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Bio – Mid-Career 2020

Alexandra Grossi

RespectAbility Entertainment Professionals Lab, Summer 2020

Alexandra Grossi headshot smiling in front of a wall that says Stage C

Alexandra Grossi

Alexandra Dean Grossi is a writer, designer and disability activist. Her work incorporates a multi-dimensional approach to inclusivity and accessibility, which utilizes storytelling, emphasizes user empowerment and seeks real-world solutions through Inclusive Design. Grossi began her writing career under the tutelage of television NYPD Blue creator David Milch on HBO’s Deadwood and John From Cincinnati.

Born profoundly deaf, Grossi wears bilateral Cochlear Implants. Attending mainstream schools, she followed the Oral Education route. On the margins of the Deaf Community because she didn’t use sign language, she found that she didn’t have any identifiable role models. This lack of representation of “her kind of deafness” in pop culture inspired Alexandra to write Oral, a loosely autobiographical comedic show concept around her experiences as a millennial deaf woman learning to “adult.” Grossi wants to be part of the fight for a more equitable representation of persons with disabilities in Hollywood telling their stories first-hand. Her goal is to executive produce Oral and serve as a head writer.

As an advocate for inclusivity, Grossi spearheaded several successful social media campaigns. Her work with Shane Bitney Crone launched his career as an LGBTQ+ activist and filmmaker. This campaign resulted in a viral YouTube video with more than five-million views, a successful Kickstarter campaign, and a feature-length documentary, Bridegroom. Bridegroom was introduced by President Bill Clinton at the Tribeca Film Festival where it won the 2013 Audience Award.

As an Inclusive Design Activist, Grossi works as a User Experience Designer for IBM Accessibility and is the Director of Inclusive Design for AIGA Raleigh (AIGA is a national graphic design association). She served on the leadership team of IDATA, a project funded by a $2.5 million NSF grant to make astronomy software accessible to blind and low-vision users. Grossi often gives lectures and serves on panels around disability and Inclusive Design. She writes about disability topics, and she is active in the disability space on social media.

Grossi is a graduate of Vassar College where she majored in English and Italian with a minor in Film. She completed her Master of Graphic Design from the College of Design at North Carolina State University. Her Master’s thesis centered on the design for an improved Cochlear Implant User Interface.

LEARN MORE

After an extensive search and interview process, 30 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s Summer 2020 Lab for Entertainment Professionals. This 5-week, 15-session virtual summer Lab series for people interested in – and with experience in – development, production and post-production, including careers as writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, animators and other production roles, will take place June 16 – July 16, 2020. Participants include diverse people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health and other disabilities. Learn more: www.respectability.org/respectability-la-lab.

This program, which continues building the talent pipeline of young professionals with disabilities looking to work behind the scenes, is made possible with support by:

  • Platinum Sponsors: Murray/Reese Foundation and The Walt Disney Company
  • Gold Sponsors: Cast & Crew, Comcast NBCUniversal and Final Draft
  • Silver Sponsors: Fox Corporation and Sony Pictures Entertainment

Nebiyu Dingetu

RespectAbility Entertainment Professionals Lab, Summer 2020

Nebiyu Dingetu headshot in front of the ocean

Nebiyu Dingetu

Nebiyu Dingetu started to seriously consider a career in entertainment for the first time when he was in eighth grade after submitting one of his video production class projects to a local film festival and winning first place out of his school district. He had substantially better eyesight back then so he wasn’t too aware of what would lie ahead. But he was requesting large-print texts for his required class readings at that time and was bordering on qualifying for the “legally blind” label so he knew he would most likely have some unique challenges if he chose to pursue a career in the visual arts.

When he entered his high school years, his love for filmmaking was intensifying at a rapid rate. At the same time, his vision continued to slowly deteriorate as a result of his Congenital Glaucoma and Corneal Edema. By junior year, he was researching affordable film schools in Los Angeles and at the same time learning braille just in case he lost his vision completely. A few years later, he was at CSU Northridge attending his freshman year of college and declared Cinema and Television Arts as his major. After exploring the different classes in the program and carefully assessing his options in the entertainment industry, he found himself deeply falling in love with the craft of editing.

Dingetu was really terrified at times by the idea of pursuing employment as an editor while having a severe vision impairment. But he always was able to balance that fear by taking some practical steps toward his goals and by having a bit of blind faith that everything was going to be okay. After graduating from CSUN, he landed a full-time position at The Hollywood Reporter’s video department as one of three in-house video editors.

