tv QA Nic Novicki Easterseals Disability Film Challenge CSPAN October 18, 2020 8:00pm-9:00pm EDT
amazing films, more content. thank you. the easterseals disability film challenge was your project. what is the contest? guest: thank you for having me on. the easterseals disability film challenge is a weekend film competition were over the course of a weekend, participants create films that have somebody with a productty or camera. these are narrative films. this year, because of the coronavirus, we ultimately made a documentary short film competition where they can make it from the safety of their home. we have the most film submitted this year. i am really excited. host: how did the contest get started? guest: background on me.
littletting, but i am a person. 3'10".ee for 10 -- i went to business school and i continued to do standup and acting and i learned early in my career that i have to be in charge and all facets of my career. trading my own content. and ultimately that led to work for me. i am lucky that i have been in tv shows and movies, but ultimately a lot of my work has been through me creating my own content. work leads to work. -- andbeen with over over 40 tv shows and movies. i have worked with martin scorsese, the safdie brothers. i created the disability films challenge as a way to jumpstart other people with disabilities to create their own content and
ultimately change the way the world views and defines disability. i have been honored -- i partnered with easterseals in 2017. 'ssterseals is the nation largest disability service organization. they have been around for 100 years and together we have taken this challenge to the next level. it has created jobs for people, but ultimately, what is great about the film challenge is that --ryone is aware of problem the problem. there is a lack of opportunity for people with disabilities in front of and behind the camera. the easterseals disability film challenge is a tangible solution where people can get involved. it has been amazing. to see the growth of it, but ultimately it has been -- which continues to make amazing films year after year and ultimately
spread this inclusion. how did the partnership with easterseals come about? guest: i started the disabilities film challenge in 2013. 2014 was our first film challenge, and it was small the first year. what i got out of that first year was the impact that it had on all the people with disabilities that took part. they asked, when is the next one? ultimately iw, and saw there was something here. farley. mentor in peter mentor in board to 2015. it continued to grow and got
bigger and bigger. easterseals, their mission is to change the way the world views and defines disability. i have been lucky that i have been able to speak on many inclusion summits and i have been a disability rights activist since i was a kid, speaking at the 11th anniversary of the disability act. i came across easterseals and it was a perfect fit. the fact that their mission is to change the way the world views and finds disability, it is really what this film challenge is doing and they pingly got on board with hel create opportunities for people with disabilities in front of and behind the camera. it has been amazing because not only is easterseals of southern california the largest disabilities organization in southern california, they serve 13,000 individuals with
disabilities, but ultimately, easterseals has 65 different affiliates around the country. the fact that i have been able to tap into that network of people who care about this inclusion -- because we are doing screenings around the country at film festivals, we have a virtual screening, an academy award -- for example, when i go there. thishis year, but because is a virtual year. when i go there, typically, i am able to harness that easterseals affiliate and pack out the theater with people that they care about and want to see these great films. there is a real lack of authentic disability inclusion in the entertainment industry. i'm honored that the easterseals disability film challenge has been there to fill that void. host: why is inclusion in the
communication fulfillment industry important? guest: we want to see ourselves represented. everyone does. inclusion has become a hot topic. historically, people with disabilities have not been included in these inclusion conversations. i am not sure if you are familiar, but the cdc put out a study that one in four americans, 61 million americans have some form of disability. yet, we are in less than 3% of movies and tv shows and the majority of those roles are portrayed by nondisabled doctors. -- actors. we want to see ourselves represented because ultimately, not only are we seeing ourselves represented, but it is going to help destigmatize disability.
general getsn in society used to everybody. it makes the world a more inclusive place. the fact that people with disabilities are so underrepresented, we have we are but optimistic -- going to continue to grow and get more opportunities. the percentages right now are so low, but through the easterseals disability film challenge, i am honored that we are changing those percentages. guest host: what brings that many people together as a community? guest: 61 million americans -- what is interesting about that is that the intersectionality of disability, that includes people of all different races, genders, ethnicities, religion.
