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    CHANGING THE GAME IN THE DISABILITY ARTS SPACE

    Date:

    By Minh Ly 

    Squeezing through a narrow opening to find a seat, I had managed to settle into a crowded and bustling Moonee Ponds Cafe before the crazy lunch rush. I am joined by veteran actor/acting coach, Andy McPhee and Jason Whiter from former Whiter Real Estate. What do these two men have in common? Read on to find out. 

    Andy is Australian born and American based and has recently moved back to the land down under after relocating to the United States to pursue his career in acting. Andy is well known starring in the likes of Sons of Anarchy alongside Ron Perlman, Bad Karma with the late Ray Liotta, Saving Mr Banks, 2067 and Wolf Creek to mention a few. Having grown up troubled, Andy, who is rebellious, unbound and charming all at the same time, reminisces as he travels down memory lane. As luck would have it, he explains how he accidentally got into acting at the tender age of 38. Andy wasn’t always as Zen as he is now, retelling the story of his youth, having lived a turbulent childhood. Always getting into mischief with no regard for consequences, he later came to acknowledge that it was the catalyst to his success! From being fired from his storeman job at Myer to driving trains, to pro wrestling and now making his mark mentoring and coaching young and emerging performers in film, on stage and television. After creating the ‘Relentless and Unstoppable’ YouTube Channel with Co-creator Doug Kenny a couple of years ago, this recently surpassed a million unique views. This has encouraged, motivated and inspired many people around the globe to reach their highest potential, and it prompted Andy to kickstart the SPARK platform to enable people with special needs to share their artistic talent to the world. 

    Andy credits Landmark with helping him centre himself and achieve inner peace. Andy spends much time fine-tuning his craft and passing his industry experience and knowledge to his students. Andy’s students include his own son, Kodi Smit-McPhee, winner of a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor and Oscar nominated for Best Supporting Actor for the Power of the Dog. He also portrays Nightcrawler in X-men: Apocalypse, X-Men: Dark Phoenix and Deadpool 2. Andy also coached his daughter, Sianoa Smit-McPhee and actress, Sydney Sweeny from age 12 until she was 17. 

    Meanwhile, Jason who is stylishly sipping his second cup of long black, starts coming to life with caffeine surging through his bloodstream and chimes into the conversation. Jason is a community business leader and builder who co-founded the now defunct Brimbank Business Association (originally the Entrepreneurs Round Table) in 2012, allowing local business owners to meet and network before the first Covid lockdown hit. Surviving for another year, however it was sadly disbanded in 2021 as it was no longer viable to run. 

    With a renewed vision, Jason is now involved in various endeavours. Passionate about sports and the arts, Jason is also an actor in his own right, with a number of film projects under his belt. Leaving his real estate business behind and pursuing personal fitness and blind sports, such as the blind hockey, he is currently developing a program with the para-ice hockey team. Jason, who is vision impaired and legally blind himself has lived with the disadvantages that a person with a disability faces daily, and intimately understands the lack of inclusivity when it comes to sports and arts. 

    Andy and Jason first met during a film shoot for the Aussie movie, Hotel Underground. They soon connected on a personal level and realised they were both interested in working with people with disabilities and formed ‘All Inclusive’. An organisation where participants with any type of disability can feel empowered to participate and collaborate in the exploration and creation of projects with an artistic nature. With the kind support of Guide Dogs Australia, All Inclusive provides a safe environment where there is a sense of belonging and sharing to engage in the creative arts and ultimately achieve greatness together.  

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