All posts by yogi1964

What Was, What Is and What Will Be.

I go through these cycles of
focus. I’m not really sure which one came first but it is a focus on the past
films, or present films, or future films that feature a character who is
paralyzed. And this happens for both my creative moments and planning as well
as the business side. But I am very tired of focusing on what was and what is
and want to be more positive because I like that energy a more and so want to
focus most of the time on what can be.
 

What Was and Currently Is

I thought how tired I was of
harping on what was and even as in the recent case with “The Diving Bell and
the Butterfly” – on what is – those films are what they are – and I’m sure they
are done by well meaning able bodied individuals and I suspect that most do not
know and probably do not want to know what the real results are with the
producing and distributing stereotypical films. Just as I am sure those
filmmakers prior to the 1960’s and Sidney Poitier that films that featured
stereotypical black characters and were done by well intentioned white
individuals and had no idea what the real affect their films had on the black
community and society as a whole. And as much as I would like to just focus on
what can be, I am often swayed back into this arena in attempts to gain awareness
in Hollywood – since showing what I have as a solution – they must need to be
shown what it is they are doing and the real affects it has on the disAbled
community and society as a whole! I do not have any control over it.

 

Besides this seemingly endless
cycle I am also considering all of this for both the creative works and the
business side. I wish I could focus more on the creative side as there is so
much I want to write and then direct but because of my need of getting my
creative work seen, gain awareness and raise support it means I have to spend
all of my time with the business side of this cause! Especially since this has
become my only means for personal support – I need the job. I need one that
pays and I cannot let this cause or mission or business wait any longer. Damn
catch 22 that not many within my circle understand!

 

I am so tired. And I could help
but relate so much to a quote I found from the great screenwriter and fantastic
director, Robert Towne who is the Academy Award winning screenwriter of “Chinatown” and many other wonderful films. He also wrote
and directed one of my all time favorite movies, “Tequila Sunrise” starring Mel
Gibson, Kurt Russell and Michelle Pfeiffer. Anyway Mr. Towne said:

 

“The amount of ancillary effort unrelated to
what goes up on-screen by filmmakers, all of us, having to beg, borrow, and
steal to finance, to go out there with hat in hand, the struggle we have to do
in preparation just for the movies to happen, is a drain. It’s like I was
saying to George Clooney at a film festival recently, it’s a drain on you, it’s
time-consuming, it’s energy-consuming. You get to the point where you’re so
fucking tired you feel like you’ve already done the movie, just trying to get
enough money to make it. In the old days, the amount of time it took to make
Ask The Dust, I could have made three movies and not been so tired and thought,
“God, I never want to do this again.”” [On today’s Hollywood (March 2006)]”

 

I feel that too. 12+ years trying to get the finance to do one of my screenplays and I
am also am dealing with the huge barriers of Hollywood
attitudes, stereotypes and discrimination. I am “so fucking tired” that it is
unreal. Yet I have to go on!

 

“Luke, use the Force”

 

Still I want to focus on the
future and what can be – what I want to be. Like the famous quote from George
Lucas when asked about making “Star Wars” he said that he “wanted to make
movies that he wanted to see.” That’s exactly what I want to do – see movies
that are non-stereotypical and authentically represented. That is not about
pity, oh my poor life – yes it sucks and yes it is very difficult but I look
past that as much as I can in my own life. I want to see fun, dramas, comedies,
action adventure, romantic dramedies that feature a character who happens to be
a paraplegic and shows some of that perspective, the point of view as a person
with a disAbility but without that being the focus or in a poor me setting.
 

This is where I lose some people
when I say I do not focus nor ignore the disAbility of my characters and their
stories. The best way to describe it is that I want to create films that will
have an impact for the good. An impact on the disAbled community and on society
– their images and treatment of those living with a disAbility. So I do create
characters and stories that are like myself in some ways and certainly in
attitude! I do not want to be “normal” I have to have certain accommodations to
function and participate in my own existence and in society. I have to respect
my disability and that should be recognized. This is where there is confusion
among the public and even some within the disAbled community, especially the
newly injured or afflicted. “Oh they just want to be treated normally.” Some
think that also means that to treat someone normally means they do not need or
want to have any consideration but I do not want to be “normal.” Normal is too difficult
to define as it means different things to different people and as I mention the
disAbility must be respected and there are some considerations that must be
made. I just want to be seen and treated as an equal person, human being of our
culture and society and not as one who is normal. After all I never wanted to
be normal anyway even before my accident! 

 

What Can Be

This is the attitude and the affect
that I want my films to have. That is what I have written in my feature scripts
and my short scripts and stories I will adapt into screenplays! This has been a
life long dream – even before I realized that filmmaking was my destiny – I
always loved movies. See my bio! So even though my life hasn’t turned out like
I have wanted – the dream is still alive and I am still frantically trying to
gain support for this vision that will affect millions and millions of lives.
 

On that note I want to add this.
Many have seen it but for those who haven’t and even as a reminder for those
who have watch this 11 minute video that he reprised and abridged for the Oprah Show!

I am not dying – although they say that my life expectancy is a few years less then if I were able bodied, but I identified with him so much – especially early on in the lecture saying he “chooses not to be an object of pity” and about being physically strong despite his infirmity! There are a couple quotes I love. “Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.” How true is that? And the one he had listed “Brick walls are there for a reason: they let us prove how badly we want things.” After 12+ years of brick walls I have proven it to myself – so my question is, now how much more proving before I prove it to Hollywood? Well, since it is Hollywood putting up the brick walls, who knows? So what was and what is are important but I really want to focus on what can be! And that about wraps it up!
Until next time – “Ya’ll come back now, ya hear?”

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The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

 

AKA: The desperate isolation of a
pre-scuba diving suit and the renewal metamorphous of a butterfly! How
profound, poetic and deep that is! According the movies that is what people
with a disAbility are good for and that is what they do for society and not
much else! But that is a pretty big role in life, huh? Yes it is but it is not
the only significant role of those with a disAbility in our society.

 

Okay I finally was able to see
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” last Thursday night. Fortunately it finally
made it here in the little city in the very north east corner of Utah! This is another
reason why I cannot wait to get back to SoCal.
 

I did go into the theatre with my
pre-conceived notions and bias toward the images that are so stereotypical and
in fact terrible for those with a disAbility because this is what the general
public, what society contends that we are all like this transcending the human
condition and an inspiration to everyone around us and if we do not fit into
the stereotype that we do not have a place in society. When will we get any
other depictions of our lives with a disAbility?

 

I still believe that this movie
does fall into that stereotype and feel somewhat degraded by an able bodied
director who was given so much artistic praise for his camera angels being from
the point of view of the main character in the beginning because I wrote a
short story/screenplay with what I thought was an innovating camera style by
having the first half from that same POV. But at least in my short film story
you do not know that the POV is from a person who is paralyzed and traveling
through the able bodied world on his way to work – until the second half when
the entire first half is replayed from the POV of one of his
friends/co-workers! Here in Schnabel’s perspective and portrayal of a person
who is severely paralyzed we learn that the POV is the main character right
from the beginning. Overall though I did like Schnabel’s direction with the
only additional exception was with so many hard cuts. I don’t know if that was
by Schnabel’s design, the DP’s or the Editors. I understand the use or at least
what I presume was his use in trying to show how the long days were filled with
many of the same long and tedious actions – but it was done in many places that
were not part of that typical daily routine and I do not know how others felt
about it but it was bothersome to me.  

