Issue date: 
Monday, 13 May 2024

To celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day we caught up for a kōrero with Felicity Hamill to discuss her role as an Access Coordinator and her hopes for the future of deaf, disabled and neurodivergent communities in the screen industry.

Introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about you.

Kia ora! I was born and raised in Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington, Aotearoa) and have been fortunate enough to have lived and worked in various cities in both our beautiful country and abroad.

I’ve been into performing, films, dance, and theatre for as long as I can remember… I was always leaping about creating things and hoping someone would watch. I recall many a memory of my gorgeous Mum patiently pausing to be audience to yet another impromptu dance performance in the back yard.

I feel incredibly lucky to have had access to a wide variety of arts and entertainment from a very young age and can’t thank my family enough for introducing me to the wonder of the arts.

Image description: A head and shoulders image of Felicity Hamill taken outdoors in front of a marbled stone wall. 

Tell us about your journey into the film industry.

Late in 1999, I was a trained contemporary dancer eking out a living juggling freelancing with waitressing, retail, and multiple other jobs, when I saw a listing calling for short and tall talent required as extras on The Lord of the Rings trilogy. As a huge fan of the creature performers in 1986 film The Labyrinth, I leapt at the chance to get my creature on. However, I didn’t make the cut and as time went on, I had almost decided against pursuing the films any further… but as fate would have it, eventually I got the call and ended up running around as an orc and goblin extra on and off over the next three years.

It was an incredible, exhausting, and exhilarating time and really created a sense of a film whānau in our capital city…after a while you could start to recognise fellow creatures in the Wellington streets by our trademark “black panda eyes” ...the residue of dark black make up we all wore under our prosthetic masks for weeks on end.

For me, the roles poured fuel on the fire for my love of character work and introduced me to the world of working on set. I was hooked on exploring further creature work for the big screen, and would later go on to add various crew roles to my toolbelt.

King Kong 360 3-D Universal Studios Ride 2010. Image description: Performers Jed Brophy and Felicity Hamill in motion capture suits sit on a metal rig in the motion capture studio. Image courtesy of Weta Digital 

How has your experience working in the screen sector been impacted by your disability/neurodiversity?

In 2014 iatrogenic complications in my condition completely derailed my film career for a very long time and still creates challenges I navigate daily.

Early that year I was professionally at a long fought for point where production companies were approaching me, rather than the relentless cold calling, auditioning and door knocking that we as freelancers know all too well. So, when things spectacularly fell apart for me health wise later that year, it was a huge life change right when it felt like my career was really taking off.

I’ve always lived with various health “rebellions” as I call them… (I get bored of using medical terms); but prior to 2014 as a freelancer within the screen sector I was able for the most part, to quietly work around any hurdles on set and still make it work. However, looking back; I was often nervous on jobs to share simple details around any concerns for fear of either being seen as a ‘problem’, or worse, replaced; in an industry that can be tough physically and mentally on any body, fully functioning or otherwise.

These days I sometimes still catch myself reverting to my old mentality of: “I have to be seen as tough and strong to survive in this industry”, but there is something freeing about letting that go and it’s something I still work on every day.

The Silk Short Film. Image description: Felicity Hamill holds a clapper loader on set in front of a camera while actor Don Langridge can be seen sitting up in a single bed in background, Image courtesy of Rodrigo Films 

How would having an Access Coordinator on set impacted your experience working in the sector?

I think having a dedicated crew member as a safe space for sharing access requirements with production would have made me feel more confident in the knowledge that it was ok to share. Knowing that reasonable access requirements would simply be viewed as a part of enabling me as a performer or crew person to carry out my job would have removed the worry of any stigma; ensuring I could safely just get on with my role.

What are you hoping to bring to the access coordinator role?

I’m hoping to merge the advocacy skills learned over the years from my lived experience of disability, with my professional on set experience. I’d like to be a safe, calm advocate for our Deaf, Disabled and Neurodiverse (DDN) talent and crew, learning from each individual to discuss what they need. Then do my best to facilitate requirements with production to ensure the individual can focus on their mahi. I’m also really looking forward to working with producers to address access pathways and DDN inclusion within our industry in general, while having some fun in the process!

What are your hopes for the future of deaf/disabled and or neurodivergent communities in the industry?

My hope is that the current wave of awareness and discussion around accessibility and inclusion continues to grow and grow until there is a genuine reflection and follow through of access and representation for all.

My even bigger hope is that in time access and inclusion will be so easily embedded in our industry’s psyche that in the future we won’t need Access Coordinators; access for all will just be a naturally integrated part of the production process from start to finish.

Our industry, like so many industries; can do so much better. Ensuring easier access for all opens doors to represent all our people and their skills; it just makes sense. By enabling and supporting DDN diversity across our casts, background talent, crews, and production processes, we can continue to tell stories and create on screen magic with our heads held high; knowing we are not leaving anyone behind.

To learn more about Access Coordinators, visit Access Coordinators. If you require this information in another format, you can contact


Last updated: 
Thursday, 16 May 2024