I first met Michelle about 10 years ago when she was living with her father in Ireland, Pete, Michelle's father and his late wife Veronica adopted Michelle when she was a young girl, born in 1979 and placed into care from birth, her biological mother couldn't cope with the thought of raising a child with Down Syndrome and all the associated long term issues.
Michelle was fostered by Peter and Veronica for 2 years which in turn led to a successful adoption, Peter and Veronica have devoted more than thirty years of their lives creating a loving home for Michelle, some may say too much so, her dependence on Peter and Veronica at times has been all consuming.
Sadly Veronica died in 2002, and although nearly 80 years old Peter continues to care for Michelle, recent support from close family has helped, but has divided loved ones, and there is now a growing realization that placing Michelle, now 37, into permanent care may be the only route.
The Visual intention was to create a simple short poem in moving imagery, touching on aspects of Michelle's life, with some emphasis on Nature vs Nurture.
I had three days to shoot, and having known the family for some years was entrusted with Michelle's care during the shooting daylight hours, after the first hour I realized that the precise storyboard I had drawn up was going to have to be more flexible than a normal storyboard were you can add, remove and change shots on the fly to work with the obstacles that you might be facing, such as lighting, unsuitable location, etc, etc.
Biggest obstacle was Michelle's mental age, which was around 12, and her attention span,( short ) having said that she was
great to work with, and having kids myself made it easier for me to be patient, even after take 10 of a 3 second shot, it's very easy to fall into the trap of treating Down Syndrome with the special label, I have seen the good and the bad side of how it can strengthen and also destroy relationships.
That being said some days just had to start with a bribe of tea and cake at the coffee shop as soon as we finished certain shots, the short was shot in the Republic of Ireland which is where the family had relocated to in the 80's, it was shot local to Michelle's hometown and outlying villages, which in itself was a bit of a pain, because everyone knew Michelle, so we'd stop for a chat whilst I tried to explain who I was, I love the Irish, especially the folk in small village communities, great sense of humour, even when it's obvious they are trying to suss out if you kidnapped Michelle.
The day I met Michelle
only when we can see what we are not, will we see who we are.