Stephanie Dower and Tanya Modini.
As someone who lives with physical disability, Stephanie Dower never connected with the characters she saw on screen because their portrayals were always negative.
So the producer, writer and editor has joined forces with another emerging creative, writer-director Tanya Modini, to develop the feature Seeing Scout.
Billed as a coming-of-age drama on wheels, the project is among six from Australia that were selected for Attagirl, the development lab for feature films by female and non-binary creative teams.
Set in a western Queensland town, their screenplay follows Scout, a young woman with physical disability who embarks on a sexual relationship with local footy hero Eli.
Their affair not only confronts and divides their small-town community but challenges the couple’s expectations of themselves.
When tragedy strikes, they discover the biggest limitations they face are the expectations that exist only in their own minds.
Dower developed the concept and rough draft five years ago and pulled it out of the drawer and started collaborating with Modini after they met last year through a mutual connection, Katrina Graham, a key supporter of female and underrepresented storytellers in her role as chair and Queensland chapter board member of Women in Film & Television Australia.
Steph tells IF: “I hope that seeing a character like Scout on screen will provide other people living with disabilities with a new way to see themselves and help them realise that disability doesn’t have to hold them back. It’s the perceptions we build in our minds and from others that makes us think we can’t do things.”
In the film they are keen to show that women with disabilities experience desire, intimacy and sex, just as men who use wheelchairs are often depicted in intimate relationships.
They said: “The Attagirl initiative is ground-breaking. This program, along with Screen Queensland diversity and inclusion strategies, are so needed to amplify the voices, images and leadership of women on, and behind screens. We’re so excited to bring Scout to life and grateful for the support of Screen Queensland to enable us to take part in Attagirl.
“We have received a positive response from the disability sector who are relentless in their advocacy for people with disabilities.
“While we haven’t got any leads in mind just yet, we’re really excited to discover new talent who can emotionally connect with the characters and carry the story with authenticity.”
Through her production company Dower Productions, Steph is developing a diverse slate of content including documentary series Carry On, which she hopes will inspire more people with disabilities to travel.
Her credits include producer and editor of comedic web series Gay and Loathing in Bris Vegas and assistant editor on Luis Bran’s feature horror Conscious and Max Mannix’s docudrama The Brighton Miracle.
A resident at Screen Queensland’s squb, Modini was a finalist in the Greg Coote Scholarship and the Stan Screen Queensland Premium Drama Development Fund this year.
A passionate champion of LGBTIQ+ and women’s issues, Tanya says her writing is informed by her wide-ranging work roles which include police officer, trauma counselor and prevention of violence against women advocate.