Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0 Summit & Panel Discussion: Disability Through a Brand New Lens —Talent with Disabilities in Front of and Behind the Camera in Television, Film and Streaming

Top Row (l-r): Jodi Delaney; Television Academy Foundation; Dennis Doty, The Caucus; Tari Hartman Squire, EIN SOF Communications; CJ Jones, Sign World Media/Actor; Tanya Hart, The Caucus; Michael Berk, The Caucus; Douglas Schwartz, Baywatch co-creator Bottom Row (l-r): Monika Mikkelsen, Paramount Pictures; Kaitlyn Yang, Alpha Studios; and Zach Anner, Story Editor, Speechless
Photo by: John Lawson

Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0: Disability Through a Brand New Lens, an industry panel exploring talent with disabilities in front of and behind the camera in television, features, and streaming, was held on February 20th. The event, held at the Saban Media Center in North Hollywood Television Academy campus, was presented by The Loreen Arbus Foundation, EIN SOF Communications, and The Caucus for Producers, Writers and Directors, in association with Emerson College.

Loreen Arbus and Tari Hartman Squire were the Event Producers of Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0: Disability Through a Brand New Lens. Chuck Fries was Caucus Events Chair. Tanya Hart and Bob Papazian were Caucus Co-Chairs. Michael Berk was Caucus Panel Chair. Deborah Leoni is Executive Director of The Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors. Jodi Delaney is Executive Director of the Television Academy Foundation.

The morning began with a roundtable discussion of the Hollywood & Disability White Paper created by the Coelho Center for Disability Law, Policy & Innovation in partnership with Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0. The roundtable was facilitated by Katherine Perez, Executive Director of The Coelho Center, and Tari Hartman Squire, CEO EIN SOF Communications and founder of LCA. Roundtable participants included: Steven Allen and Barbara Butz, PolicyWorks; Derek Shields, National Disability Mentoring Coalition, Karyn Benkendorfer, Producers Guild of America, Diversity Committee; Deborah Calla, Producers Guild of America, Diversity Committee and Chair of the Media Access Awards; Wendy Calhoun, Co-Executive Producer Empire, Consulting Producer Station 19, Producer Nashville, Revenge, Justified, Hell’s Kitchen; Lawrence Carter-Long, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund; Jo-Ann Dean, Founder SIGNmation, Producer ASL Cabaret; Consuelo Flores, SAG-AFTRA Diversity; Keith Jeffreys, US Veterans’ Artists Alliance; Diana Elizabeth Jordan, Best Actor 2016 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge; Kristin Kucia and Benjamin Maixner, Exceptional Minds; Tatiana Lee, Accessible Hollywood; Ben Lewin and Judi Levine, writer/director/producer The Sessions, Catcher Was a Spy, Please Stand By; Nanci Linke-Ellis, Specialty Media Consultant; Jillian Mercado, model/social media influencer; Jd Michaels, Creative Engineering, Michaels.Adams; Anna Pakman, Empire Development Fund; David Radcliff, Staff Writer, The Rookie; Angela Rockwood, producer, actress Push Girls; Allen Rucker, WGA Chair, Committee of Writers with Disabilities; Sue Sawyer and Liz Zastrow, CA Transition Alliance; MyKhanh Shelton, SVP 21st Century Fox Global Inclusion; Michelle Alford-Williams and Wan-Chun Chang, CA Department of Rehabilitation; Gail Williamson, KMR Talent Diversity Division; Danny Woodburn, actor Seinfeld, Bold & the Beautiful; Kaitlyn Yang, CEO Alpha Studios; Jason E. Squire, Professor USC School of Cinematic Arts and editor, The Movie Business Book; Brian Roberts, DreamWorks Animation; and Consuelo Flores, SAG-AFTRA Diversity.

Katherine Perez, Executive Director of The Coelho Center for Disability Law, Policy and Innovation, and Tari Hartman Squire, CEO EIN SOF Communications and LCA Founder and Producer, facilitate the roundtable that will result in the Hollywood & Disability White Paper later this year.

Panel topics throughout the afternoon included:

How to Make it in the Media, a Q&A moderated by Anna Pakman, Vice President, Digital Marketing for Empire State Development/NYC Division of Tourism. Panel participants included: Jillian Mercado – model and social influencer; Ben Lewin – director/writer of the acclaimed film, The Sessions. Kesila Childers –Vice President of Development for Powderkeg; CJ Jones – actor, Baby Driver and Avatar; Danny Woodburn, actor, Seinfeld and Bold & The Beautiful, SAG-AFTRA PwD Committee.

