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Hollywood Inclusion

The Good Doctor Delivers a Win for Disability Representation Featuring Caley Versfelt & Kurt Yaeger

Los Angeles, March 4 – The Good Doctor is not unfamiliar with handling issues of diversity and inclusion especially when it comes to people with disabilities. In the most recent episode, “Decrypt,” that aired on February 22, The Good Doctor once again showed audiences that telling stories about disability with authentic casting creates dynamic stories.

While the hospital is dealing with a cyber attack from hackers looking to extort the hospital for their data, the doctors have two patients they must save before it’s too late. [continue reading…]

NBC’s New Amsterdam: Disability Inclusion is “Essential to Art and Society”

Washington, D.C., March 2 – After a long hiatus due to production delays relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, NBC’s New Amsterdam returns to the screen Tuesday evening. Since Season 1, New Amsterdam overwhelmingly has been an example of best practices through the hiring of actors with disabilities, working with consultants to ensure accurate storylines and including conversations about diverse topics within the disability community.

During summer 2021, Executive Producer David Schulner and Casting Director David Caparelliotis spoke to a group of 30 disabled individuals working behind the camera who were taking part in the 2020 Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities by the disability advocacy nonprofit RespectAbility. Caparelliotis and Schulner joined RespectAbility’s VP, Communications Lauren Appelbaum for a conversation on how New Amsterdam is a case study in best practice of on-camera representation. [continue reading…]

A Short Review of “Feeling Through”

Los Angeles, Feb 18 – On this year’s Oscar Short List for Best Live Action Short Film is Feeling Through. Written and directed by Doug Roland, Feeling Through made history as the first film to star an actor, Robert Tarango, who is both deaf and legally blind.

Taking place over the course of a single night, Feeling Through centers around an unhoused teenager named Tereek, played by Steven Prescod, as he struggles to find shelter. Through his hazardous sojourn on the streets of New York City, Tereek finds a deaf-blind man who needs assistance finding his bus stop. Although he is initially reluctant, Tereek decides to help the man and embarks on a journey that will mark him indelibly. [continue reading…]

“Best Friend” Short Showcases Best Practices in Disability Representation

Los Angeles, Feb 18 – The short film, Best Friend, currently playing at the 2021 Slamdance Film Festival, is a heartwarming story about a girl named Deidre and her family moving to a new city. Deidre is nervous that she will not make any friends, so her family takes her to a dog shelter to adopt a furry friend. While there, she not only finds a dog but another unexpected friend as well. [continue reading…]

Don’t Make Low-Vision Viewers Choose Between Vibrant 4K Picture and Audio Description

4K + Audio Description iconLos Angeles, CA, Feb. 17 – A few months ago, I went to Best Buy to pick-up The Invisible Man 4K Steelbook. The Invisible Man was one of my favorite films of 2020, and I knew I wanted to have the 4K version. To my surprise, when I tried the film out at home, I discovered there was no audio description on the 4K disc. I found this strange since I remember enjoying the movie in the theater with an outstanding audio description track. I discovered that only the regular Blu-ray had an audio description track, but the 4K disc did not. Upon further investigation, many popular titles, like Us, 1917, and even Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, had the audio description track only available on Blu-ray and not the 4K disc. [continue reading…]

Audio Description on Focus Features’ Land Allows Low-Vision Consumers to Fully Experience the Film

Robin Wright seated on a porch in a scene from Land

Robin Wright appears in Land by Robin Wright, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Daniel Power Copyright Focus Features LLC 2020.

Los Angeles, CA, Feb. 16 – At the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to watch the premiere of Robin Wright’s directorial debut, Land. I have low vision, so, luckily for me, Land was one of just two films at Sundance this year with an option to watch with audio description. More than 1 million people in the U.S. are blind and more than 12 million have low vision. Audio description is a secondary audio track that helps low-vision and blind consumers by describing the action of characters with voiceover in between lines of dialogue. [continue reading…]

War Ina Babylon: A Review of Andrew Reid’s Road to Zion

Koby Kumi-Diaka as Jahsen in the short film Road to ZionLos Angeles, Feb. 13 – Airing on-demand this coming week during the 2021 Slamdance Festival is Road to Zion, a 15-minute short directed and co-written by 2020 RespectAbility Lab alumnus Andrew Reid.

A young Jamaican man named Jahsen (played by Koby Kumi-Diaka) is deracinated from his native Kingston at an early age and supplanted in Los Angeles where he works at a restaurant as an undocumented janitor. Aspiring for more, Jahsen and his family are constantly ambushed by hardship, limiting their social mobility and perpetuating their respective forms of exploitation. [continue reading…]

Short Film “Committed” Reduces Stigma by Casting All Disabled Actors without Making Disability Part of the Plot

Poster for Committed, a short film showing at Slamdance festivalLos Angeles, Feb. 12 – Committed is a charming short film that is showing at the 2021 Slamdance Film Festival about a man planning a proposal to his girlfriend. He consults their best friends to help him plan the perfect proposal. The two friends view this as the couple leaving them and they decide to sabotage the proposal by giving him bad advice.

Committed was created during the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. “We had only one weekend to write, film and edit,” said co-director, co-writer and co-star Rachel Handler, who also is an alumna of the 2020 RespectAbility Summer Lab. “The genre was ‘Buddy Comedy’ and there were a few themes we could choose from, we chose something like ‘an unlikely duo.’ My favorite part of creating a film is collaborating with my friends and colleagues, so I wrote the script with my co-producer Melanie Waldman and our friend Kara Moulter.” [continue reading…]

As People with Disabilities Fight for Healthcare Equity, “How Much Am I Worth?” Capture the Systemic Issues in America’s Healthcare System

Poster for How Much Am I Worth featuring photos of the four women with disabilities profiled in the short filmLos Angeles, Feb. 11 – Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, UnitedHealth has taken in $9.2 billion in profit, forcing filmmaker Rachel Handler to ask herself the question, “how much am I worth?” The answer, $1,165.62.

Starting Friday, Feb. 12, Handler’s short film, aptly titled “How Much Am I Worth?” directed by Handler and Catriona Rubenis-Stevens, is screening at the 2021 Slamdance Film Festival. “How Much Am I Worth?” follows the story of four women with disabilities and their experience with the American healthcare system that is failing them. [continue reading…]

Why Mentorships Matter for Disabled Women of Color in the Entertainment Industry

Rhode Island, Feb. 10 – Attending the famous Sundance Film Festival, and on top of that, as a panelist on a livestreamed event with the festival, was an amazing experience! I was part of RespectAbility’s virtual panel “Mentorships Matter,” which discussed a new mentorship program by Women of Color Unite (WOCU) called #StartWith8Hollywood. The program matches women of color with mentors in the entertainment industry, enabling them to break down the systemic barriers and enter the industry. The panel featured disabled women of color who have been or are currently part of the mentorship program, an industry mentor, and the founders of WOCU. The conversation centered on why mentorships are key for individuals with multiple-underrepresented backgrounds to network and succeed. [continue reading…]

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