Mum with a vision to help

By Liz Mellino

Despite the odds being stacked against young Alfie Fisk, his mother Diana is working to prove that anything is possible.

The Shepparton-born film producer is passionate about developing projects that aim to inspire and lead with human connection.

Her latest project hits closer to home, after her three-year-old son Alfie was diagnosed with Nystagmus, a vision condition in which the eyes make repetitive, uncontrolled movements.

The movements often result in reduced vision, depth perception and can affect the person’s balance and co-ordination.

Following her son’s diagnosis, Ms Fisk began working on a film project that aimed to inspire people to not be limited by their conditions.

‘‘It became important for me to find a project that would give Alfie the tools to empower,’’ she said.

‘‘Instead of thinking about their limitations, they instead can think about what they can do.’’

Born and raised in Shepparton, Ms Fisk’s love for the arts started when she began working at the Shepparton Arts Museum and Riverlinks at just 19 years of age.

‘‘It was a very good period for me in understanding my love for the arts and looking at different ways to continue that work,’’ she said.

With a camera in tow, the keen filmmaker won her first film award at the Shepparton Shorts Festival, which is part of the Arts Festival.

It was from this moment she knew the film industry was her calling, spending the next 10 years working out exactly where she sat in the creative world.

‘‘I had an unmotivating experience at university where we were told only one in 100 students will be successful or have a career in the screen industry,’’ Ms Fisk said.

‘‘I was quite put off by that and I tried to get a sensible career.’’

Despite her efforts she was continually drawn back to her passion of film and arts, where she eventually landed a number of career defining opportunities, including working as a producer in the United States.

For the past three years she has been living in Ocean Grove and working alongside Sue Maslin, producer of The Dressmaker and Japanese Story.

Along with this, she began working on her current documentary project, A Story of True Vision, inspired by the bravery of her son.

Ms Fisk said Alfie’s diagnosis at four months old came as a shock to her and her husband, who both knew nothing about the condition or its effects.

‘‘I went on a bit of a Google search to see what it meant and I found some frightening things about his condition,’’ she said.

‘‘The first line of a website said people born with Nystagmus will be ridiculed, bullied and abused throughout their entire life.’’

While Ms Fisk said the news was an overwhelming surprise, she and her husband concluded they were not going to let this define their son’s life. ‘‘We changed our path and instead of dwelling on the condition he had and the challenges, we started thinking about his possibilities and what we can do to make him stronger,’’ Ms Fisk said.

She decided to put her skills to good use and produce a film for her son that shares the story of someone who had achieved greatness in the face of defeat.

After extensive research, Ms Fisk found who she had been looking for — Jess Gallagher, the only Australian athlete in history who has won in both the winter and summer olympics, with only six per cent vision, meaning she is legally blind.

The project, which is set to be filmed at the end of this year, will share Alfie’s personal story alongside an interview with Ms Gallagher.

Ms Fisk will also interview Ms Gallagher’s mum to discuss the difficulties her daughter faced, similar to the ones she is set to face with Alfie.

The film will end when Alfie meets Ms Gallagher, with the aim of teaching him a lesson to take on any challenges he may face in his own life.

‘‘You have a decision to make when you have a child with an impairment, and that is how are you going to raise them,’’ Ms Fisk said. ‘‘This film is a gift to Alfie to show him what he can do.’’

Ms Fisk launched a crowd-funding campaign for the film yesterday, which will run for the month of June.

‘‘I decided to go through a crowd-funding path to find people who wanted to support the film and believed in it,’’ she said. ‘‘We have received support from Vision Australia... it is a personal project which I want to make true to me.’’

While the film is a few months off being filmed, Ms Fisk is excited to share the story of empowerment and belief with not only her son, but the world.

At this stage the future is looking bright for young Alfie, while the extent of his diagnosis will not be known for a number of years.

‘‘Until you go through challenges like this you don’t know what is possible,’’ Ms Fisk said.

‘‘I hope to continue getting further experience and growing within the industry, we’ll see what happens next.’’

To find out more about the film or Alfie’s journey visit www.dianafisk. com/alfie