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One moment in Matt’s life changed the course of his career forever. His first film was made in a group home. His next film was screened by Fatboy Slim to 200,000 people.
But Matt’s journey starts in a way that is, unfortunately, all too common for people with learning disabilities.
He was moved 50 miles away from home, spent time in group homes and given ‘therapeutic’ jobs he describes as “dull”. For someone also known as Mrs Sparkle, he didn’t exactly flourish in these environments.
But after winning a training bursary with Carousel he thrived.
A career in film
Matt is now Head Programmer of Oska Bright Film Festival, speaks at film festivals around the world and is pushing for a more inclusive film industry.
“My meeting with him and being able to exchange questions made me realise we were both part of the LGBTQ+ and learning disabilities communities, and that we were no longer left feeling alone or isolated.” – Mattie Kennedy, learning disabled film-maker
Matt’s passion and dedication are there for all to see. He’s a determined advocate for people telling their own authentic stories in their own personal way. For taking control. For example, Queer Freedom, the LGBT strand of the festival, is a celebration of the queer community, of love and self-expression. It is also Matt’s idea, Matt’s achievement.
“The work we produce is…more real. I’m proud of the impact my work has had on the learning disability and autism film industry. As the festival’s programme manager it’s my job to decide what gets shown. I’m honoured to watch all these amazing films.
“The whole event is managed and presented by people with learning disabled people – we’re the ones giving the key-note speeches and announcing the Awards. 50% of Oska Bright audiences don’t have a learning disability…that’s a really important statistic for me as it shows we’re having a much bigger impact.”
While Matt’s career has taken off, he’s seen first-hand how many barriers there are for aspiring film-makers with learning disabilities, autism or other additional needs.
“Where do you go to find the help you need to progress your creativity? The film industry is not welcoming for us. There is no way in.
“I’ve learned that the best way to change things is through positive action.”
“Matthew has certainly had to be tenacious to achieve as much as he has. His story is inspirational and it’s great that he can now follow his passion for film and Mrs Sparkle. Even more inspiring is that he’s pushing to ensure opportunities can be offered to others, that they will be considered and not discriminated against.” – Leaders’ List 2019 Judge
In the press
- Oska Bright Film Festival Programmer named on Dimensions Leaders list
Read on disabilityarts.online
- Why films about learning disabilities need to be more than merely feel good
Read on theguardian.com
- World’s biggest learning disability film festival in Brighton
Read on brightonandhoveindependent.co.uk
- Dream Job: Working with Matthew Hellett
Read on disabilityarts.online