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Hollywood Inclusion

“Dinner for Six”: A Perfectly Cringe Short Film

If you’re looking for a breather in the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge, go watch “Dinner for Six.” Directed, written, produced, and edited by Emily Kranking, the spunky comedy tells the story of an overprotective family spying on their disabled daughter Zoey’s (Emily Kranking) first date with Chris (Richie Dobson).

Founded by Nic Novicki, the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge is an annual five-day competition in which filmmakers must create original three-to-five minute films. This year’s theme is romance, which delighted Kranking. She’s intended to create a film based on her first date experience, and this challenge gave her the extra push needed to bring the story to reality.

“The film had to be a lot shorter than I dreamt of,” Kranking says. “The original cut was actually a minute longer and some of my favorite jokes are in it, but I’m so happy that I pretty much got to say all I wanted to say.” [continue reading…]

“Unexpected Date” Tackles Disability Insecurity

Nader Bahu is a self-taught filmmaker who has produced 19 short films, four of which were created for the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. His latest entry is “Unexpected Date,” a romantic comedy he wrote and directed.

Founded by Nic Novicki, the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge is an annual five-day competition in which filmmakers must create original three-to-five minute films based on a different theme each year. This year’s theme was romance. Bahu participates in the Challenge each year to motivate himself to create more short films and to push himself to think of new story ideas.

In the film, Bahu plays the role of Elijah, a young man with a disability who is nervous about a blind date. The film also addresses the topic of individuals who need assistive translators. Sometimes needing someone else to speak for them can lead to a lack of personal connection. Bahu tackles this topic in a playful manner. The main character asserts his independence and goes old school by using handwritten notes to communicate with his date. Things work out well when Elijah’s date suggests a movie date for just the two of them. [continue reading…]

Welcome to “Rick’s Café!”

The 2023 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge Entry Rick’s Cafe follows a third date at a cafe that gets really intense. 

Founded by Nic Novicki, the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge is an annual five-day competition in which filmmakers must create original three-to-five minute films based on a different theme each year. This year’s theme was romance. 

RespectAbility Entertainment Lab Alumni Diana Elizabeth Jordan has been part of the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge for several years. She met Rick’s Cafe‘s director Danny Gomez and executive producer Carl Hansen through the Challenges she’s done with them in the past.

Rick’s Cafe opens with stylish and cinematic neon lights depicting many unconscious bodies littered throughout a retro looking cafe. The hostess Tequila Sunrise maniacally says “Welcome to Rick’s Cafe!” [continue reading…]

“Coming Clean” Review

The 2023 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge Entry Coming Clean follows an autistic woman (played by WarnerDiscovery Early Career Bootcamp Alumni Amelia Green) in her late 30s named Alexandra as she attempts to navigate the balance between her professional goals and romantic interests.

Founded by Nic Novicki, the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge is an annual five-day competition in which filmmakers must create original three-to-five minute films based on a different theme each year. This year’s theme was romance.

The short opens with an emotionally distraught Alexandra venting to her therapist. She feels conflicted about her romantic feelings toward her friend Benji who she met on the app SnapVibe. The therapist reassures her that there are more nice people out there if it doesn’t work out with Benji. [continue reading…]

“Kryptonite”: A New Love Story about Intersectionality, Imperfection, and Music

Cameron S. Mitchell returns to the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge for his third year with “Kryptonite,” starring Grammy-nominated R&B singer Shanice and Switched at Birth actor Ryan Lane. In this emotionally charged film, old flames Imani (Shanice) and Alex (Lane) reconnect at her concert after being estranged for two years. One has a secret that will change their lives forever.

Founded by Nic Novicki, the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge is an annual five-day competition in which filmmakers must create original three-to-five minute films based on a different theme each year. This year’s theme was romance.

“When I heard the theme, my mind immediately went to all of the little intricate moments that we have yet to see portrayed on screen when disabled people are involved,” Mitchell says. “It was important to the whole team that this romance wasn’t perfect, that it had ups and downs and everything in between.” [continue reading…]

The Ghost and Molly McGee Season Two: Autism, Ghosts, and Gadgets!

Los Angeles, March 30 – During the past few years, we have been excited to see growing authentic autistic representation on our screens. On April 1, we will be introduced to a new character, June, who is both autistic and AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander).

The Ghost and Molly McGee is a Disney Channel animated series that follows an unlikely bond between an exuberant tween, Molly, and a grumpy ghost named Scratch. The two are eternally connected thanks to Scratch’s backfiring curse. Season two introduces new neighbors, the Chens – Ruben, Esther, Ollie, and June (the autistic character).

I couldn’t believe it when RespectAbility’s SVP, Lauren Appelbaum, brought me in to work on this show. It was exactly the type of work I hoped to do! [continue reading…]

Content To Watch Featuring Disabled Women, Nonbinary, and Gender Nonconforming Creators and Characters

In honor of March being Women’s History Month, RespectAbility reached out to our Entertainment Lab alumni network and asked them to share their favorite TV shows or movies featuring authentic portrayals of Disabled women, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming individuals. If you’re looking for something new to watch, check out their list of recommendations below – including some projects created by and/or starring various members of our alumni network! [continue reading…]

Faith Strongheart Brings Compassion and Reflection in Her New Documentary “Faith Brings the Wild”

Faith Strongheart looking through a notebook with another woman in a behind-the-scenes still from her documentarySalt Lake City, March 23 – Faith Strongheart—writer, filmmaker, and 2020 RespectAbility Lab alumna—won the most recent NYWIFT Loreen Arbus Disability Awareness Grant for her deeply personal documentary Faith Brings the Wild. This grant supports a film that amplifies the voices of people with physical or developmental disabilities in the post-production phase. While Strongheart is still actively editing this film with her team, she shared the most recent cut of the film and talked with me about her experience creating it.

Strongheart focuses the camera on herself and her family to create a documentary that examines the dichotomy of growing up as a child during the hippie movement. A time often described as full of love, freedom, and drugs, but for the children, including Strongheart and her siblings, it was also a time full of parental neglect. Strongheart grew up on a farm without running water surrounded by many siblings, her mom, stepfather, and extended family. Through a series of intimate interviews with her family, it becomes clear that while the adults intended to create a magical space for their children to grow up in, they were not adept at parenting. [continue reading…]

2023 Academy Awards: Representation of ADHD and Down Syndrome Win Big

Los Angeles, March 16 – During Sunday’s Academy Awards, many firsts were celebrated in terms of diversity and inclusion, including disability representation. Best Picture Everything Everywhere All at Once showcases representation of ADHD, while writer/director Daniel Kwan, who also took home an award for directing, has ADHD himself. Best Live Action Short An Irish Goodbye features James Martin, an actor with Down syndrome. Also of note, RespectAbility Lab Alumna Courtney Wold served as the visual effects production manager for Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, which won Best Animated Feature.

Everything Everywhere All At Once Takes Viewers on a Journey Inside the Multiverses of a Neurodivergent Mind

Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, and Stephanie Hsu in Everything Everywhere All at OnceAs widely expected, Everything Everywhere All at Once took home numerous Oscars during this week’s ceremony. A neurodivergent audience member watching Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) may pick up on the fact that she has undiagnosed ADHD. Daniel Kwan, one-half of the writer/director team “Daniels,” confirmed this in various interviews. Kwan set out to write a lead character with undiagnosed ADHD, which he felt would add to the external and internal chaos in the film. Through his research of ADHD traits, Kwan felt a sense of familiarity and ended up getting diagnosed with ADHD himself. Turns out, Kwan was subconsciously pulling from his own lived disability experience. [continue reading…]

Firebuds: “All That Jazzy” Features Intersectionality in Disability Representation

a scene from "All That Jazzy" where Piper and Jazzy talk with Ayanna and Gliderbella.Los Angeles, March 15 – With one-in-five people having a disability in the U.S., the lack of representation – less than one percent in children’s television – means that millions of children are unable to see themselves in media today. Furthermore, when representation exists, a great deal of disability representation on screen is of white males. Disney Junior’s Firebuds, however, explores the diversity missing from disability representation.

Set in a fantastical world where talking vehicles live, work, and play with the humans who drive them, “All That Jazzy” follows the eponymous character (Lauren “Lolo” Spencer), a young Black girl with spina bifida, whose “vroom-mate” is wheelchair car Piper (Sammi Haney). After watching a dance performance starring Ayanna (Tatiana Lee) and Gliderbella (Ali Stroker), Jazzy is inspired to become a lead dancer, too.

Firebuds is such an amazing series to be part of. In order to build inclusivity and normalize the diversity in our world, we have to start by teaching our children,” Spencer said. “Playing a character like ‘Jazzy’ and having characters like ‘Castor’ [a vroom-mate with a cleft hood] who reflect the differences of real people and show the importance of embracing others regardless of those differences, is truly an honor. I’m grateful that I can help spread such an important message.” [continue reading…]

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