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THE DYSPRAXIC FILM MAKER: A PROLOGUE

To quote a song lyric: “my mind is like a puzzle or a Rubik’s Cube”. My mind was often working overtime thinking about many different things. Piecing them together was like a puzzle that kept changing or was like doing a jigsaw with no picture on the box.

 

As I got older, I found my Dyspraxia changed how it affected me. Or maybe I just became more aware as a result of the new challenges that come with getting older. I was diagnosed with Verbal Dyspraxia from a young age.  Even giving my surname can be a challenge – more so when ‘G’ sounds like ‘D’. It means my surname has been spelt in a few interesting ways. Going “G for golf” is a trick I picked up when having to spell it out, which is often the case for the rest of my family anyway.

 

At school, I was focused and committed to doing my best. I struggled with maths, and even today asking me to do maths makes me look like a zombie. Finding myself in the bottom sets for classes while trying to learn wasn’t the easiest and had its own issues. But I did my homework, was well behaved and polite. Towards the end of my secondary education, my interest in school was failing. I was looking forward to leaving, mostly so I would never have to do PE again. Not to say I wasn’t good at it. My dyspraxia didn’t affect my balance as it does for some.  I was a fast runner; I was just never pushed with sports.

 

I did well in my GCSEs. Much better than many of the “experts” expected.  Made my parents proud, especially my mum given she made sure I got into the mainstream secondary school and made sure I got all the support I could get. I’m still impressed with my F in maths.

 

I had always been creative and imaginative, like many of us who have dyspraxia are. My highest GCSE was a C in Media. Of course, a media GCSE now is about as useful to me as a wet tissue. It helped me get into college, but GCSEs as a whole don’t define you as a person. Your intelligence can’t be measured by sitting in a hall doing an exam.

 

After school, I went to college. As some of my GCSEs weren’t quite high enough I had to do a one-year multimedia course before I could do the two-year film course I wanted. The plan seemed solid, but plans have a habit of changing.  The media course wasn’t what I hoped for. The film part of the course was barely a bleep on the radar, though once I got this one-year course in the bag it would be onto the two-year course. But, like I said, plans change.

 

The film course I wanted to do was dropped and replaced by a multi-media course. I stayed on at that college. Mistake. Midway, I wanted out. The “multi” part seemed to be forgotten and the film part of the course was once again just a small bleep. I passed the course and finished college. Most of the people on the course stuck with media for a bit before getting non-media jobs. Some of us still hang on.

 

After college, I hit what felt like a brick wall. Getting a job with dyspraxia can be tough. My CV looks decent. Managed to get interviews but when you struggle at the best of times to put two words together it’s hard to nail an interview. Feedback was often the same: ‘not quite right for the job’. I got the odd job here and there, which didn’t work out.

 

Spent some time on Job Seekers followed by a ‘Return To Work’-based course, which viewed you more as a number – and if they got you a job, be it any old job, it meant more funding for them. In the end, it was a choice between the dark hole of unemployment or fight through the tunnel to get to the light. I decided if I couldn’t get a job then it was time to go self-employed.

 

Freelance work is like waiting for a bus: nothing for a while, then a few come one after the other. For anyone in this line of work, getting decently paid can be tough. Had my share of low or no paid jobs. Thankfully I had enough income plus a roof over my head, thanks to my parents, who I live with.

 

When things have felt hard, difficult or confusing due to how my dyspraxia affects how I process thoughts and feelings, my creativity has always been my way out of it. I never felt like I was that good at anything else. In a way, I feel like a cliché. You know, the typical struggling artist cliché. I have been hit with writers’ block a number of times, when I found myself reaching to check my mobile for the fifth time in a few minutes or staring out the window with a coffee mug in my hand.

 

As with the quote at the start, when I first considered writing an article my mind rushed around trying to think about what I should write about. I have never been that good at talking about myself, especially my dyspraxia. But get me talking about films and I could go on for hours.

 

I didn’t want dyspraxia to define me as a person and as a filmmaker. My dyspraxia is a struggle at times, but it was important to not see that as a negative but as a matter of fact and focus on the positives. If you’ve got something, make the best of it. Let it be the thing that drives you – that inspires you.

 

So like when you finally solve the Rubik’s Cube, I knew what I was going to write about. I hope these series of articles prove insightful into, not only my film work, but also how I manage my dyspraxia. I hope they highlight some of the difficulties and challenges along the way, but ultimately inspire other dyspraxic filmmakers too.

 

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Arron Gumbrell

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