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Seventh Annual Easterseals Disability Film Challenge Officially Open for Entries

Renee Fabian
Filmmaker looking through a camera at scene in the woods

Think you have what it takes to make a film in just 55 hours? The seventh annual Easterseals Disability Film Challenge is officially open and wants to see your movie.

Easterseals Southern California announced its Disability Film Challenge during the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday. The challenge asks filmmakers to create a three- to five-minute short film over the course of one weekend in April. Easterseals assigns a genre prior to the competition weekend. Each production must include at least one person with a disability onscreen or behind the camera as teams write, shoot and edit their films.

2020 Easterseals Disabiliy Film Challenge Kick-Off!

Thank you for joining our 2020 film challenge kick-off before the start of our Sundance Film Festival panel on “Has Recent Industry Emphasis on Disability & Inclusion Influenced the Way We Tell Stories?”

Posted by Easterseals Disability Film Challenge on Saturday, January 25, 2020

Nic Novicki, an actor with a disability, founded the Disability Film Challenge in 2013 to increase disability representation on and off camera as well as provide disabled filmmakers the opportunity to break into a notoriously difficult industry. Now in its seventh year, Easterseals hopes the competition continues to open doors for people with disabilities.

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“Because we rarely see characters with disabilities in storylines, it’s easier for society to stereotype and marginalize,” Mark Whitley, CEO, Easterseals Southern California, said in a statement. “Together we can shift perceptions, tackle stigmas and advance social change. And, while we’re beginning to see bright spots and progress, we still have work to do.”

The Disability Film Challenge gives awards in five categories, including best film, best director, best actor, best screenplay and best awareness campaign. Winning short films are honored during a reception at Sony Pictures Studios in May. Previous film challenge winners have included Jamie Brewer, who later starred on “American Horror Story,” Dickie Hearts, who starred on “Grace & Frankie,” and Santina Muha, who now has a comedy, titled “Pretty,” in the works with CBS.

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“The entertainment industry is notoriously difficult to break into, regardless of your ability,” Novicki said in a press release, adding:

As a person with a disability, I know the odds are stacked against people with disabilities to build careers in entertainment. I set out to change this, giving filmmakers and actors tangible work experiences and a chance to tell more diverse and varied stories that better represent the real world. Through the Challenge, and thanks to Easterseals’ year-round efforts to expand the diversity conversation, disability is gaining representation in front of and behind the camera.

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If you’d like to participate in the Disability Film Challenge, register on the website through March 13 (regular deadline) or March 31 (late registration). Following the last registration date, film genre and other guidelines will be provided to entrants for filming the weekend of April 3-5.

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