Screen NSW launches program to support people with disabilities

Tim Ferguson, Sofya Gollan and Paul Nunnari.

Screen NSW has launched Screenability NSW, a new program to create opportunities in the screen industry for people with disabilities.
Screenability NSW is a partnership between Screen NSW, Ai-Media, AFTRS, Carriageworks and Bus Stop Films, and involves a program of initiatives aimed at delivering on Screen NSW's policy commitment to work with industry to grow the participation of people with disabilities in the screen sector.
Upcoming Screenability NSW initiatives include:
•    An annual film festival at Carriageworks
•    A short film-making initiative to finance and deliver films for premiere at the festival, for travelling around Australia and the world, and for screening online
•    A long-term job placement scheme
The first initiative will be the Screenability NSW Internship Program, a series of up to eight paid internships on some of Australian TV shows and feature films. Interns will work with some of Australia’s leading production companies, broadcasters and streaming services.
Confirmed to participate in the Screenability NSW Internship Program are:
•    Eurovision (Blink TV/SBS TV)
•    The NRL Footy Show (Nine Network)
•    Playschool (ABC TV)
•    The New Year’s Eve live broadcast (ABC TV)
•    The Mardi Gras Parade broadcast (Golden Duck/SBS TV)
•    Animal Logic (World-leading animation and VFX co)
•    See-Saw Films (Lion, Top of the Lake, The King’s Speech)
•    Goalpost Pictures Australia (Cleverman, The Sapphires, Holding The Man)
•    Proxi VR
•    Guerilla Films (Wyrmwood)
•    Playmaker (The Code, Love Child)
•    Matchbox Pictures (Barracuda, Real Housewives, The Slap, Wanted)
•    Screentime (Janet King, Anh Do’s Brush with Fame)
•    CJZ (Gruen, The Checkout, House of Hancock, Bond)
•    Jungle (No Activity, Here Come the Habibs)
•    Foxtel
•    Stan
•    ABC iView

The intern program aims to create opportunities for people in the technical and creative areas of screen production, including set building, art dept., camera and sound depts., make up and wardrobe, along with writing, producing, admin and production roles, plus editing, sound design, VFX, composing and many more.

There will also be opportunities in the programming, scheduling and commissioning departments of partners including Foxtel, Stan and iView.
Prior to starting their internship, each of the eight individuals matched with a production will be provided with bespoke training through AFTRS, developed in consultation with Bus Stop Films.
An online network will also be created for all the interns to share their production experiences.
“As well as delivering positive outcomes to all the interns, this internship program has the potential to change attitudes in the workplace towards disability, and foster the growth of inclusive practices on a professional basis,” said Screen NSW Development and Production Executive Sofya Gollan.

Gollan is also an acclaimed writer/director and well known as a deaf presenter on Play School.
Tim Ferguson, co-director and co-writer of the new feature film Spin Out, will take a lead role in various Screenability NSW activities in the years to come. 

“A smart and dynamic initiative Screenability NSW will encourage and enable new thinking and, best of all, opportunities in the media industries,” said Ferguson.
Following the internship program, Screen NSW will convene a forum at Carriageworks, hosted by Ferguson, for the interns, participant productions, partners, government, the wider industry and media to discuss the project, its outcomes and how it can be amplified to create ongoing employment opportunities for people with disability in the NSW screen sector into the future.
“We know from our work over the past ten months targeting gender imbalance in the screen sector, the key to creating a diverse industry, delivering richer content and ongoing cultural change, is getting people into paid positions, putting people from under-represented groups on set and into production offices,” said Screen NSW CEO Courtney Gibson. 

“What we find is that the production sector is very keen to embrace diversity; it’s programs like Screenability NSW which enable them to do so.”

Paul Nunnari, disability advocate and performer, said people with disability continued to breakdown many barriers and redefine the meaning of disability across a number of dimensions within the community.

“Screenability will assist in removing barriers to the film and television industry for people with disability and open up a range of opportunities. Just like orange is the new black, disability will become the new normal in the industry,” he said.
Screen Australia’s recent study “Seeing Ourselves: Reflections on Diversity in TV Drama”, revealed that the percentage of Australians with disabilities was more than four times the percentage of characters with disabilities on TV. It noted that Australians with disabilities have lacked opportunities to be involved with behind-the-scenes decision making, such as a presence in writer’s rooms or on-set, which in turn can flow on to a lack of diversity on screens.
“On-screen representation doesn’t change in a meaningful and authentic way unless things change off-screen, and Screenability NSW will be a catalyst for change, with the intention of creating opportunities in the long term for committed screen practitioners with disability,” Gollan said.

  1. I am associated with the NOVA employment initiative titled “Focus on Ability” Short Film Festival. This year we had 194 films from 18 countries involved in the competition. Films made by, and featuring, people with both physical and mental health disabilities. The wealth of talent exposed and the interest shown in this festival reveals a world of focus and expression that can only be heightened by the Screen NSW effort. Well done.

  2. Hello Andy

    Mental health is also addressed please see criteria:

    Who is eligible to apply?
    Any NSW based person with a disability, over the age of 18, who has been actively engaged in or seeking a career opportunity in production (behind the camera) in the film and television industry.
    By disability, we refer to the Social Model of Disability, using the term ‘disability’ to refer to barriers, rather than medical conditions or impairments. These barriers are seen as being the disabling factors, which prevent or limit opportunities.
    Eligibility in this case covers people with sensory or physical impairments (including deaf people), hidden impairments, intellectual impairments, learning difficulties or mental health conditions who face barriers accessing opportunities in the screen industry.

    The link is:

    I hope that addresses your comment.

  3. I could not agree with you more Bill Hughes. My film, made with my friend Louise Lenihan, was in this years Focus On Ability Film Festival. The films featured in this festival were amazing and we were so proud to be a part of it.
    I am so happy to see the launch of Screenability NSW. Like the Focus on Ability Film Festival shows, the talent and ability is most definitely out there, but there just needs to be the opportunity. Fantastic initiative – great work!

  4. How about the Staff, Management and Boards of all the Government funding org’s start with diversity, including a multicultural reflection of our society?

    How many “disabled wogs” are on payroll in our screen orgs?

    My “God”, these organisations look like a strange reflection of 1950’s BBC.

    Even SBS, doesn’t have “Wogs in work”.

    Enough of the token distractions!

  5. While this is certainly a step in the right direction…..disability is more than physical. Some disabilities cannot be seen.

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