On the Platform with Chanel Bowen

Tell us about yourself
My name is Chanel Bowen, I live in the South West of WA and I just turned 30… Goodness!

What has been your journey of disability?
I acquired my disability as an adult. Managing any disability in this ableist society is always a challenge, but I felt relief at finally identifying as disabled. I found my community and self-recognition.

“I felt relief at finally identifying as disabled. I found my community and self-recognition.” 

What do you do with yourself?
For my work, I develop feature film and television content as a creative producer and work on large scale productions as a 3rd Assistant Director. For pleasure I like to unwind in the ocean and spend time working in my garden and hobby farm.

What inspired you to choose filmmaking /producing as a career and has it created unique challenges for you as a woman with disability?
An “easy” challenge to identify is continually justifying my access needs. I question if I should still be in such an industry that is making someone with a non-visible disability feel unwelcome and unwanted. In the end, that is why I stayed… if I, as a person in a position to have a voice is marginalized, who will speak to and show disability to audiences?
How has having a disability in the arts been accepted by others? I believe accepted well by those who are open and considerate. Many elements of a film can be quite traditionalist and therefore grossly outdated and typically the people who cling to those practices are not inclusive. Several organisations continue to advocate for and strive for inclusion in this sector and for them I am grateful.

“In the end, that is why I stayed… if I, as a person in a position to have a voice is marginalized, who will speak to and show disability to audiences?”

Do you think enough has been done to represent / accommodate people with disability in the film industry?
No. However, inclusion is a journey which is being embraced, and although there is a cohort of people and groups advocating impressively, we need to recognise that the journey will eventually deliver an inclusive society. If we rush in a “fad” of disability inclusion, ableists can pat themselves on the back but authentic representation and inclusion is unlikely to cement. Luckily nationally we have Bus Stop Films, Chloe Hayden A2K media, Sofya Gollan, and Hannah Divney blazing trails of disability-lead inclusion on our screens.

         

What advice would you give to other disabled people wanting to become filmmakers?
Connect with those with disability in screen, through local organisations such as those above, or others like DADAA Back-to-Back theatre and engage with them. That’s how I found my people.

What more needs to or could be done?
We need agencies and federal and state Governments to require this role as a line item in budgets for productions funded by the State and Federal screen bodies.  Sofya Gollan along with Screen Australia is taking important next steps in training Access and Inclusion Coordinators for film.

Are there things about you that people misunderstand because of your disability?
Yes. It’s interesting having an invisible disability. I almost always need to “announce” or “reveal” my needs. Only then there is a “distrust” or assumption made about my intelligence… which wasn’t made prior to me requesting access needs. This can be hurtful when I am so open about who I am and what I need to be successful. Overall, there isn’t trust of people with disabilities.

“Overall, there isn’t trust of people with disabilities”

What is one thing, experience, or person you have had that completely changed your life?
My Mum. She is a continual source of inspiration, support, exceptional carer and friend and I wouldn’t give her up for anything! But for a more directional memory, when I was having trouble returning to work, Priya Cooper listened to my story and said something akin to “we’re here for you”, “we’ve got your back because you’re one of us” That affirmation that I was supported by the disability community helped my acceptance of myself too.

Is there a single piece of technology that makes your life easier? Why?
My apple calendar – oh my gosh I need that for my memory. Having everything written down and timed is very important for me now. Reminders, and alerts play play into this too.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
Enjoy everyday for your health and happiness.

Is there something that you would like people to know about you or about people with disabilities that they might not know?
Ask questions! We’d rather have questions than assumptions.

Best advice that you would like to share with other women with disabilities?
As women, we already face barriers without societies ableism, but I’m exposed to incredible people from our community, I see women blazing trails for change in a way that’s incomparable to others. We are a force.

“As women, we already face barriers without societies ableism, but I’m exposed to incredible people from our community, I see women blazing trails for change in a way that’s incomparable to others. We are a force.”

Do you have a way for people to connect or follow you that you would like me to share?
Finding me on LinkedIn is best.

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