All posts by yogi1964

Hello, Hollywood

I haven’t been around for a while and I am sure this update will explain. 

I have returned home to SoCal!  Got here in the middle of May and spent time with friends and hanging out at some of my favorite places like the Huntington Beach pier and O’Neil Park and the rolling hills behind Lake Forrest.  But all of them are in Orange County and an hour drive (if traffic is good) from Hollywood, Studio City, Burbank, etc.  So as much as I wanted to find a place to live in OC I was determined to live closer to the action (no pun intended!) and be able to network at the many events and functions.  So, after almost 4 weeks living in the OC (thanks John for letting me stay on your couch) I found a place only minutes away.  4 days before moving in I went camping at O’Neil Park for 2 days.  They have a wonderful wheelchair acceptable facility.  But on the second night I was enjoying my camp fire and the star filled sky and set my foot on the fire pit’s concrete ring which was next to my hot dog buns.  So I know the temperature was safe.  Muscle spasms was the reason I stretched my leg out and set my foot on the concrete ring.  The muscle spasms continued and my foot fell off and so did my shoe.  I set my shoe up there and my bare foot on top of that.  No biggie, right?  Well there was a steel plate that bordered the inside of the concrete ring.  It went 10 to 12 inches above the ring and my foot leaned against it.  It was there for about 4 minutes and when the spasms didn’t cease I moved my leg and set my foot up on my other leg so I could do some range of motion on the foot.  When I touched the part that was leaning on the steel plate, I found that I had burned it – real bad!!! 

The local ER doctor patched it up and gave me silverdine cream and bandages to treat it until I could see my primary doctor, which I don’t have at this point!  No use in looking for one in OC when I would be moving to LA in a couple of days! 

During the same time, I was also feeling a pressure sore directly on my tail bone.  And, same thing, just wait till I got to LA to find a primary doctor.  The day of the move I didn’t feel that good, in fact, I didn’t move much out of my van except for the neccessities for the night.  The next morning I woke with a terrible fever and feeling really bad.  So, although I am finally here in LA county, I still didn’t have a doctor to call so I went to the local doctor.  I figured they would patch me up, give me some meds and maybe help me find a primary doctor and I would be on my way!  After all, the LA Film Festival was getting started the next day and although the host, Film Independence, rejected my application for the “Fast Track” program because as Josh Charles said “I was currently a 1 man show.”  I thought that was what the “Fast Track” program was to help fix I still was going to network at the LA FIlm Festival. 

But it was worst than I thought and I was admitted to the hospital with 3rd degree burns and a serious pressure sore.  They did a skin graff on my foot and treated it with special foam bandages that have medicine in it and changed the bandage on the pressure sore daily.  I was on a specially designed air mattress and had to turn from side to side to stay off of it to heal.  In mid July, a month later, I was transferred to a rehab and skilled nursing facility to continue daily treatment, air mattress to lay on my side to stay off of it. 

I am still here in this facility located in Conoga Park, still only minutes away from Hollywood and Studio City but cannot do much.  I am away from my computer because it is a desktop and I don’t have a laptop.  In fact, this blog entry is being dictated to my brother who is good enough to type this up for me (thanks Jason!) 

So, although I am extremly glad to be back in SoCal where I grew up, the circumstances have become another big challange as I can’t really do the work I so want to do in raising awareness and eventually the finance and distribution deals to end the discrimination and break the stereotypes with those with a disability.  I am hand writing some letters and doing all that I can to do whatever I can from this damn hospital bed!  I just found out I should be ready to go home around the end of September.  So, please be patient with updates as I will get to them when I can.  Do not worry I will never give up on this cause and my pationate work.

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Reap What You Sow

I was re-watching “Trainspotting” on television recently and a song that played repeated the words about reaping what you sow. And the metaphor which is commonly used crept up into my mind using my work in it for the first time and as usual I grabbed my pen and some paper and began to jot down those thoughts.

 

I’ve been tilling the ground in my garden for many years now. I have cultivated the area into some rich and fertile soil. I have planted some hybrid seeds that through my endless research and work I have created and am fully prepared to make into a healthy crop. My garden is in the entertainment field and I have done all that I could and used all the resources that I have at my disposal and have waited for the one crucial resource that I do not control – water. It has not rained in many years. In fact it has been decades since substantial rain has fallen on this part of the entertainment field and maybe is the reason why I was able to place my garden firmly in this area of the field. But I certainly expected that if I were to cultivate this harden and clay like ground into a rich and fertile soil and plant it with my specific hybrid seeds, the water would come.