we are talking about a huge percentage of people with disabilities. what brings all that group together, i would say the entertainment industry. what better platform than to be whereo have film and tv you could have the lead in a title role on a tv show. if you have cerebral palsy, differentrsects all races, genders, ethnicities. if you have it and you see him on nbc, then you are able to see yourself. i feel like it is the media that ultimately has an amazing what of gettingtform behind the disabilities community. beyond that -- beyond that, embracing these roles and these portrayals. are: can you tell me what
two specific stories that you know have come about in the results of your film challenge? that there honored have been hundreds of films created for the easterseals disability film challenge and has led to countless opportunities for people with disabilities in front of and behind the camera. i would like to give one specific example. yearve amazing prizes each . , we have sony cameras. but we are also giving big mental readings. peter farley has really been a mentor and supporter of the easterseals disability film challenge since the beginning. and so, two years ago, he weroached us and said, nic, have an amazing role. it is a recurring role in a tv
show and it is for a little person actors. dino anybody that would be good for this? we were able to take over 10 watchand he was able to all these films and see that an action. ultimately, a major recurring role went to sophia cheyenne, a little person from new york city who has been a theater actress who has not had the opportunity to really showcase herself up until she randomly makes the film for the easterseals disability film challenge and then cut to her being now in her second year recurring on the tv show shot in canada. a major career defining role. that's one example. we also have so many examples of deaf -- another is a
filmmaker, he used his film and ultimately he used it to submit to hbo's project greenlight, which ended up winning. we have another participant that is going to be in another major starring role in a netflix film next year. they found out about her through the film challenge. she did not have an agent and if she had not made a film for the film challenge, she would not have been discovered or had this amazing opportunity to be in a netflix film. easterseals have given us the right to show the award-winning films this year. first of all, how many submissions did you get this year? guest: this year, we had a record-breaking -- 87 amazing films that were created.
as i said earlier, this is a time -- what i know through my career is that it is much easier to get volunteers because this is all volunteer driven to take filmin ultimately making a and volunteer for a short period of time rather than among. typically, you have one weekend to make a film. this year, because of the coronavirus, we changed everything so that it was safe for all of our participants. the safety of our participants was the main priority. people to use home footage that we had rights to, and we gave people five days to make a film that could not be longer than five minutes. sure fiveople and i
minutes with credits. -- an extra five minutes with credits. people had five days to create a film and it had to be authentically portraying people with disabilities and this year was a documentary short film competition. i think you will be pleasantly surprised with the meaningful thateally heartfelt films you see with this year's competition. you are about to see the winning film from this year's film challenge. i highly encourage you all to go to our youtube channel and search easterseals disability film challenge. these are personal, entertaining, heartfelt, and they deserve more eyeballs. who sits indges -- judgment of these films? could you bring to the table to make sure there is quality?
guest: we are honored that we have an amazing jury of judges on board with the easterseals disability film challenge. some of these individuals are really the top actors, directors, producers with his abilities, but also without -- with disabilities, but also without. a little person actor/activist, bad, we from breaking director directing haswen wilson movie, who created opportunities for actors with disabilities. film festival judges, the ofnder and ceo of imdb, one
our judges this year. hollywood reporter critics. we have a wide variety of edges -- judges. , this film challenge is all about authenticity. the disability community as a part of every aspect of this film challenge. host: the first video i am going to show our audience is a montage of the finalists. how many categories of winners do you have? guest: great question. we had three this year. this year, we had best film, the oscar for best film. we had best editor. and best awareness campaign. ae best awareness campaign is campaign where each of the individuals are trying to get as
many likes, views, and shares of their film. ultimately, the most important thing is about us changing the way the world use disability -- views disability and the best ways their exposure. many of our participants were getting thousands and thousands of lights, views, and shares their instagram, facebook, and youtube postings of the films. we actually had this best wetor category because usually have best actor and best director. there are no best actors in these documentary films, so we decided, this is a documentary competition from home. so we decided to make the best editor category to really honor individualss -- that are doing a lot of the hard labor and documentary films. --in documentary films.
