Corey Stewart loves the spotlight and dreams of making it to Hollywood one day.
The 25-year-old from Suffolk Park is part of a small theatre group based in Brunswick Heads for intellectually disabled adults called Vox Pop and recently starred in the jury prize-winning Best Short Film at the Byron All Shorts festival, ‘The Joy is Real’.
“It’s a heart-warming and inspiring 16-minute short documentary, following Corey and the group as they experience the trials and tribulations of workshopping and rehearsing their play,” local film-maker Susie Forster said.
The play, ‘The 9 Lives of Rocky Raccoon’, is a spaghetti western featuring a cast of colourful characters like famous saloon singer Christy LaBomb, the sweet-hearted Diamond Lil and Corey as Rocky Racoon.
“I get shot nine times but I still get the girl,” Corey said. “It’s the most fun thing I’ve ever done.”
The documentary, which was filmed at Brunswick Heads’ Memorial Hall, also shines a light on the extraordinary talents of music theatre director Ollie Heathwood.
“Ollie is remarkable, so inclusive and spontaneous, and her knack for drawing out the talents of each individual in the group is a lovely part of the documentary,” Ms Forster said.
“Music and singing is an integral part of her approach. Her motto is ‘everybody’s singing, whether it be on the inside or the outside’.”
And the special needs clients aren’t the only ones in the spotlight in Ollie’s group. The support workers are also an important part of Vox Pop.
Sukumari Burnett, a support worker from the Accommodation Network in Ocean Shores, finds the group ‘incredibly fun’.
“I love to be up on stage, so for me it’s fantastic. It’s a real outlet for me to express my dramatic side. Above all it’s very joyful to be part of the guys expressing themselves and just to see what they come up with and how magic they can be,” she said.
Ms Burnett contacted Ms Forster in April last year and invited her to come and make a film of the group.
“I’d never worked with intellectually disabled people before this film-making project and I had no idea if I’d be able to relate to them. It was just new territory,” Ms Forster said.
“But the group was so welcoming from my first visit and they were having so much fun – I quickly realised my fears about feeling awkward were unfounded.
“I began to really enjoy myself, too. You can feel there’s a lot of heart coming from these actors.”
Following their win of the jury prize at the Byron All Shorts, and having received ‘so much positive feedback’, ‘The Joy is Real’ will screen at the Byron Bay Film Festival in March.
Ms Forster will also be entering the film into The Other Film Festival 2012, a Melbourne International Film Festival of films by, with and about people with a disability.
“And who knows where to from there,” she said.
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