Hannah’s character gets new dimension in ‘Audrey’ with support from JobAccess
Image description: Hannah Diviney is sitting in her accessible wheelchair on the sets of ‘Audrey’. She is wearing a light-blue shirt with a criss-cross bow tie and smiling at the camera. There is wheelchair-accessible caravan behind her.
Authentic storytelling and narratives that reflect our society hold significant value in film-making and connecting with your audience. So, when producer Michael Wrenn and the creative team were looking to cast a lead in upcoming feature film ‘Audrey’, he was introduced to the work of Hannah Diviney.
Known for her performance in the limited series ‘Latecomers’, Hannah is an Australian disability rights advocate, writer, journalist and commentator. She lives with cerebral palsy and is a wheelchair user.
“The character Hannah plays in Audrey was initially scripted for an actor with mobility,” admits Michael.
“But after seeing Hannah's performance in ‘Latecomers’, we knew she was the perfect fit. As next steps, we worked with her to revise the role to her abilities, creating a more immersive experience.”
“This was the turning point.”
Once Hannah was cast, Michael realised that the production team needed expert advice on workplace adjustments and assistance to support Hannah's accessibility needs and requirements.
“Casting an actor with disability required changes to the production logistics, scheduling, and shooting. These impacted production budget and equipment costs.” said Michael.
‘Audrey’ is primarily funded by Screen Australia and Screen Queensland, whose core funding covered the much of the costs of production. Still, the team required additional support to meet Hannah’s access requirements on the film’s sets and in access to prime locations.
The production team’s initial approach to finding support to enable disability on screen involved a lot of cold calling and online research, but very quickly, they found the right contact.
“That’s how we came in contact with JobAccess, learnt about workplace adjustments expertise they provide; and they in turn, linked us with funding support to implement adjustments through the Employment Assistance Fund (EAF),” explained Michael.
The Australian Government’s JobAccess service supports sustainable employment for people with disability. JobAccess has a range of field experts, including allied health professionals, who offer tailored advice from the first point of contact.
In some instances, this tailored advice may lead to workplace adjustments, such as job role redesign or the funding of workplace modifications that enable a person with disability to secure and flourish in their role.
The Employment Assistance Fund (EAF) gives financial help to eligible people living with disability and mental health conditions, and employers, to buy work related modifications, equipment, Auslan services and workplace assistance and support services.
Opening a world of ‘limitless’ possibilities
“We submitted the application online. In a quick turnaround, we received a call from a JobAccess Professional Adviser, who discussed our requirements and informed us about funding for adjustments through the EAF.”
Soon after, JobAccess organised a specialist assessor to visit principal production locations to assess Hannah’s requirements, which led to cost and time savings for the production.
“To ensure Hannah's comfort and basic needs were met, it was imperative that our primary set, the family home, should be wheelchair accessible with custom mobile and portable ramps.
JobAccess worked with Michael and Audrey’s production team to ensure that Hannah was supported at all stages of employment with the project.
“Hannah was on set for the full six weeks of production, but due to her substantial role and participation in the film, we realised that we could easily structure her engagement for what we saw as the minimum requisite of 13 weeks by itemising her responsibilities, including pre- and post-production work as well as her involvement in publicity and marketing materials.”
JobAccess Manager for Advisory and Workplace Adjustments Georgia Miller explained, “Even if Hannah’s employment had been less than 13 weeks, we could have supported her with workplace adjustments to participate in the project.”
A provision within the EAF guidelines enables JobAccess to provide funding support to employers and employees where the employment duration is less than 13 weeks or not ongoing, for example, jobs in seasonal industries.
With support and advice from JobAccess and financial assistance through the EAF, Hannah received a wheelchair-accessible caravan as a dedicated space for her on location.
“Thanks to JobAccess and their generous support, which enabled me to enjoy my first movie experience the same way as the rest of the cast. ”
– Hannah Diviney
“The wheelchair-accessible caravan, space for hair and makeup and access to a modified set was extremely helpful. It's something that could be a real game-changer for the film industry, and I hope to see them continue in the future.” Hannah said.
“JobAccess services are amazing, and everything happened smoothly.”
JobAccess also supported the production team by covering the direct costs of Hannah's on-set requirements. "This funding can be equivalent to what a production might receive from a state funding body as an incentive and made a sizeable impact on helping us close our finance." Michael said.
JobAccess support helps shine ‘invisible and underrepresented actors’
Image description: Still from the production set of ‘Audrey’. There are four women and two men in the picture. From left to right: Michael Wrenn (producer, Audrey), Lou Sanz (writer, Audrey), Hannah Diviney (actor), Zach Nielsen (CEO, Ascend Health Group), Natalie Bailey (director, Audrey), and Sasha Henstock (physiotherapist and carer, Ascend Health Group)
Showcasing disability on screen promotes a wider representation of the Australian community and enriches storytelling.
Hannah emphasises the need for better representation in the industry. “Disabled people, including writers, producers, directors, and crew members, are the truest custodians of their own stories and experiences.”
“It's crucial to greenlight our ideas, provide us with funding, and understand that our stories may not solely revolve around disability as a plot. Our experiences are unique, shaped by our disability, and this perspective should be represented in the industry.”
“Certainly, Hannah’s engagement and consultation enriched our film’s story, bringing life experience and details to her onscreen character,” Michael shared.
“JobAccess was a tremendous support system from start to finish.”
– Michael Wrenn
“Looking at Hannah’s work and many other actors with disability now onscreen, it’s time to write stories specifically with these actors in mind to showcase their lived experiences.”
“JobAccess was a tremendous support system from start to finish. Their tailored advice and meaningful assistance undoubtedly opened new possibilities for Hannah’s character in the film.”
Georgia concluded, “We strongly believe that ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’. We’re thrilled to have worked with Michael, Hannah and the production team to make disability representation on screen a reality.”
“We look forward to working with the screen industry to support people with disability pursue opportunities in front of and behind the camera.”
Contact JobAccess for advice and support with workplace adjustments