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Bio – Children’s Lab 2022 Fellows

Tyler Hoog

RespectAbility Children’s Content Lab for Disabled TV Creators, 2022

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Tyler Hoog

Tyler Hoog grew up in Longmont, Colorado where he spent summers playing baseball and winters inside hiding from the snow. On August 28th, 2011 the trajectory of Tyler’s life changed forever when a vehicular accident left him with a C3/C4 spinal cord injury, permanently paralyzing him from the neck down. Two years later he would go onto the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he got his Bachelors in Communications and a Minor in Writing for the Screen and Stage. Tyler’s passion for storytelling would bring him back west to the glimmering streets of tinsel town as he would go to get his Master’s from the University of Southern California’s John Wells Division of Writing for Film and Television. While at USC, Tyler served as a liaison for the Swim With My Scholarship where he would advocate on behalf of the organization to help ensure the program’s growth. After graduating from USC, Tyler began his partnership with RespectAbility, a Disability nonprofit focused on improving the lives of people with disabilities. He was a part of their inaugural Hollywood Fellowship in 2019 and became a communications fellow in 2021. During this time, Tyler wrote several articles about adequate inclusion of people’s disabilities in film and television and began his consulting career. Tyler has consulted At NBC, Netflix, AppleTV, and Disney+. Along with working on independent projects to ensure quality representation of people with disabilities. Tyler currently lives in Burbank California with a gremlin cleverly disguised as a cat named Momo.

Learn More

After an extensive search and interview process, 15 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s inaugural cohort of the Children’s Content Lab. This new Lab provides education and training for disabled writers, animators, and creative executives interested in preschool and children’s television and streaming content. Supported by Netflix’s Fund for Creative Equity, the Children’s Content Lab spans five weeks and includes in-person programming in New York City with production partners 9 Story Media Group and Silvergate Media, a part of Sony Pictures Television.

Shannon Ryan

RespectAbility Children’s Content Lab for Disabled TV Creators, 2022

Shannon Ryan smiling headshot

Shannon Ryan

With her first word, the Manhattan born Shannon Ryan verbalized a love for children’s television that would burgeon with age. Diagnosed with Coffin Lowry syndrome, a profound hearing loss, and a math disability at a young age. She was blessed with parents who taught their daughter how to advocate for accommodations while encouraging her creative talent and pursuits.

After graduating from Columbia College Chicago with a BA in screenwriting and completing the school’s prestigious Semester In LA in 2012, Shannon became enamored with scripted development while interning at Beacon Pictures and Phoenix Pictures. After holding entry-level positions in broadcast, digital branding, production, talent management, and scripted analysis. She enrolled at the Fierstein Graduate School Of Cinema where she graduated with an MFA in film producing in 2019.

Shannon received the first BAFTA Woman Of Her Word Scholarship. A Home For Curiosities, the award-winning short film she produced has been screened worldwide. This past spring, she co-produced Andy & Kaliope with the actor, disability advocate, and filmmaker Rachel Handler. The disability led & created short was nominated for three Easterseals Film Challenge awards. It has since made its film festival debut.

It is her dream to develop a television series that will showcase authentic representation in its storytelling while inspiring and empowering children. Shannon is wholeheartedly committed to the expansion of opportunity for deaf & disabled talent of all backgrounds on and off camera.

Learn More

After an extensive search and interview process, 15 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s inaugural cohort of the Children’s Content Lab. This new Lab provides education and training for disabled writers, animators, and creative executives interested in preschool and children’s television and streaming content. Supported by Netflix’s Fund for Creative Equity, the Children’s Content Lab spans five weeks and includes in-person programming in New York City with production partners 9 Story Media Group and Silvergate Media, a part of Sony Pictures Television.

Ty Freedman

RespectAbility Children’s Content Lab for Disabled TV Creators, 2022

Ty Freedman headshot juggling lemons

Ty Freedman

Ty Freedman is a children’s media writer, a champion preschool educator, and a former circus clown who writes wildly comedic, specific, and personal characters based on the hundreds of students he’s taught over the years, his life growing up in a bakery (literally upstairs) and the brand new info-to-him of a late in life Autism diagnosis. Ty is the creator, writer, and star of the award-winning kids’ cooking show, Ty the Pie Guy where he produced over 20 episodes with 134 WEST productions. Most recently Ty has written scripts for Wildbrain/DHX’s Strawberry Shortcake and was commissioned to write a pilot about Autistic Superheroes. Ty is an alum of Centennial College’s Post-Graduate program in Children’s Media and the 2021 Respect Ability Summer LAB for filmmakers. He is repped as a writer by Real Life Pictures.

