There’s a Hollywood saying that goes: “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” The truth is, it’s actually a combination of the two.
That’s why the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge provides both an opportunity to hone your skills and interact with entertainment industry professionals. We’re proud to work with producers, writers, directors, casting directors and other crew members in two ways. Our Judges evaluate submissions to determine award winners and our Mentors meet with those winners to give advice on building a career in “the business.” Learn about past film challenge mentors here.
Bec Smith is an Agent, Motion Picture Literary and UTA Independent Film Group who will be mentoring the 2018 ‘Best Filmmaker!’
Bec Smith is an agent at United Talent Agency representing screen writers and directors. Her clients include directors Garth Davis, David Michôd, James Ponsoldt, Mia Hansen-Løve, Lake Bell, and Joshua Oppenheimer (THE ACT OF KILLING) along with screenwriters Luke Davies and Frank John Hughes.
She is also a member of United Talent Agency’s Independent Film Group, specializing in film finance and sales. Titles she has worked on in this capacity include I Feel Pretty, Unabomber, Mary Magdalene, The Circle, Landline, Diary of a Teenage Girl, Margin Call, The Spectacular Now, The Skeleton Twins, In A World, Beginners and Animal Kingdom.
Smith joined UTA from the Sydney office of Working Title Films, where she was head of development. A former journalist, Bec edited Inside Film (IF) magazine before taking over as the Australasian Bureau Chief of The Hollywood Reporter. She produced the live televised IF Awards, Australia’s version of the Independent Spirit Awards. She was an executive producer on David Michôd’s Animal Kingdom, which won the Sundance Film Festival’s ‘Dramatic World Cinema Jury Prize.’
Additionally, Smith is on the Advisory Board of LA-based cinematheque The Cinefamily. She also served on the Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP’s) Advisory Board and routinely attends major international film festivals and markets including Cannes, Toronto, Sundance and the American Film Market.
Smith holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications (Journalism) from the University of Technology in Sydney. She also earned a diploma in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) and lived and worked in Japan, Thailand and France prior to moving into film.
We are so excited for Pam Dixon to return as the mentor for our Best Actor!
Pam was hired by CBS Television and quickly became Assistant to the Head of Casting. She left CBS to become VP of casting for ABC Television. Another promotion made her Senior VP of Casting for the ABC Television Network where she oversaw casting for all series, mini-series, TV movies, and soaps.
Pam left ABC to become Production VP for Paramount Pictures. For the last several years, Pam has been a casting executive and casting director for feature films. She has been fortunate to work with many talent directors such as Robert Altman, Alan Rudolph, Martin Campbell, and Andy Fleming.
Tiffany Smith-Anoa’i will return as the mentor for the winner of Best Awareness Campaign!
Tiffany was named Executive Vice President, Entertainment Diversity, Inclusion & Communications, CBS Entertainment in February 2016.
In this position, she will expand upon the division’s current diversity initiatives, as well as develop new programs that recruit, nurture and hire diverse talent to work in front of and behind the camera. In addition, she will serve as the entertainment liaison to multi-cultural coalition groups and provide outreach to agencies, guilds and other industry organizations that represent diverse talent.
Since being appointed Vice President, Entertainment Diversity & Communications, CBS Entertainment in 2009, Smith-Anoa’i has created and launched “CBS On Tour,” a community outreach program in which executives visit schools to educate and encourage students interested in entertainment careers; expanded the writer selection process for “The CBS Diversity Sketch Comedy Showcase;” implemented an annual symposium with casting directors to strategize on best practices to diversify the casting process; partnered with GLAAD to host learning workshops and joined forces with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to encourage roles for women in front of and behind the camera.
In addition to her executive duties, Smith-Anoa’i, who first joined CBS Entertainment in 2000 as a Senior Publicist for primetime series, continues to draw upon her background and talents as a network publicist, leading West Coast efforts on various projects and network specials, including the annual Grammy Awards®.