 

Still despite it perpetuating the
stereotype, and not really showing anything new about the world of those with a
disAbility that wasn’t already done over and over again and in fact not that
long ago with “The Sea Inside”, and the feeling that an able bodied director has stolen my
thunder – my artistic method – I surprisingly did enjoy the film. The pacing
and length of the film was good and it did inspire me, just not like it did for
many others!
 

As I was sitting in the very back
row of the theatre, the typical seating before wheelchair seating became more
integrated (this is an old theatre and the main reason it shows the art films)
and as I read the dialogue (despite having taken a year of French in high
school it was too long ago) in the sub-titles I was struck by the lines that I
had previously read from reviewers, “Besides my left eye the only two things
not paralyzed is my imagination and my memory.” Ah, that I can surely identify
with and because I have more functioning ability but still have my limitations
being paralyzed from the mid-back down I had to add my passion, ambition and
dedication. Then I realized – damn this is something I have been saying for a
long time. If you read other entries to this blog or my bio on my website or in
a letter I have written to raise awareness and gain support from one of the
nearly one hundred person’s I have contacted in the industry, there are two
commons phrases I use about my paralysis. The first that my accident happened
on April 1, 1995 and I am still waiting for someone to jump around the corner
and scream “APRIL FOOL’S!” and the second more serious common phrase is that my
passion for filmmaking, storytelling on film which began a few years before
when I was at the Art Institute – was that it was not paralyzed with the bottom
half of my body! Proof that those with a disAbility do identify and have
similar experiences with others with a disAbility despite the varying degrees
or types of disAbilities that they share. But because I am sure that this
statement was taken directly from the autobiography written/dictated by Bauby, it
is probably more surprising that a Frenchman and an American saw things the
same way!
 

Bottom line: See this movie and enjoy it – just keep it in
perspective. Remember this is one of the common stereotypes and that not all of
the 650 million people with a disAbility from around the world – or to be more
specific those who are paralyzed to any degree, are the Dali Lama giving you
perspective on your life and inspiring you to be a better person because you
never know what will happen! I find this stereotype similar to comedians that I
have heard say that when they are out and about meeting people for the first
time are often and immediately being asked to “tell a joke, say something
funny!” I am not saying that you won’t be inspired by some people, those with a
disAbility but know that that is not our purpose in life! We cannot be expected
to be one of the only stereotypes that society is exposed to through the media.
We are as diverse as the general population of the world. Those with a
disAbility make up members from every race, nationality, social and economical
class, every age, gender, and of every creed. And the diversity of both types
of disAbilities as well as varying degrees within each disAbility!
 

As a reminder the ADA defines a person with
a disAbility as one who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially
limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual. So you are
just as likely to find someone who inspires you among the able bodied as well. Remember
we are people and aside from some personal challenges that are different then
yours we are the same inside. Now it would be a lot easier to do this – if only
there were more portrayals of people with a disAbility in our culture which is often
significantly influenced by movies and television and especially if those
portrayals are authentic voices and representations! Damn, where will we find
such a solution and one that comes in a nicely wrapped commercially viable
package? Wait I have an idea – Click Here!

Is the Impact of Entertainment on Culture only Black & White?

It is easy to dismiss movies and television as merely
entertainment because there is a lot of mindless crap to choose from. But there
is the cream of the crop and that is thought provoking and touches us
emotionally to the point that we discuss it with our peers and colleagues
around the water cooler well beyond just the next day. And then there is what
is in between which causes some expression of emotion and some discussing but
because it is in the middle of the road you will have some that loved it and
some that hated it!
 

But today I am not here to discuss which films and
television programs fit into which category and then rank them by quality.
Regardless of where the film finds itself in the hierarchy of popularity, I
think we all would agree that entertainment influences our culture which in
turn influences our society. As an example, that I have talked about many
times, is the influence the films of and by Sidney Poitier in the 1960’s. These
films had a very significant cultural impact that played a role in the civil
rights movement of that same time.
 

Present & Challenge Perspectives

There are two aspects of this that I want to explore further
here. The first is the cultural impact on society as a whole and then how it
impacts those that are directly being represented in the films and television
programs. Although many of Sidney Poitier’s films contributed I want to just
single out one in particular as it is a perfect example of our first aspect and
that is “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” This was in 1968 and I turned 4 years
old but the film had a lasting affect and is still relevant today in the topic
of race and interracial relations as can be seen in the Academy Award winner
for Best film of 2005, “Crash.” Aside from a fantastic cast that starred along
with Sidney Poitier in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” it showed and talked
about race and the perceptions that one had over the other. Both sides, both
points of view and as the parents discussed and debated and wrestled with their
own perceptions it allowed the audience members to do the same. The dialogue
was so open that depending onf what neighborhood you saw it there would be a
lot of nodding heads with a soft applause or a thunderous praise and exclamations
that were often expressed in the word, “Amen” as certain points were being
made! So the audience members were now identifying with the characters on the
screen which makes them engaged and personally invested in the story. As the
movie moved along it challenged nearly every point that was previously expressed
as general perceptions. By the conclusion of the movie, whether you agreed with
how it ended or not, it made you think and it influenced your thoughts of your
own race and your perceptions of the other.
 

Movies allow us to indirectly be involved with the story,
the characters, the situations, on the screen in a very personal way without
risking anything but the cost of the ticket and the beyond highway robbery
concessions. Many films and television programs give us a peak and on some
level experience another place, time, people, political system, point of view,
a fantasy of the imagination, even other cultures and societies that can be
real or make believe which can be as close as a local neighborhood like say,
Little Italy in New York to distant solar systems and galaxies like in Star
Trek and Star Wars!   

 

“That’s Alright Mama”

While we are examining the cultural impact as a whole let’s
briefly look at the big picture and again use the same racial example and start
a little further back to the previous decade of the 1950’s. Entertainment media
of music was changing and although it started slow it took off when the rhythm
and blues music became the basis for rock and roll. Regardless of how it was
applied or exploited by the record companies and radio stations the voice of
the black culture was integrated into white culture. This is common knowledge
and when looking forward from that time we can see how it not only continued
but also expanded to movies and eventually television. Not all was integrated
but those voices that were not still had their place in American culture. And
today the voices of the black culture are often dominate in some areas such as
music. Today the American culture is influenced by black culture, white
culture, Hispanic culture, Asian culture, gay, lesbian and transgender culture
and some others as all have authentic voices and represent themselves in nearly
all cases.
 

My culture, My people

The second aspect of this impact of entertainment can be
seen in the affect it has on the individual culture and people represented in said
movies, television and music. Again another example that I have discussed many
time before, because it is very similar to how I feel when my culture, my
people, those with a disAbility and specifically those who are paralyzed, is
when I heard people like Oprah, Denzel, Halle, and others speak of the personal
impact seeing Sidney Poitier in movies that were not stereotypical and
portrayed by a young, healthy, and handsome black actor had on them. Another
prime example was recently in an episode of Oprah’s daytime talk show as a
retrospect of “The Cosby Show” and its impact on society as a whole and within
the black community. When speaking of how at first many in both the white and
black communities didn’t believe that a black family could live like that which
was being portrayed on the show, I loved what Malcom-Jamal Warner said that
unfortunately “it is not validated until it’s on television.”

