Past Award Winners: Diffrerent, A Short Documentary Film About Dyslexia  Winner’s Story

An interview with Tom Fisher about his short film Diffrerent, a short documentary film about dyslexia 

We interviewed director, animator and compositor Tom Fisher about his short movie ‘Diffrerent.’ The short film is a two-minute documentary about dyslexia, a disorder that has played an important part in his life. He talked to us about this project and his wider experiences within the British schooling system.

This short film is described on Tom’s website as ‘an animated documentary exploring neurodiversity, such as dyslexia’. In its description, Tom explains that he used ants as an analogy, a metaphor for someone who ‘functions outside the system’.

The central theme of the film is that different people learn in different ways. When we asked ‘why ants?’ Tom tells us that when he was in primary school, he used to collect insects to study them. When creating the film, he wondered how best to combine this aspect of his childhood with his dyslexia, into ‘an idea that worked.’

The project started as a requirement for his degree at Kingston University but grew into something much bigger. It went on to win 10 awards between 2017 and 2018 and is still as relevant today as it was when it was first released. Tom says the film was a project he had had in the back of his mind for a long time, but delayed working on it as he felt for a long time that he did not have the required skill set.

Creating the film was not an easy process, says the director, as it involved a lot of self-reflection: “Mentally, I found that quite tricky. I went to some counselling sessions at one point because talking with my tutor and discovering about my past was a hard thing to do.” Going back on those memories and reflecting on them came at a cost, and he is not sure yet if he would be willing to put himself through a similar process again, but he is grateful for the feedback he received on the film: “People coming up to me to say ‘it’s good’ [the film], is such a nice feeling.”

Tom quit school at 16, after difficult experiences. Secondary school was especially hard for him, because he felt he was not “fitting in enough” and was struggling to keep up with the work.

Talking about the system and looking back into his secondary school experience, Tom says: “I don’t think it was built very well for people like me.” While he was fond of certain subjects such as art and graphic design, in which he says he could do very well, he feels that the system does not work for people with similar strengths or ways of thinking as him.

“School doesn’t appreciate art in a way but then you look around and everything is kind of built from art or some idea or design.”

After quitting school, the teenager escaped into a world of video games. “It’s kind of surreal to see where I came from and where I’ve got to now.”

University was very different in terms of education, and a better experience for Tom. The future director was given a laptop and access to software to help him study and write essays. Though he has suspected he was dyslexic for a long time, he did not have any medical proof until just before university. “It was a bit of a relief,” he says about his diagnosis. These experiences had a strong impact on Tom and contributed to making him into who he is now. “Essentially the film is just my journey, how I felt in the past and how I got to where I am now” explains Tom.

“The main reason I have such a drive to do this kind of work is from not really having much appreciation about my work when I was younger. In a weird way, I think that’s where my motivation comes from.” He adds that proving to others, but more importantly himself, that he could succeed is what got him to where he is now.

Story by Charlotte Lavin,
Print journalist with a focus on environmental issues, Charlotte studied Business and Entrepreneurship in France and Journalism in Ireland. She believes in the role of the arts as a vector of knowledge.