Prior to her work at CBS, Smith-Anoa’i was responsible for all aspects of publicity and promotions for Image Public Relations. There, she took on a multitude of projects, including organizing the global press outreach for “Sinbad’s Soul Music Festival.” Preceding her position at Image Public Relations, Smith-Anoa’i worked for NIKE, Inc. where she launched their NIKETOWN stores in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.
Smith-Anoa’i’s community service and charity work includes the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Girl Up and Diamond in the Raw. Also, she maintains a close relationship with her alma mater, Howard University, where she graduated with honors from the School of Communications. In 2013, Howard University presented her with the “Global Visionary Award” for Outstanding Leadership in Diversity and Communications.
She currently resides in her home town of Los Angeles with her husband Reno J. Anoa’i and their daughter.
Multi-faceted actor, producer and model, RJ Mitte is best known for his powerful performance as Walter “Flynn” White Jr. in AMC’s highly-acclaimed and widely popular dramatic thriller “Breaking Bad.” For five riveting seasons, Mitte played the pivotal role of the disabled teenage son of a high school science teacher turned drug dealer, played by Bryan Cranston. The series had a highly successful run as it won several Emmy and Golden Globe Awards. Mitte will reemerge this year as he stars in the celebrity version of the popular British survival series “Celebrity Island with Bear Grylls” set to premiere October 2017.
At the young age of three, Louisiana native Mitte was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, much like his character on “Breaking Bad,” though that has never deterred his drive to succeed in television and film. After moving to Los Angeles, Mitte landed roles in various shows such as Showtime’s “Weeds,” NBC’s “Vegas,” CW’s “Everybody Hates Chris” which ultimately led to him being cast in “Breaking Bad” for the role of his life. Following his “Breaking Bad” success, RJ was thrust into the global spotlight as the celebrity face and model of GAP International’s 2014 “Lived in Spring” campaign. With his image appearing on billboards, buses, and life-sized posters around world from Tokyo to Dubai and across the US, he has cemented himself as a face to know in the fashion world. Mitte has walked in Men’s Fashion Week in Milan, Berlin and New York City for Vivienne Westwood, soPopular and Ovadia & Sons, to name a few.
Fresh off the runways, Mitte has transitioned into film as he starred in his first non-handicapped leading role alongside country music superstar, Faith Hill, in DIXIELAND which premiered at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival. He then continued to play leading roles in films like WHO’S DRIVING DOUG, which premiered at the 2016 Santa Barbara Film Festival, and, most recently in the sci-fi, action thriller THE RECALL alongside Wesley Snipes. In his rare free time, Mitte also aims to produce several of his own film projects.
Over the years, Mitte has been an inspiration to his peers around the world by championing for those with Cerebral Palsy in hopes of removing the stigma associated with disabilities. In order to bring awareness to his own issues with bullying and prejudice, Mitte has engaged in public speaking and serves as the official Ambassador for United Cerebral Palsy and Shriners Hospitals for Children. He is the celebrity face for the #CutTheBull campaign launched October 2014 in support of children with disabilities and was a featured panelist at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival discussing diversity in Hollywood and a lack of handicapped artists as he is involved with SAG-AFTRA as a member of the union’s Performers with Disabilities Committee. Mitte was also a presenter for Channel 4 (UK) reporting on the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Nicole Castro is the managing director of the Hollyshorts Film Festival and works for BBC Worldwide in production and distribution.
Kat Coiro has written and directed 3 feature films: L!fe Happens, While We Were Here, and A Case of You. She has also gone behind the camera for television, directing episodes of Fox’s The Mix and Bravo’s Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce.
Jenni Gold is considered a triple threat in the world of entertainment. Her editing and screenwriting skills serve as a foundation for her directorial efforts which have received multiple awards and have placed her among the best in her field as a Director Member of the Directors Guild of America. Jenni is the founder of Gold Pictures, Inc. a development/production entity which was established in 2001.
