I have to apologize for the rather long blog posts lately! I ramble and sometime too much! But I do try and keep them all relevant and hopefully thought provoking. Today I have been seriously thinking of recording, documenting my journey in providing the authentic voice and representation of those with a disability in today’s motion pictures!
Maybe if I turn the camera on Hollywood and ask them the questions I have been politely in phone calls, letters, and faxes and bring a camera to their offices for a response, that should get an answer, right? Only if the documentary film actually gets shown – so it would be real important that it delivers the same Hollywood medicine that it dishes out!
The questions I am and would ask with a doc camera:
Does everyone deserve to be heard and be given a fair and equal opportunity regardless of race, gender, age, nationality, lifestyle or disability?
With over 54 million Americans with a disability, compared to the approximately 40 million Hispanics, 40 million African-Americans, and 15 million gay, lesbian and transgenders, deserve to have a voice and be represented in today’s motion pictures?
Is it important that the voice and representation be authentically written, directed and acted by those from their respective minority or sub-group?
Doesn’t every business want to capitalize on niche product that has universal, wide appeal?
Why is that nearly every other industry in America made changes to their product, service and/or marketing to attract the disabled consumer market with an aggregate income that exceeds $1 trillion annually and has over $220 BILLION in discretionary spending power, except for the motion picture and television industry?
Why is it that an industry with so many of its individuals, companies, organizations and associations proclaim how inclusive they are to all people, all nationalities, all races, all ages should be given an equal chance or at the very least an opportunity to voice their opinions and be heard — except those with a disability? What? That isn’t true? Show me the motion pictures that have been either produced or distributed with one of the established studio names on it, and that includes those “indiewood” companies that the studios have boughten or created such as Miramax, New Line, Searchlight, Vantage, etc. that feature a character with a disability. How many are there? And of those how many are stereotypical? Stereotypical meaning they either center on the disability, are surrounded by a political agenda, or are predictably inspirational? And of those, how many are authentically written, directed and/or acted by someone with the same or similar disability?
Isn’t not being able to walk, or see, or hear to any degree let alone at all, a little more then having a dialect coach for an Irish accent? What would you think if the writer and director of “Boys in the Hood” or “Do the Right Thing” was Clint Eastwood or Brett Ratner? And acted by Ben Stiller in make-up? How authentic would that be? Do you think it is not as significant being paralyzed as it is to be African-American? I am NOT saying they are the same or equal in “being” but I am saying that despite the talents of the actor, being able bodied and acting paralyzed is equally authentic as a white actor acting black. Eminem doesn’t count!!!
The days of Al Jolson’s in a wheelchair are over!
So I have the questions, but ` what about answers to what I can only presume would be Hollywood objections or concerns. The main one being audiences might not want to see a person with a disability because it reminds them of how finite and delicate this life is.
Answer: The 2005 Sundance AUDIENCE Award went to “Murderball”! Today’s audiences are intelligent and discerning. They also want to see things from a different perspective and so long as there are some universal points they can relate to, such as not being accepted in certain circles, overcoming challenges, etc. they will love the movie. It is about story and character and in a fresh, new way of presenting it that is what I strive for.
There is risk in new ventures and that can be really expensive. Why risk on this perspective that has never been all that successful unless it was in a stereotypical story and portrayed by able bodied – name recognized actors?
Answer: Simple it is always a risk. And while the risk of losing can be significant – so can the potential for profit! Stereotypical roles and stories will only get you a limited audience and especially today and therefore will not be that successful and in fact would most likely not make any ROI. Something a little different, risque, touchy subjects, Brokeback Mountain, Little Miss Sunshine, Crash!
And I know I can attract and attach a name recognized talent to co-star with my actor with a disability for at least two reasons. One is the script, character and story. They are good parts and co-starring roles not supporting roles. Second reason is that actors know what it is like being an actor. Actors are passionate people and just like how my storytelling on film goes to who I am, acting is for actors – A-Listers were not always A-List actors, they know what it is like to struggle in getting parts and parts that are good! And when I present to them how their participation in my film(s) is going to help end the discrimination against those in their own field of acting – that there are plenty of actors out there right now that are struggling just as they did BUT add the discrimination – the largest discrimination of those with a disability then most industires – they will want to help end that terrible injustice!
And my company vision is that one day, in the future the actors with a disability will become household recognizable A-List talent just like the able bodied celebrity counterparts of today!
There are other questions and guess what – there are answers for them too! Bring it on and I can answer them for you! And Hollywood better hurry up and ask me otherwise I am going to be asking them questions and I will have a camera operator with extra battery packs with me! What’s Up, Doc?