25 Minutes of Tolerance – Ability not Inability

Hello my name is Ben Brown and about 13 years ago with Gemma Blagbourgh I worked on a video project called Tolerance, the history of which is a story in its own, hence writing this blog; my first one in fact, so please be gentle. Tolerance was a group of non-disabled and disabled people aged between 18 and 25 in the West Yorkshire area. The idea for the video came from Jeremy Walker with a lot of input from us, honest!

We wanted to make a video that reflected the life of young disabled people in the 21st century. It was important to us as a group, that it was funny, to capture the humour within the group, but at the same time delivered a serious message about what it was like to live with a disability day- to-day.

The video had five main themes, that we felt as young people explored topics that were important to us. The five main themes were Employment, Social Life, Transport, Accessibility, and Relationships.

After a couple of false starts we approached a company called Eclipse Productions run by Richard Hellawell. After a lot of meetings to thrash out what we wanted in terms of the script and what roles the members of Tolerance were going to have in the project, Richard agreed to work with us, for what turned out to be the hardest, most exciting time of the summer.

The project provided us with the opportunity to put our entrepreneurial skills to the test, as before our vision could become a reality, we needed to raise a substantial amount of money. After we had picked our jaws up from the floor, when we realised exactly how much money we needed to raise, how were we going to raise such a big amount?

It turned out we didn’t need to worry after all, a good friend started a letter writing campaign to get the money promising each company a thank you credit at the end of the film, the joke was later made in fact that the credits were longer than the film itself.

We managed to get the money over the next few weeks and months. Railtrack provided the bulk of the films budget with a £5,000 donation. While the money was raised and the scripts were being written (and rewritten!!). I enrolled myself on a film and television course at Beaumont Street Studios, so that when we did start shooting I would have some idea what it was all about. Out of that came a 15-minute film called the Employment Game, but that’s another story!!! (And another blog.)

One major difference of opinion was who was going to act in our film. Richard wanted people he had worked with previously, where as myself and some of the group members had envisioned that we would use disabled actors. Was our film going to be stopped in its tracks before it had even started? For a while it looked like that might be the case. However, in the end we managed to reach a compromise of having two of our disabled members appear in the finished film; Gemma Blagbrough would appear as the cinema manager and Michael Weaver would appear as a blind person using Huddersfield Train Station.

The script was written by Richard Hellawell with input from Tolerance members; myself and Jeremy Walker were the film’s producers. In keeping with the humour we wanted the film to portray, we included film spoofs of Officer and a Gentleman, Star Wars, and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and emphasised the funny side of our experiences as much as we could.

The filming in itself was an experience to behold that I burst into tears twice during filming; yes folks, grown men do cry. The first day’s filming overran because somebody kept ruining the take with his laughing, not naming names.

Filming, on one particular day, turned into near disaster because the fire brigade were accidentally called out, and we had to leave the building. Not to mention, people getting trapped in lifts, claustrophobia, and near death, due to lack of food, but it was all in a day’s work for us, and just a few of the highlights that made the experience life changing and unforgettable!!

The film was edited and completed thanks to Huddersfield University. The idea when the film was completed was for it to be launched at the International Day of disabled people in the December, along with copies to our sponsors, crew and Tolerance members.


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