What does the Hollywood Sign mean to you? A lot of people around the world know the sign, what it means to them as the name of the entertainment capital of the world, and many can say it even if it is the only word they can say in English! There was news this week that the Hollywood Sign would be preserved and save the land surrounding it so that no other buildings or signs would obstruct or take away from the sign that stands on the mountain as a symbol of Los Angeles and the world.
In the press conference that announced the that money needed to save this sign and the land around it, Governor Schwarzenegger who may be as iconic as the Hollywood sign itself spoke what it meant to him as he said:
“Now, everyone knows that this is probably the most recognizable, iconic symbol in the world. You know there are a lot of great symbols out there and a lot of signs and a lot of structures and buildings that are historic but I think the Hollywood sign is recognized by everyone around the world, there’s no two ways about it. It is a symbol of dreams and a symbol of opportunity and hope.”
The Governor continued,
“And I know that when I was a kid and I wanted to come to Hollywood, that is the kind of, the thing that I always had in my vision in front of me, was the Hollywood sign. And even though, when you go through difficult moments and times of studying the English language or training five hours a day in a gym to make it over here — and one of the other dreams was to be part of Muscle Beach — but the thing that always was in front of me was the Hollywood sign, so that’s what motivated me. And so I think that Hollywood has been very kind to me. When I came over here, Hollywood turned me into an action hero.
So, of course, when I heard that there were 130 acres around the Hollywood sign that need to be protected, I did what the Terminator was supposed to do, which is to jump into action. And this is exactly what I did. (Applause) And, of course, there’s no such thing as just one person jumping into action; in order to do something like that a lot of people had to jump into action. And especially Councilman Tom LaBonge has jumped into action in a big, big way, so I want to say thank you very much. (Applause) And again also the Trust for Public Land jumped into action and so we want to thank them also for the extraordinary job that they have done.
And I am proud today to say that the $12.5 million was raised and we are going to preserve this historic landscape. And what’s great about it is, it’s not just to preserve the land around it but also to protect the environment, which is so important for all of us. The Hollywood sign will welcome dreamers and artists and Austrian bodybuilders from around the world, (Laughter) to continue coming over here for generations to come.”
(The whole speech can be found at http://gov.ca.gov/speech/14995/.)
But as I have spoken about, and a lot of others with a disAbility have spoken about, and even the SAG report that was published in 2005 not only spoken about but also documented and proved, that the Hollywood Sign is not much of “a symbol of opportunity and hope” for those of us with a disAbility. And although there have been numerous people whose dreams have been realized, as it has been with Arnold Schwarzenegger, thanks to Hollywood, there are countless more that have had those dreams shattered – and I can tell you that that ratio is not favorable for the odds makers it is a lot worse for those with a disAbility who dream of becoming a star as a writer, director, or actor in Hollywood. For the past few decades, really the entire history of Hollywood, has proven that even when there is a role that is specifically written as a character with a disAbility, it is nearly always written and directed by an able bodied person, and then cast with an able bodied actor to portray and represent that person with a disAbility.
If this was the case once in a while, or even 50% of the time, AND of course if it was limited to characters representing disAbilities that are not likely able or at all able to represent themselves, such as some with developmental disAbilities, as I have said before – Dustin Hoffman as Raymond in “Rain Man” could not be portrayed or represented by anyone with the same disAbility as that character with autism, then this wouldn’t be as BIG of an INJUSTICE as it is. But far too many in this industry just look away and will not pay attention to this so that they do not have to feel any guilt for not doing anything about it! Therefore this portrayal and representation, which is already very limited in movies and television, represses the voices, visions, and performances of those who actually know what it is like to live with a disAbility. This is true for all but the very few and far in between exceptions for those with a disAbility that can represent and portray the characters in movies and television – and of course I talk a lot about paraplegics – because I am one and I can represent as a writer and director on any movie or television production lot, studio or location!
There are a handful of reasons that Hollywood does this, and I can and have gone on for several pages to explain these as well as what impact and the results these reasons have, but want to single out one that was used by the producers of the television show “Glee” who said that there wasn’t any actors with a disAbility that has the talent they wanted for their paraplegic character, Artie.
Do you think the talent pool of actors with a disAbility will grow and offer more choices to be cast in these roles of characters with a disAbility if they continue to dismiss the talent of actors with a disAbility and casting able bodied actors in these roles?
