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Ableism in the Industry: Parabola Films

My first experience with a larger budget production was with Sarah Spring and Selin Murat of Parabola Films.

At the time, from 2015-2018(ish) I was the only disabled filmmaker on their roster. I developed a project with them.

At a certain point in the production, we encountered a creative difference. For the sake of transparency, one of the characters in the film uses an unsavory word. Sarah and Selin wanted to remove the scene from the film, due to the use of the word. I offered to censor the word, while maintaining the scene, which they refused to accept.

They had used their power as established producers early in our relationship to pressure me into quickly signing a contract that didn't give me final cut on the film, so I didn't have too many options. I was early in my career and didn't have the same experience that they had or that I have now.

During our creative difference, they bullied me and threatened me with lawyers and legal action to force me to finish work on the film, when all I wanted to do was maintain the integrity of an important character and scene in the film.

It was bullying. It was manipulation. And it was ableist.

As a disabled filmmaker, I am already overwhelmed by many aspects of every-day life. To have a collaborator threaten me with legal action and have lawyers calling/emailing me is completely inappropriate and insensitive to the life that I live as a disabled individual, especially for such a small creative difference. As a result, my mental health spiraled out of control and I found myself in a very dark place as a result. It was probably the worst my mental health has been in my entire life.

I found it quite ironic, and angering, when Sarah Spring (now head of Doc National), was at the forefront of a Doc Canada initiative called "DocuMentality," which strives for the betterment of mental health in the documentary industry. This person was the main cause of my mental health crisis and is now at the forefront of this initiative. She is supposed to represent me, as a documentary filmmaker in Canada, but she does not and will not. When I tried to reach out to Doc Canada for a comment about this, I was ignored.

Being ignored is quite common as a disabled individual, constantly made to feel invisible. It's not new... and I'm used to it. But the fact that Sarah Spring positions herself as an advocate for change, when she has never apologized for her ableist bullying towards me, is quite frankly insulting.

Only now, in retrospect, do I see where my disability fits into this dispute. All I ask of producers and collaborators is to understand the time, effort, and mental energy disabled artists put into their health and well-being. Understand that added stress, anxiety, and tension only exacerbates their health issues and adds to their inability to be effective artists and filmmakers.

Empathize and work with us with care and compassion.

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