All posts by yogi1964

Oscar’s 90th – Segment 5 – Diversity and The Newest Hollywood Term – B. Diversity Video Montage

Here we go – Again! Let me repeat what I said in the first of these three sub-segments that are now individual blog entries. The final commentary of this year’s Academy Award show – The Oscars! As I mentioned in the first segment – this is a long commentary because the Academy’s President did not make a statement as the previous Academy’s President did. But there was plenty to talk about from the host, presenters and award winners. And we have finally reach the end (in parts)! But let me first give links to the first four segments in case you missed any or for quick reference:

My Yearly Oscar Inclusion Exclusion Speech! Or “The 90th Oscars – Segment 1 – The Kimmel Intro”

Oscar’s 90th – Segment 2 – Let’s Dream

Oscar’s 90th – Segment 3 – Coco for Coco(a) Puffs

Oscar’s 90th – Segment 4 – Hum if You Don’t Know the Words

Okay let’s explain this again. As we get onto my final Segment. And like the previous Segment that had lyrics and some presenters’ remarks typed out, transcribed and making them a bit long – this one does similarly because what is said is so important to diversity and the entertainment industry. So at first I broke this Segment into 3 sub-segments. But that doesn’t change then length. So instead this is going to be a Segment that will be in 3 blog entries. Oscar’s 90th – Segment 5 – Diversity and The Newest Hollywood Term – A, B, and C.

A. Deafness disAbility

B. Diversity Video Montage

C. The Optional Contract Clause

This way if you feel like you get the point before I reach the end of each sub-segment (because I have been told that I can be a bit lengthy in my speech!!! Especially if it is on a topic I am passionate about!!!) you can jump over to the next sub-segment and begin that sub-section. Because this final Segment Oscar’s 90th – Segment 5 – Diversity and The Newest Hollywood Term – I have left the most important parts of this year’s Oscars when it comes to diversity, equality and inclusion within Hollywood.

And just like above giving links to the previous Segments – here is a link to the first sub-segment of this blog entry:

Oscars 90th Segment 5 Diversity and the Newest Hollywood Term – A Deafness disAbility

So here it goes with the second of the three sub-segments!

B. Diversity Video Montage

It is interesting that these three sub-segments/ blog entries happen to be in line chronologically with when they were presented in the Oscars! This one starts out on a very somber note but also on ones of strength, courage and inspiration. Three women came out to present the Diversity Video. They are Ashley Judd, Annabella Sciorra, and Salma Hayek who came out together and huddled up together in front of the microphone. Now their presentation has more to do with their experiences that are now in the open since they added their voices to the sexual misconduct allegations against the once thought of as untouchable movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. I have read their interviews and reports of theirs and others with allegations and I believe them. Especially when there are so many collaborations from business associates to the dozens and dozens of women with their own allegations. Their voices and those for diversity are combined by the Academy in this powerful Oscar segment. And although I could just skip it and go directly to the Diversity Video – although I was personally heartbroken but as I mentioned above also amazed by their strength, courage and inspiration to speak out – in a David versus Goliath odds – so I believe their presentation is worthy to be spoken about and so I will, as the Academy did, put these together – in this blog entry.

Ashley-Judd-Annabella-Sciorra-Salma-Hayek - 1

All three of these Oscar presenters are among those who have spoken out over the past year with allegations of sexual misconduct against the once mighty movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein whose empire has since crumbled and criminal charges are being investigated in Los Angeles, New York and London. And as of today, May 25, 2018 he was charged with criminal sexual assault and rape of two anonymous women in a New York court. These three brave women Ashley Judd, Annabella Sciorra and Salma Hayek at the Oscars took the stage in support of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, which were either spawned and/or exploded within society by their courageous efforts in coming out to tell of their experiences with the movie monster mentioned above. While Ashley Judd and Salma Hayek have remained out in public and pushing forward in their careers in the years after their sexual misconduct experiences, Annabella Sciorra and the first person in the Diversity Video Montage, Mira Sorvino have not been as active in the public eye and their careers have also been slowed or stalled since their encounters with the monster mentioned. Annabella’s being the most serve in which she kept hidden for decades until last October after other women, like Mira Sorvino talked about it to reporter Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker. Since then there has been over 80 women that have now come forward with sexual misconduct allegations from harassment, sexual assault and rape against Harvey Weinstein who was at the time one of the most powerful men in the entertainment industry. And that goes beyond just movies and television but also in the print/online entertainment news media. He could either catapult or crush a career and he either promised or threatened both. I mention this so you can better understand what is being said here by the presenters and some of those in the Diversity Video Montage. With this in mind you can better understand how very powerful this beginning with the presenters of Ashley, Annabella, and Salma are saying as they are standing together on this Oscar stage.

Ashley-Judd-Annabella-Sciorra-Salma-Hayek - 2

Annabella Sciorra: “Hi. It’s nice to see you all again, it’s been a while, (Audience member yells out “We love you!” as they rest of them and Salma Hayek applauds. Annabella smiles and with her hands clasped slightly nods a “thank-you” to the audience member. See the photo above!) It’s an honor to be here tonight. This year, many spoke their truth and the journey ahead is long, but slowly a new path has emerged.

Ashley Judd: “The changes we are witnessing are being driven by the powerful sound of new voices, of different voices, of our voices, joining together in a mighty chorus that is finally saying, “Time’s Up.” (Big applause from audience and Salma. And another smile from Annabella!)

Salma Hayek: “So, we salute those unstoppable spirits who kicked ass and broke through the biased perceptions against their gender, their race, and ethnicity to tell their stories.”

Annabella Sciorra: “And on this 90th anniversary evening when the Oscars celebrates (big sigh) timeless classics (looks down, I believe toward Meryl Streep who was in the front row, as does Ashley Judd), we also look forward as well. (Looks again toward Meryl Streep with a smile.)”

Ashley Judd: “And we were together to make sure that the next 90 years empower these limitless possibilities of equality, diversity, inclusion, intersectionality. That is what this year has promised us.” (Big smile from Ashley. Huge applause from audience and Salma.)

Salma Hayek: “As you can see, (Salma looks over to Annabella and Ashley who are smiling and adds some nervous laughter) so full of emotion and a little bit shaky. We ask you to join us as we take a look at some of these trailblazers.”

A video begins high on center stage. It is a montage of artists who have fought for diversity and equality in movies. And as I mentioned above it begins with another one of the brave women who spoke out against sexual harassment by the now defamed and whose name I will not mention again, the wonderful and talented, Mira Sorvino. And while she starts this video montage with comments about the sexual harassment charges and the powerful groups that have grown to support the victims of this serious and unacceptable crime of sexual harassment, it moves into showing what has become a more diverse Hollywood and it trying to be more representative to all people – all minorities and sub-groups of our very diverse American society. And for the rights to self-represent in the stories written, directed and acted in the more diverse movie making in Hollywood.

Now here are links to two videos I found after a searching for the Diversity Video Montage. The first is embedded in a Hollywood Reporter magazine’s online website. And it includes the presenters of Ashley Judd, Annabella Sciorra and Salma Hayek. It is wonderful and I highly recommend watching that one. It also has captions/subtitles available (although they are not complete). The second is just the Diversity Video Montage and I hope both remain available. And the reason that include both in case one is taken down I hope the other remains. But if neither do – like above, I have included the transcription below.

  1. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/ashley-judd-salma-hayek-honor-diverse-films-metoo-times-up-movements-oscars-2018-1091014
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=5&v=mC7DjzlOeE0

 

 

Diversity Video Montage - 1a

The Diversity Video Montage. Here is the transcription. I have also included the movie clips that often played at some point during the artists’ comments. Sometimes the movie clip had dialogue that was played in this video and I included it when I could make it out – other times there were no dialogue and I mention that. If you are watching the video above with captions/subtitles you will notice that they missed some of what was said. I did my best to include all of what was said. Also if you are reading or following along with the transcription below – I put dialogue that was said in bold which I felt would be great if it was also applied to the minority of the people with a disAbility! And to put even more emphasis on certain remarks or partial remarks, I put a screen shot picture of them on top of those remarks! With that said, let’s go!

Mira Sorvino – “This entire fall, the ‘Me Too,’ the ‘Time’s Up’ movements, everyone is getting a voice to express something that has been happening forever, not only in Hollywood, but in every walk of life.”

Movie clip from “Get Out” – “Do they know that I’m black?” “Should they?”

Lee Daniels – “Some of our best work has come from turmoil.”

Dee Rees – Director: Mudbound – “We have been in denial about the things at work. This moment is exposing the hypocrisy.

Ava DuVernay – “These are the times that will be long remembered. What will we be remembered for? What did we do?

Movie clip from “Lady Bird” – “My name’s Lady Bird.” “It’s weird you shake hands.”

Greta Gerwig – Director: Lady Bird – “All the movies I loved were directed by men. That seemed like a prerequisite.”

Kumail Nanjiani – Writer: The Big Sick – “Some of my favorite movies are movies by straight white dudes about straight white dudes. Now straight white dudes can watch movies starring me and you can relate to that. It’s not that hard. I’ve done it my whole life.

Movie clip from “The Big Sick” – “So, the sun was shining down on you.”

Movie clip from “Una Mujer Fantastica – A Fantastic Woman” No dialogue

Diversity Video Montage - 5 - Salma Hayek

Salma Hayek – “The industry has to become sincerely curious about the human essence that has become invisible behind stereotypes.

Movie clip from “Beatriz at Dinner” – No dialogue

Diversity Video Montage - 4 - Mira Sorvino

Mira Sorvino – “It’s this possibility of the status quo not having to be the status quo any longer.

Movie clip from “The Post” – “I’m talking to Mr. Bradley now”

Movie clip from “Thelma & Louise” No dialogue

Geena Davis – “When ‘Thelma & Louise’ came out, the huge prediction in the press was, this changes everything. We’re going to see so many more movies starring female characters. That didn’t happen. But this is now that moment.

Yance Ford – Director: Strong Island – “I’ve been a trans director in my life for many, many years now. With the nomination and headlines, I was like, Oh, I guess this is new for some people.”

Movie clip from “Strong Island” – No dialogue

Sarah Silverman – “Some people are really in their hearts, they’re threatened or they’re scared. And there’s nothing to be scared of. It’s just equality.

Kumail Nanjiani – “Emily, my wife, had this idea. She wanted to have a website called ‘Muslims Having Fun’, which is just like Muslims eating ice cream and riding roller coasters and laughing and having fun. Because she gets to see that and most of America doesn’t.

Movie clip from “The Big Sick” – No dialogue.

Diversity Video Montage - 3 - Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay – “You can deconstruct the very way that people see themselves and the way that they are seen.

Movie clip from “The Shape of Water” – No dialogue.

Mira Sorvino – “We are the interpreters of dreams and we have a chance to lionize beauty and truth and honor and justice.

Salma Hayek – “Only through originality, we can really get to the heart of real human stories.

Diversity Video Montage - 6 - Kumail Nanjiani

Kumail Nanjiani – “There’s so many movies from different points of views that are making a ton of money. Don’t do it because it’s better for society and representation, even though it is. Do it because you can get rich. Get that promotion, right?”

