Scripting Presence Without Performance: Placing the Profoundly Disabled Child at the Centre of Motion Picture Narrative Fiction
Profound disability is rarely depicted in the cinema, and almost completely absent in terms of seeing central character portrayed who have severe physical and mental disability. This paper will provide detailed insight into the creative elements challenged by the inclusion of a young and profoundly disabled character 'Eleanor' into a feature-length drama being developed for cinema. The issues examined will include: the effect on the process of writing narrative; ethical questions raised by working on drama with the profoundly disabled child; the implications for professional actors involved; the handling of a 'character' who brings powerful presence but cannot be required to produce conventional 'performance'; the effect and centrality of the disabled character's presence on the professional script development process. Sources for the elements covered will include the author's first-hand involvement in multiple drafting of the screenplay, and several example of script input by professional script-developers.
Keywords: Film narrative, Disability, Performance, Screenwriting
Lecturer in Audio-Visual Production, Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds