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David Renaud smiling wearing a suit. David is a white man who uses a wheelchair.

David Renaud

Los Angeles, July 8 – Family doctor turned TV writer, David Renaud has fought his way to the top of the Hollywood industry. Now as supervising producer of ABC’s The Good Doctor, Renaud looked back on his journey with the RespectAbility 2021 Summer Lab participants.

For Renaud, story is king and he credits his unique story for the position he holds today. Renaud always knew he wanted to be a filmmaker, but his journey was unconventional as he started out in medical school determined to find the cure for his paralysis. After a car crash left him paralyzed from the waist down, Renaud began using a wheelchair, and eventually went on to earn his MD from the University of British Columbia. Renaud was always a storyteller and eventually found his way to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where he completed his MFA in screenwriting. Since then, Renaud has found huge success as a writer on shows such as Blood and Oil, Pure Genius, and most recently The Good Doctor. [continue reading…]

Washington, D.C., July 7 – This week, RespectAbility responded to a request for information from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) about ideas, insights, and innovations to advance and prioritize equity issues. This dialogue is only the latest example of how the new Biden-Harris Administration is seeking to address the “entrenched disparities in our laws and public policies.”

On his very first day in office, President Biden signed Executive Order 13985 launching an “ambitious whole-of-government equity agenda that matches the scale of the opportunities and challenges that we face.” This is critical news for the 12.8 million Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) with disabilities who have long been harmed by structural racism and who are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis.

“The impacts of racism and ableism on Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) with disabilities have caused harm to so many,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President and CEO of RespectAbility. “We must all fight racism and prejudice of all kinds. That work must go well beyond words and move into real systems change so we can create true equity and opportunities. Our society is at its best when all people, including BIPOC people with disabilities, can earn an income and become independent, just like anyone else. Online engagement opportunities like this one offer the chance for policy makers and common citizens to make their voices heard and push our society to become fairer and more inclusive.” [continue reading…]

Megan Halpern smiling headshot

Megan Halpern

Los Angeles, July 7 – During a recent session of RespectAbility’s 2021 Summer Lab, participants were joined by Megan Halpern, VP of Programs, Partnerships and Production at The Black List, along with a group of screenwriters and 2019 and 2020 Summer Lab alumni, Shireen Alihaji, Michael Dougherty, Shea Mirzai and Andrew Reid, in a conversation focused on writing for film.

The Black List is a script hosting service for unproduced screenplays, which originally started in 2005 by releasing the list of their top-ranked scripts for each year. Since then, the site has gone on to host scripts from Blockbuster hits, including Juno, Argo and The King’s Speech. Now in 2021, the platform has converted into a full-blown online community for screenwriters. Applicants can host their scripts on the site and receive relevant feedback from other screenwriters, as well as be matched with producers and directors interested in bringing their writing to life. The Black List also has evolved into a writing lab for underrepresented communities where they can be mentored by industry professionals. [continue reading…]

“Andrew and I have been partners for a few years now, and to me, we are like the dream team, because the things that I have challenges with are his strengths, and vice versa.” – Leah Romond, Senior Production Advisor at RespectAbility

Separate photos of Andrew Pilkington and Leah RomondLos Angeles, July 7 – Leah Romond and Andrew Pilkington were both producers on the recent feature film, Best Summer Ever, which authentically sourced disabled talent throughout its cast and crew and premiered at the 2021 South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival. This dream team duo is powered by balance: Pilkington’s organizational skills help Romond with detail-oriented sequencing, and Romond’s legal background allowed them to direct sales and needed documentation. The film was celebrated for Pilkington’s momentous work as a writer and was honored with the Final Draft Screenwriters Award at SXSW. Best Summer Ever’s representation in front of and behind the screen fights employment stigmas against people with disabilities and is a strong example of what an inclusive production can and should look like.