Movie clip from “Wonder Woman” – No dialogue.

Barry Jenkins – “I remember going to see ‘Wonder Woman,’ sitting in the theatre and hearing women cry in this big action extravaganza, and something clicked. I’ll say it. This is what white men feel all the time and all these women are having this experience for the first time.

Movie clip from “Black Panther” – No dialogue.

Barry Jenkins continues – “I imagine it’s going to be same thing when people go and see ‘Black Panther’.”

Lee Daniels – “Get ready for some more ‘Get Outs,’ for more ‘Black Panthers.’ Get ready for some more ‘Wrinkle in Times.’ We’re here and we’re not going anywhere.

Diversity Video Montage - 7 - Black Panter

Movie clip from “Black Panther” – “My son, it is your time.

Diversity Video Montage - 8 - Liz Hannah

Liz Hannah – Writer: “The Post” – “It’s so exciting to imagine an 8-year-old kid seeing themselves on screen in a way they haven’t been before. Traditional walls have collapsed. ”

Movie clip from “Lady Bird” – No dialogue.

Ava DuVernay – “You have a phone that has a camera on it that you can actually make a movie on it right now if you wanted to.

Diversity Video Montage - 9 - Greta Gerwig

Greta Gerwig – Director: “Lady Bird” – “Go make your movie. We need your movie. I need your movie. So go make it.

As I mentioned the words I put in bold I want to be applied to people with a disAbility. I could easily dissect each of those in bold in how it can and should apply to those with a disAbility. But I have already made this longer than it should be and I can trust your intelligence to figure out how it can apply toward people with a disAbility for yourselves. Although I will say of what was said at the end by Ava DuVernay and Greta Gerwig should be heard by people with a disAbility! The two of them, Ava DuVernay who was the first black woman director whose film was nominated for Best Picture Oscar (“Selma”) last year, and Greta Gerwig who is the first woman to be nominated for Best Director Oscar for “Lady Bird” this year – it is the first time in 8 years for a woman to be nominated for Best Director – the last time was when Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win Best Director for her film, “The Hurt Locker” – all are breaking barriers as women film directors and should give other women and minorities including people with a disAbility as it does for me the inspiration to go and do it!

What all of these Hollywood artists are saying is so powerful and one that I hope is not ever dismissed or only implemented for a short time, only while it is trending – until it all blows over. I don’t want it to ever blow over. I want change. I want the change they want and I want the change I have fought so hard to get just a smidgen amount of recognition and inclusion for the creative roles for the people with a disAbility. The words spoken in this Diversity Video Montage that are primarily speaking by women and by those of racial minorities and of the LGBTQ minority of which some are specifically directed to their groups but some can be directed to all minorities including the dismissed minority of those people with a disAbility. Nearly all of the voices in this Diversity Video Montage can be easily interchanged with the voices of those with a disAbility!

Can we be included in this new push for Diversity in Hollywood? And I am not the only one saying this. Remember what Rachel Shenton, the Oscar winner for the Best Live Action Short Film and was included above. Here it is: Diversity, she says, is, however, about more than race and gender. “It’s really important to remember that disability is diversity, and that disabled actors and disabilities are something that is hugely underrepresented in film.” And the pictures of all the people that held signs that read, “Disability is Diversity.”

The Silent Child - Disability is Diversity - The Silent Child Facebook - 4

The Silent Child - Disability is Diversity - The Silent Child Facebook - 3

This Diversity Video Montage talked about the new Hollywood acceptance of diversity. Again I do hope they are sincere. I don’t want this to just be some trending, hashtag for the moment to show they care and will make a change for diversity. And a lasting effort that will be one that will include those with a disAbility! Listen up Hollywood – all of you – including those in this Diversity Video Montage – disAbility is Diversity – and I am not the only one saying this. See the pictures above and/or the blog entry before this one! This brings me right to the next sub-segment! So let’s get to it!

The next and final commentary on these Oscars: Oscar’s 90th – Segment 5 – Diversity and The Newest Hollywood Term – C. The Optional Contract Clause

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Oscar’s 90th – Segment 5 – Diversity and The Newest Hollywood Term – A. Deafness disAbility

Here we go! The final commentary of this year’s Academy Award show – The Oscars! As I mentioned in the first segment – this is a long commentary because the Academy’s President did not make a statement as the previous Academy’s President did. But there was plenty to talk about from the host, presenters and award winners. And we have finally reach the end (in parts)! But let me first give links to the first four segments in case you missed any or for quick reference:

My Yearly Oscar Inclusion Exclusion Speech! Or “The 90th Oscars – Segment 1 – The Kimmel Intro”

Oscar’s 90th – Segment 2 – Let’s Dream

Oscar’s 90th – Segment 3 – Coco for Coco(a) Puffs

Oscar’s 90th – Segment 4 – Hum if You Don’t Know the Words

 

Okay. Now onto my final Segment. And like the previous Segment that had lyrics and some presenters’ remarks typed out, transcribed and making them a bit long – this one does similarly because what is said is so important to diversity and the entertainment industry. So at first I broke this Segment into 3 sub-segments. But that doesn’t change then length. So instead this is going to be a Segment that will be in 3 blog entries. Oscar’s 90th – Segment 5 – Diversity and The Newest Hollywood Term – A, B, and C.

A. Deafness disAbility

B. Diversity Video Montage

C. The Optional Contract Clause

This way if you feel like you get the point before I reach the end of each sub-segment (because I have been told that I can be a bit lengthy in my speech!!! Especially if it is on a topic I am passionate about!!!) you can jump over to the next sub-segment and begin that sub-section. Because this final Segment Oscar’s 90th – Segment 5 – Diversity and The Newest Hollywood Term – I have left the most important parts of this year’s Oscars when it comes to diversity, equality and inclusion within Hollywood. So here it goes with the first of the three!

A. Deafness disAbility

I want to start this segment with the Oscar given for “Best Live Action Short Film.” The winner, “The Silent Child” was directed by Chris Overton and written and starred by Rachel Shenton. “The Silent Child” is a British sign language short film.

The Silent Child - 1a

 

It also stars six-year-old actress, Maisie Sly, who is profoundly deaf and uses British sign language.

The Silent Child - Maisie Sly

The film is about a young girl who is profoundly deaf and born to hearing parents. The girl portrayed by Maisie, who was five-years-old when filming, has no way of communicating until a social worker, portrayed by writer and actress Rachel Shenton, teaches her British sign language. A better description is from the film’s website and reads in part:

“Set in rural England and Inspired by real life events. The Silent Child film centres around a profoundly deaf four year old girl named Libby who is born into a middle class family and lives in a world of silence until a caring social worker teaches her the gift of communication.”

We have seen Oscar movies nominated that portray racial minorities, LGBT and one other with a disAbility, in the featured length movie, “The Shape of Water” that has a character who is mute but is not portrayed by a person with a disAbility – so “The Silent Child” is the authentic film deserving my attention and wholehearted praise for casting an actress with the same disAbility as the character!

 

The Silent Child - Maisie Sly - screen shot - 1

And according to the director, Chris Overton and the crew, Maisie who was 5 years old at the time of shooting was already an amazing actress. Check it out in this Behind The Scenes – The Silent Child video! Again PROOF that Hollywood needs to know, acknowledge and include people with a disAbility because they can act and we can also be in the creative roles as the voice – the writer, and in vision – the director of movies in the entertainment industry.

I saw this film two weeks ago. I found it at Amazon but it is only available with all of the Oscar nominated Live Action and Animated Short Films. And it is costs between $4.99 for those with Amazon Prime subscription to $7.99 for those who do not. But I also found it on Google Play as a stand-alone film that costs $1.99 for SD (Standard Definition) or $2.99 for HD. That is where I bought and watched it.

https://play.google.com/store/movies/details/The_Silent_Child?id=YkIbPTV1NIE&hl=en_US

This is well worth it! If the link does not work for you I suggest you Google “The Silent Child short film”. It is only 20 minutes long and shows how people with a disAbility are sometimes thought of, misunderstood and treated by others and even how some family members deal with children with a disAbility. This film is dealing with someone whose disAbility is being profoundly deaf. I heard of people being deaf but had to look up “profoundly deaf” to know what that means and found that it means “the person cannot hear anything at all; they are unable to detect sound, even at the highest volume possible.” Regardless of the level of deafness this film shows things that people with all kinds of disAbility can and do come across. And many of us with a disAbility can relate to this story. It is also a wonderful way – through film – to tell this story. I recommend this film to everyone. You never know what might happen to you that might result in you becoming disAbled. Or being able to relate to, accept and deal with someone whom you love becomes disAbled. That is what happened to Rachel Shenton when her father suddenly became profoundly deaf as a side-effect of chemotherapy when she was 12 years old. She went on to learn British Sign Language and has worked on raising money and awareness for a variety of Deafness Charities and educational programs. You can get a glimpse of that in the “Behind the Scenes – The Silent Child” video that is linked above.

Rachel has been acting for years and first becoming famous for her role in the British television show, “Hollyoaks” beginning in 2010. That is where she met her fiancé and the director of “The Silent Child”, Chris Overton. So as you can see disAbilities can and do effect more than just those who have either been born with or acquired a disAbility. And as I have said before that the nearly 20% of Americans with a disAbility are in 1 in 4 households – that is 25% of American households have a person with a disAbility. Think of all those people within the household who are also effected by someone with a disAbility. So having them so excluded from mainstream movies and television is dismissing them as a part of American society. I praise and love to watch the one authentic network television show, “Speechless” because it shows just that, a person with a disAbility living within a household and the effect it has on all the family members. That is what is captured by Rachel Shenton and Chris Overton in “The Silent Child.”

I did not know about this film until the nominees for the Live Action Short Film were presented at the Oscars. And then when it won, Rachel and Chris went up to accept the award, Rachel spoke first and used British Sign Language as she thanked the Academy. The reaction from social media blew up and was overwhelmingly positive! Here is my favorite video of her acceptance speech. It is a Mashable video of Rachel Shenton Using Sign Language in Her Oscar Acceptance Speech and has Captions/subtitles and also tells a little about the film! It is only 1 minute and 35 seconds long! Or if you prefer, here it is from the Oscar’s YouTube channel: “The Silent Child” wins Best Live Action Short Film. It does not offer Captions/subtitles option. And as I have done with other speeches from either presenters or winners, here is the transcript of her acceptance speech in case they take down the videos that are linked.

The Silent Child - Rachel Shenton acceptance speech - 1

Rachel Shenton (While using British Sign Language):

“I made a promise to our six year old lead actress that I would sign this speech. My hands are shaking a lil’ bit and so I apologize. (Applause) Thank you. Our movie is about a deaf child being born into a world of silence. It’s not exaggerated or sensationalized for the movie. This is happening. Millions of children all over the world live in silence and face communication barriers and particularly access to education. So, deafness is a silent disability. You can’t see it and it’s not life threatening, so I want to say the biggest of thank you’s to the Academy for allowing us to put this in front of a mainstream audience. (She steps aside and motions to her fellow Award winner, Chris Overton. Audience applauds.)

