Skip Navigation
Image of people smiling and posing for a photo

Hollywood Inclusion

Resource Guide: WGA Strike

wga on strikeOn May 2, 2023, after failing to come to an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (which includes 350+ TV and film studios and production companies), the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike – stopping all writing projects and bringing many Hollywood productions to a halt.

Since 2018, screenwriters’ pay has gone down about 20%. Additionally, writers are no longer receiving residuals (a percentage of the profit a show makes after it premieres) after their shows go on streaming platforms. Many writers are struggling to make enough money to live. With more than half of American households “cutting the cord” and only buying streaming services, along with the rise of AI technology capable of writing scripts, the concerns around writers’ wages only continue to grow. Writers are seeking a new contract with studios to protect their livelihood given the changing technological landscape.

The major WGA demands include:

  • Increased minimum compensation for writers
  • Residual agreements for streaming platforms
  • Addressing the abuse of mini-rooms – a small writers’ room that works for a short period of time before a show has been approved by a studio allowing studios to pay writers less money and not keep writers on contract
  • Increased contributions to health funds
  • Regulated use of material made by AI

Learn more: Full List of WGA Demands. [continue reading…]

A Loud Connection: Film Review of Rain in my Head

Summer and sex are here for Chrissy Marshall and her new Easterseals Disability Film Challenge winning short, Rain in my Head. Marshall’s work as a writer/director features two deaf queer lovers, Sarah and Marie, who wander through the quandaries of connection and fulfillment. At the start, Sarah, smoking in the arms of her lover, poses the question: “Do you ever get tired of seeing the glass half full?” Marie answers: “No. We’ve struggled enough. It’s time to be happy.” After the exchange, the film joyfully ambles through a portrait of their lives, holding true to the promise of happiness that Marie speaks of. After all, queer love receiving a happy ending is no small thing. For Rain in my Head, it is the happiness being the end destination that makes it work so well.

In addition to the upbeat ending, the gorgeous movement of the camera and lighting draws us in. It is very apparent that Marshall has homed in on a directing style that is clear and effective. Her film drew accolades from the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge for that as well. [continue reading…]

Deaf Actress Shaylee Mansfield Shines in “The Company You Keep”

Shaylee Mansfield wearing headphones in a scene from a new episode of "The Company You Keep"

Credit: ABC/Raymond Liu

Los Angeles, May 1 – A recent study by NRG and Deaf West Theater shows at least 79% of deaf consumers believe that there has been more representation of their community in TV and film compared to a year ago. One actress contributing to this representation across genres is Shaylee Mansfield. At just 14 years of age, Mansfield is quickly becoming a household name and role model for all children.

“I’m grateful to have a platform that will give not only Deaf children, but all children to freely speak up, to fight for what they want, and to be fully themselves even if it is not ‘popular,’” Mansfield said in an interview with RespectAbility.

While many of her roles in the past were for children’s shows, Mansfield’s current role is on ABC’s The Company You Keep. She first guest starred as Ollie in the pilot (February 2023), playing cards with her grandfather. [continue reading…]

Netflix Sets a High Bar for Inclusion – and Ensures Disability is Part of the Conversation

Los Angeles, April 28 – A new Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Report examining Netflix’s U.S. original, live-action, fictional series and films is changing the landscape in the entire entertainment industry. This report, which is the second in a series, looks across Netflix films and series in 2020 and 2021 and follows the inaugural collaboration from 2021 that included findings on movies and episodic content from 2018 and 2019. While most studies solely focus on representation of race and gender, a very important aspect to note is the study’s in-depth review of disability representation on screen. Since so few reports include disability, it is commendable that Netflix was intentional about the inclusion of disability.

