Jamaica's film and video crews have made their mark internationally and are known for their skills and professionalism when working with different groups of people. RISE Life Management Services recently presented a unique opportunity for a local productions team, charging them with the responsibility of creating advocacy videos that feature a cast which consist almost entirely of talent with different disabilities.
RISE has been empowered, through funding from the European Union, to develop a campaign focused on the rights of different disability groups under the Disabilities Act. The campaign, which falls under the Enabling Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (EOPD) Project, aims to highlight the many ways in which the disabled are UNSTOPPABLE, when given equal access to resources and opportunities.
The campaign productions therefore feature deaf dancers Christophe Phillips and Damany Hughes; data entry clerk Trishanna Bertram who is a wheelchair user; Kamika Braithwaite, a visually impaired administrator and apprentice farmer; and Orville Spaulding who has an intellectual disability. To make things even more interesting, all four videos had to be shot in one day!
Both crew and talent rose to the occasion, ironing out wrinkles as the production progressed. Any trepidation about the abilities of the talent to pull it off quickly disappeared as the crew marvelled at some special moments. Trishanna showing off her wheelies; Christoff and Damany hitting their marks and the beat with precision; Orville laughing at his mentor's mistake as he sailed through his own lines; and Kamika's super cool, "I've got this" delivery.
"They were a very talented group of people," said Dean Sutherland, director of photography. "It's just amazing that we're surrounded by gifted people, regardless of the challenges they have."
It was the first time that Sutherland, who has done numerous videos over the years, was working with a cast of persons with disabilities. "I would definitely do it again," he said.
While the shoot itself was entertaining the subject matter was serious.
As director-producer Brian St Juste of Timecode Productions Limited put it, "While I already knew about some of the accommodations needed for persons with disabilities, it wasn't until I had to execute the videos that I got a first-hand appreciation for what was really required to provide access, and also to remove some of the stigma associated with disability."
Make-up artist Cecile Samuels was more reflective. "We take things for granted." What struck her most was Kamika's testimony about searching for a job and being turned down because she was visually impaired. "You just never know what somebody else is living with until you step into their shoes," she continued. "It was a wow moment for me."
One of the few challenges in production was ensuring that the language interpretation which provides access to the messages for the deaf was on point and could fit within the time frame for the edited video.
"This is a key," said Janet Morrison, RISE communication consultant. "It's easy when you don't have a time constraint but within a 20-second time frame, voice and sign language must match precisely. That was a learning curve for all of us but the more we learn, the more the deaf person's right to communication access will be achieved."
Said St Juste: "I hope the videos will encourage viewers to do more in providing access and accommodation for persons with disabilities so that they can be fully integrated into society."
The finished videos are featured on Rise Life Management Services' social media platforms (@riselifeja) as a part of the wider EOPD project.
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