His time at The Hollywood Reporter, which lasted for almost four years until his unemployment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, consisted of some of his most meaningful life experiences. He was very fortunate to work with incredibly supportive colleagues and grew so much as an editor and as a person. In addition to editing, he also started developing his producing skills by creating promotional videos for his friend’s nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide health and wellness opportunities for the blind and low vision community. Using his skills to create something that was personal to him has been a very meaningful experience.

Figuring out how to live a happy life in a world that is not designed for people with vision impairment, or other disabilities, has been a challenging but also a really rewarding journey. Even though he still has a lot of learning and growing to do, he was able to gain some insights through his trials and errors that is allowing me to live a fulfilling life while pursuing a meaningful career. His long-term goals include writing and producing movies and TV shows that will entertain but also educate and empower audiences. In the meantime, he plans to pursue freelance editing and producing opportunities while working on his personal documentary projects. He feels a sense of responsibility to share his unique experiences, as well as the experiences of those around him who have overcome even bigger challenges, through the power of creative storytelling and he plans to spend the rest of his life doing just that!

LEARN MORE

After an extensive search and interview process, 30 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s Summer 2020 Lab for Entertainment Professionals. This 5-week, 15-session virtual summer Lab series for people interested in – and with experience in – development, production and post-production, including careers as writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, animators and other production roles, will take place June 16 – July 16, 2020. Participants include diverse people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health and other disabilities. Learn more: www.respectability.org/respectability-la-lab.

This program, which continues building the talent pipeline of young professionals with disabilities looking to work behind the scenes, is made possible with support by:

  • Platinum Sponsors: Murray/Reese Foundation and The Walt Disney Company
  • Gold Sponsors: Cast & Crew, Comcast NBCUniversal and Final Draft
  • Silver Sponsors: Fox Corporation and Sony Pictures Entertainment

Andrew Reid

RespectAbility Entertainment Professionals Lab, Summer 2020

Andrew Reid headshot in front of a tall building

Andrew Reid

Andrew Reid was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. He is a DGA Award winning director and recent graduate from the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

At the age of 21, he became paralyzed from the chest down. A malformation of his blood vessels (AVM) resulted in a rupture which compressed his spine while he was sleeping, leaving him completely paralyzed. He was told by doctors he would never walk again but with dedication and perseverance he regained movement. Today, he walks with a cane and continues to progress in strength and health. He became an advocate for the disability community and expanded his film production skills from Miami to Los Angeles.

His USC thesis film ASIA A won the Jury Award at the 2018 DGA Student Awards. Also, it was a semi-finalist for the 45th Student Academy Awards and has screened at LA Shorts, HollyShorts, CAA Moebius, Paramount Pictures and more than 40 other film festivals. It is being developed into a feature and was a recipient of the 2019 Tribeca Film Institute Sloan Filmmaker Fund. Learn more about the film at www.WhatisASIAA.com.

Recently, Reid finished the short Road to Zion, which is being developed into a limited series. The Road to Zion pilot script was a finalist for the 2020 Cinequest Screenwriting Competition and was featured at IFP Week 2019.

Reid is a director in the 2020 class of Film Independent’s Project Involve and is the recipient of the Easterseals Disability Services Fellowship. He currently is represented at APA.

LEARN MORE

After an extensive search and interview process, 30 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s Summer 2020 Lab for Entertainment Professionals. This 5-week, 15-session virtual summer Lab series for people interested in – and with experience in – development, production and post-production, including careers as writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, animators and other production roles, will take place June 16 – July 16, 2020. Participants include diverse people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health and other disabilities. Learn more: www.respectability.org/respectability-la-lab.

This program, which continues building the talent pipeline of young professionals with disabilities looking to work behind the scenes, is made possible with support by:

  • Platinum Sponsors: Murray/Reese Foundation and The Walt Disney Company
  • Gold Sponsors: Cast & Crew, Comcast NBCUniversal and Final Draft
  • Silver Sponsors: Fox Corporation and Sony Pictures Entertainment

Diana Romero

RespectAbility Entertainment Professionals Lab, Summer 2020

Diana Romero smiling headshot

Diana Romero

Award-winning producer/writer, Diana Romero, had worked in physical film production as Producer, UPM and Line Producer for more than 15 years until her mobility was challenged in 2018. Multiple Sclerosis had finally reared its ugly head by attacking her legs, which caused her to rely on a wheelchair. Realizing that sets are rarely wheelchair accessible, she had to reinvent herself and her role in the entertainment industry. One day she would love to consult with productions on how to create safe and accessible sets for crew and talent with and without disabilities. After much deliberation, she set out to accomplish two other dreams she always had in the film industry: to act and to write for television and ultimately become a showrunner.

