. Find us wherever you get your podcasts and on the website of the European Film Market, Thanks for listening. Goodbye.

About this podcast

Industry Insights - The EFM Podcast is about and for the entertainment industry. The podcast features long episodes as a year-round series, with short episodes to be aired only during the five-day virtual event of the EFM 2021. As the first international film market of the year, the European Film Market is where the film industry starts its business of the year. Industry Insights - The EFM Podcast will put the spotlight on highly topical and trendsetting industry issues, thereby creating a compass for the forthcoming film year. The podcast will feature in-depth analyses of the film industry’s contemporary challenges and strategies in order to tap into the most dynamic debates. Together with our partner Goethe-Institut, Industry Insights - The EFM Podcast will be covering the most pressing strategic industry topics such as digitizing the business and diversity & inclusion as well as social, environmental and economic sustainability and the power of community building.

Industry Insights - The EFM Podcast is one of the Berlinale podcasts and is provided in cooperation with Goethe-Institut.

by European Film Market


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