Skip Navigation
Skip to Footer

Summer Lab Program for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities – 2020

NOTE: This is an archived page from the 2020 Lab. View for the current year’s Lab information and application.

Unprecedented Opportunity for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities

2020 Virtual Summer Lab Dates: June 16 – July 16, 2020
Meet the 2020 Participants:

diverse group of summer lab participants with disabilities posing for photo on Walt Disney lot

2019 Summer Lab Participants visiting The Walt Disney Company Lot in Burbank, California

Great entertainment requires authentic stories and genuine representation of all people. This includes diverse people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health and other disabilities. But when it comes to showing people with disabilities on TV, we are almost never seen. And when we are, we are shown in a negative light. There are several outstanding efforts to enable actors with disabilities to make it in Hollywood. However, somebody has to give them a chance first. And those are the people who are behind the camera – the writers, the producers, the casting directors, etc.

Hence, RespectAbility is thrilled to offer the second annual innovative Lab series for emerging entertainment talent, as well as a track for mid-level career professionals. This is not a program for actors. It is a 5-week, 10-session summer Lab for people interested in – and with experience in – development, production and post-production, including careers as writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, animators and other production roles.

Summer Lab Participants were assigned to one of two tracks:

  • Emerging: Young professionals with internship or first job experience under their belt aspiring to become writers, directors, producers, animators and other production positions, with the goal of connecting them to jobs at major studios, networks and production companies.
  • Mid-Career: A mentorship track for more established individuals with disabilities who wish to take part in the program for the networking opportunities and to serve as mentors for the younger professionals.
Summer Lab participants seated around a table listening to a lecture

2019 Summer Lab participants learning from Jonathan Murray

Virtual sessions were held on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and evenings with speakers from Bunim/Murray Productions, Film Independent, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Studios, The Walt Disney Studios and more. Program participants learned about possible career paths and have networking opportunities. Furthermore, entertainment professionals in positions of power to hire met a group of qualified individuals with disabilities and potentially shift their mindsets in equity goals for hiring.

Each Lab session included guest speakers and leaders in the industry. In addition to studio executives, 2019 speakers included individuals from Creative Artists Agency, Film Fatales, GLAAD, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, Muslim Public Affairs Council Hollywood Bureau, the Sundance Institute, Writers Guild of America West, and more. Additional optional virtual sessions were offered for smaller groups within Lab participants. For example, during Summer 2019, animators had lunch with a producer at DreamWorks. Toward the end of the Lab, participants will be invited to showcase their materials with each other, including script readings and showing clips of materials produced. Depending on the state of COVID-19, we may have an optional in-person gathering at the end of the Lab.

Applications opened March 12, 2020 and were considered on a rolling basis through April 17, 2020. Late entries were accepted after April 17, 2020 only as space allows. Interviews were conducted with second-round applicants via phone and Skype. Participants were notified of their acceptance in mid-May.

This program is made possible with support by:

  • Platinum Sponsors: Murray/Reese Foundation and The Walt Disney Company
  • Gold Sponsors: Cast & Crew, Comcast NBCUniversal and Final Draft
  • Silver Sponsors: Sony Pictures Entertainment and ViacomCBS

Important Details for Summer Lab Applicants

  • Excellent communication and organizational skills are strongly preferred, and participants should exhibit leadership skills to complete their own projects.
  • A bachelor’s degree is not required as long as applicants have acquired the skills needed for their chosen career path in another way.
  • Commit for 10 sessions over five weeks (June 15 – July 17, 2020). People who will miss more than one session should not apply for the emerging track. If interested in the mid-career track and will miss more than one session, please note in your application.
  • Each session will take place in the afternoon or early evening on weekdays for approximately 5 hours.
  • The value of this summer Lab is thousands of dollars. However, there is no cost to participate in this competitive program.
  • While people at all income levels are encouraged to apply, extra consideration will be given to people on SSI, SNAP and TANF.
  • RespectAbility will provide ASL interpreters for all educational and related networking events during Lab program hours, and welcomes other accommodations requests.
  • Applications considered on a rolling basis. Spaces are limited to 30 individuals, split between the emerging track and the mid-career track.
  • To apply, please send your resume, cover letter and a sample of your work (i.e. a script you have written, a short you have edited, etc.) to Lauren Appelbaum at [email protected]. Your application materials will be evaluated by RespectAbility staff members as well as faculty advisors who are experts in each field. View the 2019 Faculty Advisors:

Summer Lab Programmatic Team

head shot of Lauren wearing an orange blazer, smiling and facing the camera color photo Tatiana Lee smiling outside in a parking lot.

