Am I “To Be or Not To Be” Hamlet?

Probably the most famous question ever asked in the English language and the entire soliloquy of Shakespeare’s Hamlet to endlessly be debated by literature students and actors.

Hamlet1

One of two of my favorite portrayals of Hamlet on film and to not give preference (because I think they are both brilliant) I will place them in order of their theatrical release dates!


Shakespeare’s command of the English language in the opening question “To be or Not To Be” uses the verb “to be” phrased without a noun or pronoun making it infinite. He doesn’t say “Am I to be or not to be” or “to be alive or not to be alive” which allows for it to be interpreted by the audience within the context of the play as Hamlet’s meaning of life or death, but by phrasing it in the infinitive it can also be used in personal context, which is what makes all great works of art, great! Can I take something from this and make it personal? Can it be internalize by the masses and over the passages of time and yet still be profound and not take away from its’ own context? Of course that is in part what will make it popular whether it is in character, plot, and/or dialogue. And I personalize this way whenever I watch a movie or listen to a song. And whenever we see the struggles of a character or a story we try to internalize it to relate to that character or story. Hamlet has his own issues with his mother and uncle’s affair, a murdered father whose spirit haunts him with riddles, all with the pressure of being heir to the Danish throne and rule over an entire country – none of which I am going through – so how can I relate and be touched by this character through his famous soliloquy? Let me share some of it with you by using blue font in parentheses in the following:

“To be, or not to be (my context, as opposed to Hamlet’s context to be “alive” or not to be “alive”, is to be or not to be a “paraplegic filmmaker” dedicated to honestly, genuinely, and authentically representing nearly 6 million paraplegic Americans who are often the “poster child” representing the entire 56+ million Americans with a disAbility – the largest and fastest growing minority in America – who are severely under represented in movies and television and on the rare occasion that we are it is hardly ever being represented by one of our own, and instead by a well intentioned able bodied person who has no idea what life with paralysis or other disAbility is like – and for the record, again, I know that not all disAbilities can represent themselves – but many of us can and yet Hollywood lumps us all together as UNable) — that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows (stereotypes and discrimination)

of outrageous fortune (of Hollywood)

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles (dismissing paraplegic artists as unable to give voice, vision, or performance and represent ourselves in movies and television)

And by opposing end them.

To die (to end being a paraplegic filmmaker), to sleep–

No more–and by a sleep to say we end

The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks (the Hollywood barriers of attitude that automatically rejects the worthiness and discriminates against the artistic passions of a screenwriter, director, or actor with a disAbility)

That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep–

To sleep–perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of death (of not being a paraplegic filmmaker expressing my art of screenwriting and directing) what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil (and instead being a 9-5er),

Must give us pause. There’s the respect

That makes calamity of so long life.

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

Th’ oppressor’s (Hollywood’s) wrong, the proud man’s contumely

The pangs of despised love (of screenwriting and directing), the law’s delay (of fair and equal opportunity to represent ourselves with a disAbility),

The insolence of office, and the spurns

That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? (quietly take myself out of Hollywood and end all efforts to represent and passions to express my art)

Who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscovered country, from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprise of great pitch and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry

And lose the name of action. — Soft you now,

The fair Ophelia! — Nymph, in thy orisons

Be all my sins remembered.”

hamlet_branagh

 

Well, as Hamlet considers suicide, taking his own life, he debates whether it will release him from the frustrations, and pains of his trials and issues. For me it is similar because ending my dreams and passions for storytelling on film as both a screenwriter and director is ending my life as I know it and end the Hollywood trials and issues that are extremely difficult and frustrating as it is for any filmmaker trying to make his way in this industry BUT are doubled due the accepted stereotypes and discrimination against those with a disAbility. If you don’t believe that this exists, then I against direct your attention to the 2005 SAG report, SAG’s Performers with Disabilities (PWD), or merely look around and ask where are the movies that feature paraplegics or others with a disAbility and they are very few and far in between but even those use only able bodied writers, directors and actors. It is as plain as the white elephant in the room that everyone ignores and pretends is not there!

So yeah, merely trying to get anyone in Hollywood to pay attention to the issues, let alone my proposed solutions, my film projects, is extremely frustrating and discouraging. Do I ever get tired and want to end this seemingly futile quest to be or not to be a filmmaker who is a paraplegic? Do I debate what it would be like to end this life of a filmmaker and find another job, career, lifestyle that does not include all these “slings and arrows” in “a sea of troubles” along with “the heartache and thousand natural shocks” of Hollywood automatic rejection of even the idea that a person in a wheelchair can be writer or director? Sure the thoughts cross my mind from time to time, but I have to dismiss them as quickly as they enter my conscious. To give up being a filmmaker and continue on in another field is possible, in fact after I quit freelancing in video production after my days at the Art Institute in the early 90’s, I took a job to pay the bills. I was successful, and promoted within a year to management, had a new vehicle and two-story condo, but there was a big part of me missing, something that I had once, but seemed almost lost despite the aching of my soul which I found again after seeing “Pulp Fiction” in the theatre in 1994! Storytelling on film! But after trying to write and direct even a short film after working 14-16 hour days in my management position was too exhaustive physically and emotionally to get much of anything done. So, I quit that job in January 1995 and took a regular 8 hour a day job (which didn’t have any health benefits) to give me time to work my passion in life, my art, my filmmaking and satisfy that hole in my soul, and 3 months later, I broke my back, severed my spinal cord completely in half and became a paraplegic. But my passion for filmmaking was not broke, was not paralyzed like the bottom half of my body! In fact, they were magnified with getting a second chance at life, and after not finding non-stereotypical portrayals or authentic representation of paraplegics in movies my passions became more defined! And over the years since more refined! Not only in my art but in the cause that became so much larger than just me! My films will give those with a disAbility what they so want and deserve – representation in movies – and not just any representation – but authentic representation with images, characters, and stories that are not stereotypical. And for me to give all this up, leave Hollywood, take another job in any other field, as I referred to above as a 9-5er, it would be like suicide, killing my passion, becoming an empty shell of a man – and although I might still be breathing – I would be soulless, dead in my opinion. And that is how I understand and relate to Hamlet through his famous soliloquy!

I must fight on and find those in Hollywood who will give me and this cause the opportunity to produce the kind of films that will provide a fair and equal opportunity at the box office, for audiences with and without a disAbility to experience entertainment that is authentically representing those with a disAbility. Despite the barriers of attitude, stereotypes, and discrimination within the industry, and despite living only on the meager government assistance which is not enough and therefore I must ask for help to pay some of my monthly bills every month, I must carry on and make this happen even if it is to my death. Dying for this opportunity as a paraplegic filmmaker, as a representative of 56+ million Americans and hundreds of millions more world wide in movies and television, proving that this socially responsible filmmaking, can achieve critical and commercial success is better than committing filmmaker suicide and dying a soulless man for quitting and leaving Hollywood! I will continue to fight, even as a poor beggar for my self, the millions of under served and under represented in today’s society and the future generations of those with a disAbility. Will you join me? Pass this cause on, raise awareness, make a phone call if you have any Hollywood connections, or help me find new friends in Hollywood who really care about the repressed voices, visions, performances, and overall representation of those with a disAbility in movies and television! Act now or let it be on your conscious because mine is clear, and my mission is clearly defined and constantly being refine and polished to truly make it the historic “turning point” in American cinema!

Start by leaving a comment, or visiting my website http://AbilitiesUnited.com and find out more of how developed I have for the cause, the production company, and the feature film, “London Time”. I cannot do this alone as I have for the past 15 years but will continue to do so until I find those that care enough to join me! Are you one that cares enough? Prove it!

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