RespectAbility has officially opened submissions for their second annual Summer Lab Program which further moves the needle when it comes to authentic stories and genuine representation of diverse people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health and other disabilities in film, TV and media. Applications will be accepted starting today and will be considered on a rolling basis through April 3.
The innovative Lab series is for emerging entertainment talent and includes a track for mid-level career professionals. The 5-week, 10-session summer Lab is for people with disabilities interested in – and with experience in – development, production and post-production, including careers as writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, animators and other production roles. Up to 30 participants will be accepted into the Lab.
“What we see on screen influences how we act in real life, but that is dependent on filmmakers choosing to include individuals with disabilities in diverse and accurate portrayals, which then helps remove the stigmas that currently exist about interacting with individuals with disabilities,” said Program Director Lauren Appelbaum. “One purpose of this program is to continue building the talent pipeline of young professionals with disabilities looking to work behind the scenes. We do not want anyone to have an excuse that they could not find a writer, editor or any other position with a disability.”
The sessions will take place June 15-July 17 andl be held on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and evenings at locations around the Los Angeles area, including Bunim/Murray Productions, Film Independent, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Studios and The Walt Disney Studios. Program participants will have the opportunity to learn about possible career paths and have networking opportunities.
“Opening the inclusion umbrella is the right thing to do as well as economically smart given that the disability market is valued at more than $1 trillion,” adds Tatiana Lee, an actress, model and social influencer with Spina bifida, who will be assisting with this program as RespectAbility’s Hollywood Inclusionist. “According to Nielsen Research, Americans with disabilities represent the third largest market behind Baby Boomers and the mature market.”
Each Lab session will include guest speakers and leaders in the industry. Previous guest speakers include individuals from CAA, Film Fatales, GLAAD, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, Muslim Public Affairs Council Hollywood Bureau, the Sundance Institute, Writers Guild of America West, among others. Toward the end of the Lab, participants will be invited to showcase their materials with each other, including script readings and showing clips of materials produced.
Details about the two tracks can be read below:
- Emerging: Young professionals with internship or first job experience under their belt aspiring to become writers, directors, producers, animators and other production positions, with the goal of connecting them to jobs at major studios, networks and production companies.
- Mid-Career: A mentorship track for more established individuals with disabilities who wish to take part in the program for the networking opportunities and to serve as mentors for the younger professionals.
A college degree is not required to participate, but applicants must have acquired the skills necessary for their chosen career through internships or other professional development opportunities, including self-education.
Last year’s pilot Lab led to five of the 16 emerging track participants finding employment at Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment and the Walt Disney Company.