A plot that is not centered around the essence of disability, but rather one which engages naturally with nuanced stories of diverse characters is a distinctively empowered quality of the film. Best Summer Ever proves that a coming-of-age narrative, a classic love story, and even an adventure tale, are all cinematic developments that need not be exclusive from the disabled community. [continue reading…]

A scene from Healing Powers of Dude with Jace Chapman as Noah holding a dog inside a school. Text: 5 Daytime Emmy Awards Nominations, including Principal Performance in a Children's Program - Jace Chapman, Directing team for a preschool, children's or family viewing program. The Healing Powers of Dude. Netflix icon.Los Angeles, July 1 – Netflix’s The Healing Powers of Dude, which took disability inclusion to a new level when it premiered in January 2020, has received four Daytime Emmy nominations.

Jace Chapman, who plays Noah, a boy with social anxiety in middle school, has been nominated for Outstanding Principal Performance in a Children’s Program. In addition, the team has been nominated for:

  • Outstanding Directing Team for a Preschool, Children’s or Family Viewing Program
  • Outstanding Casting for a Live Action Children’s Program
  • Outstanding Special Effects Costumes, Makeup and Hairstyling

[continue reading…]

Whitney Davis photographed at the PMC Studio in Los Angeles for Variety.Los Angeles, July 1 – Whitney Davis was one of the first guests to speak with RespectAbility’s 2021 Lab participants, and she was not short on advice. “It’s never too late to pivot, it’s never too late to wake up and start over…don’t put any kind of limit on your success.”

Davis began her career at CBS more than 13 years ago as a Page and worked her way up from Digital Journalist and Associate Producer for CBS News to Diversity and Inclusion Manager at the network. Davis was part of a team charged with educating and fostering a more inclusive culture while identifying new voices both in front and behind the camera. Disillusioned with a corporate culture unwilling to change, Davis later resigned, a decision she chronicled in an open letter published in Variety in April 2019. [continue reading…]

Joey Travolta smiling headshot wearing a suitjacket

Joey Travolta

Los Angeles, July 1 – In 1979, when Joey Travolta was acting on the Sunnyside set for one of the first times, he thought to himself, “man, I want to do this for the rest of my life.” This euphoric professional fulfilment is an experience he strives to help marginalized people achieve.

After mentoring a rising director on the autism spectrum through his production of Normal People Scare Me in 2005, Travolta saw the need for an increase in accessibility to the entertainment world for the neurodiverse community. What birthed from this realization was Travolta’s production company, Inclusion Films, which now hosts training camps across California for neurodiverse creatives to build up their skills in cinema, with lessons in everything from acting to screenwriting. The inclusive film workshops draw inspiration from the hands-on learning Travolta was able to experience growing up in a showbusiness family and while acting at a young age. [continue reading…]

Delbert Whetter smiling headshot

Delbert Whetter

Los Angeles, July 1 – As the first week of the 2021 RespectAbility Lab for Entertainment Professionals came to an end, Delbert Whetter shared his experience navigating the entertainment industry as a deaf executive.

During his address to the Lab participants, Whetter emphasized the importance of unapologetically showing up as disabled creative. “I realized that my deafness and my perspective have value. And all of your lived experiences as a disabled person have such importance and you need to bring that to the table.” Whetter urged the participants to see their individual disabilities as potential in helping them become successful in this industry. [continue reading…]

Three RespectAbility team members holding up signs that say "Earn My Vote".Washington, D.C., June 28 – In the 2020 election cycle, candidates from both political parties who made their campaigns accessible and inclusive of people with disabilities won key races and helped shift the balance of power in America.

The biggest wins for candidates who reached out to voters with disabilities were in the state of Georgia where President Biden and Senators Ossoff and Warnock all made their campaigns accessible to voters with disabilities. [continue reading…]

Six people on a zoom meeting having a conversation.Los Angeles, June 24 – As many writers know, the writing process itself can sometimes feel like a lonely, isolating task. Oftentimes this process happens in the early morning hours before a day-job, or in the middle of the night for writers who prefer to put their thoughts on paper (or computer screen) in the quiet hours when other members of their household are asleep, or others may write in shorter spontaneous sessions here and there throughout the day as time allows. However, this feeling of loneliness was replaced with support and comradery on Tuesday, June 22 when a group of RespectAbility’s Summer Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities newest cohort gathered virtually over Zoom to talk about all things writing and directing with Ashley Eakin and Andrew Reid, two writers and directors who are both currently working in the industry, and are also alumni of RespectAbility’s 2020 Summer Lab. [continue reading…]

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