I could put nearly the whole speech in bold! Wonderful speech in such a short period. Of course I also look at this in how it relates to my disAbility as a paraplegic. And to people with a disAbility in general. There are millions of Americans – 56 million with a disAbility. And if it is not life threatening such as deafness, blindness, or those with a mobility disAbility such as mine, are rarely given any representation in Hollywood’s movies and television. And as she ends by given thanks to the Academy for bringing this issue through her film to a mainstream audience that is another point that I applauded as it is one that I advocate for all those with a disAbility and have as my Abilities United Productions’ motto “An Authentic Voice, Vision and Representation of Paraplegics in Mainstream Entertainment.”

And to be fair to the director and partner in making this film here is Chris Overton’s acceptance speech when Rachel handed him the microphone.

The Silent Child - Chris Overton acceptance speech - 1

Chris Overton (He does not sign):

This was such a team effort so I’ve got to say thank you to our parents for making and selling cupcakes so we could… (Rachel leans into the microphone and says “Thank you, Mum” as she waves to her) yes, for helping us finish the film. Thanks to everyone who backed our Indiegogo campaign. Thank you Vanessa Johnstone, Terry Murphy, all our executive producers, Danny Ormerod, everyone at Slick Showreels, and Slick Films. All our incredible cast and crew, Maisie Sly, Julie Foy, Rebecca Harris, Ali Farahani, we couldn’t do it without you. But lastly, my fiancée, Rachel Shenton, it’s really your hard work for the last 12 years that has really made this project authentic. Thank you so much, guys.” And then signs as he says, “Thank you all so much.”

He gives more of the traditional acceptance speech and it is important to thank those that helped you make and distribute the film. And of course to his fiancé who as he pointed out was the one that worked so hard and for 12 years for a short film! And her personal effect to a person and people in general with a disAbility – years of advocating and working to help make a change to assist those with deafness disAbility is wonderful and helps make this film authentic. In my research of her for this blog entry I found several quotes from her in which this is not just a passion for helping break down barriers for those with a deafness disAbility and particularly in education in the schools but also in the entertainment industry. Here is one I want to highlight and give the link to the article that I found it.

Diversity, she says, is, however, about more than race and gender. “It’s really important to remember that disability is diversity, and that disabled actors and disabilities are something that is hugely underrepresented in film.”   https://www.standard.co.uk/go/london/film/rachel-shenton-interview-the-silent-childs-oscar-win-is-just-the-start-a3784701.html

Thank you, Rachel Shenton! Again something I have been working hard for others to accept. That people with a disAbility need to be included in the discussion of diversity and that we are a minority.

Shailla quadra - the silent child team - oscars 2018

The Silent Child - Shailla-Dene-supporting-the-silent-child - Sydney Australia - 2

Here is where I got these two photos of supporters from Australia! – Sydney Indie Film Festival

And here are just some from The Silent Child Facebook page:

The Silent Child - Disability is Diversity - The Silent Child Facebook - 2

The Silent Child - Disability is Diversity - The Silent Child Facebook - 3

And this one that includes Maisie and Rachel, two others I do not know – plus 76 more!

The Silent Child - Disability is Diversity - The Silent Child Facebook - 4

DISABILITY IS DIVERSITY  — DisAbility is a very large minority group that is hugely underrepresented in films and television. We are not some small part of the population that wants to have more than is deserved. We are extremely large – 20% of the American population – and how many of us are represented in movies and television? I am going to leave it there for now. I thank people who recognize and speak out about this and therefore that is why I am giving a lot of attention to Rachel Shenton and Chris Overton for this Oscar winning Live Action Short Film and Rachel’s incredible acceptance speech and work on behalf of those with a deafness disAbility.

I do want to touch on that term, deafness disAbility. Rachel speaks of it in those terms. Deafness disAbility or as in her acceptance speech she refers to it as “deafness is a silent disability.” Now I will point out that she is from Great Britain and the culture of disAbility is somewhat different there. It has been my experience personally and from others with a mobility disAbility when talking about the 56 million Americans with a disAbility and uniting us to work at being more included in films and television – people with a hearing impairment – the deafness community in general do not consider themselves with a disAbility. And therefore do not want to be included in the group of “people with a disAbility.” They consider themselves as having a hearing impairment and that is not a disAbility. I disagree and when you apply the standards and the parameters of what constitutes a disAbility I do think they are part of our community. And even for those who disagree with that, there is no argument that they too are part of those that are hugely underrepresented in films and television. So when Rachel did make that connection – on a huge stage such as the Oscars – I applauded that as well! And I only bring this up here because some in the deaf community might find my speaking of it and quoting Rachel of the deafness disability as offensive. I am not intentionally being offensive. I am bringing it up from what Rachel believes and I believe. And I hope we can come together and work together as a community of people with a disAbility who are obviously being excluded in movies and television. Regardless of how some feel about deafness being or not being a disAbility – I do and I am highlighting this film, its writer, star and director in this blog entry because it is extremely important and wonderful representation for people who are profoundly deaf and those with other disAbilities to be recognized. Therefore I strongly encourage everyone to see “The Silent Child” and to recommend it to their family and friends. Help show your support for this kind of authentic representation of people with a disAbility in films and television!

Extra: The Silent Child’s Facebook page where you can watch a lot of videos about the film and the star Maisie Sly! Congrats to “The Silent Child” for its Oscar win!

Next is – Oscar’s 90th – Segment 5 – Diversity and The Newest Hollywood Term – B. Diversity Video Montage

Oscar’s 90th – Segment 4 – Hum if You Don’t Know the Words

This segment is about the Best Original Songs in the 90th Oscar show. And it is either about the presenters introducing the songs or the songs themselves.

The first one that I want to focus on is introduced by Dave Chappelle. In the show it is the fourth nominated song for Best Original Song, “Stand Up for Something.” It is from the movie, “Marshall” that is based on a young lawyer and one of his early trials of Thurgood Marshall who we all know or should know he later became a Supreme Court Justice. And not just any Supreme Court Justice but the first black Supreme Court Justice. The song, “Stand Up for Something” was introduced by Dave Chappelle as being written by Diane Warren and Oscar winner, Common. It was recorded and performed here at the Oscars by Common and Andra Day. The song as recorded as “Stand Up for Something” by Andra Day and featuring Common is a very inspiring song!!! Andra Day has the most gifted and beautiful voice. I love it and I love the song. You can see it in its fullness here as the official music video: Andra Day – Stand Up For Something feat. Common [Official Music Video] If you expand the info below the video it will give you the lyrics. Again they are wonderful, beautiful, inspiring but interesting that they did not include the words spoken or rapped by Common. So I am going to give them to you with the song lyrics below. So you really don’t need to hum as the title of this blog entry states!

You can have all the money in your hands
All the possessions anyone can ever have
But it’s all worthless treasure, true worth is only measured
Not by what you got, but what you got in your heart
You can have, you can have everything
What does it, what does it mean?

It all means nothing
If you don’t stand up for something
You can’t just talk the talk
You got to walk that walk, yes you do
It all means nothing
If you don’t stand up for something
And I’ll stand up for you
And I’ll stand up for you, yes I will, yes I will

You do the best, to do the best that you can do
Then you can look in the mirror
Proud of who’s looking back at you
Define the life you’re living
Not by what you take but what you’re givin’
And if you bet on love there’s no way you’ll ever lose
Take a stand, make a stand for what’s right
It’s always worth, always worth the fight

‘Cuz it all means nothing
If you don’t stand up for something
You can’t just talk the talk
You got to walk that walk, yes you do
It all means nothing
If you don’t stand up for something
And I’ll stand up for you
Stand for respect, dignity
If that’s all you got, then you got all you need
And without that, you don’t have a thing, oh, no, no

(Common’s rap)

Rise up, love, lift your hands
I stand with you ’cause I understand
Ain’t here to judge, just to take a stand
The greater plan’s the Creator’s plan
Let’s all rise like the day began
Reach out and touch with the Savior’s hand
On rock, we stand like this native land
Let the ways of love be the ways of man

And it all means nothing
If you don’t stand for something
You can’t just talk the talk
You got to walk that walk, yes you do
It all means nothing
If you don’t stand up for something
And I’ll stand up for you (stand up, stand for you)
I’ll stand up for you (stand up)
And I’ll stand up for you (stand up, stand for you)
Stand up for you, yes I will, yes I will (stand up)

Again it is WOW! Love this song. They lyrics are wonderful but when sung and rapped by Andra and Common they are powerful and beautiful. Fantastic! You need to stand up for something. Something you believe in. And if it is good and right they will, I will, all of us singing along with will stand with you. All the riches in the world does not matter if you don’t stand up for something. And you have to do more than talk the talk – you have walk the walk – live what you preach. Live what you believe and stand up for it! And if you don’t then can you honestly look at yourself in the mirror. Adding in Common’s words telling you to “Rise up, love, lift your hands” and if you do he’ll “stand with you ‘cause I understand. Ain’t here to judge” you need to “just to take a stand”. But the rest of Common’s words I totally agree with as well. Simply because I am a Christian. And I think that is surprising because you do not typically hear such words in a popular song. Obviously you would in a Gospel song or Christian pop sing but not usually in pop song and one used in a movie.

Common-and-Andra-Day-oscars-stage-2018-1

Clearly, I stand for something! And for the purpose of this blog I will limit it to what this blog is all about. My activist, advocacy, passion that has been for the inclusion of people with a disAbility in the creative roles in movies and television! I STAND UP FOR SOMETHING that is so long overdue that the entertainment industry should be ashamed of themselves. And throughout this Academy Awards show they have been cheering how diverse and inclusive they are. But again it is for women, racial minorities, and the LGBT minorities and again dismiss, overlook, exclude, discriminate against the largest minority, the people with a disAbility. There is a small exception to that which I will talk about in the next segment. But still I “Stand Up for Something” that I think we all agree needs to be addressed. People with a disAbility need to be represented – and self-represented in movies and television. And I will not give up!

The Oscar Performance

The fourth nominated Best Original Song. And as I have shown this song certainly deserves this honor. In this performance they had 10 activists on the stage with Andra Day and Common. They all “Stand Up for Something” that is good. And as the song says if you do, “I’ll stand up for you.”

But as the song begins, instead of Andra Day beginning to sing for us to stand up for what we believe in and believe is right, Common decided to rap first. And he decided to tell us what is good and right. He tells us what it is that we should “Stand Up for…” Common turns to politics. Maybe we should not be surprised after all we have had the Oscar’s host Jimmy Kimmel inserted that from his opening as I showed in the first segment in this Oscar commentary. But this song is so good and universal. Common starts the song with telling us what is good and right. And not only that but because it is political he also tells us what is not good or right. And obviously this means if you “Stand Up for” any of those deemed by Common to not be good or right you are wrong and do not have the right to “Stand Up for” and if you do you are wrong. He is ruining the song. We all have something we stand up for. We do not agree on all issues. Common tells us that the NRA is not of God. What if someone else rapped saying that Planned Parenthood and their abortions are not of God?

