Terry was a true leader onset, the fact I had a wheelchair, that I needed thinking space, did not faze him. I held off from saying something that I had noticed on a monitor, as I did not want to upset the DP and Director. Over the radio he said to everyone, if Richie sees something and says something take it as coming from me. That single radio message was the biggest compliment I had on set. After that, I was treated as an equal, and by the end of filming no one asked me about the chair, or why my leg was in a brace.
Some things I had noticed onset and the studios is that provision for the disabled is non-existent, no ramps, no close-by parking, honey wagons are a nightmare. The production vehicles are limited in access. On major productions flooring is laid which makes accessibility great, but the covers that go over cabling are not much fun. You must be fit and able-bodied to work on the set in some roles, however, there is a danger that the disabled end up in production offices, tied to a desk. Luckily, Terry made me go on set and had made arrangements for me. Another problem is people deciding what you can do on set and not asking what you can do. Asking for ramps or grip assistance is not a problem, but it takes confidence and people skills to do so.
The other problem on set is there is a taboo about asking about sexuality or race, but the crew with good intentions ask what is wrong with you concerning disability. It is a human thing to ask, one out of curiosity, the other is an evolutionary trait where they need to know so they do not experience it. But it is tiring, and it is a barrier to communication; having a visible injury gets you noticed on set, people will try and help you, even though you at the time have a coping mechanism in place. Or in my case will suddenly walk out of my wheelchair, not understanding that I am an ambulatory user. The other is invisible injuries or psychological (PTSD is a physical injury); we will not invite you to work on this sci-fi, horror or war film in case it affects you. For me, I take that as an insult, as I am a trained pyrotechnician, as well as a prosthetic make-up artist. These are common barriers to work. I understand if a film shot on a mountain is not the right place for me but allow me to turn it down.
Some of the most creative artists, writers, and designers I know that have ability differentiations, cognitive or physical, bringing extra to the table. There is a concerted effort to bring people in front of the camera and not shy away from abilities, colour, or sex. Behind the camera, it is sadly lacking. I may not be able to use a Steadicam, but I am a highly trained precision driver and camera operator, a perfect marriage of ability for a Russian arm operator. Hopefully, with this British Academy funded project, we can be more inclusive on set and introduce a broad spectrum of talent and ability within the industry. Terry and Jason give me the confidence that they are at the forefront of this. I thank “Mr. Terry Bamber” for inviting me to be part of it.