Easterseals Disability Film Challenge Taps the Entertainment Industry to Change the Way We Define & View Disability

 2018 Registration is Now Open at www.DisabilityFilmChallenge.com 

LOS ANGELES Mar. 19, 2018 For Immediate Release — Registration for the 2018 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge is now open for the competition to be held April 13-15.

One-in-five Americans is living with a disability, making it today’s largest minority population, yet far too often their important and varied stories go untold. Per the GLAAD report “Where We Are on TV,” 1.7% of TV roles feature a character with a disability … and of those roles, more than 95% of the characters are portrayed by actors without a disability (Ruderman Family Foundation).  Of the top 900 films since 2007, just 2.7% of characters were portrayed as having a disability, according to the USC Annenberg report, “Inequality in 900 Popular Films.”  Now in its fifth year, the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge addresses this underrepresentation by giving filmmakers – with and without disabilities – the platform to collaborate, tell unique stories that showcase disability in its many forms and support Easterseals’ goal to change the way disability is viewed.

“As the entertainment industry strives to build a more diverse and inclusive workplace, we must keep disability in the conversation,” said Film Challenge founder and ESSC board member, actor/comedian Nic Novicki (Boardwalk Empire, Gotham Comedy Live), a little person who has successfully navigated the challenges of being disabled in Hollywood. “We created the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge to help accelerate change within Hollywood, shift the way the world defines and views disabilities and give everyone an opportunity to reach his or her potential.”

Registered filmmakers are given a span of 55 hours over the designated weekend to write and produce short films (three-to-five minutes) that Help Change the Way We View Disability. Submitted films are judged in four award categories – Best Film, Best Filmmaker, Best Actor and Best Awareness Campaign – by a noted and diverse group of entertainment industry talent.

Finalists will be announced and screened at the Bentonville Film Festival (May 1-6), which champions inclusion in all form of media; will be invited to an exclusive roundtable discussion with agents at United Talent Agency; and receive a one-year subscription to Variety Magazine.

  • Winners, who will be announced at a red-carpet event May 10, hosted by UnitedTalent Agency in Beverly Hills, are awarded industry mentorships; the opportunity to screen their film at the Los Angeles-based HollyShorts Film Festival (August 9-18), an Academy Award-qualifying competition; $1,000 grants provided by Universal Filmed Entertainment Group towards their next production; Dell computers; a full, one-year subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud—the entire collection of 20+ creative desktop and mobile apps including Premiere Pro CC, After Effects CC and Photoshop CC; and a Nike gift bag with assorted products, including a pair of shoes from the new FlyEase line. [Rules & regulations/prize packages, page 3]

Since the Challenge launched in 2013, aspiring filmmakers from around the world have created more than 150 short films — 35 submitted last year — which have been viewed online and at festivals. Winners have included Jamie Brewer, who won Best Actor in 2017 for Whitney’s Wedding, has been acclaimed for her role on American Horror Story and was the first model with Down Syndrome to walk the runway at New York Fashion Week; Dickie Hearts, Best Filmmaker winner in 2015, who went on to win an HBO Project Greenlight digital series competition; and Jenna Kanell, winner of Best Film in 2015 who went on to give a TEDx Talk about her experience.

“The Challenge gives filmmakers, actors and their crew invaluable entertainment experience and a chance to network with industry professionals,” Novicki said. “Likewise, it’s a tangible way for studios, networks, guilds, talent agencies and people working in entertainment to get involved to change the way we all experience and understand disability.”

“Hollywood has only begun to tap into the power of inclusion or showcase this significant segment of our society,” said Easterseals Southern California (ESSC) President & CEO Mark Whitley. “We’re calling on the industry for sponsorship dollars and financial contributions, promotional support, in-kind donations and help with recruiting high-profile, well-regarded industry leaders to be mentors and judges. With the industry’s continued support, we can ensure that the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge is a sought-after competition in entertainment.”

 This year’s Film Challenge mentors include casting director Pam Dixon (Green Lantern, The Mask of Zorro, The Punisher, Angels in the Outfield, City Slickers), who will mentor the Best Actor winner; and Tiffany Smith Anoa’i, VP Entertainment Diversity, Inclusion & Communications, CBS Entertainment, mentoring the winner of the Best Awareness Award. [Additional 2018 mentors to be announced.]

Past Film Challenge mentors have also included head of literary talent at the Gersh Agency, Roy Ashton; award-winning actress/writer/producer Amy Brenneman (The Leftovers, Private Practice, Judging Amy, Heat); screenwriter Max Borenstein (Godzilla: King of Monsters, Kong: Skull Island, Minority Report, Godzilla); writer/director/producer Peter Farrelly (Me, Myself & Irene; There’s Something About Mary; Dumb and Dumber); producer/director Erin O’Malley (Speechless, New Girl, Curb Your Enthusiasm); actor/comedian/director/writer Randall Park (Fresh off the Boat, Veep); and producer Shawn Ryan (Timeless, The Unit, The Shield); writer/producer Scott Silveri (Speechless, Joey, Friends).


