Three young people with Down Syndrome, who are trying to achieve their dreams, need our help.
Digby, a 27-year-old talented artist dreams of one day moving out of home, while his friend Tom fantasises about becoming a famous actor, and award-winning actress Tracie Sammut wants to teach people with disabilities and bring an end to industry stereotyping and typecasting.
“I’ve been different my whole life. I never felt like I fit in and I didn’t realise why. I had a friend approach me and say, ‘Your behaviour is very strange, you shouldn’t be doing this in that situation, you’re being rude. Why are you acting that way?’ I had a dawning realisation that there may have been a cause around it,” he said.
“I read up about Asperger’s and high functioning Autism and the more I read about it, the more I thought it was likely I was positive for it because I had consistent problems socially, my emotional and social intelligence were a bit behind, my ability to intuit other people’s emotional states and to say the right things in social situations has always been poor and I always had very few friends because of it.”
After seeing a specialist, and gaining a positive diagnosis for Asperger’s Syndrome, Knopf said things started to make more sense.
“It was an eye opener because I went from not knowing anything about disability, and living my life apart from it, to suddenly the diagnosis opening doors and changing my outlook,” he said.
“I saw the artwork of Digby Webster and thought it was absolutely brilliant. I had never had any interaction with anyone with Down Syndrome. Digby, to me, was interesting because he was really talented. He wasn’t necessarily conventionally trained and he wasn’t working as a part of an institution, but he was still quite brilliant,” he said.
“So I met him and he agreed to make the film and slowly, through that process, I was drawn into a very different and very interesting world.”
Digby dreams of living independently and that’s his goal. He has a carer but Knopf said there’s a social issue that lies beneath.
“There’s a whole generation of parents who, after the Richmond Report, took their Down Syndrome children home. Digby was the generation after. The problem is, for much of their lives, Down Syndrome people have to be taken care of and guided constantly and when you lose that, as you do when you lose a parent or caretaker, that person’s quality of life diminishes and all of the skills and abilities they’ve built up are disrupted,” he said.
“There’s a real shortage of supported accommodation housing which offers the ability for people to stay in their communities, to live with other people like themselves, to be independent and to maintain their friendship networks, vocational pursuits and hobbies.”
On becoming acquainted with Digby’s situation, Knopf met other people with disabilities who gave him the inspiration to make The Talented Mr Digby.
“There’s three documentary subjects. There’s Digby who’s on a quest to become independent. There’s Tom, Digby’s friend, who lives independently and having a bit of a hard time. He has a carer, he has a support network but he struggles. He lives vicariously through his TV, particularly soap operas. One of his big aspirations in life is to be an actor,” he said.
“So when I met Tom, I thought there was a great opportunity for him to pursue that. And then I met Tracie who is a Logie Award winning actress now turned teacher who is very keen to develop her repertoire as a teacher. She’s now begun teaching Tom acting, and some important life skills.”
Through these three ambitious characters and the experiences Knopf has gained along the way, The Talented Mr Digby is set to be an entertaining and poignant journey of discovery and realisation.
Filmed in the style of some of Tom’s favourite shows, Knopf hopes to capture his experience and showcase the new skills he’s learned with Tracie.
The Pozible Campaign ends very soon but there’s still time to help this crew make a truly worthwhile film.
You can donate anything in excess of one dollar and every bit helps.
Jump on board this project to help the very talented Digby Webster and Ehsan Knopf finish their project which will allow some remarkable people to realise their dreams.
Story by Libby Parker
Photos courtesy of Ehsan Knopf