Former theatre artist, Cheryl Green, is now a disability culture advocate and media artist who uses her varied experience to produce and edit her own podcasts and documentaries. When she’s not donating her time at a local cat shelter, you will find her working on shorts, web shorts, trainings, public speaking, blogs, and podcasts. This summer, be sure to look for Cheryl’s first feature-length documentary movie, “Who Am I To Stop It,” a film on isolation, art, and transformation after brain injury.
AXIS: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your disability?
Cheryl: I'm a media artist. All my work revolves around disability identity and culture, social critique, activism, reframing rehabilitation through the perspective of patients, and making content accessible. In some earlier iteration of my life, I was a theater artist and teacher, and then trained to become a speech therapist. In 2010, I became a patient in speech therapy and left that field (before starting my first job as a speech therapist) to work in arts and social justice movements. I have sensory, cognitive, and mental health impairments from traumatic brain injury, a voice disorder, and a sneaky little physical condition most people don't know about.
Can you tell us a little bit about your current projects?
I finished my first feature-length documentary movie, "Who Am I To Stop It," last Fall. It's being edited right now and should be out in early 2016. Most of what I work on are shorts and web shorts, trainings and public speaking, blogging, and podcasting. My most recent project "Criptiques On Film: Very Special Episodes" is a collaboration with disabled activist and artist Caitlin Wood.
What inspires you to create?
I don't think of myself as very creative or as needing to be creative to be fulfilled. I enjoy the technical aspects of producing, recording, and editing, and require a ton of collaboration to make decisions around creative and artistic parts most of the time. Making media is extremely important to me because the media landscape around disability is still dominated by non-disabled creators who make stereotyped, clichéd representations rarely performed by disabled people themselves. I have access to the resources to make media, and I take that pretty seriously by making a lot and bringing in other people who otherwise wouldn't be making or sharing media on their own. I'm also driven because my community, the traumatic brain injury community, tends to focus public storytelling on personal narratives of overcoming tragedy and finding a miraculous individual recovery. I appreciate my opportunity to frame TBI in the larger social context of ableism, economic injustice, stigma, and opportunity.
What is the coolest part of being a filmmaker
Editing is the coolest part. I do appreciate making the films, but being around other people and communicating under the constraints of a film shoot is really stressful for me. I don't enjoy what I'm doing in the moment. So when I get home and start reviewing what was captured, I love getting to relive the moments without any pressure. Then, manipulating the scenes and images, adding and mixing in sound effects, all of that magic that turns a bunch of disjointed moments into a story is where I'm finally happy. Often when I record for films or my podcast, people ask if I actually got what I needed from them. They're not sure they did or said anything that will look or sound good or make sense. But I could tell in the moment that they did, and I only have to go foraging to find it all. It's neat to have that moment where I assure people that the string of stuff we just did can be turned into something exciting and interesting.
What is your favorite place to visit and why?
My favorite place to visit is the House of Dreams no-kill cat shelter in Portland. In fact, I visit once a week, every week as a volunteer, to clean and socialize with the cats. They have adoptable cats as well as kitties in their retirement. It's my favorite place because I enjoy the work, and I'm completely surrounded on all sides by cats. The only thing better than House of Dreams might be to lounge on the beach with all those same cats, but I don't think they would like that. So I'm fine to visit them where they are and sit in a sunbeam if there is one.