 

The music of the 1950’s, the films of the 1960’s and the
television of the 1980’s have all gone a long way in breaking stereotypes and
acceptance of black men, women & families by white culture and society. Other
minority subgroups such as the Hispanic culture and the gay, lesbian and
transgender culture have followed the model or example of the inclusion of
authentic voices in entertainment which has provided a significant impact on
American culture as a whole which has its place in influencing American society
and that of individual minority communities.

56 Million Americans + 600 Million More Global

The glaring exclusion in our entertainment of today when
speaking of the voices and representation of all of the above mentioned
minority subgroups is of course the largest and fastest growing minority
subgroup, those with a disAbility. A very common image and treatment those with
a disAbility in American society, which as we have established above is largely
influenced by the culture which is influenced by entertainment and in this case
specifically in movies and television toward those with a disAbility as
invisible, insignificant, unproductive, 2nd or 3rd or 4th
class citizens and this has a huge impact on the individual lives of everyone
with a disAbility and everyone in their family and of their friends. All of
this is perpetuated in the Hollywood
stereotypes, the industry wide common practice of repressing our voices and the
unauthentic representation in movies and television.
 

Just like in the example of the black community, this not
only influences society’s opinions of those with a disAbility but also on the
disabled community itself and this can have devastating and long lasting affect.
Without any representation in movies or television, society as a whole
continues to view us as “less than” members of society. Because the disAbled
voices are repressed and the discrimination of actors with a disAbility not being
able to represent ourselves  there is very
little validation that we are significant and worthy human beings, let alone
equal members of society. This flows over into our image of ourselves and the
expectations of what we should just accept from society’s opinions of us. This
can be clearly seen in the reactions of people when asked or they consider
becoming paralyzed or having a significant disAbility. An example of this can
be found here in this blog under the title, “Dr. 90210.” Many will say they
would rather be dead or that living as a paralyzed person brings an end to
significant life. This is experienced by all those who suddenly find themselves
with a disAbility. I know this first hand because my opinions and views of a
person in a wheelchair was a hopeless and worthless life. I felt pity that that
poor soul who had to live life so restricted of nearly all that makes life
worth living. It was unimaginable! That was until April 1, 1995 when I became
one of those people in a wheelchair and not just for a time as a broken leg
might do, but for the rest of my life! No days off and no vacation days away
from living as a person with a serious disAbility.

 

Because of my attitude and outlook was what I can do with
what still works on my body, I had nurses, doctors and therapists wanting me to
speak to another patient of theirs who couldn’t see past the image they had as
able bodied members of society that were largely shaped by the influences from
our culture and entertainment. They were depressed and often didn’t care as it
seemed worthless to keep trying. This life is difficult on so many levels and
not just physically but also emotionally, financially, and socially as all are
affected by my life as a paraplegic. It is easy to understand why the rate of
alcohol and drug abuse is much higher within the community of those who are
paralyzed.
 

If the very little recognition of those with a disAbility in
movies and television continue to also be represented entirely by able bodied
people then so will the results of the publics’ image and treatment of those
with a disAbility and the self image of those who know nothing else or are
heavily influenced by the portrayals of those with a disAbility in today’s
entertainment. Then this viscous cycle will endure and continue to corrupt the
image and treatment of those with a disAbility in our society.
 

Believe In A Change

But it does not have to be as bleak as the portrayals in our
media depict. Nor does the negative affect of having very little represented in
movies and television which results in not having any validation as being worthy
individuals of our society. This perpetuates the almost constant treatment that
those with a disAbility are to be considered as unimportant, unable and a
burden which I cannot tell you how degrading it is and how difficult it is seeing
this in the eyes of those who don’t advert their look in my direction and in
dealing with every time I go out in public. And most with a disAbility will
honestly tell you that this is more difficult then the disAbility itself. Can
you now see how deep and how wide the range of impact this has on our society? It
is incredibly hurtful and society can only change by what it is influenced by,
which is largely from our culture that is influenced largely by entertainment
and which can only be changed and have
this endless cycle be broken with the
authentic voices and representation of those with a disAbility in
non-stereotypical roles and stories.
And that cannot happen when the motion
picture and television industry will recognize this as a serious issue and give
those with a disAbility a fair and equal
opportunity to represent ourselves.


 


The only question left is, does anyone here
know of an intelligent and caring producer with well established relationships
in Hollywood?

Next Step or Completely Delusional?

Well maybe I am not the person who I always thought I was or
was going to become. Nah, I do know that I am an artist, struggling yet full of
life and wanting to express it through my writing and directing. I have written
screenplays, both short and feature length, short stories in various levels of
development and ideas that are always swimming around in my head. I don’t know
if merely out of necessity or if there really is another part of me that is the
business minded person. I have had to form the business entity, documents, create
and write a complete business plan with financial projections, marketing and
distribution strategies, statistics, market research for the motion picture
industry and the segment of disabled consumer market, product distinction,
product placement (both new companies looking for the opportunities and
established ones that want to compete for the disabled consumer market), and
how all of this can be a commercial success. I created a website, learned about
html, Dreamweaver and Photoshop so I could make a site that because I couldn’t
afford to pay someone I would make it look like it was done professionally to
project the image of, well being professional. And then comes the part of
marketing all of this and myself to the industry and business world. I have
taken this marketing in every direction and covered every angle from
traditional business loans, to government SBA Guarantees and programs, to
individual investors, to Angel and Venture Capital groups, and when all of this
failed to generate professional and financial support (as is described in
detail in other blog entries and the website) I turned to the one place I knew
would understand this mission and would have the best chance of support, to the
motion picture and television industry. I have approached and attempted to get
in contact with both the traditional studio and independent avenues contacting
studio executives, from CEO’s to presidents and vice-presidents in charge of
production and/or their publicity departments, independent production companies
and individual producers, talent agents and agencies, and for the support of
celebrities including those that for obvious reasons would have a personal
interest in what I have created, all in an effort to get the financial and professional
business support that this cause and mission deserve and I need to make all of
this come to life.


Hope & Faith

There it is – the
past 12 years of my life
and my motivations to remain positive despite
being paralyzed, the reasons why I wake up and get out of bed – which in itself
is a miracle compared to my life as an able bodied person – all wrapped up in
one cute little paragraph that I seem to be the only one who cares about it!


The backbone of all of this is hope and faith. What is it and why do some have
more of it then others? I remember 18 years ago when I was merely one out of a
hundred or so employees answering the phone to qualify our clients’ new
employees for their company to receive a tax credit and presenting to the
founder and CEO of the company a business plan for a secondary service that I
knew would fit for the company. He didn’t bite but he took a moment and pushed
away from his desk to look me in the eye and tell me how impressed he was with
my initiative, the entrepreneurial spirit, the drive to put it all together in
a very well constructed presentation, and the balls to come forth and present
it to him. He said very few people have that and I thought to myself, why? It
comes so naturally to me, something I just do because I believe in doing and not just talking or dreaming. Make it happen. This wasn’t the first
time and neither was the time I made a complete business plan for my
independent record label while I was in school at the Art Institute, and of our
first album that would launch the company, a battle of the bands competition
with a winning band in each of the major cities of the state of Texas to be
featured on our “Best of Texas” hard rock album that I banked it all on and
presented to a major corporation and first satellite music radio company who
had stations all over the state and the country – who was just bought by ABC,
only to have them tell me they loved the idea and would get back to me. When
they didn’t and while I was following up I suddenly heard on their local radio
station that they were doing it themselves – they claimed that one of their
DJ’s presented them the idea before I came in! What was I suppose to do? Take
them to court and face the team of corporate lawyers of ABC? Devastating but no
matter it wasn’t the first time my dreams were crushed, I was disappointed at
being rejected and my ideas that would rocket my company and my career were
basically stolen and wouldn’t be the last. Besides I already discovered I had
more passion for storytelling and expressed that by making music videos – which
I began to make music video demos for unsigned bands to use instead of merely
an audio cassette demo – this was an innovating concept in 1989. But unsigned
rock bands do not have any money and when that idea didn’t pay the bills, and
the freelancing as a video camera operator, grip, gaffer, and production
assistant for other music videos and projects had dried up a couple of years
into the next decade I had to get another job!

