Entertainment & Culture

Disability and entertainment: TV and film

Hayleigh Barclay is delighted to join in with Disability Horizons to offer a monthly article on entertainment. Hayleigh has a Masters in Creative Media Practises, is doing a Doctorate of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and she’s going to use her expertise to open up the world of entertainment to Disability Horizon’s readers. This month, TV and film.


This month I thought I would share a personal story. As you can tell from the introduction which accompanies each article, I have a Masters in Creative Media Practices. My specialist areas included script writing, directing and producing for TV, film and radio. As my DH column focuses on entertainment and there is no bigger entertainment industry than TV and film I thought it would be a good discussion point.

Some people have asked me why I chose to study the subject I completed at university and I have to be honest with them and say it was a complete accident… or maybe the universe has a cunning plan that I am not privileged to know about… It is a bit like the Greek myth of the three Fates; Clotho – who attached the thread of life onto her spindle depicting when a person is born; Lachesis – who wove the thread of life which determined a person’s destiny; Atropos – who cuts the thread to end the person’s life. Right now I feel like a giant human tapestry – I think I would make a lovely quilt!

Anyway, as the Fates would have it I started my university course as a media student and by the time third year came it was time to choose a specialist area, either TV or radio. Now trust me on this I do not have a voice suitable for radio… A friend of mine (you may remember me talking about him in a previous article) was discussing the idea of us having a radio show and I replied there was no chance as I have the voice of a chipmunk! The lack of protest from his direction spoke volumes in my opinion. Sensibly I chose to study TV.

During the subsequent years, classes, essays and sleepless nights I discovered the secrets to writing a television series, how to direct and finally how to produce and sell. It might not have been Hollywood glamour but for a wide eyed chipmunk like me it was enough.

It was around this time I finally discovered who and what I truly was and what I wanted to be. As a young girl I had dreamt of being a popstar – I think the Spice Girls had some influence over this – but I had finally grown up – or got a life – and decided that the siren song of creativity was calling.

I had never considered that the world of TV and film would be a place I could call home. It was where other people lived, you know, the ones you see on screen who have been magically touched by the hands of those Fate weavers. But I quickly realised that this was my chance to be judged by what’s in my mind instead of being judged on my disability.

It didn’t matter if I physically couldn’t work the cameras or post production equipment as this was someone else’s department. I could fully concentrate on the job I could do and surprisingly discovered I was quite good at it.

I had always enjoyed writing but kept mainly to short stories and poems. My mum had always recognised this was an avenue I should explore but like all teenagers I ignored the advice. There is a well known phrase that mothers know best… God, I hate it when clichés are right! This is probably the reason why I am writing a novel as part of a PhD… Ok, I will admit it publically, mum you were right!!

Moving on… It may be hard to believe but I actually feel as though having a disability helped me become better at understanding the job of a Director. Every day I have to direct and communicate with my family, support workers and health care professionals as to what my daily needs are. This may include directing how to do something or what I want to do that particular day. Take a look at the key word there – directing. I had been doing this for over twenty years without realising. It made directing a crew and actors seem like second nature.

Some people may say this also helped me understand the process of Producing. This job involves gathering a team of people and assessing how their talents can be used to produce a show. Basically the Producer is the top of the tree. It has been suggested that this appeals to my bossy side. I categorically disagree!

My main point is that by having experienced the opportunity to skim the surface of the land of TV and film I was able to express myself and discover talents that had been extremely well hidden but brewing quite nicely! It was a chance for my disability to be overshadowed and at times to become an asset. I am starting to think that those three Fates may in fact have a plan after all…

By Hayleigh Barclay

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