host: let's watch the montage of the finalists. [video clip] blindness for me means strength and power because anybody i have met with the disability has always been so strong. we are the great light hackers and so when something does not work, problem solved, come up with solutions. the socialalled security administration to see how was i am losing my caregiver. they do not answer the phone, and they do not let you leave a message. i do not know what i am supposed to do. i am patrick and when i was in full -- when i was 14 months old, i was in an accident. >> i think an invisible illness
makes you feel so alone for so many reasons. you havelieves that significant challenges. in my case, quick -- people found out i was not the pretty porcelain doll i was on the outside. i lost friends because i was too intense or was not available for social events because i was going through a rough period. >> let me describe for a second what adhd is like. i might be talking to you right now about filmmaking and in the back of my mind, there is a voice telling me did you walk the dog, did you return that phone call, or did you have for dinner? what is your problem? you should be able to figure this out. did you pay the rent? or hard. focus. focus. back to zero. this time, i had half of myself.
i had to relearn how to dress, use the bathroom, wash my clothes, relearn how to cook. i was going through phases of life that i had already gone through. >> i remember the first time i was called disabled. we were on a warner bros. lot and we got in trouble because we were all parking and we all got .ickets and that was the first time that someone as an adult had called me disabled. me -- kind of reminds >> i knew she was going to be nice because of the way she looks. >> she has a wonderful sense of humor. >> it was refreshing to see people form an opinion about me that had nothing to do with my disability.
>> she is a child and has the same wants and needs and desires as other kids. the way she operates in the world is not the same. feel happy? >> i'm happy too. >> she is on her very own singular path. host: that is a look at some of the people participating in this year's easterseals disability film challenge. are talking with nic novicki, the creator of the film challenge in its seventh year. over those seven years, what has happened with accessibility of production tools that your contestants need to make these films? guest: that is a great point. the accessibility is really
something that is important to us in the disability community. luckily, we have that legislation that celebrated its 37th anniversary of the disabilities act. ultimately, accessibility is the law. we really encourage all individuals, all business owners, to follow the law and be thoughtful of consumers that have disabilities. six the one million americans have some form of disability -- 61 million americans have some form of disability. it is a bit unique in the sense that many of the movie theaters around the country that we anden are fully accessible have handicaps eating -- handicap seating. we packed the house with people
with disabilities. at times, we showed up at a movie theater with wheelchairs in small movie theaters and so, the movie theaters are like whoa, wait a minute, we have here.handicap seatings we have been strategic and ultimately thinking about canepreneurship in how we make these screenings fully accessible. there have been times that we have gone to movie theaters and typically, you will do a q&a with filmmakers and the casting of the movieottom theater right by the screening. have a couplers stairs so if you have a wheelchair, you cannot get down there. what we will do is we will do our q&a in the middle. we just say, everybody in the front, go in the back so you can
see the q&a. sometimes we'll make a joke individuals ine the wheelchairs will make a joke about it. ultimately, we want to be there and there is nothing that is going to stop up from our mission -- stop us from our mission of creating opportunities for individuals with disabilities. acceptability, we make sure that all of our content is open caption. we are making our films open caption so that the deaf community can fully enjoy these films. that is for all of our films and every thing we post on our facebook, youtube, and instagram challenge. accessibility is very important and what did -- in what we do. how do the people who
create the software create more accessibility tools for filmmakers? guest: adobe is really leading the way in innovative technology. spoke at a ucla conference with one of their team members at adobe. we had a real in-depth discussion about all these accessibility tools and how they are continually innovating. ultimately, they are saying this is a market -- there is a business case for us being fully inclusive. dell has been a sponsor since year one of the film challenge, offering computers and there every step of the way.
