Blue Mountains director's path to inclusive filmmaking

A Bullaburra filmmaker's short film Goundhog Night, will screen at the Sydney Film Festival, streaming online from June 10.

Genevieve Clay-Smith acts in and directs the comedy, which features John Batchelor, Emily Dash and Robyn Nevin.

Gary (John Batchelor) is so used to caring for his disabled daughter Jess (Emily Dash), he can do it in his sleep. But when the in-laws come to stay, everyone gets a wake-up call.

The script was written by Dash and is based on her experience of living with cerebral palsy.

"It's a love letter to her family," Clay-Smith said. "The authenticity of the writing comes through."

Being part of the film festival means a lot to Dash.

"Being part of the Sydney Film Festival and Screenability [a platform for screen practitioners with disability] means so much to me - not only because this is such a personal film that I think will resonate with people and I'm very proud of it, but it's also already starting to open up possibilities I never could've dreamed of before," Dash said.

As well as directing the film, Clay-Smith features as Jess' sister Isabelle.

"I was quite nervous acting alongside veteran actors," she said. "I tried not to let my nerves overtake. I trusted my gut and trusted myself."

The film examines disability, sexuality, family and relationships.

Clay-Smith has been an advocate for people with disability for a decade. Her first film featured Gerard O'Dwyer, a man with Down syndrome, who wanted nothing more than to be an actor.

"He faced a lot of barriers to realising his dream. There's so much prejudice in the film industry," Clay-Smith said.

"People with disability can portray characters with disability on screen really well."

The film Be My Brother, won best film and best actor at Tropfest in 2009, and launched Clay-Smith on a path to inclusive filming.

She co-founded non-for-profit organisation Bus Stop Films, which has worked with 400 people with disability in the past decade.

"I became immersed in the disability community through that documentary [Be My Brother] and made sustainable friendships through that," Clay-Smith said.

"People with disability have a great work ethic and lots to give. People's attitude prevents them from reaching their full potential. I hated that and wanted to do something about it."

The director, who recently moved to Bullaburra with her husband Henry, would like to introduce a filmmaking program in the Blue Mountains for people with disability. She also plans to create a TV series based on Groundhog Night, to be filmed in the Blue Mountains.

Goundhog Night can be viewed online at www.sff.org.au from June 10-21. Tickets for the films are available via the website.

The festival presents Australian and international stories from a kaleidoscope of perspectives. All films will screen with bonus material exclusively filmed for the Sydney Film Festival, including filmmaker introductions and the screening, followed by question and answer sessions.

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