Learn More

After an extensive search and interview process, 15 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s inaugural cohort of the Children’s Content Lab. This new Lab provides education and training for disabled writers, animators, and creative executives interested in preschool and children’s television and streaming content. Supported by Netflix’s Fund for Creative Equity, the Children’s Content Lab spans five weeks and includes in-person programming in New York City with production partners 9 Story Media Group and Silvergate Media, a part of Sony Pictures Television.

Myles Hunt

RespectAbility Children’s Content Lab for Disabled TV Creators, 2022

Myles Hunt smiling headshot

Myles Hunt

Myles Hunt is a hard of hearing and proud lifelong hearing aid-wearing visual artist based out of Brooklyn, NY. As an adoptive child with hearing loss growing up in Buffalo, NY, he was fit for his first hearing aids at the age of two. From there, with immense support from his parents and sister; he learned how to lip-read, improve his speech and slowly advocate for himself in both educational and social settings. Early on he became infatuated with Jim Henson and his famous Muppets while learning his syllables. He practiced lip-syncing to music, movies, and television shows while using the puppets that he built himself. Utilizing his love for creatures and all mediums of art, he developed over 200 characters of his own and counting. He attended Hobart and William Smith Colleges and graduated with a B.A. in Arts and Education. Exploring all art mediums and becoming certified as an elementary school teacher in New York State, he set his sights back on the Muppet world. He interned for two summers with The Jim Henson Company, where he took part in the design, creation, and performance of Jim Henson Muppets. He then went on to become a professional puppeteer with the Walt Disney Company. He has since been involved in the ed-tech space and eventually became CEO of sMyles Creative. Through his work with sMyles to date, he has devoted his efforts to creating, conceptualizing, and producing original characters for entertainment and education. Currently, he is pitching his first animated series centered around a character of his own creation named J.W., a deaf drummer who, with his rag-tag gang of diverse musicians, attempts to make it in the music scene. A paired children’s book, J.W. The Deaf Drummer showcases the character and world-building put in place to promote empathy, compassion, and the joy of the arts with friends. Such animated characters have been featured in several film and television festivals such as The Metro Film + Tv Awards, Giphy Film Fest, and Reel 13.

Learn More

After an extensive search and interview process, 15 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s inaugural cohort of the Children’s Content Lab. This new Lab provides education and training for disabled writers, animators, and creative executives interested in preschool and children’s television and streaming content. Supported by Netflix’s Fund for Creative Equity, the Children’s Content Lab spans five weeks and includes in-person programming in New York City with production partners 9 Story Media Group and Silvergate Media, a part of Sony Pictures Television.

Nina Fiore

RespectAbility Children’s Content Lab for Disabled TV Creators, 2022

Nina Fiore smiling headshot

Nina Fiore

Nina Fiore is the Founder and Executive Director of Astoria Film Festival, an Advisory Board Member and Partner for the CTE Film Program at the High School of Art and Design in NYC, and a Film/Media Education Partner with Zone126 at LIC HS in Queens. Nina has a BA and EdM from Harvard University and has long been involved with content production (for digital media, tv, and film), afterschool education, and nonprofit management. Nina managed the team at Viacom that created and launched the Noggin Channel and also created and produced content for MTV, Comedy Central, PBS, Sesame Street, Paramount TV, Nickelodeon, VH1, Comedy Central, Sesame Workshop, USA Networks, WE Networks, Merrill Lynch, Sundance Film Festival and Sundance Channel. She was also Senior Producer of the lifestyle tv show Everyday Elegance with Colin Cowie, and PBS’s Wired Science. Nina returned to MTV Networks in 2006 to lead their podcasting, SEO, and social media production and then began her own business creating and managing digital content for numerous organizations. Additionally, she has worked as an Assistant Director, Producer, Screenwriter, Executive Producer, and Editor on a number of Independent Films.​ Nina also has over 25 years of experience in Education. She managed an After School Program in the Mission Hill Housing Complex in Roxbury, MA, created a Digital After School program at the Children’s Aid Society in Harlem, NYC, that served as a pilot program for Intel’s Computer Classrooms, and, after graduate school at Harvard, served as Communications Director and Grants Manager for an Educational Research Group at McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School that worked with struggling Boston Public Schools. Nina also served as STEM and Art Instructor, and eventually, Director of Education, at Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens, where she conceived of creating the Astoria Film Festival, of connecting local youth with the filmmakers in the community and with industry professionals. Nina is a disabled woman who homeschools her disabled son, advocates for disability rights, and resides in her hometown of Astoria, NY.