sure we can continue to have our awards ceremony this year even though we had to do a virtual awards ceremony. there was so much technology and involved, having logos, zooming in our finalists and winners so that they can appear live. , iing this virtual year called this the virtual year because i am doing so many zooms and video chats, but this year it hasn amazing because eliminated the accessibility barriers for people with disabilities. if it was hard for me or somebody else in a wheelchair or somebody else with difficulty walking, they can work from home and in fact everybody is working from home. now is the time where these companies are seeing the importance of innovation and i
think the disability community is going to read the benefits and i am honored -- reap the benefits and i am honored to have been there as a resource is a case study. i cannot thank our sponsors enough. there are so many. the website, you can see our list of sponsors and we cannot thank you enough for your support. host: we will get to some of the winning films. am i worth?" is the winner for best awareness. campaigne awareness has numerous factors involved, including how many lights, views, and shares the film got. that is ultimately awareness
campaigns. had views on youtube, facebook, and instagram. this is a shortened period of time where these participants are trying to get as many likes and shares for their phone, but it becomes a snowball effect because you have a smaller network in iowa for instance and exampleot a good because we have a participant from my weather gets a lot of support each year, but ultimately, when one film has a great awareness campaign, it alternately helps to get more views for all the films. when you watch one film, you say, wait a minute, what is that?
youtube plays the next video on the playlist. leads to work and use lead to to views.views lead [video clip] >> ok. that's fine, i understand. i do not need help with anything else. thank you. i am rachel. i lost my leg in a car accident eight years ago. bill inrgery and got a the mail. right after i lost my job. they were for my anesthesiologist. adid not realize that i had choice to either stay awake for painful surgery or to pay my rent next month. it made me feel like i did something wrong when all i did was have a life-changing surgery that allows me to walk again.
for 1106 andbill five dollars -- $1165. i am among -- am a mom, actress, and i was born with a limb difference. name is denise. i have been an amputee for a little over nine years. i lived in the united states for the first 32 years of my life. >> i am a registered nurse in new york. i use a wheelchair to get through new york city. doing activities to make up
for the part of my arm that is missing, shoulder pains, back pains. it is mostly just ran -- >> i broke my leg. tried a lot of different things, but ultimately, the best solution was the amputation of my leg. >> i have not had a wheelchair over the last seven years and a chair for me cost upwards of $9,000-$10,000. i have a lot of friends that will fund raise and crowd source, but if i did not have that, what do we do? inwe just say, ok, put you the corner and stay home? >> the process of me getting my prosthetic was a lengthy process. it was stacks and stacks of paperwork. ridiculous questions about why i would need an arm and why this is important.
like, can you brush your teeth? and if you can, you do not need another arm. >> he was appalled at the condition of how i was walking. like how hav you been walking on this and for how long? why have you not had it fixed? quicktime american. beauty --erican amputee. deathly illi got and diagnosed with a bone infection. i was septic so i was in my bloodstream. myself, makingto myself sicker. i am not following their regimen, so that is the reason for me being sick. >> people are not treated
equally or their pain is not taking that seriously. he is making this list and i am starting to panic a little. i was getting nervous because i was like, what is this going to cost me? i thought, what a concept. tears. down in i do not realize how stressful it has been since the beginning. that we insane to me are so low on the totem pole for care and we are silent. we are silent because they are like, you are -- where is that money going? let me know.