It’s worked in Arizona!

 

When the heavens still did not open up over my section of the entertainment field and onto my garden – I spent more time creating a wonderful irrigation system and went to those with abundant water resources to help me – give me some life giving resources and promised with a complete plan on how I can make a healthy and profitable crop when the harvest time comes and share with them the great rewards to compensate for the water.

I first went to the entertainment farmers, those who have great big gardens and could supply me as they have many other farmers and asked if they would send me a shipment of water in their trucks but none would even accept my inquires because of not being a member of their entertainment association and because I was tilling the ground they have either written off or never even considered to be a potential success for a garden.

The Banks and even the Government

So I changed my focus and after a lot more work created a proposal for the business community – the traditional water suppliers for all types of farmers and gardens. To my surprise even after having a complete business plan written and showing exactly how I expect to make a success out of my garden and have a wonderful crop they would not consider my proposals. It was not so much because of where in the entertainment field I have my garden but mainly because my garden is in the entertainment field itself and that is one they consider to be far too risking. When that came to light then I adding the fact that I am a minority farmer having a severe disAbility and because there are special programs out there to help those who just happen to be in a rural area – a less developed area of the country – I pointed out that my garden was located in the banished area of the entertainment field – yet I was unable to get far enough to show how I WILL overcome the objections and make something out of nothing and in an area that nobody has succeeded at before. When it was apparent that the traditional supply of providing water by trucks was obviously not going to happen, I dug trenches right up to their reservoirs and asked that they merely open the gates and allow some water resources to flow down and into my well designed and crafted irrigation system. But to no avail as they said this method is reserved for other farmers and gardens and that they only provide these exceptions to other less fortunate minority farmers and that they did not consider those with a disAbility as being among the disadvantaged (The Small Business Administration does not and in FACT you have to submit an exception form that includes proof that your group is both socially and economically disadvantaged in American society! This is when the facts are clear and known everywhere that the disabled community has the highest rate of unemployment and where laws have to be enacted just to make sure there is access to public and private areas of social gatherings and commerce.)

Back to the West

So I refocused and returned to the only place known to help those in the entertainment field and that was the farmers and workers in the entertainment field. Excited with more detailed information and a blueprint, my complete business plan that also answers any and all questions and objections to helping one who has his garden in the formerly known barren ground and area of the entertainment field and that I also dug trenches right to their water resources and so there is little they have to do to reap what I sowed – but I knock and knock and they do not even answer the door.

Over 96 entertainment farm owners, entertainment farm workers and those associated with supplying the entertainment farmers I have contacted and many of them multiple times and still less than 2% have even responded. Of those that did respond it was merely a polite and maybe PC gesture that all ended with “it is a great idea and I wish you good luck in your endeavors.” Not to say that I am not grateful for the encouragement and praise that have given me for my passion in this garden I have created – but it does nothing to help make the garden grow!

Many Moons and several Almanacs

This has gone on season after season, year after year and without having water to grow what I have sowed – there is nothing to harvest and nothing to reap! After a few years and continuous efforts and hope and faith that it will happen the next season or by the next year – I think you can see how my frustrations have been gaining in strength and size. But I still push on and even though I have had to work in other gardens by farmers or farm owners most of which are not in the entertainment fields but that is because they will hire a minority from my community of those with a disAbility. Some of these have lasted a few seasons but usually only lasted for a short term and regardless of the length I was always consumed with the thoughts of my own garden. Especially after I got it to the state as it is now – completely prepared and developed so much more than other first time farmers or wannabe farmers with a garden in the entertainment field.

Pie in the Sky

There have been times when I had to use a portion of the garden when I was sold on formulas and methods that promised a great crop and a lot to reap during a harvest that would not take as long as most and usually will less effort. I took the time and effort and resources to follow things such as internet marketing, affiliate marketing, pay-per-click Adwords, writing copy and many, many others. I would give it all my effort as I do with anything I am involved in but when I finally gave into the fact that it was not going to work I would till under the ground that I used for it until by necessity I was seduced into a different formula or method that promised big rewards all because my simultaneous efforts to attract water to my garden continues to go unnoticed by the others in the entertainment field.

I really am tired and don’t know how I’m keeping alive. I have very little income which currently is coming only from government subsidy due to my disAbility, I’m in debt and the only good thing is that I cannot qualify for any more personal loans to get me further into debt.

