Stephanie Castelete-Tyrrell on training to help disabled talent

Stephanie Castelete-Tyrrell is determined to make it in the film and TV industry as a screenwriter, producer and editor and is using her experiences as someone with muscular dystrophy to forge ahead.

Since completing an MA in film and television at university, Stephanie has been making her own short films with friends from the course – even while in Covid-19 lockdown - while she seeks her first full-time job.

“I’ve just done a documentary about what it’s like to live in isolation with life-limiting conditions. I filmed for 10 days, so have a lot of footage,” she says. “My plan is to send it to festivals and use some of my lecture contacts to hopefully get it seen by the BBC and Channel 4.”

She has also set up her own company focusing predominantly on projects that send out important messages associated with mental and physical health and “struggles in society to influence the spectator’s understanding of hidden reality”.

Stephanie’s first support from ScreenSkills was when she undertook a number of day courses in social media, advertising and business skills, and how to be a leader in film and TV - “all of which were very good courses and extremely useful”.

This January, she also began Four Corners’ Making the Cut professional film and TV training for disabled people after seeing details on the website of ScreenSkills, who support the course with National Lottery funds awarded by the BFI.

The comprehensive Making the Cut course covers all areas of production and freelancing, including self-marketing, production coordination, introduction to Advanced Adobe Premiere Pro and Avid Editing.

“I have found it difficult to get work in the industry, so thought it would help me get my foot in the door and build my confidence,” Stephanie says. “They have some great people used to helping those like myself get work in film and TV.”

The two-day course proved to be hugely beneficial, especially learning how to use the Avid Media Composer editing software. “I am used to using Premier Pro, so it was quite different, but really helpful because a lot of post-production houses use Avid,” Stephanie says.

“We did a couple of editing tasks on the course, including working on a short video about a girl who shaves her head and then has to deal with the transformation from long hair to nothing. That was followed by a short drama film about somebody getting diagnosed with cancer in the hospital.”

Stephanie was also given useful advice about job searching and applications, CVs and interviews, and was invited to industry networking events. The hope was that these, combined with the editing training, would help Stephanie gain work experience or placements - and it did. Two placements were lined up by Four Corners for her in Bristol, although the Covid-19 lockdown meant these were put on hold.

In the meantime, Stephanie kept busy working with a script developer on a TV series about people with muscular dystrophy, based on her own experiences. “It starts off with a three-year-old girl being diagnosed with MD, and then it’s about how the parents come to terms with it and the ways in which it puts pressure on their relationships. It will be a drama/thriller and I’ve already written episode one.” She has contacted commissioners to assess interest.

During the lockdown in March 2020 she made her first feature documentary, Living In Fear, about the impact of the pandemic on those with disabilities.  She submitted the documentary to film festivals in the summer and it has won 12 awards so far with an official selection into Pinewood Studios' London Lift-Off Film Festival. “It has been a very scary time,” Stephanie says, “but also exciting as I've helped to raise awareness of the struggles disabled people faced.”

She is also planning to do another course about business skills in film and TV and is being mentored by an experienced editor mentor, provided by Four Corners, to further prepare her for the challenges ahead.

In January 2021 the National Lottery talked with Stephanie about Living in Fear and her experience in the industry so far. Read the story here.