Unique Extras — More Diversity On Screen

Uploaded by diversitynz on 10.10.2012

Hi I'm Philip Patston and I'm unique.
You may recognise me as a comedian
where I was awarded the Billy T Award
or you may remember my role on New Zealand's
favourite drama Shortland Street.
Throughout my career I've always hoped that other
unique or disabled actors would become more
visible in the media.
So I've started a campaign called Unique Extras.
Join me as I challenge some of New Zealand's most
influential media experts with the aim of getting
more diversity on screen.
So Russell disabled people are obviously
absent from our screens.
Why is that?
In terms of work on camera
I think you’re talking about the environment
which is the domain of the conventionally
attractive and the young so it is actually,
there is a very narrow range of physical
attributes that get you on camera. In a way,
even doing the show I do I'm too old for that
and I don't really scrub up well enough
I feel quite lucky that I'm in there
so there's quite a bit to push against there.
I still think that television is probably
less ready than its audience is to see
disabled people on screen.
I think the audience would cope, you often
find in terms of exclusion stories over time
it’s often the public are ahead of the people
making the decisions.
Does the industry have a responsibility
to be more open?
I think the industry does have a responsibility
and there’s a degree of their own interest
in this as well.
They want to reflect society, they want to
reflect the population because that’s who they
are trying to reach.
The advertising industry is really well
set to do this, the advertising industry
places depictions of ordinary people
on screen all the time.
Most of the time when you’re looking
at ads you’re being encouraged to relate
to them, to treat them as someone like you
and there’s an incredible powerful message
if some of the people in those ads aren’t
conventionally able-bodied.
I think that's really important.
So after talking with Russell it's apparent that there is
a major attitude shift that needs to happen in the
television industry.
Russell's notion of diversity in advertising led me to
seek out Qiujing Wong, campaign expert
at Borderless Productions.
So Q advertising, the industry is pretty demanding.
What are advertisers looking for to sell their
client’s product and services?
I mean I think advertisers are always briefed
to achieve the greatest outcome for sales
that their clients can achieve so you know
they're looking at selling products in their
best light and to do that they use talent
that are sexy, beautiful, that meet the
aspiration of what they believe
their target market want to achieve and
as a result you end up with beautiful, young,
sexy half naked bodies selling a bottle of
Coca-Cola to us on a TV screen and often
that’s the way advertising does go.
The last ten years you’ve seen more quirky
characters like the Top Twins, Mike King, people
like that start to become currency with advertising.
What changes that? Who changes it?
I don’t know what drives what first but
I think there’s one thing that’s happening
is that viewers or the market are getting
a little bit tired of being shown images
over and over again that they can never
achieve and now we come to the point
where we realise TV and advertising
often doesn’t reflect us.
And so what will reflect us is a true
demonstration of what society really is
made up of.
Up until maybe Amy Mullins
got that gig with L'Oreal Paris
I can't think of one disabled person
that’s being used to sell a product,
particularly a mainstream product.
Do you think we are ready for that?
Absolutely and I think the market
is so cluttered and so busy that somebody
like Amy Mullins' story and the fact
she has prosthetic legs and that she’s
a gorgeous person who has a disability
a gorgeous person who has a disability
is what’s making L'Oreal stand out and it’s
that unique factor that’s L'Oreal’s marketing
and as a result they’ve been very successful with.
Ok according to Qiujing, there is hope and when
I think of other minority groups becoming more prevalent,
the rise of Te Reo Maori springs to mind.
Time to talk to ex-news anchor and
Head of Programming at Maori Television, Carol Hirschfeld,
I wanted to start looking back at maybe thirty
years ago if you were a woman, if you were Maori, if you were
Pacific or any other cultural group you probably
didn’t get to read the news and yet now we have
quite a diverse landscape of people.
We do indeed and you know I like
to think that I was part of that
changing environment when I became a
Maori and Pacific Island people would
frequently come up me and say it’s
wonderful to see you reading the news
and it makes me believe that I can do anything
and what’s really important to me
it makes my children believe that they can
pursue whatever they want and actually
achieve their goals and I had no idea
that symbolically being in the hot seat
reading the news would have that effect
and I felt very proud to be part as I say
of that change in landscape.