Again we are all different. And we have such divisiveness in this country. How do we come together or have tolerance for one another if we tell one another – especially on these large platforms what we should and should not believe? What we should “Stand Up for”? But that is the beauty of this song!  The song does NOT tell us what to stand up for. We are individuals and the song tells us that standing up for something we believe in and what we believe is the right thing to do. This is wonderful and how we can all sing it together – regardless what it is we are standing up for! I do not want to get into all who have used this song to anthem their cause because the song is universal and does not tell anybody what to stand up for. We are to “Stand Up for Something” that we believe is good and right. I do not want to tell Common what he should stand up for and I do not want him to tell me or anyone else what they should stand up for. And that if they stand up for something other than what Common says to stand up for that they have no right to do so. Ruining this song in this performance and rapping in such a way has me lose respect for Common. And unfortunately, it might be some time before I can listen to this song in its original form – its original video without thinking about this Oscar performance of it. Something so beautiful has become such a downer. All thanks and no thanks to Common.

Presenters for Best Original Song

And while we are talking about nominees for Best Original Song and throwing in political statements I noticed these two presenters for the second and third nominated songs. Here in the second song nominated, “Remember Me” from the animated featured film, “Coco”, was presented by Mexican born actor Eugenio Derbez. He is a very good actor. I noticed him from the movie, “How To Be A Latin Lover.” It was hilarious and he did a great job in it. So he is here at the Oscars and presenting for this song.

Eugenio Derbez - Oscars - in the after world there are no walls

“The next nominee for original song was composed for the animated feature “Coco” by the Oscar winners for “Let It Go” Kristin Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. (Applause) In the movie, this song pulls a 12-year-old Mexican boy from the land of the living across the border to the land of the dead. All for the love of his family. Because, you know, in the afterworld, there are no walls. (He pauses for a reaction but it is dead silent) Anyway… whether sung as a lullaby or a joyous celebration this song ultimately shows the power of music to bind generations and bring people back to life. Literally and figuratively. And now performing, “Remember Me” three of the artists from the movie soundtrack, Gael Garcia Bernal, Miguel and Natalia Lafourcade. Viva Mexico.”

Wow! I would think that with that statement, “Because, you know, in the afterworld, there are no walls” and he pauses for a reaction that that audience would erupt with applause and cheers. But they did nothing. I was shocked.

The third nominee for Best Original Song was presented by transgender actress from Chile, Daniela Vega. She was on the stage earlier that night as the film she starred in, “A Fantastic Woman” in which she plays a transgender woman mourning the death of her partner had won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Daniela was the first openly transgender person to present at the Academy Awards. Which I suppose they planned whether her film won or not because the song, “Mystery of Love” is from the movie, “Call Me by Your Name” about the gay love relationship between a 17 year-old boy and a 24 year-old man. I might also state that the Academy is making history as Daniela Vega is the first transgender person to present at the Oscars. I would think the audience would be making loud cheers and applause when she presents. Here is Daniela’s presentation.

Daniela Vega Presenting original song - 1

“Thank you. Thank you so much for this moment. I want to invite you to open your hearts and your feelings to feel the reality. To feel love. Can you feel it?” – (Daniela opens her arms and hands as to invite a response. She pauses. No applause or cheers from the audience. Daniela bows her head seemingly sad that there was no response. She takes a big breath, raises her head and quickly continues) – “Our third nominated original song comes from the movie, ‘Call Me by Your Name.” (For that the audience applauded. Daniela smiles and gives a chuckle of partial relief that they like that song and also sadness for they clearly can hear and understand her with her Chilean accent.) “Love is a mysterious thing, and a first love, even more of a challenge, right? Composer Sufjan Stevens song explores a new and surprising emotions [for] the film’s 17 year old protagonists, Elio, experiences when an American graduate student, Oliver, comes to stay for the summer. Here to perform, “Mystery of Love”, is composer, Sufjan Stevens.”

I wonder why there was not any response to these two presenters when they were opening it – inviting the audience to respond and they get nothing. Were they not paying attention? Did they not understand either of them because of their Spanish accents? But they did applaud and cheer during other parts of their presentations. So therefore they did understand through their accents. And Daniela, the first transgender actress to present at the Oscars, whom the audience knows because she was up on the stage as the star of the film that just won Best Foreign Language Film and she just asked them a question and waited for their response but the audience sat still and quiet. Normally, and throughout the show they have cheered and applauded every time there was a political topic mentioned. Maybe it was because it was not Jimmy Kimmel? No, because there were others that made political statements and they got cheers and applause’s. Maybe Eugenio and Daniela are not big enough stars to pay attention to? I just find it strange. I wonder if a person with a disAbility that was not a big star would get such a lack of acknowledge?

The Grand Finale

Lastly, for this entry, I have to talk about the best part of this year’s Oscar show. This is an amazing song by an amazing singer, Broadway star, Keala Settle! She sings and portrays, “The Bearded Lady” in the movie, “The Greatest Showman.” The movie is a musical itself and tells the story of how real live P.T. Barnum (July 5, 1810 – April 7, 1891) whom had several careers but best known for becoming “the greatest showman on earth.” Some would say the original showman. Today many would recognize his name from the Barnum and Bailey Circus but Barnum began by himself as a traveling museum that had strange items, oddities and a freak show. The “freak shows” during the time of P.T. Barnum were humans commonly known as and called, freaks because they were very different, usually physically, from the general population. In the movie, as Barnum’s traveling show became more popular he socializes primarily with the rich and famous while leaving his cast of freaks that he used to befriend behind. And it is at one of these parties full of the rich and famous that the freaks, led by Lettie Lutz, a.k.a. “The Bearded Lady” with the song, “This Is Me” and into the party! Again it is a wonderfully written song made so powerful by the incredible voice of Keala Settle. And now here is the Oscar presentation by one of the actresses in the movie, Zendaya.

(Off screen Announcer) Now, please welcome, Zendaya.

Zendaya presents

Zendaya: The final nominated song is from our movie, “The Greatest Showman.” And was written by last year’s winner in this category, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. This song is so much more than a piece of music. It has become an anthem for all of us who have had trouble marching to the beat that others drum for us. For all of us who have had to find strength and beauty in what makes us different and then be brave enough to unapologetically sing it out to the world. Performing, “This Is Me” please welcome the incredible Keala Settle.

Now for those not familiar with the song here is the YouTube link to The Greatest Showman – This Is Me [Official Lyric Video] – and as it says it is a Lyrical Video. They wonderfully added the lyrics to the screen of the movie scene. Not as Closed Captioning. It is artistically done very well and worth watching! I have a screen captured from the video as the featured pictured of this blog entry – the 4th Segment of the Oscars above. And the picture right below!

This Is Me - video screen - 1

I love this song, “This Is Me”. And it is obvious as my being different, being a paraplegic and a wheelchair user, I can relate well to the song. And again Keala Settle does this so wonderfully. You feel it. And I am sure most people with a disAbility feel it too! That is why this is the Grand Finale of this year’s Oscars in my opinion! It should have won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. But I believe this song will be sung and remembered for ages – a lot longer than the song “Remember Me” that was awarded the Oscar. And the Oscar performance was amazing for “This Is Me.” Obviously it was sung by Keala Settle but she had a chorus of people from all ages and backgrounds on the stage with her. They danced a choreographed scene that eventually has some of them going off the stage and down into the aisles of the audience! I wished they had at least one wheelchair user! But this is the Academy Awards show. And despite the wonderful production of it, this was Keala that brought it home with heart-felt passion and I believe sincere tears. I am going to give you a link to it The 90th Oscars – Keala Settle singing This Is Me and I hope it remains there. And unlike the official music video that I linked above – this performance does not have the lyrics provided.

keala-settle-oscars-show-2018-2

So believe me you will not be able to hum along – therefore so you can sing along here below are the lyrics so you can follow along:

I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are

But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh

Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away ’cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in
We are bursting through the barricades and
Reaching for the sun (we are warriors)
Yeah, that’s what we’ve become (yeah, that’s what we’ve become)

I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh
This is me

and I know that I deserve your love
(Oh-oh-oh-oh) ’cause there’s nothing I’m not worthy of
(Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh)
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
This is brave, this is proof
This is who I’m meant to be, this is me

Look out ’cause here I come (look out ’cause here I come)
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum (marching on, marching, marching on)
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I’m gonna send a flood
Gonna drown them out
Oh
This is me

The song is beautiful and it was not politicized like Common did for his nominated song. This song says it wonderfully for as Zendaya has said in her introduction presentation of this song has become an “anthem for all of us who have had trouble marching to the beat that others drum for us. For all of us who have had to find strength and beauty in what makes us different and then be brave enough to unapologetically sing it out to the world.” And I feel it should be for the people with a disAbility. The often forgotten or the dismissed minority that makes up nearly 20% of the American population. And are nearly lost in any productions of Hollywood movies and television. “Marching to the best that [Hollywood] drum[s] for us.” And although there are over 56 million Americans with a disAbility – it is those of us with a disAbility who are actors, writers, directors – the creative roles out here trying our very best to be seen and heard and acknowledged by Hollywood and are saying for all of those with a disAbility – “This Is Me.” Let us represent ourselves in the 21st century entertainment industry.

Next up is the final commentary on the Oscars, “Oscar’s 90th – Segment 5 – Diversity and The Newest Hollywood Term”

Oscar’s 90th – Segment 3 – Coco for Coco(a) Puffs

This segment is a simple one and reminds me a little about the blog entries where I simply interchange the racial minority for the dismissed minority of those with a disAbility. Here it is about the words spoken in an acceptance speech and nothing needs to be interchanged. There just needs some inclusion added to the inclusion spoken of and implied! This is my favorite part of this Academy Awards Show so far! I was coco, crazily happy with the words spoken during this segment of the show! But would like Hollywood to see it on the big picture. Real inclusive when it comes to the Hollywood’s dismissive minority – especially when this minority is huge! If they did, I am sure we’d all go coco or rather coo-coo or cuckoo – obviously I am referring to the television commercial for the cereal brand of Cocoa Puffs where the animated, Sonny the Cuckoo Bird is so happy and goes so crazy, in a good way, when given a bowl of Cocoa Puffs. I would go crazy for more of this inclusion of people with a disAbility. So let’s talk about this and how it would be if Hollywood was serious as they seemed to be during this segment of the Academy Award’s show.

This year’s Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film went to “Coco.” Producer, Darla Anderson, writer and director, Lee Unkrich, and I believe voice actors, Anthony Gonzalez and Gael García Bernal, who plays the featured characters, Miguel and Hector respectively. But the latter two only give brief thanks and I want to focus on Producer, Darla Anderson and writer and director, Lee Unkrich.

coco - lee unkrich - 3

Darla Anderson was the first to speak.

Darla K. Anderson: “Thank you to the Academy. We’re so happy. Coco is proof that art can change and connect the world. And this can only be done when we have a place for everyone and anyone who feels like an ‘other’ to be heard.”

