Digby Webster and Tracie Sammut have made waves in the art and TV world – but successes aside, both face an uncertain future.
Digby Webster, a widely exhibited visual artist, was born with a genetic disorder known as Down Syndrome. Tracie Sammut, an actress who has been featured in classic Australian TV shows such as Home & Away and GP, and received a prestigious Logie Award for Special Achievement in 1993, shares this disability.
Digby, 30, and Tracie, 39, still live at home in the care of their families, who are anxiously watching as they take their first tentative steps towards independence.
Flying Solo follows Digby, Tracie and their friend Tom, 36, over the course of four years as they pursue their new lives, juggling their passions with new responsibilities.
Digby tackles fundamental skills such as money management and cooking, even undertaking a new job as he prepares for his newest exhibition. Meanwhile Tracie decides to take Tom under her wing and train him as an actor. But for Tom – now living on his own – pursuing his dreams of professional acting proves an uphill battle as he finds himself struggling with time-management, household chores and depression.
The film, made in close collaboration with its subjects, captures their hopes and the hurdles they – like many people with intellectual disabilities – hit along the way. It features frank discussions about disability by the subjects and their friends and families, as well as inspirational scenes of mentorship and friendship.
A social impact documentary, Flying Solo pulls back the curtain on the unexpected strengths of disability, revealing the unique contributions people with conditions like Down Syndrome can make to society. It also aims to inspire change around a chronic lack of access to supported accommodation, which maximizes independence for people with disabilities.
“People with disabilities need to be heard,” Digby Webster said. “I hope the film will show people a different kind of world and also help to create a more open and inclusive community.”
Flying Solo, which first began as a student short film in 2013, was inspired by the filmmaker’s discovery, as an adult, that he himself had a disability. Filmmaker Ehsan was 26 when he got the life-changing diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. A year later, a friend showed him Digby’s artwork, prompting him to get in touch with the artist and make a film about his journey.
After meeting Tom and Tracie, Ehsan expanded the scope of the documentary to include their stories as well, encouraging Tracie and Tom to work together. The result was a series of acting workshops featured throughout the film.
Flying Solo can be watched online on Vimeo On Demand.