4. Paula Sage - Afterlife
The fact that Paula Sage won the BAFTA Scotland award for Best Debut Performance and won over critics with her turn as the feisty Roberta Brogan in Afterlife puts her firmly on this list.
Afterlife was never going to be a huge film but outstanding performances from Kevin Mckidd and Paula Sage made many critics sit up and take notice.
Although shot on a modest budget (£200,000), with many of the actors being paid less than their usual wage to get the film made, the result was worth it and audiences were presented with a film that dealt with hard topics yet remained bright and life affirming. The director (Alison Peebles) and writer (Andrea Gibb) were quick to praise Sage and eager to shoot down the slightly clumsy comparison of the film being a 'Scottish Rain Man' story.
Throughout the picture Sage's Roberta moves from being sullen and moody to fiery and infuriating whilst also providing moments of comic relief with some of the film's best lines.
Reading behind the scenes info, it's clear the film was a project the cast and crew were passionate about, with many involved having been affected in some way by Down's Syndrome. In an interview, Gibb even mentions that an executive for the film suggested making Roberta autistic rather than having Down's Syndrome so a non-disabled actor could be cast in the part. The suggestion was suitably shot down by Gibb and she maintained the story wouldn't be changed.
In some ways it's a shame that the entire cast and crew had to get behind the film in such a way just to get it made and to give a disabled actor a chance at mainstream success; it would have been a tragedy if it'd been an outright flop. Fortunately there was a happy ending with Sage's performance being highly praised and the film reaching an international audience.
After her acting debut as Roberta, Sage went on to land a part on Scottish soap River City, play Netball in the Special Olympics and become an ambassador for Down's Syndrome Scotland.