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Ableism in the industry 1

The two major challenges I face as a disabled creator:

Time + Money

As a Type 1 Diabetic, my Insulin Pump supplies are not covered under the Quebec Public Health Care Plan. This is because, in Quebec, if you obtained your first Insulin Pump when you were over 18 years old, the pump and its supplies will not be covered under the public health care plan. I got my first pump when I was 18. This is absurd, as it suggests that somehow we are magically cured when we turn 18, or that people aren’t diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes after 18 years old. This is categorically false, as I know two individuals who were diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in their 30s.

Therefore, I need to either a) Pay thousands of dollars out of pocket or b) Hold a full time job to obtain health care benefits.

Option a) leaves me without enough financial support to sustain my life and art practice as an independent artist.

Option b) leaves me without enough time to dedicate to my art practice.

It is a lose-lose situation that many other disabled artists find themselves in. We are constantly forced to overwork and overachieve in order to realize our artistic endeavours. This is something that most able-bodied people do not understand.

My illness leaves me with little time to focus on my film and art projects. Therefore, I must use my time incredibly efficiently. The rest of my time is often dedicated to, for lack of a better phrase, keeping myself alive. My mental space is reserved for the management of my illness.

Therefore, I have short windows of time to make decisions, communicate needs and direction, and work on a film. Most of my collaborators, who I've built long term relationships with, like cinematographers, editors, and researchers, are sensitive to this way of working, which is a necessity for me as a disabled artist who also wants to remain healthy while working.

On a recent production, my co-producer Michael Massicotte, did not understand this work style. I only name him as a warning to other disabled creators who may consider working with him in the future. My work style caused friction between the two of us. They did not (read “refused”) understand that my efficient time management is not out of choice, but is imperative to ensure that I can remain healthy AND work as an artist.

While I won’t get into specific incidents at the moment (will post emails soon) but there is one that epitomizes this lack of understanding:

Since we shot the film in 2021, we had a strict COVID protocol in place for our small 3-person crew. We were to wear masks indoors at all times and not have any people from outside our team in our hotel rooms / Airbnbs. Michael broke this protocol and was unmasked with a non-crew member in our hotel rooms. Our protocol was in place to protect the entire crew and the production, to avoid any shutdowns. But most importantly, I felt personally violated by this action since, as a diabetic, I am immune-compromised and at greater risk of severe illness from COVID. It can quite literally kill me.

The COVID protocol that I designed with a healthcare professional for our shoot was in place for the safety of the entire crew and the film. The violation of this was shocking and, again, just another instance of one of the challenges of navigating the industry as a disabled filmmaker.

This co-producer eventually left the production, leaving me as the sole producer.

This wasn't a simple disagreement. It was consistent ableism throughout the production. I communicate quickly and efficiently because I am always trying to keep myself alive. I require specific availability because the other times I am focusing on my physical health, to keep myself alive.

This wasn't the first incident of ableism by a producer, but I'm hoping it will be the last.

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