Sunday, April 5, 2009, was an exciting night! My “London Time” screenplay was a finalist in the Beverly Hills Film Fest’s Screenplay Competition and this was the night of the Awards ceremony! I was a little nervous all day long. Nervous that if I win, what would be my acceptance speech say? Would it include what I want to say and have been advocating for years about the “turning point” in American Cinema for authentic voices, visions, and representation of those with a disAbility? And how the Beverly Hills Film Fest will always be recognized as the “industry launch” for the historic “turning point” that I will bring with my Abilities United Productions. I was also nervous that I don’t ramble on about this, as I normally do, even though there is a lot to be said on the subject and the deep impact it will have that goes well beyond the walls of Hollywood. Including what deep affect it will have on the disAbled community, society as a whole, with realistic, honest, genuine, accurate and authentic images of those with a disAbility on the big screen, all of which has been and is missing today! And I was nervous that if I didn’t win, I wouldn’t get a chance to make this proclamation. In the end, the latter is what happened!
As I mentioned in my email to family and friends earlier this week, I was a little surprised that it affected me as much as it did. After all, I knew the odds were not in my favor since there were 182 finalists! The screenwriter’s contact person there at the Festival had told me there were 1,021 screenplays submitted and that is why there were so many finalists. Although at the awards ceremony the emcee said there were over 500! Well, 1,021 is over 500 but still, if it were only 500 and some odd number then the nearly 200 finalist would not be that significant. I would prefer to think it was the 1,021 that would make a little more sense in the number of finalist, a lot more significant, since the screenwriter’s contact person would know more on what the truth was. Besides if
you saw her, you would probably believe whatever she said was the truth, as most men, including myself, are at a loss of words (which anybody who knows me knows that is a near impossibility) when speaking to her face to face. Yes, she is that beautiful! And along with wearing the incredibly attractive dress that she wore on awards night, she was clearly the most beautiful woman there! Hey, I got to look at the bright side, all the good things, and the silver lining from this loss!
Ok, so regardless of the ratio of submissions to finalists, 182 is still an incredible number to expect that the Jury, judges, committee or whoever it was deciding the Best Screenplay and two runner ups, to give a fair evaluation by having read all of them! Even if there were 10 people making this decision and they each took 18-19 screenplays and presented their “coverage” or opinions of each,
that is still a lot to read, and means that 9 out of 10 judges did not read “London Time” or the other 160+ finalists! I know the same could be said about picking the finalists out of 1,021 submissions!
Much More than just about being disAbled.
And of course like any art, it is subject to individual interpretation. It is subjective but I can assure you that “London Time” is not a winning screenplay based solely on being a representative of those with a disAbility. It really is more than just a character in a wheelchair being featured. It is an entertaining story and is more than being in the proper format. It also has plot points that help the story follow its path to the end, 3 distinct Acts, interesting characters, a character arch for our featured character, and a
“hook” that is even in the title! And as most film marketers say it has to have a quick, to the point description, like, “an American James Bond” or a “European Indiana Jones” to give an immediate image of what the story is and that is why I adopted the “21st century Ironside” caption for “London Time”! It is not a remake or film version of “Ironside” but it is an old school cop drama whose featured character is a paraplegic.
WOW! It does have all the elements of a great screenplay. And if that wasn’t enough, the icing on top of that, is it is also an authentic voice of those with a disAbility, or if you want to be specific, an authentic voice of a paraplegic, as is the featured character, and therefore an authentic representation and even a hero for those with a disAbility. It could be said that Detective London is a hero for more than just those with a disAbility and is for police officers, homicide detectives, widowers (as his character arch is rooted), men, women, and children in general, and just like the television series of “Ironside” is enjoyed by many more people who are not in a wheelchair! But the big difference is that this screenplay, about a character who is a paraplegic, is that this
one is written by a paraplegic! And will be the authentic directors’ vision of a paraplegic (yours truly) and performed by an actor who is a paraplegic (yet to be cast). And if you don’t think that is significant in motion pictures and to the 56+ million Americans with a disAbility, their family and friends, read other entries to this blog or the AbilitiesUnited.com website!
…of the people, for the people, by the people…with a disAbility!
So regardless of the storytelling, or the excellent elements that are incorporated into a screenplay, a win or a loss is magnified by the fact that “London Time” is not just a representative of the author’s work, it is a win or loss for 56+ million Americans who do not have representation in movies or television, let alone an AUTHENTIC representation! And to some degree I feel as if I let them down, and although they do not know about “London Time” they do know that they are practically invisible in the entertainment media (as proven in the 2005 SAG report) and in the very few representations they do have are primarily stereotyped characters and stories, and if that was not enough, they are also written, directed and performed by able bodied people who have no idea what it is like to wake up everyday with an empty wheelchair staring at them next to the bed, with any of the realities, the physical, emotional, or social realities of living with a disAbility.
So why is “London Time” rejected as an award winning screenplay? Is it too “commercial like” by having the components and elements of a blockbuster movie to be considered by the indie community? And is the fact that it hasn’t won any “indie” awards or recognition the reason why the commercial side of the established industry hasn’t even looked at “London Time” despite my hundreds of attempts to contact them?
Anything Less will be Insignificant
Well, I can say that this is a reason why I want “London Time” to be an “indiewood” co-production and distribution. Indiewood, for those who don’t know, is the industry’s in between, or merging of independent films and studio movies, like “Fox Searchlight”, “Miramax”, “Vantage” and others who were created or bought out by the studios to produce indie pictures! This provides the production funds and distribution support to have a better chance
of quality and quantity, as the production value is increased by a higher budget, in the range of $10 to $20 million (in between the budget of a typical indie film and the outrageous studio tent pole budgets) and a wider release potential to reach more audiences! And this is exactly what I will demand so that “London Time” and the following projects by “Abilities United Productions” will be able to have the impact for a “turning point” in American cinema. Otherwise it will not get the exposure or fair evaluation by the industry to show what an authentic representation can do critically and commercially.
Lastly, anyone who thinks that this loss, or the overall dismissal of “London Time” or “Abilities United Productions” is motivating factor for me to continue, that the reason I am doing this is “to prove them wrong” and therefore a good thing that I haven’t won awards (yet!) is crazy! Oh, I will prove them wrong, that I have no doubt about, but I have been at this making the impossible dream possible for 14 years and I do this as I always have, for my passion in storytelling on film by writing and directing movies, and for the 56+ million Americans with a disAbility, future generations who will be born with or acquire a disAbility, who right now do not have much hope to work in this industry let alone have any representation, and for all of the family and friends of those whose loved ones have a disAbility and will also appreciate them not being forgotten, invisible, and/or stereotyped in movies and television. That is why I do what I do! Boo ya!