 

Ever Feel Like Something’s Missing?

Already knowing that film was the only place I could tell my
stories that were a lot longer than the 4 minutes of a typical song I kept the
hope that I would make it. But my job got more and more of my time as I moved
from low on the totem pole up into management spending 14-16 hours days over
two offices. Success was nice but I was missing something. This was in 1994 and
I finally got some time on a Saturday to see a matinee that I found out later
was from a new filmmaker and titled, “Pulp Fiction”! It blew me away and
reminded me of what it was that despite the success I had a major void in my
life. So I ended up quitting that job and began writing a short film I wanted
to produce. I got a job with another company but as a regular hourly employee
so after my 8 were done I had the energy and time to pursue what I really
wanted to do in life! And as I was about to go into production on April 1, 1995
I fell down the staircase outside my brother’s apartment broke my back, crushed
three vertebras, completely severed my spinal cord and left me as a paraplegic
survivor. The new job I accepted in place of my salaried management position –
had no insurance and I had no independent medical, disability or life
insurance. I immediately lost everything – my condo in the Arts District of
east Dallas,
all my savings and money before I was even released out of the hospital.  

 

Fortunately, I remembered what gave me life just before this
life changing accident and it is what gave me the strength, hope and faith to
continue to live life to the fullest despite this new reality and perspective
from a wheelchair. When I went looking for some representation of people like
myself in movies and television, I found very little and all of it was
stereotypical and nearly all written, directed and acted by able bodied the
same majority of the population who often cried in unison that they would
rather die then to live as I do, paralyzed. But no matter they could still understand
what it is like to be a paraplegic and authentically represent me in movies and
television I say with all the sarcasm of a Don Rickles stand up routine! And
since then I knew what I had to do and I dedicated my everything – which as I
explained wasn’t much left – but my hope and faith in being a storyteller on
film and since then, well see the first paragraph!
      

 

Deep Concern

Hope and faith have waivered from time to time in the past
but now here in 2008, I wonder if it is wavering or fading. I have never given
up hope that I was going to be what it was that I wanted to be! In the past I
would spend months on an idea or dream and develop it to where I could present
it and if it didn’t work out then I moved on to the next. It culminated into what
it is that I really am all about and even if I never get the recognition,
support or acceptance from Hollywood,
I AM AND WILL DIE a filmmaker, a storyteller on film and an entrepreneurial
business man. All of this I have committed to for the past 12+ years. Every
time I got to where it seemed like it wouldn’t work out, I found the reasons
for it and then developed an answer so it would work out. This has gone on and
on to where I am now – I have the answers to everything, every objection, every
question about making a commercially viable film from an authentic voice and
representation of those who like myself are paralyzed or have a disAbility of
some kind that would break the stereotypes and help end the discrimination of
those with a disAbility in Hollywood. Wow, when I think about it that is a lot
all in one package, huh?

 

  • Commercially
    viable
  • Authentic
    Voice
  • Authentic
    Representation
  • Non-stereotypical
  • And help
    end the blatant industry wide discrimination of those with a disAbility!

 

Whew! There is dreaming and there pie in the sky dreaming.
Yeah, but you give me 5 minutes and I will hook you into the next 25 to explain
exactly how I can do it and it will make complete sense when I am through! Ask
any questions and if it wasn’t already answered in the presentation – well,
hell it was covered I would just restate it or rephrase it to be understood!
Don’t worry I won’t make you feel like a dumb shit for asking – in fact I
welcome questions and objections because I love sharing what I have silently
uncovered, created and overcome through personal trials over the past several
years and now give an answer that is not only reasonable but makes such good
sense that you will feel like a light just went on and wonder why nobody
thought of that before! Fact is somebody probably has but because the industry
of motion pictures and television is so difficult to get into – to get their
attention to even be able to present it – they have either quit trying or
feared it too much to start it. I haven’t but I am running out of options.

 

The Establishment

Sometimes I wonder what makes me think I could do something
so big as it would change Hollywood,
change American Cinema forever – hell I cannot even get you to comment in my
blog or my new guest book. And that, along with not a single glimpse from
anyone in Hollywood after all these years and attempts is why I am wondering
for the first time – worrying really – that my hope and faith of this dream
that would affect millions and millions of people would become a reality, is actually
fading instead of wavering. Almost 13 years since becoming paralyzed and seeing
the void and wanting to provide a solution that everyone from the making of to
audience would be happy to see in movies and television representing those who
were like me and dealing with a disAbility every day, every single moment of
every day, of every week, of every month, of every year, of every decade, of
every life that has been affected by a disAbility.

Yet despite all that I have been through, endured, and overcome
and just when I thought I have finally gotten over all the obstacles to make
this happen – my last obstacle is by far the biggest challenge so far has been
Hollywood itself. I cannot seem to get anyone to look past my wheelchair and
into the person. Into the work I have done to do what they hate to admit have
not been able to do – provide an authentic voice and representation of a
non-stereotypical film that features a character with a disAbility in a
commercially viable movie or television program. Hell most do not even think
about it – and when they do they don’t think it is a problem – or if it is that
there are diversity programs that handle that so they don’t have to. Yet as I
have proven – most in the industry do not
think a disAbility is a minority
and those that do, still do not provide a substantial program to
help. If they did – I ask one question – where are the Hollywood supported authentic voiced and
represented, non-stereotypical movies that either are or are not commercially
successful?

 

Yeah, I know – they don’t exist. I have spent 12+ years
looking for them and while some of them have some of the elements or partial
elements, none have all three as detailed on the website and is required to be
commercially viable. Instead of waiting on someone else I have created them
myself and I can prove it if I could just get past the damn receptionists,
assistants, and staff members to a real producer in Hollywood.

 

Fear of the Unknown and Unproven?

Is there something here – something anywhere on my website
or blog that you do not believe is the truth. Why don’t you ask me? Challenge
me? What are you afraid of? The truth? Oh, I would so love to discuss it with
you, to the have the opportunity to prove it you – to anyone – to everyone! But
maybe nobody cares that those with a disAbility does not have a voice, and
honest and authentic voice – hell we barely have any representation and what
little we do have is nearly all represented by able bodied writers, directors,
and actors whose perspective of what it must be like to be paralyzed or have a
disAbility of any kind is based and influenced by previous films and television
programs of those with a disAbility that were also written, directed and
performed by able bodied individuals. Able bodied teaching able bodied what it
is like to be paralyzed or have a disAbility! Even when the material is based
on the real life of a person with a disAbility, or they producers pay to have a
consultant who has the same or similar disAbility on the set, it is still up for
interpretation of the able bodied artist. Regardless of how good they were, or
how well intended they were – they are still not my voice or my representatives
in today’s entertainment. And motion pictures and television are often the
face, the cultural representatives of a people, a profession, a subgroup, a
minority. When do we get the opportunity to represent ourselves?

