Great entertainment requires authentic stories and genuine representation of all people. This includes diverse people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health and other disabilities. Hence, RespectAbility, the nonprofit that produced The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit, is thrilled to offer an innovative lab series for emerging entertainment talent, as well as a track for mid-level career professionals. This 5-week, nine-session summer lab program is for people with disabilities and/or strong disability connections interested in development, production, and post-production, including careers as writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, animators, and other production roles.
“What we see on screen influences how we act in real life, but that is dependent on filmmakers choosing to include individuals with disabilities in diverse and accurate portrayals, which then helps remove the stigmas that currently exist about interacting with individuals with disabilities,” said Program Director Lauren Appelbaum, who leads RespectAbility’s Hollywood Inclusion efforts as the organization’s vice president, communications. “One purpose of this program is to continue building the talent pipeline of young professionals with disabilities looking to work behind the scenes. We do not want anyone to have an excuse that they could not find a writer, editor or any other position with a disability.”
Several sessions will meet at various studios where program participants will have the opportunity to learn about possible career paths and have networking opportunities. Furthermore, entertainment professionals in positions of power to hire will meet a group of qualified individuals and potentially shift their mindsets in equity goals for hiring. After all, opening the inclusion umbrella is the right thing to do as well as economically smart given that the disability market is valued at more than $1 trillion. According to Nielsen Research, Americans with disabilities represent the third largest market behind Baby Boomers and the mature market.
The remaining sessions will meet at RespectAbility’s partner locations around the city. Each lab session will include guest speakers and leaders in the industry, including from Bunim/Murray Productions, GLAAD, LeVar Burton Media, Producers Guild of America, Sundance Institute, Writers Guild of America West and more.
Faculty Advisors, who have been helping to develop the curriculum as well as in recruiting and evaluating participants, include: Karim Ahmad (Director, Outreach & Inclusion, Sundance Institute), Deborah Calla(Chair, Diversity Committee, Producers Guild of America; Media Access Awards), Elaine Hall (Founder, The Miracle Project), Diana Elizabeth Jordan (Actor/Director/Producer, Performing Arts Studio West), Sue Obeidi (Director, Hollywood Bureau, Muslim Public Affairs Council), Jonathan Murray (Founder and Executive Consultant, Bunim-Murray), David Renaud (Writer, The Good Doctor), Donna Walton (Founder, The Divas With Disabilities Project), Delbert Whetter (Chief Operating Officer & Head of Business Affairs, Exodus Film Group), and Gail Williamson (Talent Agent, KMR Diversity Department). In addition, Tatiana Lee, an actress, model and social influencer who is a wheelchair user with Spina bifida, will be assisting with this program.
RespectAbility’s President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi added, “Entertainment contributes to our values and ideals. With just 2.1 percent of scripted television characters having disabilities, compared to 25 percent of American adults having a disability, we will continue to work with entertainment leaders to promote positive, accurate, diverse and inclusive media portrayals on TV and in film.”
This program is made possible with support by Comcast NBCUniversal, Jonathan Murray, and The Walt Disney Company.
Learn more and apply: www.respectability.org/respectability-la-lab.