Intimate Encounters 20 Years On that follows the lives of the participants of the Intimate Encounters exhibition of 1998, which changed perceptions of sexuality and disability.
Intimate Encounters 20 Years On will have its World Premiere in the Screenability Shorts program at Sydney Film Festival Thursday 14 June 6.30pm and 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 have Intimate Encounters 20 years On, screened as part of this year’s Screenability program at the 65th Sydney Film Festival?
The ability to produce and present my film, Intimate Encounter 20 Years On, as part of the Sydney Film Festival is just astonishing. I’m proud of all the hard work that my team and I have put in – and what we have achieved. Bringing the voices of the participants in the film forward and getting the opportunity to share it on this platform, is an incredible feeling.
Intimate Encounters: 20 years On follows up on the models from Intimate Encounters (1998), a powerful photographic exhibition by Belinda Mason, that displayed 40 works representing the experiences of people with disabilities. The exhibition examined the lives of the participants, that explored the myriad of connections between disability and sexuality. The exhibition had a significant impact on your childhood. Why did you want to follow up with its participants?
Belinda Mason, who happens to be my mother, was telling a friend about the exhibition, and at that time I recalled all the amazing and wonderful people I was introduced to when I was growing up. This sparked both our imaginations. We wanted to find out what happened to the exhibitions participants? Had things changed? Are they still out there? Have they become more conservative?
As I grew up with many of the participants from the exhibition I was exposed to the work, and during that time, my opinion on diversity was shaped on acceptance. As I grew older, I was surprised to find out about how people’s opinions were very different to mine, and having this insight, it led me to share my knowledge. Like Belinda, I realised it was very important to me to have and to share my understanding of disability, sexuality and diversity.
What made you believe that making a documentary about the participants would be strong subjects for a documentary?
Even today nobody talks about disability and sexuality in relation to each other. It’s still very much a taboo. Most people, even friends of mine never considered a person with disability to have any sexual desires. But after watching, listening and learning they discover that people with disability do have wants and needs, just the same as anyone else. Sexuality is there to be explored and expressed not contained and made into something that anyone needs to feel ashamed about. This documentary touches the tip of the iceberg, but every bit of information helps us further understanding and acceptance of the ‘other’ and helps to create an ‘us’.
From making this documentary, what do you think has changed 20 years on around the discussion about disability and sexuality?
After talking to all the participants, I find that change is very hard to come by. I wouldn’t say that there is no change at all - I am saying that the changes that have occurred are not nearly enough. People with disabilities are still struggling for acceptance with their sexuality - and having access to explore their desires should simply be a human right. Sex and sexuality isn’t something that anyone should be ashamed of. It should be explored and celebrated.
What did you learn from working with production company Arcadia, who were on board as executive producers and Create NSW?
Working with the Arcadia team has been incredible. I did have my share of struggles through the process of creating this documentary, but with Lisa Shaunessy’s unbelievable support and willingness to help, I was enabled to create something that I am really proud of.
During the making of the documentary you were mentored by documentary filmmaker Alan Erson, what was that like?
I found Alan Erson’s approach to things extremely helpful. He was very direct in his reviews, such as what should be cut, what should be in the film, and how the music should be. As a director it becomes very hard to cut down a story you captured, and Alan’s hands on approach gave me the guidance to keep it short, but to the point, which will hopefully come across to everyone.
Intimate Encounters 20 Years On, is part of a suite of films part of the Screenability Filmmakers Fund. Why did you decide to apply for this funding?
I decided to apply for the funding after the incredible experience I had through the Create NSW intern initiative in 2017, a part of Screenability NSW. As part of that initiative I completed internships with ABC and SBS. That experience was a real learning curve, so how could I not apply for the Screenability Filmmakers Fund and try out the experience and knowledge I gained? I am extremely grateful for the opportunity that has given to me and I hope I justify it with my work.
What advice would you give filmmakers thinking of applying for this funding?
Look out for the opportunities and when you get one, take it and put all your hard work in. It’s been wonderful working on this project and I look forward to more opportunities in the future like this.