 

So what is the next step?

Just like all the previous obstacles that I encountered and
found a way to get over it, under it, around it, or in some cases I have
demolished them, created the answers to make them disappear. But most of them I
have done silently and unnoticed because despite my efforts the industry has
not seen any of my work, my screenplays, or my business plan. As I mentioned
before, just getting Hollywood’s
attention to what the problem is, let alone what I have to solve it, is by far
the largest obstacle and most difficult challenge I have been faced with. If my
countless phone calls, letters, faxes, and emails have gone unnoticed, ignored
and dismissed what the hell can I do to just get their attention?

 

Hope & Faith Revisited

What would a person who has spent years and become desperate
or nearing desperation because despite overcoming objections and obstacles he
has not gotten any results, any attention, any consideration? Well if I cannot
get Hollywood’s attention, I will have to bring
the attention to Hollywood!
Sounds a little frightening, huh? Especially when you hear – “oh, he was the
most mild tempered person on our street”, or “he was always optimistic,
positive, a real inspiration to everyone.” All of that is true and yet I can
assure you that I am the most scared. I have banked everything, this past year
on this happening. I thought for sure I would get someone’s attention now that
I have a polished plan that includes the material necessary to be a brighter
future for an entire segment of the population. But as the months passed one
after the other, I now find myself in debt without a job and my only income is meager
$679 a month form Social Security Disability Insurance.

 

I have awakened every morning with the hope that this would
be the day I would get someone’s attention. That this would be the day that:

 

  • Michael Barker and/or Tom Bernard will take my
    call despite the numerous previous attempts when the receptionist would come
    back with –“I’m sorry they are both in a meeting. Would you like to leave a
    message?” or maybe that this will be the day that they will call me back after
    I have left the countless messages that included the recommendation from a
    previous COO and CFO of another Sony Entertainment division.

  • That the next person on my list to contact or
    re-attempt to contact will take my call, read my letter, fax, email, or accept
    my invite to visit my website


  • Consider what I have to add to American Cinema



  • Hope they would care about the stereotypes and
    the blatant discrimination of those that make up the largest and fastest
    growing minority, the 56 million Americans with a disAbility

·       
and

  • Care enough to act and not just acknowledge this
    is a terrible injustice and then wish me good luck

 

Everyday I wake up and hope it will be the day that will be
the first real step in a door that could help launch this dream that is much
bigger then me and as I mentioned affects millions of Americans, the 25% of all
American households that have a person with a disAbility including all of their
family members and friends who would want to see themselves and their loved
ones with a disAbility being recognized as meaningfully participants of our
culture, our society instead of being pitied and brushed off as insignificant
people.

 

Nearly 100 and Counting

I have a database of 93 people I have contacted in Hollywood and that I have
awakened every morning to put my hope and faith in that they will give me just
a minute of their time to honestly consider any part of what I have created. To
consider supporting in ways that can be as little as writing a mere sentence of
their support – to say that they believe this is a good cause – to sending what
they have discovered on my website or in my letter or my email, voice mail, or
fax to someone they think might be able to help – to the producer or executive
who would provide me a fair and equal opportunity with an invite to present what
I have and is something that can be a permanent solution to the Hollywood
history of a common practice of ignoring, dismissing, repressing the authentic
voices and representation, the stereotypes and discrimination imposed by the
industry. Whomever it is that does give me a chance and look at what I offer, I
will be so pleased that they will be
known as ones that played a significant part in what American Cinema history
will record as a “turning point” for those with a disAbility on both sides of
the camera.

 

Everyday hoping and believing that it would be the day I
could get the slightest bit of a glance from someone within the Hollywood club. Do you know what it is like to hope for
something so hard and for so long that you do not know how or what else to hope
for? To do it for a dozen years and every night be disappointed and yet keep
the faith – tomorrow will be the day – and tomorrow comes and you continue to
go without any recognition from those you are trying to merely get the
attention of. Feel like it might all be useless especially when it seems like
you are just being ignored – dismissed as not important – not even have the
decency to have James Cameron or one of his staff members say that he has looked at it and doesn’t think
it will fly! Maybe they are so afraid to find out that there is no reason why
it would not work – or why it would not at least be a worthy risk to try – and
then because of the traditional practices of Hollywood, say they will not take the chance!
“Oh, but good luck with that, it sounds like a great idea.”

 

I don’t care what the reason is anymore. I am tired of going
through this every day. I will have to bring the attention to Hollywood and
they will be forced to pay attention then to this issue, admit it is important,
and needs to be more then just addressed by a committee or given some PC
gesture of an outreach program that only accepts the application and resume of
those with a disAbility with an out stretched hand and given the all to common
Hollywood lie, “We’ll call you!”

Last Hope

ATTENTION HOLLYWOOD
– Attention is my last hope of making my dream come alive. I am very much out
of time and out of money. Just like the position I was in after my accident and
while in the hospital, hope and faith is all I have left. I have given this my
all and after nearly 13 years of work, creation, sacrificing, disappointment,
rejection and keeping a smile on my face while staying positive every day that
this would be the day and as I mentioned above I cannot be sure that this hope
and faith that has been something I have had on occasion to dig deep to find
every morning, and after a day of disappointments keep every night, I am very
concerned that it isn’t merely wavering again and instead is quickly fading. Getting
Hollywood’s
attention is all I can do after completing all that I have and showcase on my
website. If nobody in the industry will
give me 5 minutes of attention, I will have to bring a lot of attention to Hollywood.
As I
mentioned before including the blog entry titled, “What’s Up Doc..umentary?” that it would include a documentary film of my journey and naming
the names of who I am calling, who I have already called and attempted to
contact from my database of nearly 100 members of the Hollywood club while
pointing the camera at Hollywood and it would also include organizing protests
with disAbility rights and advocates, mobilizing the actors, performers,
artists with a disAbility currently trying to work and dream in Hollywood, and
make sure the entertainment news media is very aware of all of our activities!
I have to get their attention to a permanent solution and groundbreaking
inclusion of our authentic voices and representation that will change American
Cinema forever. One step at a time and I can assure you, you will not be
disappointed. If you worked this hard and this long, to the point where I am
now, what would you do?

 

No Country for disAbled Men….and Women

 


 The Oscars
were…interesting? Well there were a couple that were more interesting then
others and I have to say my favorite part was seeing Jennifer Garner. But that
is probably a given since I am a fan and well who would not like seeing
Jennifer Garner? There were a couple of funny bits and my favorite was John
Travolta’s 707 with its lights on (?) or was it just parked in the wrong spot?
I don’t remember but it was funny. John Stewart as a host was okay and maybe
because the writers just got back to work and didn’t have time to make anything
that spectacular – but to be fair, I’m not a fan of Stewart and there were a
lot more choices for a hosting job that have improvisational capabilities which
in this case would’ve helped a lot such as Billy Crystal, and the two that were
left out of the hosting montage, Steve Martin and Whoopi Goldberg and frankly I
like them better anyway!
 

