The Easterseals Disability Film Challenge gives aspiring filmmakers the opportunity to tell creative stories and showcase disability in its many forms. The Challenge offers invaluable life-experiences, with many past winners going on to even greater career opportunities and success in entertainment, and in life.
Sofiya Cheyenne is a long-time challenge participant, who submitted her own project for the first time in 2018. Renowned writer-director Peter Farrelly viewed all of the 2018 film challenge shorts to find the right actress for an upcoming role in his TV show, “Loudermilk.” After auditioning multiple actresses, Peter and his brother Bobby — who also serves as a director on the show — decided Cheyenne was the perfect fit for the role. Sofiya’s film challenge submission, “You’re Up”, led to the first major recurring role of her career. “It would not have happened if it weren’t for the connections the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge provided,” Sofiya says. “And even though I didn’t actually win the competition… it has brought me more opportunity and exposure than I could have ever asked for. I am so grateful!”
Rachel Handler is an annual Easterseals Disability Film Challenge participant from New York. Following her ‘Best Actor’ win in the inaugural film challenge, Rachel has been a finalist across numerous categories. Rachel submitted her 2018 film challenge short, “Committed”, to the 5th edition of the AT&T Film Awards, where she won the Underrepresented Filmmaker Award and a $5,000 prize.
Jamie Brewer was recognized as ‘Best Actor’ in the 2017 Film Challenge. The film she appeared in, “Whitney’s Wedding,” has screened in many film festivals internationally, and Jamie recently attended the South Dakota Film Fest where the film received rave reviews and fans were pleased to get the opportunity to meet and take photos with her. Perhaps best of all, the internet popularity of Whitney’s Wedding has added to Jamie’s fan base. Following her role in American Horror Story, Jamie Brewer won best featured actress in a play for her role in the Off-Broadway show “Amy and the Orphans.” She worked on the play with her film challenge mentor Amy Brenneman.
Dickie Hearts, a deaf filmmaker, won “Best Filmmaker Award” for his 2015 Film Challenge submission, “Passengers.” He went on to win the HBO Project Greenlight Digital Series Competition, as well as the AT&T Entertainment Project held at Warner Bros. Studio where he received a $20,000 prize.
John Lawson’s “Whitney’s Wedding” earned the 2017 “Best Actress Award,” starring Jamie Brewer. This comedic love story has gone on to win “Best Film Award” at the Focus on Ability Film Festival in Sydney, Australia.
David Harrell won “Best Film Award” for “Lefty and Loosey” at the 2016 Film Challenge. It has since been entered in numerous film festivals, including the New York Reel Abilities Festival and the Focus on Ability Festival in Sydney, Australia, where David won the “Best Actor Award.”
Jenna Kanell won the 2015 Film Challenge’s “Best Film Award” for a film inspired by her brother who lives with Autism. “Bumblebees” has since played at more than 80 film festivals around the world, and was a “Judges’ Choice Winner” at the Focus on Ability Festival in Sydney, Australia. Jenna developed a popular TED talk about her experiences creating the film and shares what it has meant to her and her brother