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Hollywood Inclusion

RespectAbility’s Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities Wraps Up Its Final Week in Conversation on Advocacy

RespectAbility Summer Lab participants recently had the opportunity to speak to experts in the field with lifetimes of experience interfacing their art and advocacyLos Angeles, Sept. 23 – Disability is deeply underrepresented in many industries including entertainment and media, where numbers dwindle far below the 20% participation that would truly reflect the world as it is. Regardless, TV and film have a power to incite social change, drawing in underrepresented creatives as they work to craft a better world. For many, this leaves them with two jobs – to excel at their art and to fight for access for themselves and their communities.

RespectAbility Summer Lab participants recently had the opportunity to speak to experts in the field with lifetimes of experience interfacing their art and advocacy: Leah Meyerhoff, a screenwriter, director, and Founder of Film Fatales; Marci Phillips, VP of Casting at ABC Entertainment; Megan Townsend, Director of Entertainment Research and Analysis at GLAAD; Noriko Louison, Senior Manager of Research and Curriculum at 9Story Media Group; and Victor Pineda, filmmaker and President of World Enabled, and one of RespectAbility’s own Board Members. [continue reading…]

Inclusive Casting and Production with Nickelodeon Digital Studios

Five speakers plus ASL interpreter on zoom at Nickelodeon's RespectAbility Lab session.Los Angeles, Sept. 17 – As a part of RespectAbility’s 2021 Summer Lab, participants spoke with several members of the Nickelodeon Digital Studios team to learn about the inner workings of the company’s video production and casting processes. Nickelodeon prides itself in creating content for children that is diverse and inclusive. The team spoke excitedly about their projects and videos that include children who have both visible and nonvisible disabilities.

Marc Cantone, Sr. Director, Preschool Digital Content, and Skylar Apter, Supervising Producer, Editorial & Development, at Nickelodeon Digital Studios, outlined how their department works. Much of their work is in coordination with shows found on Nick Jr, including Blue’s Clues & You! and Blaze and the Monster Machines. For example, this YouTube video featuring Blaze also features young disabled athletes. Released after this conversation with Lab participants, RespectAbility team members consulted on this video. [continue reading…]

ViacomCBS Goes Beyond Representation in Hollywood

Headshots of four of the five speakers at RespectAbility's session with ViacomCBS.Los Angeles, Sept. 16 – Several members of the ViacomCBS family, including representatives from MTV, Paramount Pictures and Showtime, recently joined the RespectAbility Summer Lab to speak on community impact within an entertainment studio setting. Matthew Sinsheimer, Director of Corporate and Digital Communications at Showtime (a subsidiary network operating under the ViacomCBS umbrella); Adam Robinson, VP of Corporate Social Responsibility at ViacomCBS; Daylee Baker, Manager of Social Impact at MTV Entertainment Group; Erin Jordan, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Paramount Pictures; and Andrew Machles, VP of Public Affairs & Viewer Services at Nickelodeon took part in this important conversation. [continue reading…]

What’s Next After Lab? With Marc Muszynski, Writer, Comedian, and 2019 RespectAbility Summer Lab Alumnus

Marc Musynzski smiling headshot

Marc Musynzski

Los Angeles, September 14 – As the 2021 cohort of RespectAbility’s Summer Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities approached the conclusion of eight weeks together, the group was joined by Lab alumnus Marc Muszynski to chat about what comes next after the program. He offered plenty of insight and tips for leveraging the connections made within the Lab to help further your career, and also shared some of his own experiences after completing the Lab in 2019, including writing for the upcoming Showtime revival of Dexter.

“Sometimes, you’ve just got to ask to be a part of stuff,” Muszynski started off the conversation by urging the cohort members not to be afraid to ask for the opportunities they want. He went on to explain how before the Lab, he had trouble finding an assistant job since he does not drive due to being legally blind, and many entry-level jobs in the industry require employees to drive and run errands throughout the day. But he kept asking around for work and applying to jobs, and eventually found a part-time student internship (which he qualified for by enrolling in LA City College), which helped kickstart his career, eventually leading to more work on desks at other studios and networks, all while Muszynski also was writing and refining his own scripts, and continuing to build his network of industry connections. [continue reading…]

Entertainment Lab Participants Get an Inside Look at How DreamWorks Animation Takes Ideas to the Screen and the Accessibility of Animation

Los Angeles, September 9 – In the final week of RespectAbility’s Summer Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities, participants were welcomed into the magical world of DreamWorks Animation to discover what it takes to turn a concept into a great film. Many know DreamWorks is recognized for creating some of the best disability representation in animation with features like How to Train Your Dragon but were excited to learn how the process of animation works to be accessible as well.