Romero is represented by Gail Williamson at KMR’s Diversity Department and landed her first big co-star role in 2018 as Joanna on Octavia Spencer’s TRUTH BE TOLD series for Apple TV +. Diana also wrote a pilot, SOLD, based on her award-winning short NIÑA QUEBRADA (writer/producer), which got her into the Producers Guild Power of Diversity Workshop in 2019. Through the workshop, SOLD was picked up by an Academy Award winning producer and has landed on a very prominent actress’s desk. During the workshop, Diana met fellow participant Delbert Whetter who introduced her to the organization RespectAbility, where he is a board member. Through RespectAbility, Romero has participated in panels focusing on working in entertainment as a person with a disability). She is honored to have been accepted to the 2020 RespectAbility Summer Lab Program. Romero has an MFA in producing from the American Film Institute and a BA from Columbia College Chicago. She also has a degree in Social Work from Whittier College.

LEARN MORE

After an extensive search and interview process, 30 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s Summer 2020 Lab for Entertainment Professionals. This 5-week, 15-session virtual summer Lab series for people interested in – and with experience in – development, production and post-production, including careers as writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, animators and other production roles, will take place June 16 – July 16, 2020. Participants include diverse people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health and other disabilities. Learn more: www.respectability.org/respectability-la-lab.

This program, which continues building the talent pipeline of young professionals with disabilities looking to work behind the scenes, is made possible with support by:

  • Platinum Sponsors: Murray/Reese Foundation and The Walt Disney Company
  • Gold Sponsors: Cast & Crew, Comcast NBCUniversal and Final Draft
  • Silver Sponsors: Fox Corporation and Sony Pictures Entertainment

Ali MacLean

RespectAbility Entertainment Professionals Lab, Summer 2020

Ali McLean smiling with her hand on her chin

Ali McLean

Ali MacLean is an award-winning TV writer, playwright, actor and director in Los Angeles. She is a graduate of the Miami University actor’s program and the LaJolla Playhouse acting conservatory, and has worked on comedies such as THE JIMMY KIMMEL SHOW, CAN’T HARDLY WAIT, HBO’s MR. SHOW, and THE GREEN ROOM with PAUL PROVENZA.

Her screenplays have been a Chesterfield Writer’s Project semi-finalist, a Scriptapalooza semi-finalist, a WeScreenplay Diverse Voices finalist, a Screencraft semi-finalist, an Orchard Project finalist, an IFP Filmmakers Program finalist, a 2015 Women in Film Mentor recipient, and the 2018 Writer For Writer Fellowship recipient.

MacLean has written for various networks, including MTV, VH-1, FOX and POP TV. After almost 20 years of writing comedy, MacLean decided to return to her first love, the theatre. Her goal in writing plays of a more serious nature was to explore why people behave the way that they do and to rediscover empathy – something the world seems to be short on these days. Her latest work pushes the envelope with thought-provoking current topics seen through the lens of the humans experiencing them.

Her first award-winning play, She’s Not There, unflinchingly portrays how depression can isolate a person and how suicide can devastate the lives around them. Since then, her other plays Wolves At The Door, This Will Be Our Year, and I’ll Call You Mine also have won fellowships, workshops, and productions, as well as garnering a lot of praise. She is currently a member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre’s Playwrights Unit, Antaeus Theatre’s Playwrights Lab, and the Dramatists Guild.

LEARN MORE

After an extensive search and interview process, 30 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s Summer 2020 Lab for Entertainment Professionals. This 5-week, 15-session virtual summer Lab series for people interested in – and with experience in – development, production and post-production, including careers as writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, animators and other production roles, will take place June 16 – July 16, 2020. Participants include diverse people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health and other disabilities. Learn more: www.respectability.org/respectability-la-lab.

This program, which continues building the talent pipeline of young professionals with disabilities looking to work behind the scenes, is made possible with support by:

  • Platinum Sponsors: Murray/Reese Foundation and The Walt Disney Company
  • Gold Sponsors: Cast & Crew, Comcast NBCUniversal and Final Draft
  • Silver Sponsors: Fox Corporation and Sony Pictures Entertainment

Gisselle Legere

RespectAbility Entertainment Professionals Lab, Summer 2020

Giselle Legere headshot

Giselle Legere

Gisselle Legere is a drama writer. Her earliest memories are of being woken up at the crack of dawn by the radio; her grandfather listening to Radio Marti, the anti-communist propaganda that the U.S. broadcasts towards Havana. Her family fled from Cuba as political refugees and landed in Miami, where her childhood was shaped by the intense narratives of survivors of oppression and persecution. Although she lost most of her hearing to a childhood vaccine, the memory of that early wake-up call and her family’s history led to an interest in politics and human rights.