In addition to directing the star-filled and award-winning film CinemAbility, Jenni just directed a comedy feature film and is currently developing various motion picture and television projects. Jenni also runs the corporate division of Gold Pictures which services such well-known clients as The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. Ms. Gold is also a speaker and the author of “The Gold Test” which serves as a standard for Hollywood content creators. The “Gold Test” asks whether a work of fiction prominently features a disabled character whose story is not about their disability and whose character is not solely defined by their disability.
Jenni has Muscular Dystrophy and has used a wheelchair since the age of seven. She went to film school at the University of Central Florida where she graduated Summa Cum Laude with two BA degrees, one in Motion Picture Production and another in Radio and Television Broadcasting. Her passion for storytelling and entertaining an audience is clearly evident in her work and achievements.
A graduate of UC Berkeley and Harvard Business School, Ken Kragen’s distinguished career transcends the music and entertainment industries. He has successfully managed some of the world’s most important entertainers, including Kenny Rogers, Lionel Richie, Trisha Yearwood, Olivia Newton-John, and The Bee Gees. He was the organizer of several historic humanitarian events including We Are The World, Hands Across America, and NetAid. Over the years he has produced 4-500 hours of hit television series, specials and movies of the week. In addition to many awards and honors he is the proud recipient of the United Nations Peace Medal.
Kevin Jordan is an award-winning writer/director who has had two movies theatrically presented by Martin Scorsese.
Steven Martini is a television and feature film writer who has written numerous feature films including Lyme Life, starring Alec Baldwin, which won the film critics award at the Toronto Film Festival.
Over his 20-year acting career, Mark Povinelli has appeared in over 50 films and television shows, 25 theater productions and dozens of national commercials, proving himself capable of spanning the entire range of medium, style and genre. Some of his work includes Water for Elephants, Mirror Mirror, and The Polar Express. Mark was also a finalist in the 2014 Disability Film Challenge for directing his short film entry “Close Up”.
Danny Woodburn is a veteran character actor who has acted in over 100 tv shows and movies including Seinfeld, Watchmen, and the new Ninja Turtles. He is also on the Performers with Disabilities Committee.
At nine, Yang emigrated to the U.S. from China and was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, which leaves her wheelchair-bound. A graduate of USC’s animation program, Yang founded her own post-production company, Alpha Studios, in 2013 and has more than 40 credits to her name, including “Robot Chicken” and “Falling Skies.”
Roy Ashton is the Head of the TV Literary & Packaging Dept. at The Gersh Agency. Ashton functions in all areas of Television, helping clients sell shows and package projects at the major networks, major cable and premium cable outlets. Some of the shows he has been involved with include CASTLE, GAME OF THRONES, BLUEBLOODS, THE KILLING, FALLING SKIES, THE MIDDLE, POWER, and many more.
Amy Brenneman is an award-winning actress, writer, producer, and activist. A founding member of the Cornerstone Theater Company, which specializes in original theater centered on themes of social justice, Amy created and starred in Judging Amy, based on the work of her mother, The Honorable Frederica Brenneman. Other TV: NYPD Blue, Frasier, Private Practice and The Leftovers on HBO. Film: Heat, Friends and Neighbors and Casper.
A long-time advocate for reproductive rights, gun control, and childhood education, Amy spoke publicly about her own abortion in an amicus brief in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court case striking down Texas’s TRAP law restricting abortion access.
For her activist work, Amy has been honored by Women in Film, The Feminist Majority, The Brady Center, the League of Women Voters, the California State Assembly, the National Children’s Alliance, the Chime Institute, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the Help Group, the Producer’s Guild of America, among others.
Peter is a world renowned director of famed hits such as “There’s Something About Mary”, “Dumb and Dumber”, “Dumber and Dumber To”, and “Me, Myself, & Irene”.
As an actor, writer and director, Randall Park is fast becoming one of the freshest and most in-demand faces in Hollywood with his extraordinarily diverse skill set and wide-ranging background in both film and television.
