Easterseals Disability Film Challenge Returns With $15,000 Grants to Winners

The Easterseals Disability Film Challenge, in which participants write and produce short films that promote disability inclusion, returns for its 11th consecutive year and will run from April 2-7.

This year, in addition to the traditional awards of cash, computers and other technology, subscriptions, mentorships and screening opportunities, the EDFC will award ten $15,000 grants for the winners of the best film, best director, best writer, best actor and best editor categories to develop their projects further. Five additional grants will be awarded to past EDFC participants, with all winners announced at the EDFC awards ceremony on May 9 at Sony Pictures Studios.

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“Hollywood has only begun to tap into the power of inclusion and to showcase this significant segment of our society,” Mark Whitley, president and CEO of Easterseals Southern California, said in a statement. “The Easterseals Disability Film Challenge gives filmmakers, actors and their crews an opportunity to change the way we all experience and understand disability.”

For the challenge, filmmakers have five days to write and produce short films (one to five minutes) based on the year’s announced genre. This year’s genre – buddy comedy – was announced at the Sundance Film Festival. The films are required to promote disability inclusion and are judged in the aforementioned five categories, with one other category for the best awareness campaign.

Actor, comedian and producer Nic Novicki launched the challenge in 2013 in “response to the under-representation of talent with disabilities both in front of and behind the camera.” The challenge hopes to allow aspiring filmmakers to showcase their work and give them meaningful exposure. In 2017, Novicki joined Easterseals Southern California – the nation’s leading nonprofit supporting people and families with disabilities – to expand the event, renamed the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge.

“As we continue to strive to build a more diverse and inclusive workplace in Hollywood, we have made advancements, but there is still much work to be done,” Novicki said. “Disability continues to be frequently overlooked in D&I discussions, and we need to be part of that conversation. I created the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge to help accelerate change and to showcase talented filmmakers and actors, providing them with an opportunity to overcome barriers and to achieve their dreams. We are proud of the outstanding films produced over the past 11 years. I am grateful that the Challenge has provided a high-profile platform that has enabled many of our participants to go on to such prominent success.”

Previous challenge winners and participants have gone on to land roles or direct segments of films and TV shows like: “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” “New Amsterdam,” “Superstore,” “The Good Doctor,” “Loudermilk, “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” among others. Challenge films have also won awards at various other film festivals, and participants have earned accolades and grants from organizations worldwide (including the AT&T Underrepresented Award).

“Saying yes to my first Easterseals Disability Film Challenge and facing my fear of the unknown literally put me on the path that I was meant to be on,” Danny Gomez, an actor and wheelchair user who will be participating in the Film Challenge this year, said. “It showed me that anything is possible for disabled actors. There is a place for us in this industry. It also led to me signing with my first agent and to my first guest star on NBC’s ‘New Amsterdam.’ It was life-changing.”

The Easterseals Disability Film Challenge is made possible by the support of Adobe Foundation, Amazon MGM Studios, Dell Technologies, Golden Globe Foundation, IMDbPro, Intel, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount Global, Sony Pictures Entertainment and The Walt Disney Studios.

Registration for the event will open on Jan. 20 at the Disability Film Challenge’s website.

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