How to Make it in the Media

Resume Review, Speed Interviewing Flash Mentoring included:Ben Lewin and Judi Levin, Such Much Films; Brian Roberts Co-Executive Producer, DreamWorks Animation; David Radcliff staff writer, The Rookie; Jd Michaels former EVP Diversity at BBDO Worldwide; Wendy Calhoun – Co-Executive Producer of the hit series Empire and her assistant Maddy Ullman; Jason E. Squire – USC School of Cinematic Arts and editor of The Movie Business Book. Angela Rockwood – Sundance Channel’s Push Girls;Benjamin Maixner and Kristin Kucia Exceptional Minds; Jo-Ann Dean – Founder & CEO, SIGNmation;Tatiana Lee Founder & Editor, Accessible Hollywood; Diana Elizabeth Jordan – Easterseals Disability Film Challenge and Performing Arts Studio West; Giselle Legere –  staff writer, Quantico; Gail Williamson, KMR Talent Diversity Division; Daniel Woodburn – actor Seinfeld, Bold & The Beautiful; Kaitlyn Yang –  CEO Alpha Studios; Craig Tollis,editor, The Good Doctor,and board member, Able Artists Foundation; Liz Kelly –  21st Century Fox Diversity; Consuelo Flores –  SAG-AFTRA diversity; Eileen Grubba –  actor; Karyn Benkendorfer –  PGA Diversity; Anna Pakman,Vice President, Digital Marketing for Empire State Development/NYC Division of Tourism; CJ Jones, Sign World Media, and actor Baby Driver, Avatar; and Jillian Mercado, model and social media influencer.

Resume Review, Speed Interviews, and Flash Mentoring

Self-disclosure: How to Leverage Your Disability to Sharpen Your Competitive Edge: workshop facilitated by Barbara Butz, PolicyWorks, and Katherine Perez, Coelho Center for Disability Law, Policy, and Innovation.

Networking and Mentoring: workshop facilitated by Derek Shields, National Disability Mentoring Coalition.

Deaf & Disability Narrative Imperative: Casting Authentic Stories Across Genres – Panel and Q&A moderated by Jd Michaels – former EVP Diversity, BBDO Worldwide,and Angela Rockwood – actress, star of the Sundance Channel’s Push Girls. Panel included:Diana Elizabeth Jordan – Easterseals Disability Film Challenge and Performing Arts Studio West;Dawn Grawbowski – actor, writer, filmmaker, sit-down comic, motivational speaker;Tatiana Lee Founder & Editor, Accessible Hollywood, blogger;David Radcliff – staff writer, The Rookie;Jo-Ann Dean, SIGNmation, Deaf Film Camp; John Lawson – Easterseals Disability Film Challenge.

Deaf & Disability Narrative Imperative

Concluding the all-day event was a dynamic evening panel entitled Disability Inclusion: In Front of and Behind the Camera, moderated by Tari Hartman Squire.Panel included:Zach Anner Actor & Writer, Speechless and Rollin’ With Zach, winner of Oprah Winfrey’s Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star, author of If at Birth You Don’t Succeed; Kaitlyn Yang –CEO Alpha Studios and Forbes 30 Under 30 Hollywood; Monika Mikkelsen – VP of Casting, Paramount Pictures;Michael Berk – Creator/Showrunner/Writer, Baywatch;andDouglas Schwartz –Creator, Showrunner, and Director, Baywatch; and CJ Jones – actor, Baby Driver and Avatar.

About The Loreen Arbus Foundation:

Loreen Arbus is the first woman in the United States to head up programming for a national network, a feat accomplished twice (both Showtime and Cable Health Network/Lifetime), and the author of six books. She possesses an extensive, multifaceted history in the entertainment industry with a solid track record as an executive in network television, pay and basic cable, syndication, and the print media; as a consultant to a pay-per-view network, several established and new cable networks; as a writer and as a producer.

Ms. Arbus co-founded Media Access Office (operated in partnership with California Governor’s Committee), to increase employment, improve depiction, and raise consciousness regarding disability. In addition, she was Co-Founder and, for seven years, Co-Chair of the Lucy Awards for Women in Film. Ms. Arbus is also among the core group of founders of Los Angeles Donor Circle of The Women’s Foundation of California.

In 2014, she worked as Executive Producer of the acclaimed documentary, A Whole Lott More, which examined work and disability through new perspectives, revealing the struggles of over eight million people in America with developmental disabilities to join the work force.

