Jessica Swainson of Red Deer can’t drive a car because she has cerebral palsy.
But she does drive a rough-terrain vehicle — “Go figure that one out,” says Swainson in her short autobiographical film, This is Me, made for the Easter Seals Disability Film Challenge.
This is the third film made for Easter Seals by Swainson. But it’s the first video project she’s created entirely on her own.
“I usually have a team, but for a couple of years now, I wanted to do this myself,” said the 34-year-old.
While “it’s more fun with a team,” she admitted a certain satisfaction comes with pulling off a solo project — especially for someone who’s never let her challenges obstruct her ambitions.
“People are quick to judge people with a disability,” said Swainson. “I know there have been many times in my life where I am judged for how I look, or how I act, and that hurts when people tell me, ‘You can’t do that,” or when they speak down to me.”
As she states in her three-minute film, “there is a word hidden in ‘disability’ and that word is ‘ability’… I really wanted people to think about that…
“I’ve had many difficult things happen in my life where I lost faith in myself, but I have overcome them,” explained Swainson, who created This is Me during a 48-hour period in July.
“I thought I was in way over my heard when I signed up,” she admitted.
The film challenge happened from a Friday evening to a Sunday. This year’s theme was to make a stay-at-home documentary because of COVID-19.
Under the rules, at least one person on the cast/crew needs to have a disability. But this year, Swainson opted to write the script as well as film, edit and upload the project all on her own.
After initially missing an email that stated what props and subject filmmakers had to use, she contacted Easter Seals to explain her dilemma.
“I was stressing out because I made this video and I really wanted the people who were involved in the challenge to see it.”
Swainson made a good enough case that she was allowed to submit her completed project to the global film challenge that gives people with disabilities a chance to show off their talents.
This is Me can be viewed on You Tube, under Easter Seals Disability Film Challenge.
“People have responded to it in really positive ways,” said Swainson.
The local woman previously acted in The Worst Date Ever, another Easter Seals project directed by Jason Steele, who taught film and theatre at The Hub before it was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Swainson also gives credit in her documentary to her “other best friend,” Curtis Labelle, who is her singing coach.
She met both of these mentors through The Hub on Ross, which has allowed people with disabilities to make community connections. She hopes the facility will soon reopen, saying she has appreciated being treated as an equal there.
“The Hub has opened a lot of doors for me.”