It’s approaching two years (next spring) since I wrote about struggles in the Motion Pictures program at Wright State. You can check out my original post here. At that time, our professor had taken a hiatus and we had a temporary professor, who stopped returning my emails after I experienced taunting and torment by a peer. I had been at my wits end when writing on my blog. I had felt alone and isolated, and was on the cusp of quitting. I went into the office of one of the professors and spent two hours fighting every attempt made to calm me down and make me reconsider remaining in the program. I also must admit, as a former actor, my post was slightly dramatic…truthful and honest to how I felt, but also had a flair for theatrics in parts of it. I’ve grown up a lot since then. In the end, with the support of the faculty, I stayed in the program and survived the final round of film interviews to make it into junior year.
Everything wasn’t roses and daisies right away, as junior year was difficult. I had to work incredibly hard to get through it, and I ended up being one of three chosen to make their script into a junior film. The main difference is I never doubted my place in my class during this year. I never doubted my professors cared and I knew they wouldn’t allow discrimination to occur on the basis of my disability. Steve Bognar joined the faculty and he is a great teacher and mentor who really cares about his students. He has been an outspoken advocate, along with the rest of the Wright State University Motion Pictures Department for equality for all students. Not only is Steve my professor, I believe wholeheartedly he is my friend. Having that support made getting through junior year possible, for me. I had to work just as hard as everyone else, but I didn’t feel quite so alone while doing it.
What happened to me my sophomore year was unfortunate. It shouldn’t happen to any student. I am just glad I managed to stick it out. A student with a severe physical disability has never made it through the program, until now. Next spring I will graduate with my BFA in Motion Pictures Production. Part of it is because I am so stubborn and I had a lot of family support, but another part is I believe the Motion Pictures Production program is finally ready for people with physical disabilities to be a part of the program. In an incredibly physically demanding field where you don’t typically see the non-able bodied working anyway, Wright State’s Motion Pictures program has had to make their own standards, and I believe they truly are committed to helping students like myself, any way they can. That being said, students must realize this program is hard and demanding for everyone regardless of ability level. A person must be hardworking, dedicated, strong-willed, passionate, and talented. The faculty cannot help with those things. They must come from within the student.
All the oppression I have endured over the course of my life has made me stronger, and I am of the belief that I am a better person by enduring and overcoming it. That being said, I do not wish it on anyone else. While I stated, two years ago that ‘cripples need not apply’ to the WSU film program, I would like to amend that statement. Today, I fully believe students of all ability levels, gender, sexual orientation, culture, gender identity, and so forth who truly believe they have the dedication and commitment level to be in film can make it through this program. The faculty will be there for you, and support your dream. They have learned from my experiences, and take what happened to me seriously. With this faculty aware of such problems now, I truly believe they will do everything in their power to ensure this does not happen to another student.
Like any program new to diversity initiatives for a particular population of minority, the WSU film program is a work in progress, as I am the first student in production with my level of disability to get where I am today. It has been a learning process for them and will continue to be when/if other students with disabilities apply to be in this program. The faculty will continue to learn and strive to make the program accessible to all students who wish to be there. They have asked for my feedback and genuinely appear to listen to what I have to say. If you know me, you know I do not mince words, and they have taken everything I’ve said into consideration so they can better the program. So, my cripple brothers and sisters, if you wish to be in film and wish to go to Wright State, do so with the knowledge the faculty will be there for you, as long as you show the commitment to the program and to film every other student in the program does. I believe you will be fine and will support you in any way I can, as well.
My film, Trip, is about to be finished. It is better than I ever could have imagined. My second film is in pre-production and I have more scripts being written. I am a filmmaker and my tenacity to stay in the WSU Motion Pictures program got me there. I am confident in my ability and am grateful I stuck it out. I am thankful to Steve and Jim for everything they have done for me. I have a lot of thanks to give to Dr. Richter, Dr. Lafferty, Russ and Mark who see me as more than just a guy in a chair and helped foster my talent. Without them, the Wright State faculty, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
As a disability rights activist, it was my duty to share what happened to me. We cannot erase oppression, as we must learn from our past to make a better future. I believe my school is heading in the right direction to make this happen.