Sony Pictures rolled out a virtual “orange” carpet recently for the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge: Home Edition awards ceremony.

The annual Film Challenge aims to empower filmmakers, with or without disabilities, to tell unique stories, providing opportunities for inclusion and representation for people with disabilities.

In response to the pandemic, filmmakers were challenged to make a documentary short, all from the safety of their homes. Challenge participants had 5 days to craft their film, with the flexibility to incorporate previously shot footage in order to tell the story of what disability means to them, according to a media release from Easterseals.

“This is a record-setting year for entries, with steep competition. Each film is poignant and personal … and so well told, it was difficult for judges to determine our winners.”

“The timing to tell these diverse stories of disability is perfect — especially where we are, during a global pandemic, with an overwhelming number of people taking to our streets demanding justice, equality, inclusion and an end to systemic racism. And, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act this year. The result: these authentic documentary shorts showcase outstanding creativity in storytelling and introduce us to important, new voices and talent.”

— Nic Novicki, Actor and Founder of the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge & Easterseals Southern California board member

As someone with a disability, Novicki — an actor, comedian and producer — created the Film Challenge in 2013 in response to under-representation of talent with disabilities in the entertainment industry, as a way to give filmmakers the opportunity to highlight their work and provide them with meaningful exposure.

In 2017, Novicki joined forces with Easterseals Southern California and expanded the event, now known as the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge.

Festivities and Awards

The evening opened with Jocko Sims and Danny J. Gomez (New Amsterdam, NBCUniversal) welcoming guests. Novicki served as master of ceremonies, entertaining the virtual audience with his stand-up comedy routine.

Alie B. Gorrie (Able: a Series, Amazon) and Cassidy Huff (DreamWorks Spirit Riding Free, Netflix) introduced a new video showcasing how Easterseals Disability Film Challenge partners across entertainment are portraying disability in storylines, and authentically casting for it, while at the same time, opening doors to meaningful careers in entertainment and media.

Presenters and winners included:

  • Lauren Ash and Nicole Lynn Evans (Superstore, NBCUniversal) presented the WarnerMedia Best Awareness Campaign Award to Rachel Handler for “How Much Am I Worth?
  • Nicholas Gonzales and David Renaud (The Good Doctor, ABC/Sony Pictures Television) presented the WarnerMedia Best Editor Award to Scott Klumb for “Autism Ability
  • CJ Jones (Baby Driver, and upcoming Avatar 2, VIACOMCBS) and Jillian Mercado (The L Word Generation Q, Showtime Original Series/VIACOMCBS) presented the Adobe/Creativity Partner Best Film Award to Jennifer Msumba for “The Fish Don’t Care When It Rains

Additional finalists featured during the virtual awards include:

Best Awareness Campaign presented by WarnerMedia

Best Editor presented by WarnerMedia

Best Film presented by creativity partner Adobe

Film Challenge judges were: Col Needham, IMDb Founder and CEO; Sheri Linden, film critic for The Hollywood Reporter; filmmakers Jim Lebrecht (Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution), Alice Austen (Give Me Liberty), Kat Coiro (Marry Me) and Jenni Gold (Cinemability) and Steve Martini; actors Danny Woodburn, R.J. Mitte, and Mark Povinelli; comedian Kevin Jordan; disability activists Lawrence Carter-Long and Richard Propes; Nicole Castro, HollyShorts Film Festival Managing Director, and Jenn Wilson, Film Independent Nominations Manager.

Film Challenge winners received a 1-hour consulting opportunity with Gena Desclos, SVP Post Production HBO, Tiffany Smith-Anoa’i, EVPEntertainment Diversity & Inclusion West Coast ViacomCBS, and a diverse team of executives at NBCUniversal. Directors of the 11 winner and finalist films received a 1-year membership to IMDbPro. Other prizes included a computer from Dell Technologies; a $2,500 production grant provided by NBCUniversal; a Sony Alpha a6000 camera; a full-year subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud; as well as industry networking and exclusive professional development opportunities, the release continues.

[Source(s): Easterseals, Business Wire]

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