Wow! Again something that I have been saying for decades! Here of course she is speaking primarily about her film, “Coco” that features Mexican characters and voice actors for the animated film. But it should be universal and include people with a disAbility. She says, “have a place for everyone and anyone”. There is that word “everyone” again! If you have not read my previous blog entry, “Oscar’s 90th – Segment 2 – Let’s Dream”, I invite you go back and read it! But I do believe she means it! And this means she does believe it to be universally extended to all of those, “who feels like an ‘other’ to be heard”! We certainly fit into that category! Obviously when I speak of “we” I mean those with a disAbility! The entire community of people with a disAbility would love to be seen in movies and television, as well as those trying to be heard, accepted and included as people with a disAbility in the creative and technical roles in the entertainment industry to represent ourselves in movies and television. And as she said at the beginning of that sentence, “And this can only be done when we have a place for everyone and anyone”. That place is in the entertainment industry! And then we can, just like, “Coco is proof that art can change and connect the world.” I would love to have the entertainment industry allow us a place to connect with them and so our art, our movies and television programs, can also connect us, the people with a disAbility with the world in general. That would help “change and connect the world” for us here in America but also for those with a disAbility around the world who are even more discriminated, cast aside, dismissed and even in some cultures throw out of families and treated by their societies as animals. We can help facilitate a change – if Hollywood would give us “a place”.

Next up!

The next one I want to talk about and a lot of people did talk about the day after the Oscars was the writer and director of “Coco”, Lee Unkrich. Here is what he said after he thanked his cast, crew, execs from Disney and Pixar, and his family:

Lee Unkrich: “And the biggest thank you of all [goes] to the people of Mexico. ‘Coco’ would not exist without your endlessly beautiful culture and traditions (Huge applause). With ‘Coco,’ we tried to take a step forward toward a world where all children can grow up seeing characters in movies that look and talk and live like they do. Marginalized people deserve to feel like they belong. Representation matters.” (Big applause)

WOW! WOW! WOW! – How long have I been saying this? What matters? Does this fit people with a disAbility? In our American society we have gotten much better of inclusion in the past 20+ years that I have become a paraplegic. But Hollywood has only inched their way forward. They still marginalize us. Making us feel like we don’t belong in their society. — We are creatives in the entertainment industry – particularly in the movie and television industry are dismissed and excluded even from those projects that feature a character with a disAbility. Which is rare when considering that we do make up nearly 20% of the American population. And this forgotten or dismissed minority wants and needs to be “seeing characters in movies that look and talk and live like they do.” Or is this just for the racial minorities? Mr. Unkrich was talking about his movie that featured a Mexican kid and so he did preface it by saying, “we tried to take a step forward toward a world where all children can grow up seeing characters in movies” and I agree that children with a disAbility need at least a step forward toward a world where they see “characters in movies” that “look and talk and live like they do.” But so do adults with a disAbility need to see characters who are kids and adults with a disAbility “that look and talk and live like they do.”

Representation Matters!

Yes! Representation matters! We all need to have some representation in the movies and television shows we watch and pay money for. And with Hispanic or Latino – 17.8%, and Blacks or African-Americans – 13.3%, make up the percentage of the American population according the 2010 US Census estimates for 2016. They are all looking for more representation in movies and television. Often looking for more representation in the front offices as executives but also in the writing of their characters and to have more directors. Women have also wanted more representation in all of these areas as well (I will speak about them in the final Segment of these 90th Oscars).

Like so many of those people with a disAbility, who make up 19% (according to 2010 US Census) of the American population (and I am sure it is more than that in 2018) want more representation. But unlike the other sub-groups or minorities I just mentioned, who do not need to ask for “authentic” representation because they do not have to worry about a white person portray them – or a man representing a woman in movies and television – we do have to worry about someone without a disAbility representing us on screen. We want more representation and at least some more of that representation being authentic representation. Representing ourselves more in the currently infinitesimal percentage of movies and television that Hollywood produces. Our fight for representation is doubled when you consider that we are so often excluded from representing ourselves in the little amount of movies and television we are in. Representation matters and so does authentic representation.

First, can we get some more characters with a disAbility in movies and television? Remember the percentage of characters with a disAbility in movies and television, who many were speaking parts and how many of them were portrayed by those with a disAbility, according to the research that I spoke about in the first Segment about these Oscars?

And secondly, can we represent ourselves in more of those characters with a disAbility? Is that wrong? If we are going to cheer and applaud for those when it comes to Mexican-Americans, the Hispanic or Latino communities being represented like in, “Coco” at these Oscars – and for blacks and African-Americans – and for women, like those nominated for the first time for Best Cinematography and Best Director for the first time in 8 years at this year’s Oscars — can’t we all cheer and applaud for some more representation and authentic or self-representation for people with a disAbility? Especially when you consider the disparity that people with a disAbility have in movies and television versus the American population of people with a disAbility? Can we get some support for some authentic representation? After all don’t you agree that “Representation Matters”!!!!

 

We have 2 more segments in this year’s Oscars commentary. Next up is, “Oscar’s 90th – Segment 4 – Hum if You Don’t Know the Words”

Oscar’s 90th – Segment 2 – Let’s Dream

Like many of you, I love hearing my favorite actors, actresses, or directors talking about their work, their passion for their profession and or their history of where they came from and how they got where they are in the entertainment industry. In one case a movie and television music composer, Michael Giacchinio. In most cases I have no idea who the nominees are in this category but I did recognize his name because I had watched all the “behind the scenes” features on the season DVD’s for the television show, “Alias” for which he was the music composer for and was in one of those featurettes. But it was his acceptance speech for when he won the Oscar award for Best Music/Original Score for the movie “Up” that was particularly inspiring to me and I talked about in my blog entry for that 2010 Oscar Award show.  Or better yet, watch it on YouTube.

So if a couple of my favorite actors, let’s say like Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner were at this years’ Oscars and as presenters – not as award winning speeches – and talked about how they grew up dreaming of being on that stage and working in the industry and the craft that they were so passionate about. And then saying, “And like everyone in this room, and everyone watching at home, we are dreamers. We grew up dreaming of one day working in movies. Dreams are the foundation of Hollywood. And dreams are the foundation of America.”

Matthew and Jennifer - cr - 632x324

That would be having me voicing out loud toward the television, “Yeah!” Of course, I am a dreamer! I have the same passion for working at writing and directing movies as they do in acting in movies. The same as so many others out there. “We are dreamers.”

These words were spoken at this years’ Academy Awards by Oscar winning actress, Lupita Nyong’o, as she was presenting awards with stand-up comedian, actor and this year became an Academy Award nominee for Best Original Screenplay, Kumail Nanjiani. She is a Mexican born Kenyan. Her parents are Kenyan and lived in Mexico City when she was born. She lived in both countries before coming to America for college to study drama. He was born in Pakistan and moved here when he was 18 to attend college. He has since become an American citizen. I tell you of their nationality and being immigrants because the Academy Award show writers clearly wanted that to be known as they have prepared some of what they are going to say from the teleprompter before presenting the award for Best Achievement in Production Design. There are some video on the internet of this presentation but most have been taken down by the Academy. Even the videos they put up on their own site! So for you and future readers, here is the full transcript of their prepared text (plus some reactions) at the Oscars.

Lupita Nyongo and Kumail Nanjiani Oscars 2018 - Dreamers

LUPITA NYONG’O: Good evening. We are the two actors you keep hearing about but whose names you have trouble pronouncing. (light laughter)

KUMAIL NANJIANI: Actually, I have to come clean. Kumail Nanjiani is my stage name. My actual given Pakistani name is Chris Pine. (Laughter) So you can imagine how annoyed I was when the other — when the “white” Chris Pine showed up. The “real” Chris Pine.

LUPITA: We are also immigrants. I’m from Kenya.

KUMAIL: And I’m from — (some applause and yells) ‘Kenya is in the house.’ And I am from Pakistan and Iowa. (light laughter but enough to interrupt Kumail but he moves on) Two places that nobody in Hollywood can find on a map. (sporadic laughter)

LUPITA: And like everyone in this room, and everyone watching at home, we are dreamers. We grew up dreaming of one day working in movies. Dreams are the foundation of Hollywood. And dreams are the foundation of America.

KUMAIL: And so (interrupted by applause) — to all the dreamers out there, we stand with you. (more applause) Now, the nominees for achievement in production design.

I am not voicing out loud but I am still thinking, “Yeah”! After all I am a dreamer and I am happy they are standing with me. And for all of us “dreaming of one day working in movies.” That is what they said. “And like everyone in this room, and everyone watching at home, we are dreamers.” Yes. Yes. YES! We are! I love it. Not only everyone in that room – the Oscar nominees and their guests – but everyone at home watching this show – mostly movie lovers are all dreamers. They are recognizing that they are not the only ones out here, or in there that are dreamers and are worthy to be working on making our dreams come true. They did it. Surely we can too! Yeah again! Turn off the lights – we are good to go!

WAIT!

That is not what they said? Or not what they meant? They are lying? Playing us? What did they mean? Well, anybody living in this country knows they are playing us and they don’t mean what they are saying. But for those that do not know let me say how they are taking us down this road to make a subtle but not so subtle political statement. With the changing of the case of one letter in the final sentence, a lowercase “d” to an uppercase “D” to say “…to all the Dreamers out there, we stand with you.” The “Dreamers” are the commonly referred nickname for the recipients of the 44th President, Barak Obama’s executive order in 2012, the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)” that suspends deportation for a 2-year period for about 800,000 children or were children when they were brought to the United States illegally. After the 2-year period they can reapply for another 2-year period and so on. Any illegal immigration issue is a political firestorm here in the United States. And I do not want to get into the details. And I do not want to take sides on this issue here. This is not the place and therefore I do want to say that the Academy Award show writers, producers and the using of these two legal immigrants in making this a political statement is wrong. That is not the place to take a side either. Despite that a quick internet search of “Lupita Nyong’o and Kumail Nanjiani” shows that all of the top results are articles giving praise for their supporting the “Dreamers” at the Academy Award show. But is that right? They presented with the words “we are dreamers.”

Google Search Lupita Nyongo and Kumail Nanjiani - 1

Google Search Lupita Nyongo and Kumail Nanjiani - 2

 

Changing the Definition of Everyone

How many of us are watching from home? How many of us are working on, have been working on, and will continue to be working on making our dreams come true? We are the dreamers that they spoke of in their presentation. Even as they were speaking it – I felt that they were going to make it a political statement and I would feel betrayed by the words, “And like everyone in this room, and everyone watching at home, we are dreamers.” There is nothing political in this statement. And there should not be anything political in this statement. Nor should it be in the final sentence, “And so to all the dreamers out there, we stand with you.” So how does it become a political statement as the Google results about this Oscar presentation prove that it is? They should have said what they meant by stating, “And so to all the DACA Dreamers out there, we stand with you.” But that would be out of context with what they just said about “everyone” being dreamers.

