1 Billion is a film about ‘Ability’ of those with a disability. There are just over 1 billion people in the world, that’s 15% of the world’s population. In spite of oppressive laws and attitudes towards them, many still push forward to achieve great success. This is underlined by the film’s producer and director Dave Thomas, a man who is gay and has a disability that has had to overcome obstacles to demonstrate his talents and abilities. Dave tells us about what went into making his award-winning film.
After a career as a journalist and broadcaster, I decided in 2015 to change direction ever so slightly to become a film producer, director and screenplay writer. The last five years have been a rollercoaster. I can now say I have produced/directed a multi-award winning short documentary and wrote/directed a multi-award winning drama, along with a bunch of screenplays that have done extremely well at national and international film festivals. I feel that I am off the starting block with an exciting future ahead of me.
When I started out developing the idea of a film about the ability of those with a disability, I was clearly thinking of myself. When I was younger, I was told that working in television, Radio, print media and film was a “pipe dream” because I had a physical disability. That was my dream. My dream was destroyed in one felled-swoop.
Thankfully, as I grew older, I decided to ignore the advice I was receiving from Career Guidance Experts. I took an unusual journey, one too long to explain here, but I ended up pursuing the arts – working for RTE Radio 1, Newstalk radio along with writing for many national newspapers and magazines.
Like any good story, there needed to be some research. Having a disability does not make one an expert on disability, though over a few beers I may give a different impression.
I was shocked to find out that there were 1 billion people with disability in the world. How could there be that many of us, and yet we are still oppressed as a community, still denied basic human rights and a stigma still remains for people with disability even now in 2020?
My film, 1 Billion, had to be about the ability of those with a disability. It had to demonstrate that we were more than a charitable case.
We were people with abilities. People that can do things. People that have dreams and ambitions to be more, just like everyone else.
The backbone of my film was the World Health Organisation’s publication ‘The World’s report on Disability’ along with the 2011 Census in Ireland.
I gave a lot of thought into how I would present this story. The information from the WHO was startling and depressing, as the realty for those with a disability on a global scale was pretty tough. Yet I wanted to showcase ‘hope’. I wanted to show that while there is a stigma for those with a disability, there are many that have achieved a lot, often against the odds.
And then my lightbulb switched on.
I would make this a black and white film. Plus, I would use black cards with white writing that would deliver the statistics and information, the depressing stuff, and then I would cut to some wonderful people talking about themselves, what they like to do, what they want from life, and just allow them to be their amazing selves in front of the camera. I felt that this would work, and I would have my story.
Weeks before I shot the film, I met with all my interviewees and did a pre-interview with them in a casual setting. This allowed me to get to know these individuals, and for them to know me, so that they would not feel as nervous or intimidated by a camera and lights with microphones dangling over their heads. Thankfully this worked.
I hired a room in Filmbase in Temple Bar, Dublin and offered to cover food and coffee for my guests. I would not have been in a position to shoot the film without the amazing support of Paddy Barron, a brilliant DOP that helped so much. I also had the help of my husband Patrick Bracken – also called Paddy – who was my 1st AD, Production Manager, PA, and every other job necessary on the set. Though having two Paddys on the set was confusing when I called one of them.
I financed this film 100% myself. I bought film editing software and taught myself how to edit once I had the footage on my computer. I produced, wrote, directed, researched and edited this film on my own.
The people in my film were amazing. Tara, Alannah, Orla, Donna, Jennifer, Joe, Jack and a special appearance of the Lord Mayor of Dublin at that time, Brendan Carr. All incredible people. Go watch it and you will see what I mean. They were the best example of people with a disability that achieved so much, are so young, full of life, and will not allow any stigma to hold them back. From Special Olympic medallists, filmmakers, performers, sports people and more, they were a real inspiration for me.
The success of this short film has proven that the concept works. I am now developing this into a Feature Documentary Film that tells a global story in greater detail.
1 Billion has toured the world of film festivals, screening in India, Russia, all over Europe, Ireland, Australia, America and Canada. It has been awarded Best Documentary Film, Best Producer and Best Director.
I would love the film to be screened at schools and youth centres, anywhere young people are so that we can help remove the stigma that exists for those with a disability. I would love to see it on national television too.
1 Billion is available to buy on my website at www.davethomasfilms.net