Still I do want to congratulate all the nominees as I think
they were the winners in the 2007 year of movies! I think there were some that
got snubbed and should’ve been more recognized such as “3:10 to Yuma” and “Gone
Baby Gone” as I thought they were outstanding films and at the top of my list
of favorites for 2007. But for the pictures that were nominated for Best
Picture, I would’ve chosen either “Atonement” or “Juno” which the latter was a
surprise to me when I saw it at the theatres. I know everyone was going goo goo
for Ellen Page even before it was released but when I see that kind of falling
all over themselves praise – it often turns me off a picture (ie: “Borat”) and
I will then usually wait until DVD time – but this was an exception
because…Jennifer Garner was a co-star and in my opinion she makes every movie
she is in better. It was a good movie and did keep my interests. I did of
course identify most with Jason Bateman’s character and loved his portrayal and
that might have had something to do with my leaving the theatre rather
satisfied.
 

And speaking of Best Pictures – I did note
that during the 79 previous Best Picture winners montage that four of them did
have something that featured or co-starred a character with a disAbility. The
first being “The Best Years of Our Lives” and the clip they chose to show was
with the character – and if I remember correctly the actor – had the prosthetic
arm and hand raising that arm to salute. One of the first and only authentic
characters. That movie came out in the 1950’s and we had to go all the way to
the 80’s for the next one, “Rainman”! Not authentic but also one of the
exceptions I talk about when I speak about disAbilities and the ones that
cannot be acted by a person with the same or similar disAbility for obvious
reasons – and I make that distinction because of what I propose and the fact
that Hollywood
believes all disAbilities are unable to authentically portray themselves.
Ignorance, stereotypes and discrimination. Then I saw “Forest Gump” as the clip
merely showed him running – of course it is never out rightly said that the Forest character has a disAbility, I think in his speech
and thought patterns it is obvious he has some form of a mental disAbility. The
fact that it is never spoken right out loud is a perfect example of how those
in Hollywood
downplay or completely ignore the facts of a disAbility. But this movie also
had Lieutenant Dan who becomes an amputee and was  fantastically acted  by Gary Sinese. Technology was at this cutting
edge time of movie making made it look so real because the actor did not have
to sit on his leg to make it appear to be amputated. This is another prime
example of when a character with a disAbility can be portrayed by an actor with
a disAbility even when in part of the story the character is not disAbled. It
works both ways Hollywood!
And lastly was “Million Dollar Baby” but the clip they showed of course was
with Hillary punching the speed bag at the boxing gym.
 

4 out of 79 is a lot better ratio then the amount of films
produced each year and those that have a character with a disAbility in them!
But still only one of them featured a starring role with a disAbility –
“Rainman” unless you acknowledge “Forest Gump” as I do and therefore two of the
four. The other two it was a co-starring role in “Best Years of Our Lives” and
the lead in “Million Dollar Baby” became paralyzed only in the third act.
 

Another interesting note is that the two male actors winning
Oscar’s – Daniel Day Lewis for a Leading Role and Javier Bardem for Supporting
Role both portrayed severely disAbled characters in previous movies – “My Left
Foot” and “The Sea Inside” respectively. Daniel winning his first Oscar for
that role and Javier did get a lot of International awards for his role in the
film that won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of 2005. And I do comment
further on the website about “The Sea Inside” and my take on it, if you care to
read more! I also want to mention more talk on the Oscar’s and disAbility on
Beth Haller’s blog at http://media-dis-n-dat.blogspot.com/2008/02/disability-moments-at-oscars.html

 

So what does all of this mean? It just goes
to show further evidence of what I have been talking about and what I hope to
help change. There really is “No Country
(especially in the World of movies) For disAbled Men and Women.”
And on the occasions that Hollywood wishes to allow and greenlight a movie about a person with a disAbility – it has to be written, directed and acted by someone who has never been disAbled. Although some might argue that some are partly handicapped!
 

Seriously, with little to no representation in the movies or
television, society as a whole continues to view us as these “very much less
than” members of the community, the nation, of society. Because we are not
given a fair and equal opportunity to represent ourselves and our voices are
repressed there is no validation that we equal human beings and unfortunately
that often even flows over into our self image which perpetuates an terrible
and endless cycle that includes some of the highest rates of drug and alcohol
abuse along with suicides of any minority subgroup in America. Bet you didn’t
know that. Of course not because we are represented by anyone but those who
have no idea what it is like to live with a disAbility and all of this could be
broken with our authentic voices and representation in the single most
influential element in our culture – movies and television.
 

But does Hollywood
care? Does ANYBODY in Hollywood
care?
I will keep looking as I am sure someone does care and care
enough to help us represent ourselves. Someone who will look beyond the wheelchair and also
see the incredibly difficulty those of us working – or should I more accurately
say barely working, wanting and trying to work, and dreaming of working in the
business – face daily and nearly everywhere we turn just for a hope of expressing
our talents as our able bodied counterparts do everyday!
 

Meanwhile I continue to debate with myself
on writing a screenplay – either a brand new one or an adapted or modified from
one of my short stories, that expresses the true experiences of a paraplegic in
today’s society. Showing the drug and alcohol abuse that is so prevalent among
paraplegics, along with the interactions with people in the workplace, in
social arenas and especially those of the opposite sex (or same sex depending
on your orientation). The discrimination and stereotypes, the way many treat
adults like children because our eye level from a wheelchair seems to be an
automated response. How it seems if I am not a Super Crip or an Inspirational
Gimp then I have no meaning and purpose or place in society according to some
whose only experiences with those with a disAbility have been through movies
and television. And I could write a screenplay that has many other
circumstances and basic challenges a person in a wheelchair has to deal with
every single day. A kind of “Crash” meets “The Waterdance” or “Coming Home.” It
would certainly have to include characters that are interacting with Hollywood where the
discrimination is the highest of all industries. Again for those who don’t know
this is not just my opinion or the way someone interprets what is going on, but
is from my personal experiences over the past 12+ years, as well as the
experiences that actors with a disAbility share with me regularly and is
documented in the only study of those with a disAbility in Hollywood and was
published by SAG 3 years ago this May.

 

Would that voice be more accepted by Hollywood? Would it only fuel the
stereotypes and contradict what my Mission Statement and desires to not focus
on the disAbility? The only story that comes creeping into my mind during these
inner debates is one that is semi-autobiographical. And although I am not
afraid to expose some of that – I am afraid that it will be categorized as
stereotypical or a one-hit wonder. But maybe that is a risk I have to take to
get Hollywood’s attention, to give authentic voice and representation and to
finally get back to directing – which is such a personal satisfaction and part
of me that maybe that is what I will have to do – and then I can at least say I
got to direct a feature film. What do you think?

I’m Coming Out – No More Lies – I’m Out & Proud!

I’ve known for years. It came on
all of a sudden but after that there was no denying it. I never came out and
said it and I think others could tell but they were too scared of saying
anything and especially something that would offend me. Women knew for sure.
Not all but most never looked at me the same way since. So now the opposite sex
and I are like best friends because she never looks at me in a romantic way, no
fear of being taken advantage of.  Men obviously
know and think the same thing – they see me as no threat to their romantic or
sexual relationships with women or the potential relationships to women in the
clubs. So there it is and time for me to just say it, the “G” word

out loud

to EVERYONE

I am a GIMP! That’s right I am a cripple, a
paraplegic and proud! Paralyzed from the mid-back, thoracic 7th
vertebrae and I don’t care who knows!  