She currently serves on over a dozen non-profit boards including: Women Moving Millions; Paley Center for Media; The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation; Harvard Kennedy School of Government Women’s Leadership Board; Harvard School of Public Health; Harvard Medical School Advisory Committee for Neurobiology; Visionary Women; Town Hall Los Angeles; Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research; and Salomé Chamber Orchestra.

Ms. Arbus has served as a two-term Governor for the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences; on the boards of Women Moving Millions; The Producers Guild; The Caucus for Producers, Writers, and Directors; Women in Film; Women in Cable and Telecommunications; and as Chair of Women in Film International.

The Loreen Arbus Foundation supports a broad scope of charitable interests including: scientific and medical research, women and girls, people with disabilities and other minorities, gender and racial equity in media, the arts, animal rights, the environment, and world peace.

www.arbusprod.com

About EIN SOF Communications:

Tari Hartman Squire’s EIN SOF Communications is the leading strategic marketing and employment consultation firm specializing in disability-inclusive diversity in entertainment, corporate America and the disability community, promoting authentic media images, increased employment and the untapped $220 billion purchasing power of the disability market segment.

As a result of a discrimination in the casting process, Squire spearheaded creation of the SAG Committee of Performers with disabilities with other disabled actors, and was the Founding Executive Director of the Media Access Office (liaison between the entertainment industry and disability community) to operationalize programs to increase disability employment and improved portrayal strategies illuminated by The Media Access Awards founded by Loreen Arbus, Norman Lear and Fern Field.

Together, Loreen and Tari joined forces to create Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0 (LCA2.0) to increase employment of aspiring filmmakers and media professionals with disabilities, improve disability portrayals and enhance accessible entertainment with captions and audio descriptions.  LCA Career Exploration Summits have occurred in Hollywood (hosted by the Television Academy and CBS); Washington, DC (hosted by The White House and Gallaudet University); NYC (hosted by BBDO, CUNY, NYU and ReelAbilities Film Festival); Boston (hosted by ReelAbilities and Northeastern University); Chicago (hosted by the Chicago Film Office and Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities). LCA is expanding to Silicon Valley when the Computer History Museum hosts on May 17, 2019.

EIN SOF disability-specific focus groups for companies like AT&T, Apple, and Bank of America, help focus advertising and marketing messages and strategic alliances. For Verizon Media, Getty Images and the National Disability Leadership Alliance (NDLA) EIN SOF focus groups resulted in The Disability Collection to capture more authentic disability portrayals in stock photos, resulting in disability-savvy guidelines for Getty’s 240,000 photographers worldwide. LCA2.0 and Daryl “Chill” Mitchell co-authored the Ruderman TV Challenge to increase performers with disabilities in last year’s pilots.

For more information about EIN SOF or LCA, visit www.EINSOFcommunications.com

About The Caucus for Producer, Writers & Directors:

The Caucus is leading the evolution of television by providing a creative forum for Producers, Writers, and Directors to explore the issues of the ever-changing landscape of content and exhibition.  The Caucus is proud of its rich history and esteemed membership of television innovators.  For over 40 years, The Caucus has provided an opportunity for the best and the brightest talent to network and voice the ‘creative conscience’ of the television industry.  Today, we continue to stand for better and meaningful content across all platforms.  As Producers, Writers and Directors we support a working environment that fosters, through our various programs, the best content that we can create for our audiences.

In addition to its professional membership, The Caucus is proud of its non-profit work through The Caucus Foundation. Established in 2000 to help launch the careers of future entertainment professionals in film, television, and emerging media, The Foundation provides completion grants to student thesis productions from accredited universities and colleges.  To date The Caucus Foundation Grant Program has given over $1.6 million dollars in cash and in-kind awards: http://www.caucus.org

About The Coelho Center for Disability Law, Policy & Innovation:

The Coelho Center for Disability Law, Policy & Innovation, housed at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University (LMU), pursues a unique four-pronged mission: convening thought leaders to pursue positive change on disability issues; leveraging technology to advance the lives of people with disabilities; creating a pipeline of lawyers with disabilities to populate the bench and hold elected office; and fostering a campus-wide dialogue on issues affecting people with disabilities. The Coelho Center also draws on multiple areas of expertise from other LMU colleges. Founded by former congressman, disability rights icon, and LMU alumnus Hon. Tony Coelho (LMU ’64), The Coelho Center is the only organization of its kind at a Catholic university in America and the only one housed at a top U.S. law school. Details about The Coelho Center are available at www.lls.edu/coelhocenter.