Learn More

After an extensive search and interview process, 15 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s inaugural cohort of the Children’s Content Lab. This new Lab provides education and training for disabled writers, animators, and creative executives interested in preschool and children’s television and streaming content. Supported by Netflix’s Fund for Creative Equity, the Children’s Content Lab spans five weeks and includes in-person programming in New York City with production partners 9 Story Media Group and Silvergate Media, a part of Sony Pictures Television.

Miranda Hoyt

RespectAbility Children’s Content Lab for Disabled TV Creators, 2022

Miranda Hoyt headshot

Miranda Hoyt

Miranda Hoyt is a writer/director currently working on her MFA in Film at Columbia University. She loves writing screenplays about ghosts, movie theaters, and stolen drum sets.

Learn More

After an extensive search and interview process, 15 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s inaugural cohort of the Children’s Content Lab. This new Lab provides education and training for disabled writers, animators, and creative executives interested in preschool and children’s television and streaming content. Supported by Netflix’s Fund for Creative Equity, the Children’s Content Lab spans five weeks and includes in-person programming in New York City with production partners 9 Story Media Group and Silvergate Media, a part of Sony Pictures Television.

Matt Opatrny

RespectAbility Children’s Content Lab for Disabled TV Creators, 2022

Matt Opatrny smiling headshot

Matt Opatrny

Matt Opatrny is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, performer, and teacher. He wrote eight episodes of DreamWorks Animation’s preschool series “Not Quite Narwhal” soon to premiere on Netflix, and several episodes of Moonbug Entertainment’s “CoComelon Story Time” podcast series out on Spotify. He is currently the head writer of “Daisy”, an independent production of a new science-based live-action preschool series. Matt writes stories that celebrate differences and show kindness, compassion, and thoughtfulness as superpowers to aspire to. He is visually impaired due to a degenerative retinal condition and is currently developing a preschool animated series with a visually impaired protagonist. As a playwright, he has won multiple awards including the 2018 New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Play for “The Snow Queen” (for children and family audiences, based on H.C. Andersen). His eleven full-length plays have been performed in New York City, across the country, and on international tours. He has taught numerous workshops to students from elementary school to university graduate level, earning a Special Commendation from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. He was a co-founder and Managing Director of Blessed Unrest, an award-winning physical theatre ensemble based in New York City. As a performer, he has appeared extensively Off-Broadway, on international tours, and on stage at The Moth storytelling events. He is a graduate of Clemson University, was selected as a 2022 RespectAbility Lab fellow, and owes much of who he is to the sea turtles of Costa Rica.

Learn More

After an extensive search and interview process, 15 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s inaugural cohort of the Children’s Content Lab. This new Lab provides education and training for disabled writers, animators, and creative executives interested in preschool and children’s television and streaming content. Supported by Netflix’s Fund for Creative Equity, the Children’s Content Lab spans five weeks and includes in-person programming in New York City with production partners 9 Story Media Group and Silvergate Media, a part of Sony Pictures Television.

Mars Gorman

RespectAbility Children’s Content Lab for Disabled TV Creators, 2022

Mars Gorman smiling headshot

Mars Gorman

Margaret “Mars” Gorman (they/she) is a scriptwriter and comedian based in Brooklyn, NY. Their imaginative, rich work tackles themes of identity, mortality, and self-acceptance. As laugh-out-loud funny as it is emotionally grounded, Mars’ fresh writing draws from their experience as a disabled, queer, and neurodivergent person.

