Tag Archives: films

“You don’t need to be tall or large to be a hero.”

Lola Olson is Scope’s Interim Digital Content Manager. For our End the Awkward campaign, Lola got to interview film star Warwick Davis. Lola tells us what it was like meeting a childhood hero.

I stopped growing when I was three. Medically this is called a “failure to thrive”.

My parents could not afford health insurance, so since I was three I’ve taken injections of growth hormone given to me as a charity donation.

My disabled childhood film heroes

Films and television shows meant a lot to me as a kid, and they still do. I’d often watch them over and over to memorise every word. Seeing people with the same conditions or situations as me made me feel less worried about my disorder.

Lola Olson wearing a Willow t-shirt.
Lola Olson wearing a Willow t-shirt.

Last year, I got to meet a big hero of mine at the Destination Star Trek convention. LeVar Burton plays Geordi La Forge, a blind engineer who wears a “Visual Instrument and Sensory Organ Replacement” or VISOR allowing him to “see” using electromagnetic signals.

I was born blind in my left eye but when I was about ten, my vision rapidly decreased and my eye doctor said I was going to be completely blind very soon.

Seeing Geordi La Forge in Star Trek made that a lot less scary for me because, even though he isn’t “blind” with his VISOR, I still felt like if Geordi La Forge was blind, it wasn’t such a bad thing to be. I was glad to be able to tell LeVar Burton what it meant to me to see a disabled character play a prominent role on the starship Enterprise.

Meeting and interviewing Warwick Davis

This year, as part of Scope’s End the Awkward campaign, I had the privilege to interview Warwick Davis, another one of my childhood heroes. Davis is the star of Willow, a 1980s fantasy film where Willow saves a special baby from an evil queen. There are a lot of things I like about Willow. It contains strong female characters, for one.

Davis, along with other actors with dwarfism, play a race called the “Nelwyns” who are a diverse bunch of nice and not so nice people. Average sized people, such as Mad Martigan played by Val Kilmer, aren’t called “humans”, thankfully. Instead, they’re called “Daikinis”. In most films, average sizes folk play “humans” while actors with dwarfism play other worldly creatures. Being like a Nelwyn was a compliment, not something that would make me inhuman.

I often used films and television shows to understand myself better. I understood that Willow, and all of the Nelwyns, had something like I had. Warwick Davis playing a hero in his own right sent the message to me as a kid that I had nothing to worry about. Even if I ended up being shorter than most of my peers, you don’t need to be tall or large to be a hero.

I met Warwick while he was being filmed for our awkward moments film. The filming day was a bit hectic, with Warwick popping in between a speaking engagement, but it was also slightly surreal. I nearly had to pinch myself as I sat in the background as an extra.

My interview with Warwick lasted for 15 minutes, but it passed by as quick as 15 seconds. I didn’t have much time to be nervous. But I did have time to laugh at  his jokes and absorb him talking about how important it is for people to  approach life with a fair amount of humour.

Shortly after my interview, I got an extra 30 seconds to exclaim my love for Willow before Warwick went to talk to a packed room of Oxford students about End the Awkward and some of his upcoming film work.

I want more heroes in films

Warwick Davis as Willow Ufgood by 20th Century Fox.
Warwick Davis as Willow Ufgood by 20th Century Fox.

Today, because of my growth hormone treatments, I’m 5’1″ (and proud to be short!). I don’t really say I have dwarfism because there are clearly a huge set of obstacles I don’t have to face and that I could never really speak about.

I do know how important it was to see someone like Willow in a feature film not hidden behind a costume. Many actors with dwarfism end up in roles where they wear full body costumes or heavy makeup. The fact that seeing Warwick be in a film more or less as himself was important to me leads me to believe that it must also be important to others with conditions like mine.

I can only hope that in the future more varieties of roles with depth will be offered to disabled actors so that more disabled people can see themselves represented in positive ways.

For more information about our End the Awkward campaign please visit the End the Awkward page. Do you have an awkward story? We’d love to hear it. Share your awkward story with us or tweet us your experiences of awkward using #EndTheAwkward.

