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Bio – Lab 2020

Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum, RespectAbility Senior Vice President, Communications and Entertainment & News Media and Lab Founder

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Lauren Appelbaum, Senior Vice President of Communications

Lauren Appelbaum (she/her) is the Senior Vice President, Communications and Entertainment & News Media, of RespectAbility, a diverse, disability-led nonprofit that works to create systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities, and that advances policies and practices that empower disabled people to have a better future. As an individual with an acquired nonvisible disability – Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy – she works at the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood, and politics. She regularly conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible for entertainment executives throughout the industry.

Appelbaum partners with studios, production companies, writers’ rooms, and news organizations to create equitable and accessible opportunities to increase the number of people with lived disability experience throughout the overall story-telling process. These initiatives increase diverse and authentic representation of disabled people on screen, leading to systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities. She has consulted on more than 100 TV episodes and films with 9Story Media Group, A&E, Bunim-Murray Productions, DreamWorks Animation, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Nickelodeon, ViacomCBS, The Walt Disney Company, and Warner Bros. Discovery, among others. She represents RespectAbility on the CAA Full Story Initiative Advisory CouncilDisney+ Content Advisory CouncilMTV Entertainment Group Culture Code and Sundance Institute’s Allied Organization Initiative.

Appelbaum also increases hiring initiatives of people with disabilities behind the camera and enriches the pool of disabled talent in Hollywood by connecting them to those who can assist with their careers, both on the creative and business sides of the industry. She is the author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit and the creator of an innovative Lab Program for entertainment professionals with disabilities working in development, production and post-production. She is a recipient of the 2020 Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award for this Lab.

Appelbaum is a sought-after expert and has been quoted by many national publications including Associated PressDeadlineThe Hollywood Reporter, IndieWire, The Los Angeles Jewish JournalThe New York Times, RealScreenReutersTabletUSA Today, Variety, and The Washington Post. She has spoken on panels at the Association of Health Care Journalists Conference, ComNet, RealScreen Summit, Sundance Film Festival and SXSW, among others.

Born and raised in the Philadelphia area, Appelbaum has a master’s degree in Broadcast Journalism from Syracuse University; she also has undergraduate degrees from Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. She serves on several national and local nonprofit boards. Appelbaum currently lives in Maryland with her husband, daughter and dog. She travels nationally, often to the Los Angeles area.

Contact Lauren Appelbaum

Reach Appelbaum at [email protected] or on Twitter @laurenappelbaum.

Tatiana Lee

Tatiana Lee, RespectAbility Senior Entertainment Media Associate

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Tatiana Lee, Inclusionist

Tatiana Lee is an award-winning actress, international model and Hollywood influencer. She serves as a Hollywood Inclusion Associate at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to fight stigmas and advance opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

Growing up in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, Lee felt unseen in popular media – and when she told people of her ambitions to be an actress and model, they laughed.

Notwithstanding, Lee moved to Los Angeles to pursue her acting career. She learned how to harness social media’s power to speak boldly about accessibility and inclusion in mass media, due to the lack of access and opportunities for herself and others with disabilities.

She is the voice behind the Accessible Hollywood brand, which highlights her journey as an actress, model and lifestyle influencer born with Spina Bifida.

She quickly has become a sought-after speaker for brands like Apple, Bank of America, Human Rights Watch and the LA Film Festival, to name a few.

Lee was in one of Apple’s first ad campaigns featuring people with disabilities using Apple’s accessible features and products.  Some of Lee’s credits include “Stand Up,” which premieres at Superfest during fall 2020 and “Coffee with Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.”

She also has appeared in modeling campaigns for Target, Zappos, Apple and more. She was the 2018 recipient of the Reeves Acting Scholarship from The Christopher & Dana Reeves Foundation for her contribution to further disability inclusion in film and media.

Currently working at RespectAbility, Lee consults on a variety of TV and film projects, conducts training for studios and production companies including NBCUniversal, Netflix and The Walt Disney Company, and assists with RespectAbility’s Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities.

In her spare time, Lee continues to train and grow momentum in her acting and modeling endeavors.

Nasreen Alkhateeb

Nasreen Alkhateeb, Senior Production Advisor

RespectAbility Entertainment Professionals Lab, 2020, 2021, 2022

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Nasreen Alkhateeb

Nasreen Alkhateeb is an award-winning filmmaker whose work amplifies under-represented voices. By illuminating racial injustice, Disability inequity, marginalized youth, melting ice, women peacekeepers, and the construction of the largest telescope NASA has ever attempted, Nasreen thrives as a leader on diverse storytelling projects. Nasreen has a plethora of lenses she sees the world through. Her ability to motivate audiences is a direct result of being a person with multiple marginalized identities: BIPOC, multi-heritage, Black, Iraqi, Disabled, and 1st Generation.

In 2020, Nasreen was chosen as the Lead Cinematographer for Kamala Harris’ successful Vice Presidential campaign, and Oprah’s EMMY award series Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man. In 2019, she executive produced East of the River that screened the Tribeca Film Festival and Slamdance, and she directed two campaigns for NASA and the Women’s March, in addition to lensing two narrative films highlighting LGBTQ and Disabled lead characters. In 2016, Nasreen was awarded Cinematographer of the Year by NASA for her coverage of Operation IceBridge.

Nasreen has participated in the SUNDANCE Film Festival and developed programing for AFI DOCS, the Nantucket Film Festival, the Brooklyn International Film Festival, CINE, TIVA, and the EMMYS.  She is a fellow of The Disruptors, a fellow of Sundance’s Accessible Futures Intensive, and a mentee of the American Society of Cinematographers.

Speaking engagements: Disney’s The Power of Inclusion Summit, TED, AwesomeCon, StoryCode, Filmgate Miami, Light City Baltimore, NASA Women in Action, Pratt at Manhattan Mornings, The George Washington University, WPOW at Ohio University, and Pratt Institute

Her content has been shared on: Apple+, OWN, NASA, Netflix, Amazon, FX, IFC, BBC, NPR, UNITED NATIONS, SXSW, AMC, Discovery, and WITNESS

Leah Romond

Leah Romond, Senior Production Advisor

RespectAbility Entertainment Professionals Lab, 2020, 2021, and 2022

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Leah Romond

Leah Romond is an attorney, producer and advocate for full disability inclusion in film and television production.

Romond’s recent project, Best Summer Ever, is a feature-length original musical created entirely by an integrated cast and crew of talent with and without disabilities. The film was slated to begin its festival run with a SXSW 2020 World Premiere, and was awarded the SXSW Final Draft Screenwriters Award. While the festival run has been halted indefinitely due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Romond continues to work toward authentic disability representation in front of and behind the camera.

Lizzy Francis

Lizzy Francis, Lab Program Intern

RespectAbility Entertainment Professionals Lab, Summer 2020

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Lizzy Francis

Lizzy Francis is a screenwriting major studying to create safe spaces for all groups of people, regardless of identity or ability.

She was born in Wayland, Massachusetts as a second-generation immigrant. At the age of 17, she was diagnosed with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Anorexia, resulting in numerous hospitalizations and a revelation that led to a passion of storytelling and activism through film, especially regarding mental illness and racial issues.

In 2017, Francis worked on an SXSW award-winning film in Vermont that aimed to integrate a crew and cast of people both with and without disabilities.

She wrote her first screenplay in 2017, which confirmed her love for filmmaking. Her second was written in 2018, winning a Communicator Award.

After graduating high school in 2019 at the age of 18, she moved to Los Angeles by herself to pursue a career as a screenwriter and an advocate for those without a voice.

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