So how did it become “Dreamer” instead of dreamer? Being a dreamer and knowing so many dreamers that are “dreaming of one day working in the movies” and having those in Hollywood to say they will “stand with you” would mean a lot! It is one that I feel strong about. I have been working on fulfilling my dreams of being a filmmaker since the late 1980’s. A handful of years before I became a paraplegic. And one that has been the focus of this blog since I started it 12 years ago in 2006. Dreaming about a day when people with a disAbility, the largest minority in America, and the most under-represented and most excluded in American movies and television, will be given a little more respect and inclusion in Hollywood. —– So for them to change the context from dreamer to “Dreamer” they need to change the repeated word of “everyone” into just those that were brought into this country illegally. Thereby the inspiring words that Lupita and Kumail said do not apply to the actual “everyone,” like me or the millions of others watching. They apply just to the ones who during their childhood were brought into this country illegally.

They are lying about “everyone” or “dreamers” for this to be in their political context. Why do they have to make this political? And in the process they have once again dismissed my dreams of people with a disAbility, the over 56,700,000 American dreamers being authentically represented in movies. My dreams of being a successful paraplegic filmmaker hiring a paraplegic actor to portray my paraplegic character. And remember as I said at the beginning this is coming from Academy Award Presenters scripted words and not Oscar winners’ speeches. That would be more personal. This is about the show and the Presenters are talking to the audience. Especially these words as this blog entry is talking about. They need to keep what they are saying in context. Say what you mean. If you mean “Dreamers” say “DACA Dreamers” from the beginning. Don’t twist it all around so that my dreams and all of those who are “dreaming of one day working in the movies” are being hijacked for a political statement of “Dreamers.” So Academy, the presenters, the applauding audience members, Hollywood in general – why not just say what you mean? Why do you have to throw “everyone” else under the bus in order to make a political statement at what is supposed to be a fun and entertaining awards show?

Next up – ”Oscar’s 90th – Segment 3 – Coco for Coco(a) Puffs”

My Yearly Oscar Inclusion Exclusion Speech! Or “The 90th Oscars – Segment 1 – The Kimmel Intro”

Wow! Very cool that this is the 90th Oscar show. And very interesting that this year the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science was not given time to speak during the Oscars. That is usually the one speech I focus on and delve into when the topic of diversity is uttered from the Academy’s President Cheryl Boone Isaacs during the glam and glitz of the Oscar’s show. It is easy to explain if you were aware that last year she was released and John Bailey became the President. He did not make a speech on how wonderfully diverse the film industry is or make any speech at this year’s Oscar’s. And maybe because Mr. Bailey spent his career as a cinematographer and therefore he’s more comfortable being behind the camera?! Nonetheless, there was plenty for me to discuss as these self-appointed guardians of diversity and champions of giving voice to all – especially the marginalized in society and therefore given proof their humanitarian side is a huge part of who they are. And it appears that they were making up for the past couple of years where they had been criticized even from within with protests like, “Oscars So White” when no people of color were nominated for an Oscar in the top categories. But this year they did not need the Academy’s President to make a speech of the industry’s diversity because between the presenters and Oscar winners, they made sure they stated how diverse they are or how they want to be more diverse, more inclusive and that allows me to once again point out that which they so often ignore – the point of view from a person with a disAbility! And if you are new to this blog or my website, corresponding Facebook page, or other writings, this is very significant if you look at the demographics of our nation. People with a disAbility make up 19% (according to 2010 US Census) of the American population. That is far more that any single racial (Blacks or African-Americans – 13.3%, Hispanic or Latino – 17.8% [2010 US Census estimates for 2016]) or sexual identity (LGBT – 4.1% [according to Gallop poll for 2016]) minority.

Due to the fact that they spread the, “this industry is the forerunner in diversity and inclusion” throughout the show instead of one speech – I will have to spread out this blog posts into segments. This being the first – at the beginning of the show with a repeat host, Jimmy Kimmel.

The 90th Oscars hosted by Kimmel

After a Black and White old school newsreel style opening to somehow honor the 90th Oscar’s show Jimmy Kimmel steps out on the stage for his opening monologue. I will begin there. After typical Kimmel style jokes about what happened with last year’s mix up on who won the Best Picture Oscar award and how Oscar is now 90 years old, Kimmel then jokes and stumbles around the Harvey Weinstein scandal and his years of sexual harassment without saying sexual harassment at first. He mentions how the Academy expelled Harvey Weinstein and the only other person that the Academy expelled was an actor who shared screeners (copies of movies that are nominated for an award that year and given to Academy members to consider voting for. These are movies that are generally not available for home viewing (dvd, blu-ray) to the general public.) But then he gets to what needs to be said. Somewhat.

“But what happened with Harvey, and what’s happening all over, was long overdue. We can’t let bad behavior slide anymore. The world is watching us. We need to set an example and the truth is if we are successful here, if we can work together to stop sexual harassment in the workplace, if we can do that, women will only have to deal with harassment all the time at every other place they go.

Really? “…every other place they go”? Suggesting, actually meaning that women are being sexually harassed everywhere else? That all men are just like Harvey Weinstein? That there are no decent men out there? Not funny. Full disclosure. I find Jimmy Kimmel only an occasionally, mildly funny comedian. And I have not included any of his political jabs at the President and Vice President here at the Oscars. I do not feel like it is the place. Although I guess he is playing to the audience. At least the audience there in the Dolby Theatre the Hollywood elite that is there either to present an award or in hopes to be winner of an Academy award.

89th Annual Academy Awards - Backstage

But it does not play well with half the television viewers – or the potential viewers – as the viewership – the ratings have been drastically declining over the past couple years and it seems the only common thread is political jokes. That’s my thoughts.

Back to the show!

And the part I want to focus on is Kimmel’s statement, “We can’t let bad behavior slide anymore. The world is watching us. We need to set an example”. I have been saying that for the last two decades! The world is watching what Hollywood is producing and they do need to set an example. They need to stop excluding the nearly 20% of Americans – the largest minority in America – those with a disAbility. If they actually included characters with a disAbility – that is portrayed by actors with a disAbility, it would mean a lot to Americans and show the world that Hollywood is not excluding nor marginalizing the most under-represented minority! What’s wrong with that? By your own words, “the world is watching” and you “need to set an example.” By excluding of those with a disAbility – you are setting an example.

Mr. Kimmel then went on to talk about the supporters of the movements of “Me Too”, “Time’s Up” and “Never Again.” He states that, “Things are changing for the better.” And that, “it is [a] positive change.” This is very true and I am very happy for the positive change when it comes to those women and even girls who have to deal with sexual harassment or in some cases even worse. And we should not forget the men and boys that are also put in those situations. In Hollywood, I can point to male actors like Terry Crews how has revealed he has been a victim of sexual harassment and Corey Feldmen who as a child star was a victim of pedophilia. And the revelation last year of actor Kevin Spacey is gay and that there are at least 15 men and teen boys who have come forward alleging sexual harassment against him.  And if these movements against sexual harassment can be a positive change for the better, having pulled the curtain open in Hollywood on this issue, I hope one day the same can be said for the forgotten minority in Hollywood. You know who I am talking about. And let me be very clear – I am not putting these two in the same category. I’m just saying maybe there is, or at the very least should be hope for the forgotten minority in Hollywood. Believe me when I say I know that from some actors and directors that it is in the upper tiers of Hollywood who want to keep the curtain closed on the issue of the exclusion of people with a disAbility in movies and television.

Blockbuster Diversity

To continue on with the show, Kimmel’s monologue then transitions to,

“This is a night for positivity and our plan is to shine a light on a group of outstanding and inspiring films, each and every one of which got crushed by “Black Panther” this weekend. Which, that’s — that’s okay. The success of “Black Panther” is one of many positive stories this year. Especially for African-Americans and Bob Iger. “Black Panther” and “Wonder Woman” are — were massive hits, which is almost miraculous because I remember a time when the major studios didn’t believe a woman or a minority could open a superhero movie. And the reason I remember that time was because it was March of last year.

And I can remember when the major studios didn’t believe that a person with a disAbility can self-represent in any movie. Oh, wait, they still don’t believe we can represent ourselves in the creative roles as screenwriters, film directors, or actors. And if it could happen so quickly – then again I say there is hope for us in the forgotten minority.

Shattered Ceilings

And this is where it gets really good. Here Mr. Kimmel goes on to say:

“This year we have a lot to celebrate. Ceilings have been shattered. Ceilings in screenwriting. We have our first ever female nominee for cinematography, Rachel Morrison, which is historic. So many of tonight’s nominees are making history, and, in fact, if you are a nominee tonight who is not making history – shame on you.

RachelMorrison

Greta Gerwig is the first woman to be nominated for director in eight years. And that is important. Only 11% of movies are directed by women. And that is nuts. We still have a very long way to go in that department, and a very long way to go in equal pay.

greta-gerwig-filming-lady-bird-620

There is so much I want to pick apart in these few sentences! First, the ceilings! It is fantastic that women are getting the recognition for outstanding work in the creative roles of screenwriting, film directing and cinematography! And later we will speak of the creative role of acting! Second, I like that Mr. Kimmel used a percentage! “Only 11% of movies are directed by women.” I’ve already mentioned that nearly 20% of Americans have a disAbility. That is 1 in 5 and there is at least one person with a disAbility in 25% of American households. But where are we in movies and television? “The Ruderman White Paper on Employment of Actors with Disabilities in Television”, cited the research from GLADD that included performers with a disAbility is titled, “Where Are We On TV” showed that on television, characters during the 2015-2016 season found that only 0.9% of those scripted television characters have a disAbility. And that only 5% of those 0.9% characters are portrayed by performers with a disAbility. And for films, I have to go back to the Screen Actors Guild’s paper, “The Employment of PERFORMERS WITH DISABILITIES in the Entertainment Industry” that was first commissioned to be studied in 2003 and the results published in 2005 found that less than 2% of all performers, in television and film, displayed a disAbility, and less than 0.5% had speaking roles. Pretty pathetic numbers for 20% of Americans.

Lastly, Mr. Kimmel was light heartedly saying that in these days, during these the 90th Oscar’s that if you’re “not making history – shame on you.” But I am more serious in the statement as it applies to those with a disAbility. Come on Hollywood – allowing those with a disAbility to represent themselves as screenwriters, film directors, and actors in mainstream entertainment would be making history. And if you’re not – shame on you!

Historic Trifecta

Continuing on with the diversity and it being recognized by the Academy, Mr. Kimmel then states:

In the meantime, triple congratulations are in order for the kid from Comedy Central, Jordan Peele, who had a huge success with his movie, “Get Out.” Jordan is only the third person in 90 years to be nominated for directing, writing and best picture for his debut film.

That is a huge accomplishment. And if you did not know or watched these Oscar’s it is worth noting that Mr. Peele is an African-American! And he is not a “kid”! He is 39 years old.

Jordan peele directing Get Out

He had a hit sketch comedy show on Comedy Central. Even though he was a known name in Hollywood, it is still inspirational to think that someone like myself, a paraplegic filmmaker could make history by producing my own movie that featured a paraplegic actor in the starring role of one of my screenplays that I would director – let alone to be nominated for directing, writing and best picture for my debut film! I would just be grateful to be afforded the opportunity to make my film with a paraplegic actor in the starring role.