Mars’ plays have been performed by Adventure Theatre, H-B Woodlawn Theater, and the Bryn Mawr College Greek Play Troupe. Mars is currently enrolled in Stony Brook University’s MFA program in Television Writing.

Learn More

After an extensive search and interview process, 15 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s inaugural cohort of the Children’s Content Lab. This new Lab provides education and training for disabled writers, animators, and creative executives interested in preschool and children’s television and streaming content. Supported by Netflix’s Fund for Creative Equity, the Children’s Content Lab spans five weeks and includes in-person programming in New York City with production partners 9 Story Media Group and Silvergate Media, a part of Sony Pictures Television.

Kimberly Manky

RespectAbility Children’s Content Lab for Disabled TV Creators, 2022

Kimberly Manky smiling headshot

Kimberly Manky

Kimberly Manky (she/her) is a writer based in Victoria, Canada, on the ancestral, unceded territory of the lək̓ʷəŋən (Lekwungen) people. Originally from a very small town in Northern Canada, with the highest violent crime rate in Canada (not her fault), Kimberly grew up watching a lot of TV. At the age of 13, and inspired by SNL sketches, Kimberly approached the local cable access station and created her own sketch series. Loser Friendly was widely regarded as “Must See TV” (by her parents).

Recently, Kimberly was a writer on ABCmouse’s animated children’s series Everybody’s Garden, which focuses on teaching lessons of diversity, equity, and cultural humility. She has written for ABCmouse, Rakuten, Disney Interactive, and Oh My Disney, creating shorts, sharable content, and quizzes like, “Which Golden Girl Are You?” (Dorothy, FYI). Her comedic TV pilots, specs, and screenplays have placed in numerous screenwriting competitions, and she was a finalist in the Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship and a semifinalist in The Academy’s Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting. She is a Fellow of RespectAbility’s Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities (2022).

She has studied Screenwriting at Oxford, Contextual Theology at St. Mellitus College, and received a Master’s Degree (Honors) from the University of London in Screenwriting and Narrative Fiction. Kimberly has also taken Sketch Writing with Upright Citizens Brigade and Improvisation with the Groundlings.

Kimberly aims to facilitate change and combat public stigmas and self-stigma around mental health and disabilities. She hopes that her writing can bring awareness, empathy and understanding to these common human experiences.

Learn More

After an extensive search and interview process, 15 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s inaugural cohort of the Children’s Content Lab. This new Lab provides education and training for disabled writers, animators, and creative executives interested in preschool and children’s television and streaming content. Supported by Netflix’s Fund for Creative Equity, the Children’s Content Lab spans five weeks and includes in-person programming in New York City with production partners 9 Story Media Group and Silvergate Media, a part of Sony Pictures Television.

Maddy Mermelstein

RespectAbility Children’s Content Lab for Disabled TV Creators, 2022

Maddy Mermelstein smiling headshot

Maddy Mermelstein

Maddy Mermelstein is a creative based in New York City. Though she began college with the plan to become a special education teacher (something she still wants to do someday!), she graduated from Boston University with a degree in Film & Television and Sociology and a concentration in Spanish. Deeply passionate about the potential impact of television that uses humor to discuss significant social issues, she started her career path in Late Night TV, where she worked at Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

After spending a semester at WGBH working for Arthur (yes, the aardvark!) and doing some soul searching during the pandemic as a 2020 grad (though didn’t we all), a lightbulb went off and she realized that the intersection of her passions, particularly education, humor, and advocacy, lent itself perfectly to the world of children’s media! She is currently a Research and Executive Assistant on the Dora the Explorer reboot at Nick Jr., where she is learning from some of the best and brightest in the ‘biz. She intends to fill the screen with characters and stories that she wishes she had seen as a child, and to continue Fred Rogers’ legacy of teaching and affirming children everywhere – from all backgrounds and abilities – that they are special.

Learn More

After an extensive search and interview process, 15 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s inaugural cohort of the Children’s Content Lab. This new Lab provides education and training for disabled writers, animators, and creative executives interested in preschool and children’s television and streaming content. Supported by Netflix’s Fund for Creative Equity, the Children’s Content Lab spans five weeks and includes in-person programming in New York City with production partners 9 Story Media Group and Silvergate Media, a part of Sony Pictures Television.

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