Gender in the Movies – Inamorata

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Inamorata is a short film about women’s rights and sexuality in the 1960s. It’s being made by director Dominick Evans, who identifies as disabled. This is an important film, and is currently being funded on Indiegogo. You can check out the campaign by clicking here, or at the end of this interview. Since this movie is one I think needs to be made, I wanted to support the project as much as possible. It’s crucial that we include marginalized voices in the media we digest, and Dominick is striving to promote that through his work. I got a chance to speak to him about directing, education, films, and the ableism he has faced in his career.

Dominick talking about his film
Dominick talking about his film, Inamorata

Hi, Dominick. Can you tell us a little about yourself, and how you got involved in film-making?

I’m 33 years old and was born and raised in Toledo, OH. I actually grew up in a little town outside of Toledo city limits called Walbridge. It was so small I used to cruise around in my wheelchair, and could get from one side of town to the other in about 15 minutes. At 4 I was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type III. I walked until I was 16, but started using a scooter when I was 11, due to inability to walk long distances. I am the baby of my family. I have two, much older, half brothers, and one full-blooded brother. I’m Polish on my dad’s side and have a rich Polish heritage I have enjoyed discovering as I have gotten older. My maternal side is mostly British and Irish. I was very close to my Irish grandfather, Willie, who died last year, at 94. Other than my dad, who died when I was 20, Willie was my biggest fan. He always encouraged me to follow my dreams no matter what anyone else said about me. I currently live in Dayton, OH with my girlfriend of almost 12 years, Ashtyn, our teenage son, and our adorable shih tzu, Molly. Ash is from Michigan and we lived up there until I decided to return to Ohio to go to film school down in Dayton.

Ashtyn is a writer and we work as a creative team. She is close to having her BA in English with her emphasis in Screenwriting. I have my BFA in Motion Pictures Production and am two classes shy of a BA in Political Science, as well. My focus of study is in Civil Rights, which is a major passion of mine, as I work in disability and LGBT rights advocacy when not involved in film. I actually started out acting and performing. I started in dance, ballet and tumbling, when I was little, to keep my muscles moving. At 10, I started taking voice lessons and eventually was trained for over eight years by a talented singer named Lee Merrill Hapner who used to perform with the Houston Opera. I sang with Toledo Opera youth, and performed in several musicals. I even shared the lead in my high school musical, my senior year. I was also in multiple plays and one film. I went to college, initially for acting. I ended up studying at Bowling Green (acting), Wright State (theatre), and the University of Michigan (acting). I studied contemporary, classical and Shakespearean acting methods. However, when I was close to finishing my degree, I fell out of my shower chair and fractured my tibial plateau. I ended up getting stuck in bed due to healing complications and pain. I spent five years almost exclusively in bed, and it gives you a lot of time to think. I realized I wanted to get behind the scenes and direct films and one day I got tired of being stuck in bed so I forced myself up. It was and still is painful and I take a lot of pain meds to tolerate it, but it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I entered the Motion Pictures program at Wright State and never let anything stop me from getting my degree.

Two of the actors in the film.
Two of the actors in the film.

What do you think sets you apart from other directors?

I think the types of films I make set me apart. I base a lot of my work on personal experiences. I’ve lived one heck of a life, and that heavily influences the characters Ashtyn and I develop. We seek to tell stories about marginalized populations. They are stories not typically told. I like to tell stories from the voice of those who have been oppressed, people whose stories might not be told otherwise; the teen mother, the person who just happens to have a disability, lesbians, a trans-identified individual. These voices have remained silent in film for so long.

What are the easiest and hardest aspects of filmmaking for you, specifically?

Directing is the easiest. It comes naturally to me. Being a former actor, I really love connecting and working with actors. We have a rapport I believe would be lacking if I did not have as much experience with acting, myself. I also am very good at the organizational aspects of directing – running workshops, auditions, and organizing rehearsals on set. The hardest part is my physical limitations. I cannot just climb up ladders to look at shots. I rely on others to look through the camera lens and must rely on monitors to determine if the aesthetics of each shot are to my liking. Everything has to be organized to accommodate my disability. It can be exhausting, but it is worth it.

