It's Time to Have a Conversation About Actors with Disabilities - The Mobility Resource

Out on the film festival circuit remains a Western movie garnering much attention and awards. The film, Becoming Bulletproof, has won awards at Beloit International Film Festival (Best Documentary Honors), Heartland Film Festival (Audience Choice Award Documentary Feature), and the annual New Hampshire Film Festival (Grand Jury Award). Check out the trailer for the award winning movie.

Probably not what you expected, right? Understandable given you don’t see actors with disabilities on television or movie screens too often. That proved a re-occurring point mentioned by Becoming Bulletproof star Ajani Murray, who I recently interviewed on The Mobility Rersource’s behalf. He spoke about how the aforementioned affected his acting ambitions plus his hopes for Becoming Bulletproof and more.

Beginning with a Dream

When asked about his acting ambitions, Murray remembered back to childhood. “I wanted to do this basically my whole life ever since I was four years old. I knew that I wanted to be an actor because I just love storytelling.”

However while in junior high school Murray did drift from this pursuit due to various obstacles. What Murray saw on television, or more accurately what he didn’t see, added discouragement. “I kind of veered off it (acting) at a certain point because I was like ‘Well I can’t really afford acting classes.’ Or, there was nothing around and I said to myself ‘Well there’s really nobody with a disability on TV anyway.’”

That fact left him questioning himself. “I was really, really like say ‘Are you crazy? Or are you an idiot? There is nobody with a disability on TV, especially with your disability (cerebral palsy).’” His high school’s drama club, friends, and family all played a role in keeping Murray from quitting on his dream.

Persistent Barriers

After high school Ajani Murray stayed the course with his acting career by attending workshops for actors with disabilities. Different barriers persistently emerged though. Due to the economy one workshop closed down. Murray explained certain factors limited his access to another workshop.

“I could go to this workshop but in order to go you had to pay a fee but you also had to provide your own PCA, personal care assistant. So that was a barrier that really kind of stopped me because for the first couple years I was able to go with my sister but she was in high school at the time.” Her schedule did not allow Murray to attend workshops as much as he ideally wanted.

He continued looking for other opportunities and found Zeno Mountain Farm, a Vermont non-profit organization. Zeno Mountain Farm led to Becoming Bulletproof.

Becoming Bulletproof

Zeno Mountain Farm helped facilitate Becoming Bulletproof, an 82-minute documentary following an integrated cast including actors and actresses with and without disabilities as they make a Western. Michael Barnett directs the film.

Asked about his hopes for Becoming Bulletproof Murray answered “I just want as many people to see it as possible and I want it to be a conversation starter. As to say we can have people with disabilities on screen. To ask the question, ‘why not?’ because I think the film shows it is very possible to put on a good quality high production value film with people with all sorts of disabilities.”

Check with your local film festival to see if Becoming Bulletproof will play near you.

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