Lauren Appelbaum
Vice President, Communications, RespectAbility
Program Director

Tatiana Lee
Hollywood Inclusionist, RespectAbility
Program Associate

Nasreen Alkhateeb smiling headshot Leah Romond smiling headshot

Nasreen Alkhateeb
Senior Production Advisor

Leah Romond
Senior Production Advisor

Faculty Advisors

Cheryl Bedford smiling headshot Deborah Calla smiling for the camera Fashen Cox smiling headshot

Cheryl Bedford
Founder, Women of Color Unite

Deborah Calla
CEO, Media Access Awards; 14 year Chair, PGA Diversity Committee, Post Term; Advisor/Brazil Council Lead, Geena Davis Institute

Fanshen Cox
Head of Strategic Outreach, Pearl Street Films
Sue Obeidi smiling wearing a black shirt in front of a white background headshot of Jonathan Murray wearing a gray striped shirt and facing the camera color photo black and white headshot of David Renaud
Sue Obeidi
Director, Hollywood Bureau, Muslim Public Affairs Council

Jonathan Murray
Founder and Executive Consultant, Bunim-Murray
David Renaud
Writer, The Good Doctor
Shoshannah Stern smiling in front of a sign for the College Television Awards headshot of Delbert Whetter smiling and facing the camera wearing a blue button down shirt color photo Alexander Yellen holding a camera setup
Shoshannah Stern
Writer and Creator, This Close
Delbert Whetter
Chief Operating Officer & Head of Business Affairs, Exodus Film Group
Alexander Yellen

Confirmed Speakers

  • Nasreen Alkhateeb, Award-Winning Filmmaker (June 18)
  • Sasha Alpert, EVP of Entertainment and Development, Bunim/Murray Productions (June 25)
  • DMA Anderson, Director, Creative Talent Development & Inclusion, Walt Disney Television (June 30)
  • Cheryl Bedford, Founder, Women of Color Unite (June 16)
  • Christine Cadena, VP, Diversity & Inclusion Market, The Walt Disney Company (June 30)
  • Joel Camarena, Manager, Global Talent Acquisition Programs, Sony Pictures Entertainment (June 18)
  • Whitney Davis, Founder, Inclusion in Hollywood (June 16)
  • Madeline Di Nonno, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (July 7)
  • Elaine Hall, Founder, The Miracle Project (June 16)
  • Matan Koch, Director of RespectAbility California (June 18)
  • John Lawson, Writer/Director and Actor (June 16)
  • Jonathan Murray, Founder and Executive Consultant, Bunim/Murray Productions (June 25)
  • Brian Pacheco, Outreach Specialist, Walt Disney Television (June 30)
  • Mark Raudonis, SVP of Post Production, Bunim/Murray Productions (June 25)
  • Andrew L. Schwartz, Studio Liaison, Final Draft (June 23)
  • Megan Sleeper, SVP of Casting, Bunim/Murray Productions (June 25)
  • Michele Spitz, Professional Voiceover Artist and Philanthropist, Woman of Her Word (June 25)
  • Shoshannah Stern, Creator, Writer, Executive Producer, Actress, This Close (June 23)
  • Millee Taggart-Ratcliffe, Bunim/Murray Productions (June 25)
  • Delbert Whetter,  Chief Operating Officer & Head of Business Affairs, Exodus Film Group (June 16)
  • Gail Williamson, Talent Agent, KMR Talent (June 23)
  • Michelle Wolf, Founding Executive Director, Jewish Los Angeles Special Needs Trust (July 16)
  • Additional speakers from The Walt Disney Company (June 30 and July 2), NBCUniversal (July 9) and ViacomCBS (July 14)

View 2019 Faculty Advisors and Speakers.

More Background Information

Just 3.1 percent of primetime scripted television characters have disabilities, compared to 25 percent of American adults having a disability. Entertainment contributes to our values and ideals. What we see and feel impacts how we act. RespectAbility works with entertainment leaders to promote positive, accurate, diverse and inclusive media portrayals on TV and in film.

  • Almost all portrayals of people with disabilities are white, despite the fact that disability impacts all.
  • Furthermore, actors without disabilities play the majority of all characters with disabilities.

Opening the inclusion umbrella is the right thing to do as well as economically smart: The disability market is valued at more than $1 trillion.

Learn more:

Skip to Footer


Connect with us on Twitter:


Skip to Footer


Connect with us on Facebook and join the community:


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

Email: [email protected]

GuideStar Platinum

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

Back to Top

Translate »