How have your fellow filmmakers treated you regarding your disability?

I have not always been treated well. It has been hard to have people take me seriously. I was bullied by a student in my program and almost quit. Most of my professors were supportive, which did help, but it is hard to constantly be ignored or dismissed. It wears on you. A lot of it is the way society treats people with disabilities. I know it won’t change overnight. But when you are putting in 16-hour days just like everyone else, and some days, people act like you aren’t even there, it is easy to become depressed and blame yourself. I just kept reminding myself I was as capable and kept my eye on the prize.

What barriers do you face because of your disability?

I think the greatest barriers are intolerance and the inability to be taken seriously in my craft. Attitudes by others are far more stigmatizing than any physical limitations I face. I have found ways to overcome the physical barriers I face, and am just as capable as other filmmakers. In film, the sky’s the limit! It will take time and education to change attitudes, but I am determined to not give up.

What do you think needs to change to make better access for disabled filmmakers?

The industry needs to see the intrinsic value filmmakers with disability have and encourage the industry to embrace those individuals who truly are talented. Education and acceptance are key.

Actors discuss working on Inamorata
Actors discuss working on Inamorata

How do you see disabled people represented, or not represented, in TV or film?

There is very little representation. When it is there, it is often done by able-bodied actors who have little understanding of disability. They are not consulting us to the level they need to, to understand people with disabilities, so often the depictions are stereotypical. We are not seeing stories about disability or characters with disabilities. We are seeing able-bodied filmmakers’ and actors’ assumptions about what disability is. Often, their depictions are about how inspiring, courageous, and admirable we are for overcoming our disability. Often they are about how our disability impacts and affects the able-bodied people around us. We’re relegated to sources of inspiration and used as plot devices. There is so much more to us, as people, that is being ignored. If only we could be seen as people first, who just happen to have disabilities. I have hope that one day we will be written as more than just caricatures of what others believe disability is.

What is Inamorata about?

Inamorata is a short film set in the 1960s. It is a period drama about a same-sex couple, Lili and Emma. Lili works in an office and Emma is a teacher. Together they are living, loving and hiding in a society that does not condone their love. Lili has been with men previously, though she is deeply in love with Emma. So, when society keeps telling her it is easier to be with a man, and even her friends, who know her secret, believe she is able to acclimate to dating a man if she had to, she starts to question whether life would be easier living a lie. She is an attractive, single woman, and she can gain the affection of a man, if she wanted. Of course, you cannot not choose who you love, so Lili must discover that before she makes a mistake so big it will change the course of her relationship with Emma, forever.

Why do you feel it needs to be made? What are you trying to tell us through this movie?

Inamorata is a film about love. It is a film about women. It is a film about women’s rights to their bodies, their souls, and their very being. It is a story about a woman’s right to love who she is meant to love and not be ashamed or punished for it. The story is very sad and emotional, as it reminds us why we must stop passing laws that limit women’s rights to autonomy over their own bodies. It is a reminder of our past when we limited the freedom of women and LGBT. The story seeks to prevent us from returning to a time when the world was so oppressive to our differences. We should learn from the mistakes of our past and continue to move forward.

With all of the legislation passing that limits women’s rights and the fight of some people to erase the progress the LGBT rights movement has made, it is an important time to make this film. We must remember our past so we can keep moving in the right direction for our future. The film also highlights the difficult, sometimes horrific decisions women felt they had to make due to their lack of freedom, and why we must not take these freedoms away, again.

Do you have any more plans for movies or TV shows?

Screenshot from the film trip.
Screenshot from the film trip.

Yes, I’m working with Ash on the full-length script for our short, trip. It is about a teen mom’s struggle between a life of sex and drugs, and finding a better life for her children. You can check out a trailer for our short for trip here:

Trailer for trip

I also have a few other feature scripts and a possible web series in development. I love working so I try to do it as much as possible! I am happiest when I’m filming something.

Without funding, Inamorata will not be able to be made, so we need your help. We have a dedicated cast of excellent women and one terrific guy who are very devoted and extremely talented. If you have a little to spare, please donate. If you can, please share this link on social media and encourage others to donate, as well.

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