host: rachel handler, her film the top winner at easterseals disability film challenge best awareness campaign. did you meet rachel and can you tell us anything about her and what she brought to this process? guest: i've known her for quite a while through the film challenge. she's one of the original film makers of the challenge. she's an actress who was hurt pretty close to the time we started the challenge. she found out and it helped give her a platform and back on her goals of becoming an actress. directing,own work,
that has led to another whole career for her. writer whomarkable is always coming up with amazing scripts. two years ago, she entered the film challenge with a film called "committed." she took that phone and submitted -- film and submi at&t film the awards and won it along with a $5000 grant. handler, i know the skies the limit for her. work as anntinue to actress and a writer and a director. host: the next film is in the best editor category. we arener was scott and
host: what is it that stood out to ethe judges? aest: he really made editing part of the style of the film. he saw the beautiful transitions, the ways he was able to use the marble. the way he was able to make an emotional attachment to his autism. the fact that he talks about iiting, every thing about it think was a truly beautiful edited fellow -- film. if you are a film challenge participant and you are thinking, i am going after you because i did not win, it was not me, it was the judges. he is truly an amazing editor. i'm honored he made this film
challenge and that his going to get a mentor meeting at hbo as a part of his award. i hope that leads to more opportunities for him. phone about how it helps them hyperfocus. some say, if you have a disability, it is going to be hard to do this job, because a lot of times people in the entertainment industry and really the fortune 500 companies, they do not have the exposure of people with disabilities that i feel like we need. now, when you're able to see, wait a minute, he can focus hours and hours, that is the perfect person you need is an
editor or creating videos. i love that that was included in the film. mind thought that comes to is how valuable they would be in schools around the country. so many schools have integration issues with people with disabilities and their learning programs and how it would help those children understand each other better. do you have specific outreach to schools? guest: we are working right now on screening these films at schools and all sorts of programs related to the. -- to that. i've done numerous screenings because ultimately each of these films are owned by the participants. we have had oscar and emmy winners take part, but also families. they do this because it's a
family exercise. one family, their son has down theirme, and i have seen son grow up through the film challenge. pride that liam has in his films that he makes and the pride that the school has in liam, it is really impactful. we are excited about making this something schools can harness. all of these films are online, available to view. we want this to change how the world views disability.
minutes.have 15 a little more about yourself. you said you had a business degree. how did you get into acting? guest: i think it took a very hard left. asimately, i was an athlete a kid. i wanted to be a new york giant. but i'm 3'10". i had an english teacher who said nic, you're so good at these impressions, why not acting? i did a school play and continued in community theater. in businessored and entrepreneurship.
i went to school in philadelphia and early on in my school, i started doing stand-up comedy. i learned i was pretty good at it. i started getting paid. i was doing speeches as a kid, and i would always start the speech with a joke about standing with the podium, hey, who can see me? those speeches continued to snowball. i was on cspan in 2001, a speaker at the 11th anniversary of the american disabilities act. ultimately, i learned to break the ice with a joke. stand-up comedy came natural to me.
i stayed in school and graduated, but afterwards, i decided that instead of going into the finance world or corporate america, to follow my dream to be an actor. it was the right decision. i wouldn't recommend it to everybody because you definitely have to have extent -- have thick skin. be patient, believe in yourself, and be an entrepreneur, especially if you do not look like a typical movie star, which nobody really does. hapten -- you have to learn to create your oconto -- own content. tonot wait for someone create your dream. created yourself -- create it yourself. host: it sounds like this
project must take up an amazing amount of your time. does your professional work suffered because of the amount of time that you're spending with this passion around the film challenge? the worddon't think suffer would be the right word --[laughter] to beda passion, i got thinking about it, i wake up thinking about it. i see the impact that easterseals disability film challenge is making on the community. i am just very good at multitasking. i am sending emails while i am getting ready to go up on stage or late at night. leads to work. thes just a guest star on
good doctor and that opportunity was created for me by a wheelchair user, a writer in the writer's room. me, ate this role for role that typically would not be written for a little person because he got to know me through the work that we are doing together. i play a salesman with two girlfriends. i am happily married, that is not my real life. and iinue to be an artist just have never felt such a passion for something in my life. as i feel for what we are doing. so incredible time management. let's get this very important film in before we run out of time. this is the best film in the easterseals disability film challenge for 2020.
the title is "fish don't care when it rains." [video clip] >> ♪ i'm strong enough let it pour on me downh the water weighs me i'm protected from the lightning ♪ onlyu will find i am the one in the whole world with that name. that is a lot of pressure because if i mess up, it is all on me. i love to create. i have autism. this is the story of how those things combine to make one me. as i have gotten older, i found that i love to garden. it is remarkable to see a seed grow into a plant. pineapples.
