I’m always inspired when I watch a film with a positive message. The film, The Energy Within does it so well. The film centers around an athlete that tries to hide the fact that she’s disabled. She competes in track and field against able-bodied athletes using a prosthetic foot. After stumbling and falling on the track one day due to pushing the prosthetic beyond its limitations, the secret is out. Distraught and embarrassed, she leaves the team. She returns wearing a blade (prosthetic designed for running) and begins to excel beyond everyone’s expectations and eventually becoming the best at her sport. Finding peace and acceptance within her makes her so much stronger and opens the door for more achievements.
I had the amazing opportunity to talk to the writer and director, Samuel de Ceccatty, as well as his partner and one of the producers of the film, Manon Ardisson. Her co-producer is Paul Jibson. The film had been selected to screen at the GPIFF this past Dec. Sam has been with the BBC writers’ room organized in the UK. It’s a very competitive program. Manon has produced all of Sam’s films as well as two other feature films for another party. Another recent feature film she produced, Gods Own Country won best feature at BIFF.
“When did you write the screenplay and what was the inspiration behind it?”
Sam answers, “Having been around friends and family living with disabilities, I was always interested in all aspects of it. There had been a couple films produced in the past that had infuriated me with a negative message about disability and I wanted to show a more positive side. Films like Million Dollar Baby and You Before Me make it seem like a physical disability spells the end. It’s a terrible message. I wrote the screenplay two years ago but needed to work with someone that knew that world better than I did. We reached out to Stefanie Reid 1 ½ years ago to ask if she’d be interested in playing the lead. She is a gold medal Paralympic athlete in the UK. She replied immediately and said yes. The story really became hers.”
Stefanie was involved in track and field before losing her foot and hid her prosthetic from her teammates under her clothing for over two years. After finally coming to terms with the injury and refusing to hide it any longer, it made her a stronger athlete and she was able to excel by wearing a blade and eventually winning gold at the Paralympics. Although she is on the UK Paralympic team, she began her sports career in Canada. She had also done some modeling and acting prior to working on their film and was a perfect fit.
The human spirit continues to amaze me. I have so much respect for anyone that can overcome diversity. Stefanie’s achievement is a phenomenal story on its own.
“How did you finance the film?”
“We had put together a campaign for crowd funding and when I went to submit the package for consideration but had a technical problem when trying to send it. Less than an hour later I received a phone call from BP. They had sponsored the previous Paralympics and had heard about the project through Stefanie Reid. They wanted to meet with us to discuss backing the project. Once that had happened, the rest of the production went quite quickly. They had a few suggestions/requests that we were fine with and were incredibly helpful in allowing us to begin the process of making it.”
They used a crew of 10 and it only took 4 days of shooting. They give their crew so much of the credit for making the film look so good and having everything run so well on set. Giving special thanks to their sound recorder Phil Cape, stating that he was nothing short of amazing. Ollie Howel composed some incredible music for the film and they’re also very grateful for having an extremely talented and skilled DP, Adam Suschitzky. Their very talented editor was Julie Buckland, who had edited another of Sam’s short films. Half of the crew were from past film productions.
“In the film, there is no mention of how the athlete had lost her foot. What was the reasoning behind that decision?”
“I felt like that would’ve been an entirely other story and might detract from the films main message. It was more important to focus on acceptance and moving forward after a disability and being the best version of yourself rather than focusing on the reason for the disability. In this film, the disability is physical, which can make it obvious but there are other forms of disability amongst society that isn’t so obvious, such as mental. Everyone thinks deep down that they’re not good enough. Externally its best to become whatever you strive for and being the best at it. This film is about finding the strength to accept who you are. Other films might deal with the tragic side of disability and I do understand that it can be very difficult to find yourself disabled but we wanted to show that you can find courage in yourself and can achieve your dreams. We hope this film can inspire people with and without disabilities.”
Both Sam and Manon express that they don’t really care for the term, disability. In India, they have another term. They refer to it as differently abled because everyone has different abilities.
One of the questions they’re often asked by people was, is it believable that somebody with a disability can actually hide it? Certainly, the answer is yes. Because disability comes in many forms, it’s not always obvious.
The other actors playing athletes in the film were pretty exhausted running beside Stefanie Reid. There were times when they’d have to do 4 or 5 takes running 200 meters before getting the shot. Not an easy task but they pulled it off. They were also able to utilize a jib on a tracking vehicle for the running shots, which they say made it more fun.
They tell me that ARRI was very generous in sponsoring the film and supplied a 90 percent discount on all the camera equipment. Although the film was shot in the UK, they wanted it to appear that it could be any large city. They deliberately chose a stadium without any obvious landmarks. Renting the track took up most of the budget. They say that everything is very expensive in London. They’re used to making films with little to no budget so they were very pleased how this one came together.
Sam is currently working on another script that deals with a young basketball player that loses a leg and gives up on sports until he discovers wheelchair basketball. He wants to open a dialogue to encourage people to talk about disability and not treat it as a taboo subject with only the negative side being told. He wants the positive triumphs to be told as well and to share the truth about acceptance, perseverance and tenacity.
Samuel de Ceccatty and Manon Ardisson are a young couple making films together and supporting each others aspirations to create great films. They have inspiring stories to tell and I was so impressed and have much admiration for them both. Having spoken to them about the message in this film, it offers hope that the younger generation of filmmakers is truly capable of removing negative connotation when it comes to disability. They strive for everyone to be able to be the best version of themselves and not let your limitations dictate your success in the world.
What a great message and extremely inspiring short film.