MICHAEL NOONAN

WRITER | DIRECTOR

The Mainstream is Not the Enemy: Maximizing Audiences for “Disabled Voices”

By Michael Noonan
12 March 2015 / Review of Disability Studies: An International Journal
Vol 11 No 1

ABSTRACT: The unique, powerful and compelling perspectives of people with disabilities have gone unheard by mainstream audiences for too long. In film and television, this lack has been largely blamed on broadcasters, distributors and audiences themselves, who are failing to fulfill their moral obligation to watch.  But finding an audience for ‘disabled voices’ means a shift in priorities for those who produce disability narratives. Successful film and television producers prioritize ratings and ticket sales, study and analyze what kinds of stories work, and ensure their product has the best possible chance of reaching a wide audience.  The producers of disability narratives need to do the same, prioritizing what an audience wants ahead of how people with disabilities are represented, who is making the representation and how it will impact on the “disability community.” I collaborated with three men with intellectual disabilities in the production of my PhD film in Australia in 2010.  My aim was to create a comedy film that would appeal to a mainstream audience and give the strongest possible “voice” to my collaborators, a process that required an abandonment of the “us and them” mentality and the forging of a new model of collaborative authorship.

Full article at: Review of Disability Studies: An International Journal

  Down Under Mystery Tour (2010)

Down Under Mystery Tour (2010)

Managing manipulation: tools and challenges in creative collaborations with intellectually-disabled people

By Michael Noonan
12 July 2012 / Disability & Society
Vol 27 Issue 7

ABSTRACT: There has long been an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality when it comes to the production of disability narratives on screen, driven by an assumption that non-disabled people cannot accurately interpret the disabled experience. Given the appalling history of representations by non-disabled filmmakers, it is easy to understand why many academics and members of the disability community favour the complete control of disability content by disabled people. But this approach has failed the many compelling ‘disabled voices’ that go unheard because they do not reach audiences. The most practical solution is to forge new models of creative collaboration between disabled and non-disabled people, something I attempted to do with my PhD film, a comedy feature entitled Down Under Mystery Tour. I discovered that the most important tool in such collaborations is the utilisation and management of manipulation, one that prioritises skill and experience and best expresses the unique perspective of intellectually-disabled collaborators.

Full article at: Disability & Society

  Down Under Mystery Tour (2010)

Down Under Mystery Tour (2010)

When Comedy and Intellectual Disability Collide: Who Says What Goes, and How Far, When Actors with Intellectual Disabilities Appear on Screen?

By Michael Noonan
June 2014 /
Research and Practice in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Vol 1 Issue 1

ABSTRACT: As part of a creative-practice PhD in Australia in 2007, the author of this paper embarked on the conception and production of a comedy feature film starring two men with intellectual disabilities. Its purpose was to forge a new model of creative collaboration, which abandoned the “us” and “them” and found a wide audience for the rich and diverse voices of people with intellectual disabilities. This paper uses self-reflection and a review of primary and secondary sources to discuss the intense debate that was sparked by the published objections to the work by two Australian academics. Issues raised were the representation of intellectual disability in screen comedy; the vulnerability, protection, independence, and capacity of people with intellectual disability when they are involved in media productions; and the role of the disability community in defining the terms of the debate. The debates, though often divisive and confrontational, ultimately strengthened and enhanced the finished work. The lessons from this experience and the challenges it presented may help to better prepare film-makers of the future who seek to include and collaborate with actors with intellectual disabilities.

Full article at: Research and Practice in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

  Down Under Mystery Tour (2010)

Down Under Mystery Tour (2010)

  Down Under Mystery Tour (2010)

Down Under Mystery Tour (2010)

  Down Under Mystery Tour (2010)

Down Under Mystery Tour (2010)

  Unlikely Travelllers (2007)

Unlikely Travelllers (2007)

Laughing and Disability: Comedy, Collaborative Authorship and Down Under Mystery Tour

By Michael Noonan
June 2010 / PhD Thesis
QUT ePrints

ABSTRACT: This thesis is an exploration of representation, authorship and creative collaboration in disability comedy, the centre piece of which is a feature-length film starring, co-created and co-written by three intellectually-disabled people. The film, entitled Down Under Mystery Tour, aims to entertain, and be accessible to, a mainstream audience, one that would not normally care about disability or listen to disabled voices. In the past, the failure of these voices to reach audiences has been blamed on poor training, marginal timeslots and indifferent audiences. But this project seeks an alternative approach, building collaboration between disabled and non-disabled people to express voice, conceive, construct and produce a filmed narrative, and engage willing audiences who want to listen.

Full article at: QUT ePrints

Baggage (2003)

Baggage Unpacked: Analyzing the Short Film and Its Place In the World

By Michael Noonan
2004 / Masters Thesis
QUT ePrints

ABSTRACT:  In the seedy confines of his one-bedroom apartment, reclusive loner Harris Babel delights in watching the camcorder images of others: images he buys from a strange, smoke-filled store at the end of an alleyway.  They are pre-recorded trips to faraway places, memories he pretends are his own.  Holidays to Madagascar, trips to Lord Howe Island, tours through Kakadu National Park -- there are no boundaries. But Harris' claustrophobic world takes a disturbing turn when he receives a phone call from the airport, claiming he left luggage behind from a trip he doesn't remember. A trip he never went on. Or did he?  From script to screen, Baggage was an exhausting 14-month journey, beginning with the first draft of the script in May 2001 and culminating in the exhibition of the film in July 2002, two days after the final sound and vision cut was completed.  At its heart, the film is an exploration of identity, memory and the childhood demons that haunt us. It is about loss and abandonment, camcorder voyeurism and the obsessions that make us human. On reflection, it is a film with many flaws. But the process of recognising these flaws and better understanding the filmmaking process is an essential part of development and growth.  This paper will explore the writing and directing process involved in the making of Baggage, analysing structure, cause-and-effect, character identification, suspense, style and substance. It will also evaluate the state of the short film in Australia, its importance in the development of filmmakers and the avenues for exhibition and distribution.

Full article at: QUT ePrints