Growing up deaf in a hearing world gave Legere many opportunities to hone her observational skills, which helped her as she moved through various careers…as a ballerina, then as a judo competitor, and eventually, as a scientist. As a field epidemiologist, she spent a decade working in bio-defense and chasing disease outbreaks across the globe. This hands-on knowledge of medicine and research shapes the scientific speculation that set her stories apart.

After writing and producing a series of shorts, a web-series and feature, it finally dawned on her that bringing stories to life is where all her different interests come together, and she began to pursue writing professionally. She is an alumna of the Sundance Screenwriters Intensive lab as well as the Disney-ABC Writer’s program. Most recently, she was staffed on QUANTICO, where her episode “No Place is Home” was nominated for a Women’s Image Award.

LEARN MORE

After an extensive search and interview process, 30 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s Summer 2020 Lab for Entertainment Professionals. This 5-week, 15-session virtual summer Lab series for people interested in – and with experience in – development, production and post-production, including careers as writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, animators and other production roles, will take place June 16 – July 16, 2020. Participants include diverse people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health and other disabilities. Learn more: www.respectability.org/respectability-la-lab.

This program, which continues building the talent pipeline of young professionals with disabilities looking to work behind the scenes, is made possible with support by:

  • Platinum Sponsors: Murray/Reese Foundation and The Walt Disney Company
  • Gold Sponsors: Cast & Crew, Comcast NBCUniversal and Final Draft
  • Silver Sponsors: Sony Pictures Entertainment and ViacomCBS

Zilvinas Paludnevicius

RespectAbility Entertainment Professionals Lab, Summer 2020

Zilvinas Paludnevicius headshot

Zilvinas Paludnevicius

Zilvinas Paludnevicius is a filmmaker with extensive experience producing, filming and editing films in American Sign Language. He was an instructor at Gallaudet University teaching film production courses to both undergraduate and graduate students. Paludnevicus, who is Deaf, currently works as a studio producer at Sorenson Communciations based in Salt Lake City.

LEARN MORE

After an extensive search and interview process, 30 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s Summer 2020 Lab for Entertainment Professionals. This 5-week, 15-session virtual summer Lab series for people interested in – and with experience in – development, production and post-production, including careers as writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, animators and other production roles, will take place June 16 – July 16, 2020. Participants include diverse people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health and other disabilities. Learn more: www.respectability.org/respectability-la-lab.

This program, which continues building the talent pipeline of young professionals with disabilities looking to work behind the scenes, is made possible with support by:

  • Platinum Sponsors: Murray/Reese Foundation and The Walt Disney Company
  • Gold Sponsors: Cast & Crew, Comcast NBCUniversal and Final Draft
  • Silver Sponsors: Fox Corporation and Sony Pictures Entertainment

Ashley Eakin

RespectAbility Entertainment Professionals Lab, Summer 2020

Ashley Eakin headshot smiling

Ashley Eakin

Born in California and raised in Nebraska, Ashley Eakin is a writer-director with a physical disability. This year she was one of eight women selected for the AFI Directing Workshop for Women and her project SINGLE was selected for the SXSW 2020 Film Festival and received the Special Jury Recognition Award. Eakin was also the recipient of the New York Women in Film Loreen Arbus Disability Awareness Grant.

In 2019 Eakin worked for and shadowed Mark Pellington on the Quibi series SURVIVE, filmed in the Italian Alps starring Sophie Turner. Prior to this, Eakin was the assistant to film director Jon M. Chu. In 2017 she spent 5 months in Malaysia and Singapore working on his critically acclaimed box-office hit CRAZY RICH ASIANS.

Eakin’s short documentary THE DETAILS, featuring Henry Golding and Awkwafina, was selected for the 2018 Hamilton Film Festival and her short film BLUE premiered at the 2019 LA Shorts Fest. Eakin is represented by United Talent Agency and Artists First Management.

LEARN MORE

After an extensive search and interview process, 30 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s Summer 2020 Lab for Entertainment Professionals. This 5-week, 15-session virtual summer Lab series for people interested in – and with experience in – development, production and post-production, including careers as writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, animators and other production roles, will take place June 16 – July 16, 2020. Participants include diverse people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health and other disabilities. Learn more: www.respectability.org/respectability-la-lab.