The sample included a total of 546 fictional narratives (249 fictional films, 297 series) between 2018 – 2021. Only 4.2% of those in 2021 featured leads / co-leads with a disability. Unfortunately, these numbers do not come close to representing the 27.2% of people in the U.S. having a disability per the U.S. census. While the stats show that more work needs to be done, the mere fact that this study has published this data shows Netflix’s desire to be fully inclusive. [continue reading…]

New Luminate Report Finds Need for More Disability Representation in Film and Television

colorful cover artwork for 2023 Entertainment Diversity Progress Report from LuminateSalt Lake City, UT, April 20 – A new report by Luminate found that disability representation on screen was by far and away the lowest of any minority group they analyzed. In 2021, there were only five main title cast roles in film for people who identified as disabled. The following year, there were just three roles, which means only half a percent of films over the last two years had a main cast member with a disability. These numbers improve only very slightly in series television; there were nine series regulars who identified as disabled in both 2021 and 2022. With Americans continuing to consume roughly five hours of media a day on streaming services and traditional television, representation, or in this case, lack of representation impacts how society views people with disabilities.

“At their best, films and TV series can help remove current stigmas that exist for people with disabilities,” said RespectAbility’s Senior Vice President Lauren Appelbaum. “These stories can shift assumptions and bring attention to larger systemic issues. However, inclusion of disabled people must be an intentional effort on the part of studios and content creators. Disabled talent exists and need to be given the platform to create.”

The problem is not just in front of the screen. There were zero film directors with disabilities over the last two years and just one series creator who identified as disabled: Ryan O’Connell. O’Connell created and starred in the Netflix show Special based on his life as a gay man with cerebral palsy. Along with his role in Peacock’s Queer as Folk, O’Connell’s on-screen work accounts for more than 10 percent of series regular roles for actors with disabilities.

While Hollywood still struggles to hire disabled talent, it continues to make movies that center disabled narratives. Fifteen films were released over the last two years that centered disabled stories and yet the industry clearly did not rely on the community whose stories they were using to make money. This needs to change. Authentic casting and representation behind the camera help to ensure better representation. It is time for Hollywood to hear what disability activists have been shouting for decades: “nothing about us, without us.” [continue reading…]

“Uncomplicated” Review: Dating with a Chronic Illness

poster for "Uncomplicated" by Juliet Romeo featuring the two lead actors looking at each other in a dark environmentJuliet Romeo’s short film, “Uncomplicated”, shows the complexities of dating and relationships while living with a chronic illness, specifically sickle cell disease, a condition rarely portrayed in media.

Clare is begrudgingly getting ready to go on a date with Paul set up by the app, Uncomplicated. Her sister says, “Just try to have a little bit of fun tonight. What’s the worst that can happen?”

During the date, Clare struggles to hide her sickle cell anemia, running to the bathroom to turn on her oxygen concentrator hidden in her purse when her watch alarms her that her oxygen is too low.  Paul assumes she is not enjoying the date, but Clare starts to say, “it’s complicated”, when Paul states, “Please don’t say complicated: it’s the one thing the app promised this wouldn’t be.” [continue reading…]

“Free As The Wind” Review

The 2023 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge short film “Free As the Wind” is a beautifully crafted and heartwarming love story that showcases simplicity and creativity at its best. The film was created as part of the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge, where filmmakers have just five days to write and produce a short film of three-to-five minutes duration, promoting disability inclusion based on the year’s announced genre.

2022 RespectAbility Lab Alumna Erika Ellis (Producer) partnered with writer and director Joshua Lang to bring this touching story to life. Lang’s personal touch as a disabled veteran and the real-life romance of his grandparents are reflected in the story’s narrative, making it even more meaningful.

The film follows the love story of a Women Airforce Service Pilot and a mechanic who travel the world together. Ellis and Lang effectively capture the essence of the story by using vibrant backdrops and black silhouetted characters, creating a visually stunning film. The video wall technique seamlessly transports the audience to different parts of the world, enhancing the storytelling. [continue reading…]

The “Pure Magic” of Being Alive

“Pure Magic” is a short film written by, produced by, and starring RespectAbility Lab alumnus John Lawson. The short was created for this year’s Easterseals Disability Film Challenge, in which filmmakers have five days to write and produce a three to five minute short based on a centralizing theme. This year’s focus was romance, and “Pure Magic” certainly delivered on this theme.