 

Yeah, I know you thought I was
going to say something else but my sexual orientation is hetero and I love
women. And that is
often a subject that
comes up early on when first meeting people – first is “How did you wind up in
a wheelchair?” and then usually the topic of sex comes up. Or sometimes how do I go to the bathroom! Subjects I just
love to talk about when in public or at parties! It is awkward! And is often part of the disAbled lifestyle. But how do you know about this? That is unless you are a person with a disAbility or know someone who is. But how about everyone else? These awkward questions and situations that come up – that nobody knows how to ask – but if it were out and is portrayed in movies and television that has a paraplegic character then people will be exposed to what it is like – and all of this is part of the authentic voice in movies and television
that I write and direct – that can only be written by a person who has experienced it that I advocate all the time. This cannot effectively be done by an able
bodied actor who watched a movie made by other able bodied people. Would a movie where this was authentically portrayed and represented help in society’s opinions, and in the
able bodied majority interacting with those with
a disAbility
in public or a crowded party? Would it lessen the awkwardness that the able bodied and the disAbled have
with one another thereby opening a more
inclusive and accepted way of life for everyone?
   


 

Sex and the paraplegics! Okay now that I have your
attention and provided this but one example of the issues that deserve an
authentic voice in movies and television, it is probably no surprise how I am frustrated and don’t know
how to express this frustration – this serious issue of disabled
culture and voices
and having people who
have no idea
what it is like to live with a disability, especially one that
is as dramatic as being paralyzed – representing
me
and all of us with a disability in today’s entertainment.


 

It seems there is a haven for those
who are different getting a welcomed embrace, an honest and sincere acceptance,
and the heart felt support from the entire Hollywood
community. Gays, lesbians, transgenders, black, brown, yellow, purple, and even
green. And that could be taken in two ways, the green movement of environmental
activists and as I intend it to reference Kermit the Frog’s honest song, “Being
Green” that I can so relate to. And despite that
everyone of the aforementioned minorities also have members within the disability
community as whether you are born with it or is acquired later in life through
disease or injury, disability does not
discriminate
and affects all races, nationalities, genders, social &
economic class, all ages, all orientations, all political groups, all creeds as
nobody is immune to the possibility of a disability – yet Hollywood feels that
it is ok and completely accepted to allow someone without a disability to
nearly always be the voice and deny us representing ourselves with
authentic voices and portrayals.   


 

It doesn’t matter that I cannot
suddenly just come out and proclaim how I am different from the majority and
how I feel about the social and economic disadvantages that are imposed on me
and how I have to deal with them. How as I mentioned above even some of the
basic human needs and desires do not get dismissed because they are never even
considered – as a wheeler I am rarely considered a romantic and certainly not a
sexual being, although I am certainly both. But those things are not important
to us as human beings, right? Not important issues in our society and our
culture. Sex is not important unless of course your orientation is different
from the majority. Then the often scorned and forbidden love and the physical
expression of it is embraced and even celebrated as “everyone is important” in Hollywood and its
products that give voice to it.


 

But even with the very little
representation those with a disability get in movies and television – we have
to be content with able bodied writers,
directors and actors being our voice and our representatives.
Let me put
this in a way that Hollywood feels is much
more important – it is like having a Republican give voice and representation
as a Democrat in the halls of Congress. Would that be fair? Would you feel
comfortable with that? And what if that was the case in nearly every single
case? Now do you feel where I am coming from?


 

Most of Hollywood that I have dealt with over the
years somehow does not think this is a problem. As was pointed out to me from
the personal opinion of a staff member (I can only assume as he was the one
that answered the phones) at James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment made it
perfectly clear. Yet in my final question to him do you think for one moment
that you as an able bodied person can understand what I go through every single
day as a paraplegic, he did answer no, yet somehow it is still okay by him that
someone like himself was the writer, director and actor of a paraplegic character
being represented on the screen.


 

Well, Hollywood, I am out and I am going to make
this authentic voice and representation despite how you feel. And if you keep
making me feel that my art is worthless  as anybody can represent what I do as a writer
and director, and as a person who has no rights to express an authentic voice
of those with a disability, then instead of the hundreds of phone calls,
letters, faxes, emails that I have been sending you to bring attention to this,
then I am going to come knocking on your
doors
– at your Producer/Production company offices, and at the Big 6
Studio executive’s office with a camera of my own and with your names proudly
displayed on screen to ask just one question, where are the representation of your audience – the segment of 56
million Americans, a full 20% of our population, the one in four American
households that have a person with a disAbility in YOUR MOVIES?


 

Anybody want to talk, just talk
about this BEFORE it comes to this?
  

The Smoking Hot Truth

From the hilarious antics of Mike Myers and Dana Carvey saying “We’re not worthy!” in their “Wayne’s World” characters I have to ask the same! Only instead of it being in a kidding manner as their characters honestly feel when in the presence of Aerosmith or Alice Cooper, I am very serious. Am I not worthy of common decency
– basic human dignity to be considered just as important, as significant as the
average American, the average human citizen of the world because I am a
paraplegic, a person with a disAbility? You say yes, of course I am worthy to
be considered a member of the human race and yet don’t really care that someone
who has no idea what it is like to be a person with a disAbility to give voice
and representation in every aspect of today’s entertainment.

This is the 21st Century? 2008? And yet it is okay with
you that those with a disAbility can be brushed aside and treated as people who
have no rights to represent themselves and no dignity by the entire
entertainment industry. If it is important then why are so many not caring, not
saying anything about it – not commenting right here where I am bringing up these
issues? Admittedly there are not hundreds of visitors per day – but that is all the more important that those who do visit – add their voice.


Time for another all too common
example
of this representing and it comes from an organization that campaign’s
for the TRUTH. Yet when a SAG actor with a disAbility, Robert explains he entered the
room for a callback audition for a role that is specifically written as a wheeler
for their next television commercial advertising, the truth was revealed. Still
with an empty wheelchair for the able bodied actors to audition in is sitting
in the auditioning room, he should still have a good chance to be evaluated
fairly based on his acting skills. No problem, right? Everyone gets a chance to
audition for any roles right? Fair and equal opportunity in employment is what
it is all about in this politically correct era we live in, right?


WRONG! First of all performers
with a disAbility are rarely considered
for any role unless it is for a
character that is specifically written
as a person with a disAbility. And
if you need a reminder of this TRUTH 
read or re-read the 2005 SAG report on Performers with a disAbility. So when a
role that is written specifically as a character with a disAbility becomes
available then the performers with a disAbility surely will have the best
chance, right? After all this is just like a specifically written role for a
character of color, or gender, or age, right?
No WRONG again! If I am lying or
even if I am just exaggerating the situation then PLEASE list me the roles that
performers with a disAbility are currently cast in. One, two, maybe three current film or
television roles but even those are token, background or so insignificant that
even a recurring bit is not enough for the performers name to be listed with
the cast in the opening credits. Did you read the whole SAG report? Hell, you
could just read the Summary of the report and yeah it detailed this too!