Small Recognition

Mr. Kimmel continues:

“Timothée [Chalamet] is the star of a small but powerful story called “Call Me by Your Name,” which did not make a lot of money. In fact, of the nine best picture nominees, only two of them made more than $100 million.”

Mr. Kimmel was obviously talking about Domestic box-office receipts because with the added International box-office had others over $100 million. But it is encouraging that smaller films are making a difference and getting the recognition from the Academy. Because for any movie that is self-represented by people with a disAbility it is going to be a small film! I know because I have been at this for a long time and still have not found the investors that want to risk it for a film that is nearly unprecedented in yours truly being the paraplegic writer and director who is insisting on hiring an actor who is a paraplegic to portray my paraplegic character. But once that ceiling is broken who knows what will happen?!

Equal Treatment

And finally in Mr. Kimmel’s opening monologue he brings up the following:

“if you do win an Oscar tonight, we want you to give a speech. We want you to say whatever you feel needs to be said. Speak from the heart. We want passion. You have an opportunity and a platform to remind millions of people about important things like equal rights and equal treatment.”

And as I will point out in the next segments, later in the show there were some that spoke about “Equal rights and equal treatment” and that is awesome and it could be even more awesome. Hollywood you are an industry and a group of individuals who preach the equal treatment of everyone. You say that diversity is important. That everyone needs to be equally represented. So why do accept the traditions of exclusions of people with a disAbility? The exclusion of the forgotten minority? The exclusion of 20% of your fellow Americans? We don’t even need equal representation – how about 2% representation? We do not even need to be in the starring roles. How about supporting roles? Are you really the guardians of diversity and champions that give a voice to all – especially the marginalized in society and really have the compassion and heart you project to the world?

Stay tuned for ”Oscar’s 90th – Segment 2 – Let’s Dream” – coming up or in the case of the blog treatment it is literally coming up – as it will be the next blog entry right above this one!!!

Broadway disAbility Gold

In February, 2016, I was approached once again from a casting agent looking for help in finding an actress with a disAbility. But this time it was for a role in a Broadway play. To protect the name(s) of the agent and agency I am including just the text:

Hi Larry,

I’m writing because we are casting a Broadway play in 2017 and we are looking for an actress with a mobility disability or who is a leg amputee to play a leading role.  I’d love for you to take a look at a flyer with more information on the project (I’ve attached it here) and would be so grateful if you wouldn’t mind passing it along to anyone you think is right!  Or even better, if you work with groups/theatres that would help spread the word as well!

Thanks in advance for taking a look.

And here is a partial of the flyer she attached.

Broadway Casting Call from 2016

Broadway? A leading role? A person with a mobility disAbility? Is this for real? Are they serious about wanting a person with a mobility disAbility for a leading role in a Broadway play? That’s huge. Even though I know very little about Broadway I know it is a big deal. What I do know is that when I found out about the 2010 Broadway revival show, “The Miracle Worker” they did not bother to even audition a person with a disAbility for the role of Helen Keller. I made a point of making a big deal of it a few months before when it was announced that they hired then 13 year old actress, Abigail Breslin without considering any person with a disAbility. As we know Helen Keller had multiple disAbilities. She was deaf, blind, and was unable to communicate until her teacher, Anne Sullivan helped her. This is the basis of the play, “The Miracle Worker.” But the producer of the 2010 version of the Broadway show did not even bother to audition a performer with a single disAbility. A blind actress. A deaf actress. Either one would have been great onstage and able to act the part of being blind or visa versa and still be authentically portraying and representing people with a disAbility. After months of backlash from the disAbled community and the press, the producer finally admitted he did not care about the authenticity of “The Miracle Worker”, it was all about getting a named recognized actress to sell tickets. I countered that on social media that it was never going to change if someone doesn’t help performers with a disAbility get work on stage and have the opportunity to become a recognized name. Now, 17 years later, is this Broadway casting notice for an actress with a mobility disAbility for a Tony award producer(s) for real? I was hopeful and a bit excited that maybe things are changing.

I am a paraplegic filmmaker and advocate for those with a disAbility in the film and television industry. So although I am not a talent agent, I do seem to get the requests from talent agencies and casting agencies when they are looking to audition actors with a disAbility in specific disAbility roles. This has been going on for several years and I want to help in any way possible to get more people with a disAbility represented in entertainment. Even if they are not in my entertainment projects! As I have mentioned in previous blog entries and social media posts that I have had to spend an inordinate amount of time advocating for the use of people with a disAbility in the creative roles in entertainment just to prove that my projects are viable by using a person with a disAbility in the feature role of my films, and that I have the Ability to be the director of my projects despite their misconceptions of the Ability of a person with a disAbility – more specific my paraplegia. So I am glad to help when these casting and talent agencies contact me looking for help. They tell me that they find me through a Google search in which my website’s page that merely highlights actors with a disAbility comes up. Often at the top of their search!  I meant for that page to just show potential investors to my company, Abilities United Productions and its individual film projects, as well as the general interests of the website’s visitors, that there are actors with a disAbility! That web page is old and in fact the entire website is old and I am in the process of a major renovation, but for now it still attracts Google searchers and that is a good thing.

Therefore I did pass on the Broadway show casting notice to actresses that I thought would fit the role. I did make an extra effort for one actress that I felt would fit the role perfectly. And for those who know her, know what I am talking about. The wonderfully talented, Teal Sherer who has done television movies and shows, national television commercials, short films and even her own acclaimed webseries called, “My Gimpy Life” that ran for 2 seasons and in 2013 was nominated by the International Academy of Web Television (IAWTV) in 4 categories which it won in 2 of them including Best Actress (Comedy) for Teal. Dual TealI also posted the casting notice info to some social media outlets in hopes to get a large turnout of actresses with a disAbility in order to show the agency the talent pool is larger than they are led to believe, and that they would select an actress with a disAbility for the role.

 

I did reply to the casting agent informing them of all that I had done in posting the casting opening and telling them all about Teal. I also expressed how pleased I was that they were going to this extent to find a suitable candidate to fill the role. Of course I went on as I usually do when talking about this subject of authentic roles and filling them with authentic actors, what it means to the disAbled community and how it truly helps the entertainment industry to expand the inclusion and visibility to the general audiences to have performers with a disAbility in their programs. Not to mention how this kind of inclusion will help to inspire those who want to get into acting that there is opportunity for people with a disAbility but only if they could see them getting roles in entertainment there on Broadway and in Hollywood. They did reply back that they were excited by my passion for what they were doing and my overall advocacy for more people with a disAbility in creative roles. And then just three or four days later the agent sent another email saying:

Hey Larry,

I just wanted to follow up to let you know that we can now mention that the project is a Broadway revival of GLASS MENAGERIE, and we are looking for the role of LAURA.  We’re actively starting to audition women who fit the description, so please feel free to follow up with your contacts to let them know!

Thanks in advance,

Of course I did let everyone know and updated every social media post with this new information.

A few weeks later I followed up with Teal who told me that she did get to audition. Not in person, but as you can see from the Casting Notice email attachment that the agent sent me they do not need to be in New York and therefore Teal said that they did ask her to submit her resume, headshot materials and a video audition. I know Teal nailed it because she’s that good! But she did not get a call back! If it were me…well, I am bias because I have seen a lot of her work but to be fair I did not see all the applicants for the role. Still I did worry because I have gotten these requests for help in finding performers with a disAbility for a role with a character with a disAbility and they nearly always went with an able bodied actor despite the recommendations or pointing them to places to find performers with a disAbility. In the many conversations I have had with actors with a disAbility over the past two decades, we have concluded that this is just to show that the powers that be – in their entertainment project – did not discriminate. But at least looking for performers with a disAbility is a step in the right direction. Five or ten years ago they would not even audition performers with a disAbility. As I mentioned above with the example of the 2010 Broadway show of “The Miracle Worker.” Well this casting notice for auditions are in 2016 and I did not think too much about it again.

Fast forward a year – to this past April when I saw a post on my sister’s Facebook page about a New York Times article by Neil Genzlinger, in the “Critic’s Notebook” section dated March 24, 2017, making specific commentary on a Broadway show, “The Glass Menagerie”. It reminded me of the correspondences I had with the casting agent, Teal, other actresses and the postings I made on some social media spots over a year ago!

Reading the article I knew this was the same Broadway show that I was contacted about last year. And I was so pleased to find out that they did hire an actress with a disAbility! In fact, this is the very first actress who uses a wheelchair to play a leading role on Broadway!

Madison Ferris - Laura - The Glass Menegerie - 1

This is a major victory for all of with a disAbility. Especially those with a disAbility working or trying to work in the entertainment industry. Even if you are not an actor but rather another entertainment creator, a writer, director, producer, filmmaker like yours truly! Because this proves again that we can be in the creative roles within the entertainment field. We deserve to be a part of the entertainment media representing ourselves and as major part of the American society – the 20% of the American population that is severely under-represented in movies and television, and in this case the stage – the Broadway stage! Here I go again advocating – but since you are reading this then you probably know all these talking points so I am preaching to the choir – therefore let me get back on track!

This New York Times article focuses on two controversial issues on this production of “The Glass Menagerie.” This is unfortunate but not surprising. First let me tell you something that is without controversy. The production stars the fantastic and talented, Oscar winning actress, Sally Field in the role of the mother of the disAbled daughter, Laura. But then we quickly find the controversies.

Madison Ferris - Sally Field - The Glass Menegerie - 1

The actress that is portraying Laura is Madison Ferris who has muscular dystrophy. For the record, I do not know Madison and therefore she was not one whom I told the casting agent about the audition. Unless she followed one of my social media posts? Back to the point is that it seems to be too much of a disAbility for some of the leading Broadway critics. According to the article they are criticizing the play on a couple of issues. And this is the first one. According to them there is the very obvious difference in the character of Laura as was written by the beloved playwright, Tennessee Williams, which is as the article’s author describes is merely “a shy girl with a limp”, and the one that is portrayed here by Tony Award Winning director, Sam Gold’s actress with muscular dystrophy – which they feel is taking it too far from the original written play and therefore way out of the norm for their Broadway standards.

Wow! Let me say two things on this first controversy. First, I have stated many times in many forums from the social media posts to business documents for my company and individual film projects, to my basic advocacy for the use of performers with a disAbility to be authentic. One of my main points in a successful film or television program – in this case a Broadway show, and is most often missing in all of them that feature a character with a disAbility is authenticity. Producers, directors, and actors often cite using locations and/or featured or supporting actors from the locations where their stories take place to give it authenticity in their creative projects. And I have said that is what makes my projects different from nearly all other projects that have a character with a disAbility. Authenticity – by using actors with the same or similar disAbility as the character in the project. All of my projects feature a character with paraplegia. The voice is authentic because I wrote it. The vision is authentic because I direct it. And those two aspects are authentic because I am a paraplegic. And the most visible aspect is that which is in front of the camera, the actor whose performance is authentic because I cast actors with the same or similar disAbility, in this case paraplegics – they don’t have to have the exact level of paraplegia as the one I wrote but they can act as one with it – or I adapt some of the action and/or dialogue to make it work. I believe this is what director Sam Gold did in hiring Madison Ferris in the role of Laura in “The Glass Menagerie.” So what if it is not exactly as written by Tennessee Williams in 1944 and is a memory play set in the 1930’s?