Purple Rain

I counted on being able to get some water by now. In fact I thought I would surely not only have the life giving resource but would also have reaped the rewards of my first harvest well before now! And when a couple of more seasons passed and a couple of years passed the point that I expected I began to rely more on hope and faith – and it became a daily hope that something would turn that day. That was a few seasons ago and so I am sure you can tell where I am today and although I have never just sat and waited or expected to have someone come by and give me help – I have always gone out there and asked and searched for assistance and you can see for yourself when you look at my work that I have shown on the website – exploring all areas of my garden and my trials and tribulations! But there are times when I sit in the middle of the garden and hold my head in my hands and wonder what is going to
happen to all of this.

I used to be so happy and celebrate whenever any farmer in any field would overcome the obstacles and reap rewards from their garden and especially those who where members of other minorities that gave me hope that I would also have a day when I was able to reap – hell, I just want to be able to grow in my garden! But lately I am so tired and so frustrated that I’m not celebrating with them anymore. I am still happy for them and although I still do NOT ask “Why me?” I am wondering “Why not me?”

Recently seeing the whole nation being swept up in a Big Give to those less fortunate and many following that example I wonder what it will take to harness some of that from those who can afford to give. I have a cause and a mission that will give so much too so many with the labors in my garden that I cannot understand why I couldn’t find someone to help. Even if not for the cause or the mission – what about for the person? For a less fortunate farmer who despite the incredible challenges physically, emotionally, financially and socially that is added due to being a paraplegic and living with a disAbility all hours of all days!

Going to Market

 

I have tried to gain attention with descriptions of how colorful and how sweet the fruits of my garden will be once we get them some water to grow and then finally harvested. But that has not seemed to work so I use descriptions and details on how powerful crop will be and what it will bring at the market – which has a great chance of being very successful based on all other factors I have included in my garden and the farming of it! But that hasn’t brought any awareness or support either – sooooo even with the social conscious of this garden being what is so needed for so many is not touching the hearts of those who can help I know that the main issue of all of
this is that I have not been able to get it in front of those who have the power and means to help. Once I do, I know I will be able to sell them on the idea or the chance of this barren land in the entertainment field becoming an oasis of success both socially and commercially! So I am no longer waiting for the perfect time to go to Hollywood and instead I am going and I will take it directly to them – meet them at film festivals and other entertainment field gatherings! How long will it take before I get that appointment – until I get that attention to have them consider an appointment? Yeah, yeah, time will tell – it’s been over 12 years now so I can only hope it will not be too much further in the future!

If you see me passing by your garden or at one of the many entertainment field markets I do hope you’ll come and shake my hand and say hello. Eventually all will know who I am and what I have done in this once barren section of the entertainment field and I will remember all of those who said hello and all those who ignored my proposals and labors just because my garden wasn’t originated in a
prosperous section of this vast entertainment field!

What is the Problem?

Some think that if the issues I bring up about the authentic
voices and equal opportunity to represent ourselves as people with a disAbility
is such a problem and has as much of a deep impact as I proclaim then why
hasn’t it been addressed before?

 

That is a good question and I am sure it has been addressed
but was obviously squashed before it got any momentum. First is the stereotypes
and the way that most of Hollywood believes that only the stories and
characters that fit into the stereotype can be made into a movie. I know this
first hand as I have told you before that I have had my screenplays reviewed by
some who requested that I make changes to make them more stereotypical. But I
refused and besides how many stereotypical movies can you do? How many movies
that focus and center on the disAbility, or are surrounded by a political
agenda or how many after-school specials can you do?

 

But it is not all on the industry. You have to look at the
very nature of the disabled community. Most of us do not want to bring any
attention to ourselves and especially if it deals with our disAbility. Why?
Because the very image and opinions of general public – the American society
are that we are needy, dependent, unable to contribute to society and more of a
drain on our welfare and medical system then most. This is the image and
opinions we fight against and therefore do not want to bring any more attention
to it. If we protest and scream about the fairness and equal representation in
movies and television – or any cause for that matter – it will only contribute
and perpetuate the very image and opinions we are protesting! Serious catch-22!

 

And of course as I preach about the influence that movies
and television have on our culture and our society’s images and opinions – the
very stereotypes and even the essence of the problem is connected so much that
it is the main reason why the endless cycle continues. BUT this is where it
must start – in movies and television programs. We have to break through – I
have to break through to a producers, financiers, distributors so I can get my
vision, my authentic voice and representation in front of the ultimate group to
break through to – the audiences!