And it appears this “TRUTH IN SMOKING” organization(http://www.thetruth.com/) is no
different. They not only hired one but 6, that’s right –1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 able bodied actors to
portray the 6 roles of people with a disAbility for their new campaign. New
campaign – here in the 21st Century, in 2008! And so they can say
they are sensitive, politically correct, inclusive, non-discriminating they
will include roles of people who use a wheelchair for their main mode of
mobility to help tell their story – their cause and hire only able bodied
actors to portray those insignificant people with a disAbility. Wow what a
gesture, huh? Still, I have to at least give credit that they allowed a
performer with a disAbility to audition for the part. How many performers with
a disAbility did they audition?
Currently we have no idea, no statistics to
show how many performers with a disAbility are auditioned for any roles by any
directors, companies or even the studios. They can say they auditioned 100 performers with a disAbility and nobody can say they didn’t even if it were not the truth. Still when those powers that be in the
casting authority already have there mind set before the performer with a
disAbility hits the mark – that they are going to dismiss them as able to act,
then audtioning performers with a disAbility is an empty gesture. 6 roles and none are cast with a performer with a
disAbility.


I think it is time for the TRUTH about the TRUTH IN SMOKING
organization
. For a link to their Polls section on their website homepage, they ask the question “Just because it is legal does that make it right?” Damn, good question, huh? I guess that the truth only applies to their “cause” – which is the case with other organizations too. Is partial truth still the truth? Is selective truth fair?

Again
this is just another common practice in the entertainment industry. I am
waiting for the exception to the rule, the company or person within the
business to partner with me as I have everything in place. But I’m not just waiting – I am making the calls, sending the letters, faxes, emails whatever it takes to ask
members from
Hollywood for that specific
production and distribution support that this
Mission deserves.


Obviously my claim that those of
us with a disAbility are not even considered as significant as any other
minority subgroups in America
by Hollywood is
much more then just a claim. There is evidence of this everywhere and I want to
commend and thank, Robert who has the balls to openly relate his personal
experience in this but just one example that he goes through on a regular basis. And
he is but one of the more than 1,200 SAG performers with a disAbility. Can you
imagine how many non-union actors with a disAbility there are? Especially when
you consider what is required to be qualified to be a member of the SAG union.
Now you may have an idea why kids and even adults with a disAbility do not even dare to dream about being
an actor, a writer, a director in Hollywood.
Besides the incredible uphill battle, including the added discrimination – there are not very many examples of actors with a disAbility on screen because most of the performers with a disAbility who are working in the “biz” are
fighting for the 2% of the roles casting actual performers with a disAbility,
of which less than .5% of them, that is “point five” or less than a half of a percent
were speaking roles
in American Cinema and Television programs according to the
SAG report. Because as mentioned above – most in Hollywood incorrectly believe that performers with a disAbility can only be hired for roles specifically written as characters with a disAbility. So you can easily see why when a role that is specifically written as a character with a disAbility comes along – just how significant that is for performers with a disAbility.

And with examples like the casting by “THE TRUTH” shows you that this is even more then discrimination – it is DOUBLE DISCRIMINATION.

And because of this hard reality I suppose I can understand to a degree why
some of these “working” performers with a disAbility
to raise their voices in opposition to
this incredible injustice as they
are afraid to risk even their token, background,
insignificant roles, that they fought so hard for & I am sure they experience the stereotypes and discrimination from many on the set when performing even these small roles – and risk their potential of a slightly better role that might
even have a speaking part in the future.


Still I have to respond to this
apparent fear that if you don’t then speak out there will not be any more or any
better roles for those with a disAbility. The future will be the same as the
history, the decades of this status quo, with no changes in Hollywood. The choice is yours as it seems that Hollywood may not change
unless there is some opposition to this degrading
practice
in the production of films and television and representation of their audience with a disAbility.   We will remain in the era that women were in
during Shakespearian days when there was no authentic voice or representation
as men did all the writing, directing and acting as women.


The only reason this has
continued in Hollywood is that there hasn’t been
anyone willing to risk taking on this discriminating practice by Hollywood. Or not anyone
who has mobilized others to take on this cause and to fight for our right to
represent ourselves – I am going to make the changes even if it takes my entire
life.
Will you join me? Even with just a spoken word of your outrage of this
discrimination and stereotypes of those with a disAbility? Voice your outrage
of the unfair and unequal opportunity of those with a disAbility to
authentically represent ourselves. Will you join your voice with me? Then comment
here on the blog or use my new Guestbook that can be accessed on the Contact Us page. Unless your fear of speaking out is more significant then the injustice,
the pass Hollywood
continues to get in imposing these incredibly unfair practices on those with a disAbility.


6 roles that were specifically written as having a disAbility and all 6
were cast with able bodied actors.

With a history of this kind of
discrimination can you imagine the intimidation that a performer with a
disAbility feels when auditioning for a role?
Your nerves are already on edge
to give the best you can and hopefully be cast in the role but add this history
of discrimination on top of that. I wonder how actors feel when I am the one
evaluating their auditioning performance for a role of a paraplegic?

Picture this: The actor enters the room where the empty wheelchair
sits. S/he sits down and attempts to get into character as soon as possible as
they have been practicing in their head what they will do over and over again.
I roll out from behind the table, look deeply into their eyes, hand them the
script, give some direction, an idea of a scene in my movie that I want them to
read from. Then when that scene calls for it I ask them to fall out of their
chair  AND act how that feels – the
vulnerability, the incomprehensible helplessness, the embarrassment, the feel
of everyone who witnessed your fall is eyeing you with the social pity that is
perpetuated by Hollywood movies, and now get back into the chair – act as
paraplegic – act how that feels that if you’re one of the 400,000
spinal cord injured paraplegics, and not one of the very few that are athletic wheelchair basketball players
who can easily lift themselves back into their chair – when one in the crowd of
20-30 people that are staring at you, has the heart to come over and despite being only two-thirds your
weight asks if she can help you back into your chair – and feel what that is
like when it flashes in front of your mind – where you are reminded again that this will NEVER change – you
will not get a cast off your leg and be able bodied one day in the near – or
even distant future. You’re whole life will be like this. And this is but one piece of the reality those with a disAbility face everyday.


And go ahead and “act” like you understand what this reality is like right there in
front me a director who is a paraplegic, who knows this reality first hand through experience, of what all of this feels like and what it is like
when all of this is happening in a matter of just a few seconds and act all of
this as I am staring down on you! I can guarantee you that even the seasoned able
bodied
actor will feel a very similar intimidation as the actors with a
disAbility feel when they audition for roles everyday and everywhere else…and throughout
their entire careers! And that is the smoking, hot TRUTH.


But I have a different reality, a brighter future
and it is already here – just waiting for Hollywood
to respond to my many, many attempts at contacting them
to pay attention and
offer to add their Abilities to this permanent solution that I have worked on everyday of my life for the
past 12 years by providing or helping me to be introduced to those that can provide the production and distribution support this cause, this mission, this permanent solution
deserves.


Do you want to help? All abilities are
welcomed here.
What abilities do you have? If you are someone within the
business – then you know what you could do and it would take such little effort. Regardless of who you are, or who you know, or what business you are in – ADD YOUR VOICE – show you care and you support the fair and equal treatment
proposed in the Abilities United Productions’ vision for the future of real
inclusion and real opportunity to represent ourselves with authentic voices and
representation of those with a
disAbility in American Cinema and Television
. And on behalf of everyone with a disAbility, thanks!