 Judging the competition, many of them with disabilities themselves, are Nicole Castro, managing director of the HollyShorts Film Festival, who works for BBC Worldwide in production and distribution; Kat Coiro, who has written/directed three feature films (A Case of You, And While We Were Here, L!fe Happens), as well as directing episodes of FOX’s The Mick and Bravo’s Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce; writer/director/editor Jenni Gold, who directed the award-winning documentary CinemAbility and heads the corporate division of Gold Pictures, which serves such clients as The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation; award-winning writer/director/producer Kevin Jordan, who has had two movies presented theatrically by Martin Scorsese (Brooklyn Lobster, starring Danny Aiello and Jane Curtin; Smiling Fish & Goat on Fire);  TV and film writer Steven Martini, who has penned numerous feature films, including Lymelife, starring Alec Baldwin, which won the Film Critics Award at the Toronto International Film Festival; actor RJ Mitte, (The upcoming River Runs Red and Adi Shankar’s Gods and Secrets, The Recall with Wesley Snipe, Breaking Bad; Mark Povinelli, who has appeared in over 50 TV shows and feature films (Mirror Mirror, Water for Elephants, The Polar Express), 25 theater productions and dozens of national commercials; and actor Danny Woodburn, a veteran character actor who has appeared in more than 100 films and TV shows, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mirror Mirror and Seinfeld.


 Adobe, Bentonville Film Festival, CBS Entertainment Diversity & Inclusion; Deadline; Dell, Inc.; Deadline; HollyShorts; Nike; SAG-AFTRA; United Talent Agency; Universal Pictures; Variety.



For more information or to register, visit:  www.DisabilityFilmChallenge.com

Full rules & regulations can be found at:  http://bit.ly/2k5I4HV

Questions?  Email us at:  Info@DisabilityFilmChallenge.com

 Rules:  At the beginning of the challenge weekend, the competition genre/theme will be posted, along with a list of required props and/or locations. Teams are strongly encouraged to integrate story elements that acknowledge disability. Teams must include at least one person with a physical or cognitive disability, either in front of or behind the camera.  Films must be entirely original and captured over the course of the contest weekend. No pre-recorded footage, including stock footage, may be used. Cast and crew must be volunteers. Films must be three-to-five (3-5) minutes (with an additional minute allotted for credits).

 The Challenge:  Begins Fri., April 13, 2018 at 11 a.m. PST. Finished films must be submitted by Sun., April 15, 2018 by 5:59 PST. Participants will have the opportunity to market their films Wed., April 18 – Wed., May 2, 2018. Finalists to be announced Thurs., May 3, 2018.  Winners will be announced at a red-carpet awards ceremony and screening, Thurs., May 10, 2018, hosted by United Talent Agency, Beverly Hills.

Four prizes will be awarded in the categories of Best Film, Best Filmmaker, Best Actor and Best Awareness Campaign, judged by a noted and diverse group of entertainment industry talent.

Entry:  Earlybird Deadline:  Feb. 11, 2018, 11:59 p.m. PST (USA), entry fee: $30Standard Deadline:  March 25, 2018, 11:59 p.m. PST (USA), entry fee: $45Late Deadline: April 11, 2018, 11:59 p.m. PST (USA), entry fee: $60.


  • Best Film – Top Prize:
  • $1,000 grant provided by Universal Filmed Entertainment Group to be used towards the filmmaker’s next production.
  • Lunch meeting with a Universal Pictures and/or Focus Features production executive.
  • Tour of the Universal Studios lot for entrant representative and three additional key team members.
  • Inclusion in HollyShorts Film Festival, Aug. 9-18, 2018, Los Angeles, an Academy Award-qualifying competition.
  • Dell Mobile Workstation.
  • A full, one-year subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud—the entire collection of 20+ creative desktop and mobile apps including Premiere Pro CC, After Effects CC and Photoshop CC.
  • A Nike gift bag with assorted products, including a pair of shoes from the new FlyEase line.
  • Best Filmmaker & Best Actor Awards each receive:
  • $1,000 grant.
  • One mentoring meeting.
  • Inclusion in HollyShorts Film Festival.
  • Dell 2-in-1 computer.
  • A full, one-year subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud—the entire collection of 20+ creative desktop and mobile apps including Premiere Pro CC, After Effects CC and Photoshop CC.
  • A Nike gift bag with assorted products, including a pair of shoes from the new FlyEase line.
  • Best Awareness Campaign Award:
    • $1,000 grant.
    • One mentoring meeting.
    • A full, one-year subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud—the entire collection of 20+ creative desktop and mobile apps including Premiere Pro CC, After Effects CC and Photoshop CC.
    • A Nike gift bag with assorted products, including a pair of shoes from the new FlyEase line.

About the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge:  As someone with a disability, actor, comedian and producer Nic Novicki launched the Disability Film Challenge in 2013 in response to the under-representation of talent with disabilities both in front of and behind the camera.  Novicki created the challenge to give aspiring filmmakers the opportunity to showcase their work and provide them with meaningful exposure. In 2017, Novicki joined forces with Easterseals Southern California –  the nation’s leading nonprofit supporting people and families with disabilities – to expand the event, now known as the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge.  Learn more at: www.DisabilityFilmChallenge.com

About Easterseals Southern California:  For nearly 100 years, Easterseals has been an indispensable resource for individuals and families with developmental disabilities or other special needs. The services provided by Easterseals Southern California (ESSC) – in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Imperial, Kern, San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura counties – make profound and positive differences in people’s lives every day, helping them address life’s challenges and achieve personal goals so that they can live, learn, work and play in our communities. With 2,300 employees, 60+ service sites and hundreds of community partnership locations, each year ESSC assists more than 10,000 people, providing adult/senior day services; autism therapy; child development/early education; employment services, veteran employment support; independent living options; and more. At Easterseals, 88% of our income is spent on services. Join us in changing the way the world defines and views disabilities.  more at:  Easterseals.com/SouthernCal

Join the Conversation & Like us at:  Facebook.com/DisabilityFilmChallenge

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Vicki Greenleaf — (cell) 323.573.5111 — Vicki@GreenleafAndAssociates.com