Scope’s Digital Film and Media Officer, Phil, looks back on the first time he worked with a disabled person and how that changed his point of view. Phil is sharing this story as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.
It was October 2011. Fenton Manor, Stoke-on-Trent. One month into my new job as a video producer at British Gymnastics. I was trying to get to grips with setting up the equipment for the live streaming of one of the biggest events on the gymnastics calendar. It was my job to look after the filming of the event, making sure we got footage of all the action of the day.
The plan was to have four freelance camera operators working the event. One by one the first three arrived at the venue and we started to get to work. And then, in walked Kev.
I caught myself thinking “How can he do the job?”
In front of me stood a guy with abnormalities of the arms and hands (his words, not mine – even he isn’t totally sure of the exact technical term, but thinks it’s something as tricky to say as ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’!)
There were so many questions on my mind. How can he possibly hold the camera? Would he be able to follow the action happening in the arena? How would we ensure that we made up for the bad quality shots he’s obviously going to get?
My boss at the time assured me that Kev was one of the best camera operators he’d ever worked with. Even though I had doubts in my mind, the show had to go on.
Everything that could have gone wrong during that event did. My camera was temperamental. The radio that kept me in contact with everyone else went down. The camera crane (that I was foolishly put in control of) malfunctioned. It was a total disaster.
Kev to the rescue
All seemed lost, but then Kev swooped in to sort out my technical woes and completely put my mind at rest that these things happen.
I remember distinctly a moment during that event where I looked over at Kev. While I clumsily jolted the camera about trying to track a gymnast flying over a vault, Kev was just calmly following all the action. He made everything look so easy. I was, admittedly, a little bit jealous.
The following day, I was disheartened by how the event had gone. I sifted through the footage we’d captured, eager to see if my terrible preconceptions of Kev’s ability on the camera were correct.
Each shot was perfectly composed, the lighting was spot on and he never missed a second of the action.
You might say, ‘so what?’, but for me, meeting Kev was a huge wake up call. A wake up call that helped completely change my perception of disability. Why had I been so ignorant? Why had I doubted Kev’s abilities to do just as well, if not better than a non-disabled person?
Writing it down now, it all seems obvious but this event was the first time I had really spent any time working with a disabled person in my profession. It’s a shame that there aren’t more disabled people working in the media industry.
If things were different, perhaps I wouldn’t have had those ridiculous preconceptions I did on that day.
For the three years I spent at British Gymnastics, I worked with Kev on a whole host of different events and film projects. He became an exceptional, reliable colleague and a really good friend.
When I started at Scope as Digital Film and Media Officer in November 2014, I knew that I wanted Kev to star in one of my features. Even he’d admit he’s more of a natural behind the camera than in front, but with a bit of persuasion he agreed.
I’m glad that we were able to make this film. It highlights the need for attitudes in the media industry to change if disabled people are to have the same opportunities as everyone else.
I feel so privileged to have known and to have worked with Kev – such a talented and dedicated filmmaker who I’ve learnt so much from.
But don’t tell him that. I couldn’t bear the gloating!