Top films that portray disability

We asked our Facebook fans about their favourite films that portray disability. Here are the top suggestions:

My Left Foot

“One of the first films that focused entirely on a disabled character is most probably ‘My Left Foot’directed by Jim Sheridan and starring Daniel Day-Lewis.  I was merely a child slowly discovering the world and found so many aspects of the film that I did not fully understand but I did get from it that disability has its struggles and challenges but with it also comes strength and determination. The film tackled various issues that 26 years ago were considered a taboo such as suicide, love, anti-disabled attitudes and rejection of the disabled.”   – Raya Al-Jadir 

“My Left Foot was the earliest film I remember portraying disability. I remember being amazed at how determined the character was. ” – Libby

Inside I’m dancing

“Since seeing this film in school I fell in love and would recommend it to anyone, Inside I’m Dancing is one of the best films I’ve ever watched for showing both the highs and lows of living with a disability, it was so realistic and well written that when I found out neither of the actors were actually disabled, I was in complete shock!
Inside I’m Dancing takes both the good and bad points of being disabled and adds humour which makes for such a feel good film. Having cerebral palsy myself I believe that people with disabilities should be given the chance to show their amazing talents in the media instead of able bodied actors playing the part of disabled characters.”  – Michelle

The Imitation Game

“Although it’s never stated, I feel the makers of The Imitation Game wanted to portray Alan Turing as someone with an autism spectrum condition. The thing that makes the film extraordinary for me is that they got this so right, while not letting it dominate the story.

Autistic characters are so often portrayed as rude, oblivious and not having emotions. Autistic traits tend to be foregrounded in quirky diversions and gags, while the person’s achievements fade into the background. “Not fitting in” is emphasised to the point that you might think if you’re autistic, you’ll never have any friends. This is depressing, but it’s also untrue.

In The Imitation Game, Turing’s autistic traits are just part of who he is, and crucially, part of what his friends like about him. The highly emotional scenes where young Turing – brilliantly played by Alex Lawther – falls in love with a school friend, are enormously moving. Turing’s special interest in codes is beautifully laced through these heart-wrenching flashbacks, where it becomes a source of meaningful connection, not a freakish curiosity.

The things we struggle with are portrayed too. Being overwhelmed by noise or strong emotions, the lifelong project of understanding what others are feeling and the mysterious world of social rules. At least, this is what I identified with in Turing’s story – each autistic person’s experience will be different.

Despite the tragedy of the story, I left the cinema feeling optimistic. As Temple Grandin says, we need all types of minds.” – Suraya

Four Weddings and a Funeral

“I’ve always liked the character of David, played by deaf actor David Bower, in Four Weddings and a Funeral. Bower plays Hugh Grant’s brother, but the film doesn’t make a big deal of his deafness: the character is neither tragic nor endowed with special gifts. He’s an ordinary person who has a nice, jokey relationship with his brother – and they just happen to communicate in sign language. I love David’s dramatic intervention in the wedding ceremony, where Hugh Grant’s character translates David’s signed words for the congregation, transforming a well-worn cinematic trope into a funny and memorable scene.” – Kim Thomas

Scope’s 100th film launched – our top 5 favourites to date

2014 was the most successful year yet for film content from Scope. Our videos played a big part in some of our most high profile work to date in things like End The Awkward and Strip For Scope. Along the way we also achieved some fantastic things too.

We now have well over 1,000 subscribers to our YouTube channel. We screened some of our films in cinemas around the country for the first time. We produced our first content in British Sign Language and in audio description versions. We also released our 100th film at the end of the year.

To celebrate, we put together a list of our top five favourite films to date.

  1. End the Awkward – In the office

    This film is one of the three main adverts for our End The Awkward campaign. Star Alex Brooker couldn’t stop laughing at the funny expression on the actor playing the male office worker’s face. The actor was probably less amused as it meant he had to maintain that awkward expression on his face for half a day.

  2. Strip For Scope

    This film has the dubious honour of being the first Scope film to feature any sort of nudity – but hopefully you’ll agree that it was done tastefully. Jack Eyers, the male model who features in the film, didn’t allow himself to eat or drink across the day of the shoot in order to maintain the look of his physique.

  3. What is the social model of disability?

    This film might also have featured silly faces and nudity if Mik Scarlet, who features in the film, had had his way, but thankfully we talked him out of it on the day of the shoot. (Just kidding, Mik.) Thankfully instead, we have perhaps one of the most interesting films Scope has produced to date. It features prominent disabled people discussing the social model of disability – and what it means to them.

  4. Cycle Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 for Scope

    Scope are really excited to be the official charity partner for the famous Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 bike race. This film doesn’t even go half of the way to illustrating how awful the conditions were on the day in 2014, so a massive thanks again to all our cyclists and cheerers on the day!

  5. About Scope

    Last and by no means least is our new film all about Scope and our work in England and Wales. We didn’t want to produce a slick, flashy promotional film so this film was shot in a “selfie”-style across a year at locations all over the country by disabled people themselves, along with support from Scope volunteers and staff.

So what was your favourite Scope film from 2014? Let us know in the comments below.

We’ve got some really exciting projects coming up in 2015, so if you want to be the first to see our content before everyone else, please take a minute to subscribe to our YouTube channel.