The BFI Doc Society Fund has partnered with FWD-Doc: Filmmakers with Disabilities to create an industry resource aimed at ensuring disabled-accessible and disabled-inclusive documentary filmmaking and exhibition, which will officially launch at Sheffield Doc/Fest today. 

The FWD-Doc engagement pack, supported by the BFI Doc Society Fund through National Lottery funding, provides practical resources and information for the film industry on how to engage effectively, respectfully and creatively with disabled film talent and audiences. It’s designed to empower all areas of the independent film sector, from distribution, exhibition and festivals to decision makers across awards and funding, and filmmakers.

The engagement pack will be discussed at a Sheffield/DocFest talk entitled Reimagining Disability in Documentary (7pm, Tuesday 8 June), where James LeBrecht, co-director of Oscar-nominated Crip Camp and founding member of FWD-Doc: Filmmakers with Disabilities, will speak to filmmakers who are helping to reshape the narrative around disability.

The panel includes: Lindsey Dryden, director and producer, and founding member of FWD-Doc: Filmmakers with Disabilities; disabled filmmakers Ella Glendining, director of Is There Anybody Out There? and Kit Vincent, director of Red Herring; and Lisa Marie Russo, BFI Doc Society Fund Executive.

Both Ella Glendining and Kit Vincent’s films received funding from the BFI Doc Society Fund, which awards National Lottery funding to support and develop UK documentary filmmakers. Ella and Kit are among a number of filmmakers supported by the fund who will take part in Sheffield Doc/Fest’s MeetMarket, one of the world’s largest documentary and factual markets and pitching forums. Selected projects have the opportunity to meet with international industry representatives from among 300+ international funders, broadcasters, distributors, festival programmers and exhibitors.

“This engagement pack is such an amazing resource for filmmakers, commissioners and buyers who need guidance on disability issues,” says Glendining. ”It is so encouraging to know that industry people now have a place to go to learn about ableism, the social model of disability, intersectionality and best practice, and the icing on the cake is that it was put together by my disabled peers, because quite frankly, we know best. Understanding the importance of reframing traditional disability narratives is key, as is laid out clearly in the document. This makes me feel that I personally am more likely to have success with my work; that my perspective will be seen as timely and essential.”

“As a filmmaker who has experienced the industry as both an able bodied person and now somebody living with an invisible disability,” says Vincent, “trying to keep up with the non-inclusive working standards and practices that exist has been difficult and at times had an adverse effect on my health. This pack is a step towards creating a space where D/deaf and disabled filmmakers get to define what works for them in all aspects, with the support of the people who can really make a difference.”