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From left to right: Isaac Elliot and Lucy Knox sitting together, smiling for the camera.
Commissioned for SBS and NITV through the Curious Australia initiative, filmmakers Isaac Elliott and Lucy Knox created We Are Sexual Beings to produce the kind of documentary/reality hybrid TV they wanted to watch themselves.
As friends and collaborators, the concept emerged to shed light on what it means to be young, disabled and sexual in modern Australia.
We sat down with Isaac and Lucy to learn about what drives them as artists and consumers of screen culture.
Where did the idea for We Are Sexual Beings spring from?
Isaac: The idea for We Are Sexual Beings probably came out of some discussions, frank discussions, during lockdown; we think Dan Andrews explaining what an intimate partner is really kicked us off on that.
Lucy: Most of our conversations kind of revolve around dating and relationships, so that kind of fed into what we do as filmmakers. We were talking about the idea of a show that explored disability and sexuality.
Maya, Oli and Christina are such great subjects for this documentary. Tell us about the creative choice to focus on your talents’ desires for connection, and not their physical disabilities?
Isaac: A lot of films and TV shows that deal with disability use it as a really simple empathy tool. How do they get hurt? You learn the backstory, the sob story. But I wanted to start from now, and just move forward…we did ask all those questions, and then it was just stripping it out in post-production…I've heard those stories a billion times, and I'm kind of not that interested in hearing them again.
Lucy: I think our main intention was to make it first and foremost entertaining as well as enlightening because we're both huge reality TV fans. We always talked about it as a mix of The Bachelor meets an episode of Triple j's Hack.
Isaac: It's more shocking for a person in a wheelchair to say "I want to f%$k" than it is to say, you know, "I crashed a motorbike and rah, rah, rah, rah, rah.’”
From left to right: Isaac Elliot and Lucy Knox sitting together, posing for the camera.
How did VicScreen through Curious Australia support you to make this film?
Lucy: I think VicScreen gave us a lot of confidence that we might be onto a good story.
Isaac: We shot most of it in Melbourne, so it was good to kind of showcase the city. VicScreen are amazing in the sense they are hands-on when they need to be and hands-off when they don’t.
You wrote this work together, what’s your writing process like?
Isaac: We did spend a lot of time in pre-writing and kind of structured it knowing the beats we needed to hit before getting on set. Working with a small crew, with a small budget we could only shoot what we could shoot.
There’s a lack of information and societal understanding about sex, dating and relationships for people with physical disabilities, how does your film address this?
Isaac: People—especially young people—are informed by stories. They start to create a worldview through experiencing stories. And so, while this film doesn't say ‘"his is how you date as a disabled person", what it does do is present stories. And the more stories that get out there, the more people are going to be able to grab from them and build their understanding.
Lucy: We'd love for this to be a longer show. We'd love to get more stories on the screen.
Isaac: Really. More people, more stories, more dates, more love.
Commissioned by Curious Australia—a new initiative with SBS, NITV, and the state screen agencies—We Are Sexual Beings premieres tonight at 8pm on SBS Viceland. Watch the full interview below.
Photography by Monique Myintoo. Interview by Sarah Corridon.