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Sex & Accessibility
A short film I wrote is about to shoot in London.
After four years of incremental progress, cameras will roll on a very special script.
I want to take a moment to celebrate a massive milestone in the story of a story. It will have a different title. But the themes that sum it up for me are:
It’s a rom com. It stars a woman who’s disabled, and a man who’s not. They wake up from a one-night stand and discover their condom broke. That sets them off on a mission to the chemist for an emergency contraceptive pill. It’s an eye-opening odyssey for him. Her disabilities magically transform everyday people and places into major obstacles. But there’s something truly special about the way she deals with it all. He’s smitten. By the end of it, she starts to see something in him, too.
This film stars Jillian Mercardo.
Jillian is a model and actor based in New York and LA. She’s possibly the world’s most photographed disabled woman. I tracked her down through the magic of Instagram, when she only had 130K followers… She now has nearly a quarter of a million. Since agreeing to star in my film - which would have been her first acting role - she landed a recurring role in the Showtime series The L Word and The L Word: Generation Q. She hit the headlines recently for her work in a groundbreaking love scene. Our film will see her go further and deeper by helming her own star vehicle.
It’s written by me and Aminder Virdee
Mindi and I met at an interdisciplinary arts workshop in Aberdeen in 2015. She’s a fantastic artist whose work spans visual and performance art. One of the monologues Mindi presented in Aberdeen - titled “What’s Wrong with You” is used in its entirety in a scene where Jillian’s character is asked that exact question by a member of the public. She’s been commissioned, exhibited and staged across the UK, including the National Theatre of Scotland, Lyric Theatre, Bonington Gallery, and Tate Exchange. She’s the most active activist I’ve ever met. Her focus is the representation and inclusion of disabled people in art.
We wanted to work on a project together. She told me:
it has to star a disabled woman of color
it has to portray that person as a sexual being
the fictional scenarios have to be informed by lived experience
diversity and inclusivity has to be baked its DNA
That last bit means that disabled people will be on set and behind the scenes as crew and in production. Making all that happen has taken nearly 5 years.
We’ve assembled such a great team
The money and production support comes from the BBC, BFI, and a private investor who I’ll thank by name as soon as I know she’s cool with it. The director is Nathan Morris - a wonderful film and television maker who works across UK/US/NZ like me. We were introduced by Chris Payne - a friend of the stack. Miranda Harcourt will be coaching the actors. She taught me at Toi Whakaari: the New Zealand Drama School. She’s Nicole Kidman’s acting coach too, but I’m sure I’m Miranda’s most memorable pupil, even if I haven’t been able to thank her in a major awards speech like Kidman did at the Golden Globes a few years back.
Ultimately, we’re aiming to take the short on the festival circuit and get the buy-in for a feature length rom com. The short film will become its first act.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Good things take time. Some good things take longer than others. Good things are worth taking a moment to celebrate.
Cameras roll this month. I’ll send you a photo from set.
Jillian’s instagram is here.