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Transcript of interview available by clicking on the transcript button below Matt Bruyninckx is a Perth-based actor, voice actor, screenwriter and self-proclaimed misguided individual. Matt is also the founder of Divergent Studios and joins us on the program to discuss why spaces for neuro-diverse people, like Matt and like Divergent Studios, are needed within the community. Rainbow Kinection: Tonight we are here with Matt Bruyninckx. So firstly Matt can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Matt: Yeah, certainly. So I'm 35, Autistic actor, writer, production person, and recently business owner for Divergent Studios. Rainbow Kinection: That is a lot of hats! So what is Divergent Studios and what was your motivation for starting it up? Matt: Awesome. Yeah, so Divergent Studios is essentially a screen production company. But it's also acting classes and stuff in that area of acting,screen and theatre. And it kind of came about because I, as someone who is Autistic and have been in the screen industry, I've just found that that environment is very stressful and anxiety inducing for people like myself and I thought ‘I can’t be the only one’ so I am talking to other people who are also Autistic and ADHD and, you know, other such neurodiversities. They also said that they had similar issues being in those environments to the point where a lot of them have just kind of dropped out of being like participating and being in those environments because they just couldn't handle being in those environments anymore, and there was nothing being done to really accommodate them. I also kind of looked at, you know, on screen representation, but also behind the scenes representation for neurodiverse people within the industry and just saw there wasn't a lot going on. So I just kind of wanted to do something to kind of go, Hey, look, we're here. We're incredibly capable. Some of us are, you know, very, very skilled. And we deserve a space in this environment too. Rainbow Kinection: Yeah, it's great. I know, from just doing comedy, that there are so many neurodiverse people in comedy, whether it's ADD or Autistic people. Matt: We are a hilarious bunch. Yeah. Rainbow Kinection: So we've been using the term neurodiverse and for those that might not know what that means, can you explain that Matt? Matt: Certainly. So neurodiverse or neurodiversity is the idea of someone who I guess doesn't conform to what society considers normal or standard. So you have a term neurotypical which refers to someone who is generally not Autistic or ADHD or you know, their brain doesn't work in a different way. And then neurodiversity is someone whose brain does work in those different patterns and different ways. Rainbow Kinection: And so what's on offer for people who want to explore being involved in Divergent Studios? Matt: So we've actually just kicked off sign-up for our adult acting classes, which have been designed to be a neurodiverse, friendly, safe and inclusive environment. So people who, you know whether they've been interested in becoming an actor or been in you know, just learning about that industry and never kind of knew how or if they would even be able to be able to get involved. Or, you know, people who just want to, you know, be more sociable and make friends because I know a lot of people you know, they want to do something and be involved with other people, but they don't know where to start. So these classes are really focused strongly on that idea of just bringing people together. Rainbow Kinection: So, socialising, not just learning. Matt: Yes Absolutely. Rainbow Kinection: That’s great! Are you comfortable with discussing your own diagnosis? Matt: Yeah, certainly. So I was diagnosed in 2019 myself, so I haven't been diagnosed that long. So it's still something I'm still learning a lot about, still figuring out, you know exactly what that means for myself as an individual. But it kind of came about because I just noticed in myself personally, that I seem to be having struggles that no one else around me seemed to be having. So, there were certain things that were just kind of stressing me out or if there was a lot going on in the day, I felt that I would just crack, that I would have to go home and literally be in like a quiet dark space just to kind of feel human again. And I was like, “What, what is going on with me? Like, am I broken? Is there something wrong?” And I just didn't know what was going on. And actually had a, what's called a ‘shutdown’ at work. So, it's becoming so overwhelmed that your brain just basically goes, “I can't deal with this anymore.” And you just can't think, you can't do very much. It’s basically like you're just the windows loading symbol, one big nope. One huge nope! And I kind of went, this isn't normal. So I started doing a bit of research and I found a thing that kind of went, you know, here's a list of 101 different neurodiversity types you could be. Go through this test, see what happens. I went through and it basically just convinced me that ‘Hey you're probably Autistic!’ And I went-’Wow, that's interesting.’ So then I followed the path from there and got my diagnosis. Rainbow Kinection: That's great. It's so good that I know so many people who are being diagnosed later in life too, because so many more people are open and talking about it, which will help and hopefully they can end up at Divergent Studios! Matt: Fingers crossed. We welcome all. Rainbow Kinection: So your diagnosis was in 2019, right? Matt: Correct. Rainbow Kinection: Why do you think [there are] some people who reach adulthood before getting support for their neurodiversity,whatever that may be? Matt: I think a big part of it, especially from the Autism point of view is when I was a child, Aspergers, which is what it was the diagnosis was known as back then, was relatively new, relatively unknown. And for a child like myself, who had their oddities about him- definitely about myself- you know, it was just ‘Oh yeah, that's boys being boys’ or that's just you know, that was Matt just being Matt kind of situation. And then I also then got through the whole entire thing of school of like, you know, that idea of well ‘If Matt just tried a little bit harder he would be so capable,so this [and that]’ and it was just seen as, you know, being lazy or being distracted, or you know, and it was never seen as there was anything in quotes ‘wrong with you.’ So a lot of it just kind of really flew under the radar. But also, you know, I mean, I'm 35. So, you know, 25-30 years ago, the whole idea of anything like this was not common knowledge for a lot of people. It wasn't talked about that much. And it was normally seen on the much more severe end of someone you know, having neurodiverse [characteristics] about them. As with now, like these days, I think through like social media and a lot of other things, you know, that a lot more people are talking about it a lot more people like myself are coming forward and going like, hey, you know, like, as much as I hate the term people say, ‘Oh, I would have never known you're Autistic or you don’t look Autistic’, which is lovely. Love that one. But that's the thing. People like me exist and you wouldn't have a clue. Because you don't see what's going on in my head. You only see me on a front face level. So I think a lot more people talking about it are now bringing it more to attention. Rainbow Kinection: (Simone) Yeah, I know a lot of people who have been diagnosed late as having ADHD and I'm fairly certain I have it as well. But only when my one of my sons was diagnosed that then I picked up and I was like, Oh my gosh, like women can present differently and I am fairly certain that I have it and then I remembered back and my, my parents reminded me that in year two, the teacher said you should get her tested and they were like, she's fine. So like, it's funny that back then it was because, you know, you're talking like 30 years ago. It was like ‘there's nothing wrong with my child!’ It's not about that. It's the spectrums, and, you know, I just couldn't stay on topic. Ironically, now I'm doing a podcast and that's been one of the biggest feedbacks so like, ‘I love how you guys never stay on topic, (Marley) It’s more fun really! Your story reminded me of a friend of mine who was misdiagnosed with ADHD as a child. And then as a teenager, like in her late teens was diagnosed with Asperger's which I believe that term is not really used anymore. Matt: Not as much anymore because its history is not the best. A bit controversial. Not very nice. The actual doctor was not a nice individual. Rainbow Kinection: So nobody wants them to be remembered. Matt: No, so they've kind of moved away from that it's more just a diagnosis of autism. And then they have like level 1,2, 3, which still isn't perfect, but it's getting better as it progresses. Rainbow Kinection: Yeah. And it's so good that teachers are catching these things so much earlier now. I've got friends who have Autistic children and they just know what they're what they're sort of looking for, which means that they get that support early on, which means they're less likely to fall behind, which is really handy. So why do you think diversity and inclusion is important within the workplace, mainstream media and the wider community? Matt: Oh! That’s a good question. I’d like to preface this with I speak for myself. I don't speak for anyone else out there. But one of the most common things that I've seen I've seen it in action and something I've tried to apply myself within various roles I've had is that when you try to accommodate for everybody, and you try to make things better for people who have disabilities or people who have certain struggles, you try to put things in place that makes their life better. Normally, just by default, it makes everybody's life better in those environments. That improves quality of life and, you know, things like that. And I also think that I mean, I can’t remember the name of the song for the life of me but it said, “If everybody looked the same, we would all get tired of looking at each other. And I think that applies to you know, like your workplaces and just general life as a whole. Like if everyone was identical, it would be incredibly boring. Rainbow Kinection: Oh my gosh, it really is. I've been to some dinner parties. I’ve really thought about that. Or it's like all these people when when everybody is doing or is trying to fit in and talk about what is appropriate, so boring, and that's why I think there are those neurodivergent people are drawn to places like comedy where it means there's no there's no small talk, there's no what's appropriate. All bets are off. And, and I guess it's like a safe place for people who are not mainstream. Matt: We have the spice that life needs. Rainbow Kinection: I love that! Just a little spicy. So, Matt, you mentioned that Divergent Studios is offering acting classes. Can you talk to us about some of your business partners/partners and tell us about their role within the company? Matt: Yes, certainly. So I have two business partners that are helping me out and they are absolute lifesavers, like without them this would not be anywhere near where it is. So we have given ourselves nice titles, even though none of us get paid yet. But we have our General Manager Rachel and Rachel is really just a great sounding board for me.She's very good at sometimes, you know, taking things that I think about and making them make sense, because I can do like great ideas! And then she's very good at kind of going ‘Yes, but how does this kind of fit in?’ And she's also much better at paperwork, and the more boring end, the more I look at paperwork I instantly just go, ‘I should do this time- for a coffee.’ She's fantastic with that. And then we also have our teacher who also is just adding an incredible, just energetic source, Sally. So she's just like, positivity in human form. Rainbow Kinection: They are great people to have around! Matt: She’s incredibly supportive, has great ideas. And I remember when I first came to her with this idea of Divergent Studios, and I was all like “I have this idea!” and her face lit up and just went, this sounds fantastic! Sounds brilliant. And she's just dived right in doing more than I would ever like to expect. So she's one that's put all the plans together for the acting classes, and she'll be also taking those acting classes as a teacher. So yes, incredible people. Rainbow Kinection: So you're a small business run by ND people for ND people. Can you recommend any facilities or spaces in Boorloo (Perth) who have supported your journey and might be able to support others? Matt: I mean, that's something we're still kind of building up ourselves. So a lot of this is very internal at the moment. So we're just kind of working off each other. And we do have a lot of people that are keeping an eye on us, supporting us, liking what we're doing. But the main thing is that we're actually trying to be the people that, you know, build up those contacts to help other people as well. So we're trying to be the ones out there going, “Hey, if you need something come to us.” Rainbow Kinection: That’s great! So how often are the classes? Matt: They follow school terms. So we do one night a week, over 10 weeks, they are two hours in length. And in that time, there's going to be a lot to learn, but we're going to do different things, every term and kind of progress. Rainbow Kinection: Sounds good! And if people want to find out more or for you, how do they find you? Matt: Excellent. So the first one is divergentstudios.com.au So that's our web address, which has a lot of information including links to social media, but we are on Twitter. We are on Facebook. It's done by me. So it's not excessive content. But building it up! Rainbow Kinection: So it exists, and people can contact you through socials. Matt:Yeah, absolutely. Rainbow Kinection: That's fantastic. Thank you so much for joining us. Matt: Thank you for having me. Rainbow Kinection: Thanks for coming in, Matt.