Amy Marks and her film about disability identity

Amy Marks is a film student at the University of Victoria. Earlier this year she was chosen as one of five winners in a SBS film contest centred around Youth Week.

Her selection in the competition followed several rounds of judging based on her initial video entry. The five winners attended a week-long filmmaking and storytelling workshop in Melbourne with Foundation for Young Australians.

Amy’s film is about disability identity and the stereotyped representation of people with disabilities as being either tragic or inspirational.

In this guest blog, Amy Marks explains why she made her film…

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Image: Screen title shot from Amy Mark’s film as part of SBS National Youth Week showing Amy in profile and in the background Amy using crutches outside a warehouse

 

Unlike most 20-year-olds, earlier this year I was one of five competition winners and was given a chance to make a 50-second film about my identity with an amazing group of mentors which was to air on national television!  

Initially, when I heard about this contest, I thought I had nothing unique to bring to the table. I considered submitting an entry about my experience with a physical disability (cerebral palsy spastic diplegia), but I didn’t want to be perceived by the public as being defined by my disability. Then, I got to thinking, hang on a second, if I don’t talk about the impact my disability has had on the perception of my identity, how am I meant to discuss my identity at all?

I often feel like if I dismiss my disability, then I’m perceived as being defiant and overcoming, yet if I acknowledge it then it can feel like it defines all that I am. When I considered that, I realised I had to talk about my disability in my film, my disability had to be a centre point in the story just like it is in my life - yet the story also had to be so much more, much again, like myself.

With the help of my amazing director Brigid Canny and crew, we developed a concept around, a tale I used to spin in the schoolyard, where I would tell other kids I was a spy! The idea of a double identity resonated with me because often I feel like I’m dealing with two separate identities - the one that is perceived and the one that is.

The fact is ‘disability’ has so many misconceptions and negative stigmas, many I held myself (and honestly probably still do hold to some degree due to misinformation and misrepresentation).  These stigmas impacted me significantly. Not having any reference in the media landscape other than one of the Hemsworth brothers playing a character in a wheelchair on Neighbours for three episodes, or the guy on Glee (wheelchair-user Artie played by non-disabled actor Kevin McHale), meant that I had nothing to support me in my fight against these preconceived ideas.

When I did find something, be it an article or video online, they were often made by people way older than me, telling me how their experience went and how it does all work out. That’s great, but I had never seen a young person discussing their disability or even just living with one, anywhere.  I just desperately wanted to know there were some peers somewhere who understood. So this opportunity SBS and the Foundation for Young Australians were offering was too good to refuse. I knew I had to say it’s okay to be young and have a disability and that it is up to the young person to figure out what impact it takes on in their life, because I wish someone had said that to me!

 

 


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