While I was contacted by the casting agency to help find an actress with a mobility disAbility I was skeptical but hopeful as it’s been my experience that agencies make the effort to seem inclusive but the director never had the intention of casting a person with a disAbility in the role of character with a disAbility. Some are afraid that the producer and/or the studio will never go with that authentic choice and will think poorly on the director – so they dare not to make that choice because they are afraid of never being hired as a director again therefore making it career suicide. But as I was reading this article in the New York Times commenting on the Broadway show, I found a link to an article in The New York Times Magazine that was wonderfully written by Sasha Weiss which came out before the play’s opening and focuses on the Tony Award winning director Sam Gold along with his directing of “The Glass Menagerie” and sheds some light on the casting for his newest Broadway play. In the article, Ms. Weiss explains that a few days before the dress rehearsal she interviewed Sam Gold who told her that it was he who insisted on a performer with a disAbility for the role of Laura in this Broadway play. Wow! This is great and is going way beyond the entertainment industry’s “Standard Operation Procedures” of auditioning a couple of performers with a disAbility as a token outreach as a way to then justify the casting of an able bodied performer in the role of a disAbled character. Ms. Weiss writes:

“…there had never been an actor in a wheelchair cast in a leading role. Gold decided that to be faithful to Williams’s revolutionary spirit, he would put onstage a person the audience is unused to seeing there. He and Scott Rudin, the show’s producer, began a search throughout the United States and England for actresses with disabilities. They chose Ferris, who at 25 had a range of performing experiences but had never appeared in a professional production.”

Now I know that the search from the casting agency who contacted me was sincere!

SamGold-head-450x517 - 1And I applaud and thank Sam Gold and Scott Rudin (a film and stage producer) for taking what seems so obvious and making the decision to cast a performer with a disAbility in a role that is written as a character with a disAbility! To do what many, at least in Hollywood would consider career suicide by casting a performer with a disAbility, especially one as Ms. Ferris who has “never appeared in a professional production.” This was a huge risk since there has never been an actress with a mobility disAbility using a wheelchair in a leading role on Broadway! Despite the risk Mr. Gold and Mr. Rudin have now been the first to break the disAbility ceiling. This kind of authentic portrayals of those with a disAbility are the same kind that had broken the “Standard Operating Procedures” during their times when some people were not allowed on the stage to portray themselves. For example, in the early 1900’s when Al Jolson appeared in black face because blacks were not allowed to perform on stage or the screen. Going even further back to when women were banned until 1660 when King Charles II “granted a charter to the Drury Lane company, making it the Kings Own Company, and to prevent the moral outrage to his subjects caused by boys dressing up as females the charter required that all female parts must be played by women. So there it was, in a document which exists to this today, the door to the acting profession was opened to women by no less a hand than that of the King himself.” And thereby making “the first English woman to ‘legally’ appear on the stage in England was one Margaret Hughes, who on 8th December 1660, played ‘Desdemona’ in ‘The Moor of Venice’ (a reworking of Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’)” (http://www.stagebeauty.net/th-women.html#doorop).

Interesting that that first legal and authentic portrayal of a woman by a woman was in a play that was a reworking of Shakespeare’s “Othello”, which brings us back to the Broadway’s leading critics and elites’ issue of the reworking of Tennessee William’s character of Laura, a girl with a limp to a woman with muscular dystrophy. They site that Gold’s version does not fit the text exactly with William’s original play. This is a weak criticism. As I mentioned above, it is typical in the entertainment industry for a director to adapt and rework the script to fit the leading actor. How often do remakes happen or a book is adapted and everyone is okay with changes to fit the medium or the times? They often site dramatic license as the escape clause to explain their changes. And honestly that has been the most often sited escape clause for many who hire able bodied to portray and represent a character with a disAbility in movies and television of the past. In this case of Ms. Ferris having more of a degree of a disAbility than a limp you have to make adjustments. This happens all the time when directors have to make adjustments for their actors. Especially leading actors that are the drawing in audiences. Get over it! This is a slightly different interpretation in order to bring an authentic portrayal on Broadway. That should be refreshing rather than a slam. In my opinion, you should slap yourself, shake it off and enjoy this Tony Award winning director’s vision on a classic play fitted for the actress he hired.

Madison Ferris - Sally Field - Joe Mantello - The Glass Menegerie - 1

Sam Gold said something that really sums it up beautifully.

“I’m not very interested in pretend. I’m interested in putting people onstage. I want people. And I want a world that reflects the real world.”

This quote was in the article from Ms. Weiss who Mr. Genzlinger took from and also included in his article. And I include it as well because that is what I have been advocating for others to do when it comes to including performers with a disAbility as well as the inclusion of writers and directors with a disAbility in Hollywood and Broadway. This will help to “reflect the real world.”

Next comes some of the harshest criticism of the play that was brought on by some on the Broadway chat boards. They say that using Ms. Ferris and her wheelchair is exploitative. I have to respond with the title of Mr. Genzlinger’s article, “A Wheelchair on Broadway Isn’t Exploitation. It’s Progress.” Was it exploitation when Margaret Hughes came on stage in 1660 to be the first woman legally allowed to portray her gender as Desdemona? She went on to have a very long and successful career as an actress. Or when the first blacks were allowed on the stage and in front of the screen to portray their race authentically? Mr. Genzlinger made another great point in his article on this issue:

“Sometimes, what seems a cheesy gimmick or instance of exploitation is really just the front edge of needed change. Some theatergoers were probably outraged the first time a black Juliet was cast against a white Romeo. Did that change how some of Shakespeare’s lines registered and imbue the play with new meanings? Sure. Is race-blind casting now widely accepted and the theater going experience richer for it? Yes.”

He also mentioned the moving forward in television and the use of an actor with cerebral palsy to play a character with cerebral palsy in the new hit sitcom on ABC, “Speechless”. And the upcoming season of “Sesame Street” introducing a new character that has autism. Is this exploitation or finally getting the authentic portrayals and representation of the 20% of Americans who have been excluded from the entertainment media – by so much and for so long?

I have read some of the Broadway critics’ reviews of the play. I was horrified by their comments. The spoke of the physical challenges of Ms. Ferris getting up the stairs and onto the stage in the opening scene that Sam Gold used to introduce the characters. He left the house lights on. The critics said that it was uncomfortable to watch. Took five minutes and to long for them to sit through. But they stayed only to feel it again when Ms. Ferris had gotten out of her wheelchair and was sitting on the floor. This happens in a few scenes. What the critics did not like was the way Madison Ferris had to contort her body to move and to get back in her wheelchair. This is how it is when someone is living with certain mobility disAbilities, namely muscular dystrophy.

Madison Ferris - Sally Field - The Glass Menegerie - 2

I like what Mr. Genzlinger said in his article on this criticism:

“It’s worth contemplating what that means from the audience’s perspective. On those chat boards, some writers have complained that Ms. Ferris isn’t very good. Here’s the thing: We have been conditioned to define good acting in terms of facial expressions, comic timing, physical bits. An actor with a disability, especially one involving muscle control or cognitive impairment, isn’t necessarily going to be able to give the kind of performance we’re used to. Will Ms. Ferris impress someone looking for that kind of performance? Probably not. But she gives the most realistic portrayal of a person with muscular dystrophy that I’ve ever seen.”

Critics and audiences are not used to this kind of performance. But they need to get used to it and they will with more exposure to it. Sam Gold took the leap to make this the first in a leading role on Broadway. I must say that if it were me I would have hired a paraplegic, such as, I don’t know, off the top of my head, Teal Sherer! A paraplegic, depending how high the level of paraplegia, can move in and out of their chair, maybe with some help, up the stairs with some challenges but probably a lot quicker than a performer with the level of muscular dystrophy that Madison Ferris has at the time of the play. That might have relieved some of the “uncomfortable” time that these critics had. And it might be a legitimate reason that they the play only lasted for a month. Maybe not. Either way, this is something they, the critics and audiences need to get over and get used to.

Our society makes up 1 out of 5 Americans have a disAbility and are a part of the fabric of America for a long time. We are so far removed from being put into asylums to not be seen or dealt with in person and have been active participants in American society for decades. Yet we are just barely getting some recognition of being those visible and active people you see in the workplace, recreation hot spots, while shopping or in our homes. It is taking a long time to get some authentic portrayals in the entertainment industry. It takes brave people to help make it happen. Sam Gold is a very brave and courageous Tony Award winning director who at the possible risk of his career brought the first authentic portrayal of a character with a disAbility with an actress with a disAbility in his version of “The Glass Menagerie” to Broadway. ——- And Neil Genzlinger is also brave and courageous by calling out and challenging the “leading Broadway critics” on their petty and self-serving criticism of the play in his New York Times article. In full disclosure I want to add that both have personal connections to the issue of the authentic use of Madison Ferris in the role of Laura. Mr. Genzlinger said in his article:

“My own daughter, who has a serious disability called Rett syndrome, is just three years younger than the 23-year-old Laura.”

And in the article mentioned above about the director, Sam Gold from the New York Times Magazine by Sasha Weiss. She writes:

“Gold and his wife, Amy Herzog, a playwright, have two daughters. The elder, Frances, who is 4, has nemaline myopathy, a muscle disease, and uses a wheelchair. Their younger daughter, Josephine, is 2. Becoming a parent to both daughters, he told me, has brought him into contact with his own fragility. “Your life is in three acts, and that second act is a hard shift to make, toward dependency, community, vulnerability, unconditional love.” Now that he had been pried open, the project of turning the lights off and inviting people into a room to experience their own vulnerability felt more pressing.”

In Hollywood I have reached out to some that have personal connection to people with a disAbility in hopes they would help me bring the issue of authentic portrayals forward as Mr. Gold and Mr. Genzlinger have done here on Broadway and their critics respectively. But I have not been able to get anyone in Hollywood to respond and therefore to help. Perhaps it is because I am not a “name” in Hollywood. Yet. And then again maybe it is as I have mentioned above that too many in Hollywood are scared it will kill their careers if they step outside of what the West Coast Entertainment Industry machine considers is okay to portray and represent. Just because I have not been able to do it does not mean someone else can’t. I mean look at “Speechless.” It is a hit and has been picked up for a second season. And “Sesame Street” adding a character with autism. Not sure if that is a Muppet or a live person so I wonder will it be authentically portrayed? But it does provide a glimpse of hope for those with a disAbility that have been ignored and pushed aside by the entertainment industry. I hope with more television shows and now Broadway shows will accept that those of us with a disAbility are a very large minority that should not be dismissed any longer and that those with a disAbility who have studied and worked in non-professional capacity deserve to be able to portray and represent ourselves as the professional creatives in their entertainment industry.

In one final note, I want to encourage you to visit the People magazine online look at Madison Ferris and her role in “The Glass Menagerie.” It includes a short video and article about her journey in acting, living with muscular dystrophy and to the Broadway stage. The Broadway play has closed. But I hope to see her in more creative roles in the entertainment industry very soon.