that is a sensitive topic around here. two weeks ago, i had a fruit on top of my pineapple plant. even though i knew he was up there watching. that raccoon that terrorized my trashcan, he stole my pineapple. devouring the whole thing. why me? the nerve, i thought. withe left me the stump, the seed i needed to grow another pineapple. i was down but i was not out. there was a -- there was obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, social difficulties and loneliness. i wanted so badly to break through and soak in the sun. but it was not yet my time. so i waited. and just when the right elements
came into play, i had my breakthrough. i was at a facility since i was 15 to help manage my self-injurious behaviors and impulsivity. some places were all right. host were not. i got worse instead of better until life had just about devoured me. then i moved to a new facility in florida. i was replanted in a place where i was allowed to grow. andrrounded myself in music taught myself new skills. like how to create a video diagram -- a vlog, like a video diary. we all learn in unique ways. camera madeelf on me painfully aware that i wanted to fix my face. i only had one expression. no wonder why people always thought i was mad. so i worked on different faces. now i am a comedian.
then i wanted to make friends because i have been lonely most of my life. so i joined a team at my church and we created together, saying together, soon we were hanging out and before i knew it, i was actually socializing. over time, my forms of expression have continued today -- to diversify. my deepest passion is music. it taught me to channel my feelings into a form that connects with people. before, when i used to get frustrated or upset, i usually ended up hurting myself. with music, i could take those abstract feelings and turn them into a relatable tune that everyone could get behind. what does my autism mean to me? i have always been autistic, so i do not know anything else. just like fish. they are already in the water. they do not care if it rains. they are already wet. i do not mind being autistic. it is the vehicle that defines my unique voice. thought my disability, i would
not be who i am today. artist and pineapple grower. let it rain on me. i am just out here swimming. ♪ already wete it's just another day for them in paradise alwayse is what they've known where i'venge been it's just another day for me in paradise it's paradise why ♪ been like has life for jennifer since winning this challenge? guest: she is just such an amazing artist.
she has a youtube channel. she got a lot of views for her film. over 25,000 views just on one of the platforms. she was so excited. ceremony,d our award she was inside the zoom with all the other finalists and when she found out she want -- she won, there was such a pause. you can see the joy and shock in her. it was a touching moment. people behind the scenes told me that they were all crying in the control room because she was just so touched when she won. it was an amazing platform for her to showcase her talent. she is in florida and through the film challenge, she is now meeting with executives from universal pictures and she has had all kinds of amazing exposure for herself and her career.
she was in variety, cnn covered her. she is going to continue to do amazing in her career. i really think that she definitely got a little bit more exposure than she had the week before. i think it was well-deserved for somebody who made such an amazing film. it must have been really hard for the judges because we had 87 amazing films that were created. this film had something that i think at least for me, it really touched on some personal feelings and she was so vulnerable and funny. the camera loves her. in a big tv show, big movie, creating something. i definitely see this not being the end of her career, but i think a big launching pad to see an amazing next project from her. host: as we close out here, a
couple things. major new york times story in which you are one of people featured. talking about all hollywood and inclusion of people with disabilities and the academy announced their rules about the awards program. among those for inclusion are people with disabilities. in closing, you spent the last seven years of your life doing this film challenge. most of your acting career as an activist for inclusion for people with this abilities. are we had a point of inflection or is there still a lot of work ahead? i really feel like the tide is turning right now. i feel honored that through the easterseals disability film challenge, we are part of that change because these are filmmakers and participants that are not just sitting and waiting, but they are actually taking action and creating these
films. the entertainment industry -- i was so honored to be spotlighted in the new york times. in terms of the oscars and them including disability and as part of the inclusion efforts, that was a huge win. i have to say, it was the talent of people with disabilities in front of and behind the camera. the entertainment industry knows that we are there and we are going to continue to work and give out these opportunities. i feel optimistic about the future. host: nic novicki, inc. you. congratulations to all of this year's contestants. introduce letting us our audience to the easterseals disability film challenge. guest: thank you for having me. it was such an honor. ♪
>> all "q&a" episodes are available on our website at c-span.org. >> monday night on the communicators. republican brendan carr talks about 5g and free speech on the internet. >> i think that we should bring a light touch approach to regulating big tech. there has been a no touch approach. we have never had a gap between the size, skew, and power of big tech in the absence or near absence of regulation. >> watch the communicators with brendan carr monday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span 2.