The short film opens with Lawson and his character’s wife walking in a park. Lawson yells at a child, “careful Taylor!” His wife says, “oh, that’s not our Taylor, sweetheart.” The subsequent conversation establishes that Lawson has Alzheimer’s. We later see a street magician performing a card trick to a skeptical patron, who says “there’s no magic.” When she picks a card, rather than finding the card, another man starts to play piano. Lawson’s character hears the music and starts to sing a song about his relationship with his wife. The song’s lyrics include the lines “memories fade but feelings remain. You’ve always been there through joy and through pain.” [continue reading…]

“Unlucky in Love” Depicts A Queer Disabled Love Story Through Song

Rachel Handler (she/her), a 2020 RespectAbility Entertainment Lab Alumna, wrote, starred, and produced “Unlucky in Love” for this year’s Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. During the film Challenge, filmmakers have five days to write and produce a three to five minute short based on a centralizing theme. This year’s focus was romance. Rachel Handler’s “Unlucky in Love” is a prime example of the nuance and humor that can come out of this genre.

Rachel Handler went to the Westminster Choir College for musical theatre, and two years after she graduated, she became an amputee. At her first audition back, “the director said, ‘you have a beautiful voice, but…it’s a dance callback” and laughed her out of the room. After that Handler stopped doing musical theater and started working in film and television. However, when she heard that this year’s theme was romance, she decided to go back to her roots, saying “I knew I wanted to pull off a musical! To me, love is musical!”

This short follows flash mob planner Lisa Edmonds (Rachel Handler) as she meets and falls in love with Wendy Lindell (Lachi) over the course of three years with its ups and downs before they get engaged at a flash mob. Yes, all of this happens in and out of song and in five minutes. [continue reading…]

Do Not Pass on Cory Reeder’s “Smash or Pass” Short

For this year’s Easterseals Disability Film Challenge, Cory Reeder (he/him) wrote and directed a short on the trials and tribulations of being a female wheelchair user on the dating apps. The Disability Challenge gives participants five days to write, shoot, edit and submit a film around one common theme. This year’s genre was romance, allowing for stories around strong disabled romantic leads, which so far have been lacking from the RomCom space. As with many of this year’s entries, Reeder’s story is both funny and poignant.

The short begins with Ariel, a wheelchair user, played excellently by Joci Scott, swiping through the dating app “Smash or Pass.” The app is showing stereotypical dating app men from “Mr. Bassman” to Prince Charming; even Reeder makes a quick cameo on the app. Then, we watch Ariel go on a series of bad first dates. All of these men at some point say something different but still problematic about her disability. Many of these comments fall into classic disability tropes we see in the media, such as being seen as inspirational or the assumption that people with disabilities want to be cured. However, in this case, these tropes are being used to create comedy and show how ridiculous these assumptions are when said out loud.

Reeder was inspired to make this short film because in the last year, he himself started to use dating apps and said he would ask women about their experiences and “literally, every woman I met had a horror story to tell.” Reeder thought that there must be some shocking online dating stories for women with disabilities. While Reeder focused on specifics in this short, he ended up with some rather common realities around dating for women with disabilities. [continue reading…]

1 2 3 48 49
Respect Ability - Fighting Stigmas. Advancing Opportunities.

Contact Us

Mailing Address:
43 Town & Country Drive
Suite 119-181
Fredericksburg, VA 22405

Office Number: 202-517-6272


GuideStar Platinum

RespectAbility and The RespectAbility Report is a GuideStar Platinum Participant. Guidestar Platinum Seal
© 2023 RespectAbility. All Rights Reserved. Site Design by Cool Gray Seven   |   Site Development by Web Symphonies   |      Sitemap

Back to Top

Translate »