Headshots of Janie Kahan and Stacy Lindenbaum smilingJanie Kahan, currently a Story and Editorial Coordinator for an unannounced feature film at DreamWorks Animation with previous credits including Trolls World Tour and Croods: A New Age, led the discussion with the help of Stacy Lindenbaum, an intern at DreamWorks’ Training Department with a background in music and animation. Kahan’s engaging presentation full of behind-the-scenes looks, included information on every role in the animation process from production assistants to story editors and the difference between CFX and VFX artists. “If you want to work in animation, really find what department interests you,” Kahan encouraged. “Learn everything you can about that department.” [continue reading…]

The Ins and Outs of NBCUniversal’s Page Program

Four speakers from the NBCUniversal Page Program with 2 Lab participants on Zoom together smilingLos Angeles, September 9 – Several talented graduates and current members of NBCUniversal’s Page Program recently met with the 2021 cohort of RespectAbility’s Summer Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities. The team provided insight, personal experiences and a detailed description of what the Page Program really consists of.

The NBCUniversal Page Program is a 12 to 15-month rotational learning and development program that gives participants, known in the program is Pages, exposure to the inner workings of the entertainment and media industries. The program is geared toward people of various educational backgrounds, especially recent graduates. The Page Program seeks to prepare Pages for early-career entry level positions within the industry, including within NBCUniversal itself. The group of graduates and current Page program participants confirmed to the RespectAbility Lab cohort that the end goal for most Pages is to become an employee at NBCUniversal upon completion of the program. [continue reading…]

Finding New Voices with NBCUniversal

Emerlynn Lampitoc and Robert Baltazar from NBCUniversal on Zoom together

Emerlynn Lampitoc and Robert Baltazar

Los Angeles, September 9 – During the final week of RespectAbility’s Summer Lab for Entertainment Professionals, NBCUniversal’s Robert Baltazar, Senior Director of the Creative Talent and Content Team, and Emerlynn Lampitoc, Vice President of Creative Talent and Content, joined the eager RespectAbility cohort to discuss NBCUniversal’s upcoming programs that support emerging creatives from underrepresented backgrounds. Lampitoc, as head of the Creative Talent and Content Team for Film, oversees the Global Talent Development & Inclusion Team and their efforts to push new voices into production roles.

Despite the new challenges brought about by the pandemic, NBCUniversal continued to bring on new talent into their space through Zoom. Programs like Writers on the Verge, Female Forward and Late Night Writers Workshop carried on virtually with the goal of getting new writers staffed on NBCU TV programs. In creating space for aspiring young directors, NBCU also hosts the Emerging Directors program to allow new talent to shadow on multiple episodes of a series and eventually have the opportunity to take the lead on their own episode. “This is a one-of-a-kind directing program where you’re actually guaranteed a directing assignment at the end of the program. So, it’s a spectacular opportunity for our directors,” explained Baltazar during NBCU’s presentation to RespectAbility’s Lab participants. [continue reading…]

Labor Day, Employment and Entrepreneurship for People with Disabilities

Ollie Cantos smiling in front of an American flag

Ollie Cantos

Today we celebrate workers. As a long-time working professional with a disability, I am intimately familiar with the barriers that keep talented people with disabilities out of the labor force. Beyond public policy issues around the benefits systems and work disincentives, popular culture itself and media depictions of disability are a crucial barrier that harm the aspirations of millions of people with disabilities. For decades, people with disabilities like me have been seen as “less than” – as incapable of doing any job or becoming a leader in any career field.

How have many people with disabilities responded to being told what they cannot do? They have paved their own way into a rewarding career by becoming entrepreneurs.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with disabilities are self-employed at a rate nearly twice that of their non-disabled peers. As of the 2019 American Community Survey, over 700,000 workers with disabilities were self-employed, enjoying the flexibility and opportunities that entrepreneurship provides. [continue reading…]

Audio Description 101: Entertainment Lab Participants Learn the Basics and Opportunities in a Fast-Growing Field

Los Angeles, August 26 – For the low vision and blind communities, audio description (AD) is the equivalent to captions for the Hard of Hearing and Deaf communities. It is often the most misunderstood and underutilized accessibility asset in the broadcast TV, cable, digital media, gaming and film industries. Professionals and advocates within the audio description industry are far from scarce, however, and participants of RespectAbility’s Summer Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities were lucky enough to speak to some of the best: Michele Spitz and Alex Howard.

Michele Spitz smiling headshotMichele Spitz of Woman of Her Word is a voiceover artist, audio description (AD) consultant and educator, public speaker, and philanthropist dedicated to selectively funding AD and post-production accessibility grants to ensure that media content is equally accessible to low vision and blind audiences. With more than 8 years of experience across multiple cities, film festivals, and industry platforms, Spitz’s AD work can be heard in Emmy and the Academy Award nominated films to museums and award-winning independent films like Best Summer Ever. Spitz encouraged all Lab participants to have a common base knowledge of media accessibility overall. [continue reading…]

Breaking into the Industry with Joel Camarena and Sony Pictures Entertainment

Four panelists from Sony on a Zoom meeting togetherLos Angeles, August 26 – During a recent session of the RespectAbility Entertainment Lab, Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Joel Camarena made his second appearance of the summer to share important insight on what it is like to work for an established studio like Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE). Joel also shared his journey on how he arrived at this current position as a Senior Manager of Global Talent Acquisition after starting out as a Campus Recruitment Intern. Joel was joined by a panel of SPE executives including Frank Ochoa, Executive Director Comedy Development; Amanda Richards, Director of Talent and Casting (Television); and Keleigh Slaight, Manager of Physical Production (Television). [continue reading…]

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