Dreaming for a opportunity to be hired as an actor for a single role, let alone a career as an actor in Hollywood, if you have a disAbility (and again I am speaking only of those who have the ability to represent themselves) is crazy, improbable, and nearly foolish when you consider the odds that an overwhelming amount of those roles will go to able bodied actors. Dreaming of and working toward becoming an actor in Hollywood is extremely tough as it is for anybody – but it is at least twice as tough if you are a person with a disAbility and the more visible the disAbility – like being a paraplegic using a wheelchair – the odds are astronomical – even getting an audition – let alone a fair audition, instead of the “parking lot” auditions because they were held in an inaccessible place – or when considering that most casting directors, directors and producers in Hollywood already have their mind up about what an actor with a disAbility can and cannot do. They have a barrier of attitude that is thinking but to be politically correct will not openly say is “we cannot hire a person with a disAbility – regardless of their talent – we don’t want someone like that in our movie. Nobody wants to see them up on the screen, they are not attractive people, they are not even whole people. We have to dismiss them as a real possibility for the success of movie with audiences.” And even when there is a character with a disAbility in their movie – they still cast an able bodied actor 99% of those limited opportunities.
This is not a guess or speculation – look at the movies – how many feature either a starring or supporting role those that have a disAbility? And out of them how many are written, directed or performed by a person with the same or similar disAbility? Plus I hear from actors with a disAbility on a regular basis – I hear horror stories of how they are treated, looked at, and considered as not even a possible actor for any role. They have the same passions, desires, dedication, dreams, training and education that their able bodied counterparts have – but the “opportunity and hope” that the Hollywood sign symbolizes is not the same for those with a disAbility.
This is what I fight for and work for, an “opportunity and hope” to provide an authentic representation in movies. This is why I modified the Hollywood sign to be a symbol for Abilities United Productions. Where ever you see it on the website and click on it it will take you to the home page!
I write movies and hope to direct those movies that give those of us with a disAbility a fair and equal representation, expression, inclusion on the big screen! I have also written and developed all the material necessary that proves how and why this “opportunity” can be and will be successful. Now all I need is the key people – the Hollywood players and makers – to at least give me the opportunity to show what it is that I have – the “London Time” screenplay, the Abilities United Productions business plan – the blueprint that shows what movie elements and the marketing strategies that are necessary for box office and critical success which will in turn will change their attitudes and barriers to using those with a disAbility in these creative roles.
I believe then the Hollywood sign will not need to be modified to be “a symbol of dreams, a symbol of opportunity and hope” for everyone – and finally for those with a disAbility. After all, if an Austrian bodybuilder can immigrate to American and move to Hollywood to become the biggest action hero, then certainly Hollywood will take a chance on a paraplegic homicide detective character, which is authentically represented and will become a hero for all those in a wheelchair! That is why “London Time” has to be produced with a professional independent budget – $8-15 million, and secure professional independent or major distribution contracts – and to get that we need talent, Hollywood Star talent that provides the attention not only with audiences for success at the box office but with these key elements of funding and distribution that will raise the quality of the film that audiences expect and require when shelling out for movie tickets.
So yeah, despite the realities of Hollywood’s current environment toward those with a disAbility, the incredible odds that are against me to stand firm in my commitment to produce a high quality film that has specific elements and strategies that will break the Hollywood stereotypes and go against the industry wide discrimination of those of us with a disAbility.
I will keep hope alive and just like Schwarzenegger said “I did what the Terminator was supposed to do, which is to jump into action. And…in order to do something like that a lot of people had to jump into action” so I am now engaged in attracting and attaching these key elements, “a lot of other people” such as: the Hollywood Star Power talent, experienced executive producers, entertainment attorney representation, public relations and publicity, all that will contribute to securing the production funding and distribution that will make “London Time” a very attractive option to movie audiences that include the huge and completely underserved target market segment of disAbled consumers, as well as mainstream moviegoers world wide! Do you know one of the key personnel? Are you one of these key personnel? Call me, email, contact me – let’s make a movie that is entertaining for all and what history will record as a significant “turning point” in American cinema for those with a disAbility so that the symbol of the entertainment capital of world, “The Hollywood sign will welcome dreamers and artists and Austrian bodybuilders from around the world, to continue coming over here for generations to come” with or without a disAbility!