This program, which continues building the talent pipeline of young professionals with disabilities looking to work behind the scenes, is made possible with support by:

  • Platinum Sponsors: Murray/Reese Foundation and The Walt Disney Company
  • Gold Sponsors: Cast & Crew, Comcast NBCUniversal and Final Draft
  • Silver Sponsors: Fox Corporation and Sony Pictures Entertainment 

Shea Mirzai

RespectAbility Entertainment Professionals Lab, Summer 2020

Shea Mirzai headshot looking out a window

Shea Mirzai

First generation Persian-American and LGBTQ+ writer/producer, Shea Mirzai is a four-time honoree of Franklin Leonard’s annual Black List. Mirzai has written features for Will Smith and Overbrook Productions and Tucker Tooley of Tooley Entertainment. He is also Executive Producer of Nat Geo’s ORIGINS: THE JOURNEY OF HUMANKIND.

In 2019, after selling action-drama feature spec RUTH to AGC Studios and being hired to reboot the AMERICAN PIE franchise at Universal, Mirzai has launched Space Coyote Productions, a full-service production company in which he is the founder & CEO.

A graduate of the University of California, Irvine with a joint B.A. in Film & Media Studies and African-American Studies, Mirzai combined the two into a unique program emphasizing Race & Representation. He cut his teeth in the film industry in glorious Hollywood, USA working for mini-major studio Relativity Media first as a Story Analyst and, later, as Head of the Story Department from 2008-2015. Mirzai is repped by Joe Riley at Zero Gravity Management and Chad Christopher at GGSSC.

LEARN MORE

After an extensive search and interview process, 30 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s Summer 2020 Lab for Entertainment Professionals. This 5-week, 15-session virtual summer Lab series for people interested in – and with experience in – development, production and post-production, including careers as writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, animators and other production roles, will take place June 16 – July 16, 2020. Participants include diverse people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health and other disabilities. Learn more: www.respectability.org/respectability-la-lab.

This program, which continues building the talent pipeline of young professionals with disabilities looking to work behind the scenes, is made possible with support by:

  • Platinum Sponsors: Murray/Reese Foundation and The Walt Disney Company
  • Gold Sponsors: Cast & Crew, Comcast NBCUniversal and Final Draft
  • Silver Sponsors: Fox Corporation and Sony Pictures Entertainment

Faith Strongheart

RespectAbility Entertainment Professionals Lab, Summer 2020

Faith Strongheart headshot smiling

Faith Strongheart

Faith Strongheart is an award-winning writer/director with a unique and visionary style. She received her MFA in directing from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television in 2018.

Strongheart has written, produced and directed several short films which have gone on to receive prestigious awards and has participated in numerous directing workshops, including Directing the Actor with Sundance Institute creative advisor Joan Darling. In addition, she has written three feature-length screenplays and a dramatic television series pilot. Prior to graduate school, Strongheart worked as a production coordinator and assistant director on studio feature films for more than fifteen years.

Strongheart is a two-time recipient of the Motion Picture Association of America Award and was a finalist for a science-based script for the Sloan Foundation Fellowship. In 2016 she received the Women in Film Verna Fields Memorial Fellowship, the Bill Lee Memorial award, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association award for Directing and the Carroll Sax Award in Motion Picture and Television Production. In 2018, she received the Charles and Lucille King Family Foundation Scholarship and the Mary Pickford Award for Documentary Filmmaking for a feature documentary that she is making about her non-traditional hippie upbringing. She currently is in development on her first narrative feature.

Strongheart is the mother of two small children and she is doing her best to raise kind humans in this crazy world.

LEARN MORE

After an extensive search and interview process, 30 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s Summer 2020 Lab for Entertainment Professionals. This 5-week, 15-session virtual summer Lab series for people interested in – and with experience in – development, production and post-production, including careers as writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, animators and other production roles, will take place June 16 – July 16, 2020. Participants include diverse people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health and other disabilities. Learn more: www.respectability.org/respectability-la-lab.

This program, which continues building the talent pipeline of young professionals with disabilities looking to work behind the scenes, is made possible with support by:

  • Platinum Sponsors: Murray/Reese Foundation and The Walt Disney Company
  • Gold Sponsors: Cast & Crew, Comcast NBCUniversal and Final Draft
  • Silver Sponsors: Fox Corporation and Sony Pictures Entertainment
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