How are we going to now tackle the disability thing?
Because we don’t see disabled people on screen.
You have to be part of the conversation
and that means that you have to be
in those roles where you’re highly visible.
It mightn't be easy to find those roles or
create a niche where you are
visible to mainstream New Zealand
but when you do you become part of the
fabric much more and as I say
people look and see and believe all is
possible and that diversity is something
that we need to embrace and in fact
we find strength in it and the more we do
this as a nation the stronger our base is for the future.
So how can a project like Unique Extras
help broadcasters like you create this change?
What I think this particular project
can do is put in front of those decision makers
what’s possible and what can be truly beneficial
to all New Zealanders.
Perhaps to create the change I want to see,
I just need to get out there and put in the hard yards.
Next, I talk to Andrea Kelland, Casting Director of
of Shortland Street to get some practical advice.
So Andrea what would be your advice
to disabled people wanting to get into acting?
Well maybe some workshops?
You know being an extra is kind of a little
bit of a skill, you still have to
do the same thing every time
they do a shot.
So if you’re in the background
and there’s two people there and they’re
supposed to be having a cup of tea and
having a bit of a chat then they’ve got
to remember what they did which
hand they used for the cup.
So you know just those sort of things
to understand the language that’s
used so they understand ‘take one’
and ‘back to number one’ and all those
sort of things we sort of take for granted.
So maybe some workshops, it’s kind of
like not being too interesting.
Because the very nature of extras is
that they are like wallpaper, they are
like warm props who just create the
environment just as much as the
props in the background and so if
they’re too interesting, if our eyes
are drawn to somebody then the
audience starts to think ‘I bet they’re
going to do something with that person, I bet
that person going to come up later and they’re
going to come into the hospital’.
You know because that’s the way we think.
We think everybody has to be there for a reason
and so if something takes our attention
we are sort of pre-empting what the writers
are going to do so what we’ve got to do
in order for this to work for both our sakes
is to kind of make it so normal that you know
there’s a couple of people there having a
sign language conversation, there’s
a person walking past with a stick so
we sort of deluge them with differently
abled people so it no longer becomes
“oh that’s going that’s going to be part of the story”
So how could we help you do that?
We need all shapes and sizes to tell
New Zealand stories and we have a
lot of Maori now, we have a lot of
Polynesian actors and so I think
disabled people need to be represented as well.
Andrea seems confident that people with disabilities
can get roles if they are good enough,
Long-time disabled TV personality Graeme Sinclair
has been pulling ratings as the host
of Gone Fishin' for 20 years, surely
he’ll have some inspiring advice.
So you’ve been now the only real life
disabled person on New Zealand TV.
Why do you think that is?
I think that I was kind of an unusual
set of circumstances but I do
applaud TV3, I mean they have continued
to support me when I’m obviously disabled.
Sure it takes numbers to do it but
it also shows that people with disabilities
can pull in a good audience.
I think part of that is attitude too.
I think there are huge opportunities for
people with a positive attitude.
I think there are huge opportunities
for people who see an obstacle as
an opportunity and bloody nail
the bastard rather than actually
giving up and I think that
sort of stuff can be, so I'm
told, inspirational.
So what would you say to disabled people
that want to be in the media?
Well rattle the cage.
If you have something to offer,
record something.
Show what you’ve got in the medium
that you’re able to perform in
and start giving it to people.
Start pushing it and start pushing it hard.
You know in certain societies
and situations people from poorer
backgrounds used to have to
fight harder to get somewhere
than people from a privileged background.
It’s no different with disability
and people with normal abilities,
we just have to fight a little harder
to make the inroads but it doesn’t
mean to say we can’t and the issue is
that because we fight a little bit harder
sometimes our achievements are a little
greater and I think that’s wonderful.
That’s our opportunity.
So in closing what have I learnt?
Firstly, disabled people need to get out there.
we need to attend acting workshops and auditions,
we even need to make our own shows, like Graeme.
Secondly, we need to show producers, advertisers
and others in the industry
that we can add value to their product.
And finally, we need the industry to yearn for something new
to see disability as unique, interesting
and part of the diversity of our country.
So let's do it, let's transform our media industry by
celebrating more diversity on screen.