Park can currently be seen in the third season of the hit ABC comedy series Fresh Off The Boat as Louis Huang, the patriarch of a Taiwanese family adjusting to a new life in Orlando in the 1990s after moving from Washington D.C. Based on the memoir of chef and restaurateur Eddie Huang, the half-hour, single-camera comedy is the first network television show to focus on an Asian American family in 20 years. His work in the series earned him a 2016 Critics Choice nomination for best actor in a comedy series.
On the big screen, Park recently appeared in Universal’s Trainwreck, directed by Judd Apatow and starring Amy Schumer, Tilda Swinton, and Bill Hader. Later this year, Park will be seen in Office Christmas Party, The Untitled Mother/Daughter Project from Amy Schumer starring Goldie Hawn, The Hollars, directed by John Krasinski, co-starring Anna Kendrick, Margo Martindale, Richard Jenkins and Charlie Day. It was recently announced that Sony Pictures Classics acquired the rights to The Meddler, an upcoming American comedy-drama film directed and written by Lorene Scafaria. Park will star alongside Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne and J. K. Simmons. The film is set to be released on April 22, 2016. Park will also appear in The Disaster Artist with Zac Efron, Alison Brie, and James Franco. The film is set to be released in Fall 2016.
In July 2015, Park starred in the Netflix original series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp based on the cult classic 2002 film of the same name. Park starred alongside Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, David Hyde Pierce, Paul Rudd, Christopher Meloni, Molly Shannon, Ken Marino, and Elizabeth Banks.
Park’s previous film credits include The Interview, in which he starred as “Kim Jong-un” alongside Seth Rogen and James Franco; the box-office hit Neighbors, alongside Seth Rogen and Zac Efron; Sex Tape, opposite Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel; They Came Together; The Five-Year Engagement; Dinner for Schmucks; Larry Crowne; The Good Doctor; and Fragments. Park’s other TV credits include Veep; The Office; New Girl; Curb Your Enthusiasm; House; The Mindy Project; Cold Case; CSI; Reno 911!; Wild N Out; and The Sarah Silverman Program.
Park won a ‘Best Actor Award’ at the 2010 NBC’s Short Cuts Film Festival for the short Blueberry, which he also wrote. He is also the recipient of the 2011 CAPE ‘New Writers Award’ for an original pilot he wrote entitled Erasists. Park is a constant presence on the web and is a frequent contributor to the monthly web series showcase and competition Channel 101, created by Dan Harmon (Community) and Rob Schrab (The Sarah Silverman Program). His work can be found on www.randallparkplace.com.
Park currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter.
Legendary writer/producer Shawn Ryan is best known for creating the groundbreaking series The Shield, and executive producing The Unit, Lie to Me, Last Resort, and Amazon’s hit series Mad Dogs.
Scott Silveri is a veteran television writer and producer. Born and raised in Yonkers, New York, his earliest credits were NBC’s Mad About You and Friends, where he rose through the ranks to Executive Producer, receiving the Emmy award for Outstanding Comedy Series. He co-created the show’s spinoff, Joey.
Recent work includes the NBC series Go On, starring Matthew Perry, which Scott created, and Perfect Couples, co-created with Jon Pollack. At Twentieth Century Fox Television, Scott developed numerous projects and served as Executive Producer on the pilot for Fox series The Grinder. He is currently Executive Producer on ABC’s Speechless, which he also created.
Scott attended Harvard University where he served as an editor of the Harvard Lampoon. He resides in Los Angeles with his wife, Shana Goldberg-Meehan and their children.
David Isaacs has worked as a TV and Film Writer / Producer for over 40 years. Along with his writing partner Ken Levine he has written multiple episodes and served as Producer or Creative Consultant for series such as M*A*S*H*, Cheers, Wings, Frasier and Becker. He co-created the CBS series Almost Perfect and served as Consulting Producer on Mad Men.
Lynn Hendee is a producer who has produced big Hollywood productions such as “Ender’s Game”, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “The Tempest”, “In My Country”, and “Making Mr. Right”.