Daniel Monks is breaking barriers again with his new short film Broken
In this superb, understanding film, writer-actor Daniel Monks (Pulse) plays a gay man unsure if it’s his partner or his disability causing their relationship to fail.
Broken had its World Premiere in the Screenability Shorts program at Sydney Film Festival on Thursday 14 June. You can also see the film 12.30pm Saturday 16 June at Events Entertainment Quarter, and Sunday 17 June 4.00pm (free) at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre: https://bit.ly/2IRufrw
What does it mean to you to have your film Broken screened as part of this year’s Screenability program at this year’s Sydney Film Festival?
We are absolutely thrilled. Our first feature film Pulse was fortunate enough to open the inaugural Screenability program at last year’s Sydney Film Festival. To have the honour of screening again in this groundbreaking program is extraordinary, and we are very grateful.
Broken tells the story of a gay man who is dealing with the complexities of living with a disability and his sex life. Can you tell us about your inspiration for this story?
Writing is a deeply personal practice for me. My curiosity is most ignited when I’m led by questions I’m grappling with in my own life, and through the process of writing and filmmaking I aim to move towards deeper understanding.
Broken was no different. Being a disabled person whose body functions differently to ‘the norm’, including sexually, is a challenge I’ve struggled with my entire adult life - and one that I have felt incredibly alone with in my struggle. I had never seen this explored authentically on screen or on stage before, which was the main impetus in telling the story - so hopefully other people with similar challenges might feel less alone in their struggles.
Usually my scripts have fantastical or high-concept elements as well, but with Broken I really wanted to challenge myself as a screenwriter to not ‘dress up’ my story, but to tell it as simply and truthfully as possible, in the hope that my truth will be interesting and impactful enough.
This film presents a side of disability that is rarely seen, that of sexuality and relationships, which you are often very mindful of as a filmmaker. Are you seeing a shift in the way these kinds of topics are being looked at?
I am. Maybe because I have such a personal interest in this specific intersection I’m more aware of the stories than others, but I do feel like in the past couple of years I have been seeing more stories exploring this. I also feel l like as well there has been a gradual swell of more disabled people telling their stories; whether about sexuality and relationships or not - which is an incredible, beautiful thing.
The more disabled artists and people who are empowered to share their stories, and given a platform, the more audiences will be able to witness stories that encompass the rich diversity of the disabled experience, which is a vital thing. I have my stories to offer, but what excited me so much about the Screenability program last year, which looks to be repeated by this year’s program, was the opportunity to experience the incredible diversity of the stories told by disabled storytellers and filmmakers. The fact that all the screenings sold out at last year’s Sydney Film Festival proves that I’m not the only audience member with a hunger for them.
What was it like to work with production company Arcadia, who were on board as executive producers?
They were wonderful. Lisa Shaunessy and Alexandra Burke were incredibly supportive of our film, and we are very grateful to them. They also provided brilliant insightful feedback at each stage of the process, which helped us to create the finished film. We were also incredibly fortunate to have production services provided by Bus Stop Films, with Genevieve Clay-Smith and Eleanor Winkler. Without their generosity, we wouldn’t have been able to make the film, and their continued support of my work has been truly humbling and invaluable. Stevie and I know that a film can only be as good as the team you have behind it, and we have been very fortunate to have incredible people supporting us, and we are very grateful.
You had a very strong team working with you on this film, including your long team collaborator Stevie Cruz-Martin. Can you tell us more about your partnership?
Stevie is beyond extraordinary; I’m her biggest fan and I’m so grateful that she continues to want to make films with me. Our film marriage is almost reaching its ten-year anniversary, and beyond our working collaboration, she is one of my closest friends. She is the greatest leader, visionary, parent, sister, coach, counsellor, friend; everything you’d want a director to be.
What was so wonderful about Broken as well, was that it enabled us to reunite with so many of our key collaborators and creatives, who we have made countless shorts and our feature Pulse; including Brodie Simpson, Joseph Dutaillis and Sian Ewers. We also had the opportunity to work with amazing new creatives like Stef Smith, Grace Eyre and Meg White. And for myself specifically, getting to act with the magnificent Alfie Gledhill was the greatest of joys, and I really hope I get the opportunity to again.
What’s next for you?
A number of exciting possibilities on the acting front have arisen in the UK, and so I’m planning to spend more time in London, which is also where my brother, sister-in-law and unbelievably beautiful baby nephew live, so I’ll also be able to get in some serious ‘Guncling’ there. I’m also so excited to be acting in Murmuration’s short film Bowerbirds in late September and early October this year, performing with the amazing Dan Daw, directed and choreographed by the brilliant Sarah-Vyne Vassallo. This has been a project that we’ve been developing since 2015. It’s very exciting to have it come to fruition.