 

This is where it is a win-win. I want to get in front of as
many audiences as possible. And so along with the specific 3 elements that I
have included in all of my film projects, I also include the elements that all
successful movies and moviemakers are looking for – a well crafted script
(which has its own elements that make it more likely to become successful and
considered “well crafted”), and the very next thing – Hollywood star power –
name recognizable talent which I know I can and will attract to my co-leading
roles next to my character and actor with a disAbility. I plan to first attract
this
Hollywood star power by pleading the
cause and how great it would be for them to help me in breaking the stereotypes
and helping end the discrimination against other actors! Then when they agree
to look closer at the project I can get them to read the script where I know I
will capture their desire to portray the co-leading characters in my movies.

 

The main elements of a professional independent production
budget and distribution deal that includes a respectable P&A budget that
other successful movies have is where I am fighting and have been fighting for
the past couple of years!

 

But just like my fellow individuals with a disAbility
working or trying to work in this business – I not only face all the same
challenges that all of my able bodied counterparts have in getting funding and
distribution support – but on top of that I am fighting the stereotypes and the
discrimination the industry has on those with a disAbility – the very
stereotypes and discrimination that my film projects address and will break! Another
catch-22!

 

I cannot wait until we finally get the first step – the
first roll in the right direction of this change that I have planned for and
prepared to become a permanent solution to ending the seemingly endless cycle.
It will be like the snowball effect and depending on the success of the first
film (or size of the hill the snowball is rolling down) the faster it will
become. And just maybe one that I think is a very good possibility if given the
proper production and distribution support, will become a literal gold mine –
the mother lode of independent films and one that I have prepared and planned
already for so I can mine it for a very long time! This is the win-win
situation in where I get to have the social issues addressed and provide the
authentic voice and representation AND the financiers and distributors all make
a healthy return on investment. This affords me the opportunity to continue and
provide the long term answers to the current problems and finally break this
catch-22 forever!

 

And because I am a person who cannot be squashed and will
not go away – I will make my film projects with the proper production and
distribution support this cause deserves and will not back down until I get it
– all of the social issues that I have been preaching AND the commercial
success that is possible will come together in the same projects. How do I know
about this? I have worked it from every angle for the past 12 – 13 years and I
know and I can make it happen. It’s just a matter of who will I be able to
influence to assist in this process? Are you that person? Do you know that
person or someone who might be that person? Whether big or small contributions
– big or small abilities that you have that can be added – United to this cause
will be significant and never be forgotten.

 

Will you join with me?

What Do You Think?

Do you think the
general publics’ opinions, views, and treatment of those with a disAbility are
fair and equal to those who are able bodied?


 

Do you think those with
a disAbility deserve to be treated fairly and equally? Is that only in some
circumstances, or all aspects of society?


 

Do you think some of
the opinions of society, the general public are influenced by their culture?


 

Do you think that
movies and television affect the culture?


 

Do you think that
repeated stereotypes and misrepresentations in film and television can
influence the opinions, views and treatment society has on a people, a class, a
minority or subgroup?


 

Did you know that
nearly all representation of those with a disAbility are written, directed and
performed by able bodied individuals? Does any able bodied person know what it
is like to live everyday with a disAbility – and with the knowledge that it
will never change – even after production ends?


 

Do you think that
disAbilities, such as paralysis, deafness, or blindness and others are
significant to the identity of a person just like their gender, race, age, or
sexual orientation?


 

Did you know that in
the 2005 Screen Actors Guild report on those with a disAbility showed that most
in the industry believe that actors with a disAbility can only be hired for
roles that were specifically written as characters with a disAbility? Did you
know that nearly all of the already limited roles that are written specifically
as characters with a disAbility are cast using able bodied performers? Double,
double standard or merely just double discrimination?


 

Did you know that there
are over 1200 SAG certified performers who bravely admitted by self identifying
themselves as a person with a disAbility even though they know their disAbility
will be stereotyped and discriminated against in the industry?


 

Do these performers and
others such as writers and directors with a disAbility deserve a fair and equal
opportunity to represent themselves in movies and television? Can you see the
significance of this – just as any person within the majority representing a
person of a minority subgroup?


 

Would these honest and
authentic portrayals affect the stereotypes propagated and perpetuated by
Hollywood and eventually influence the opinions, images and treatment of
society on those with a disAbility?


 

If you could, with
minimal effort, be able to help change all of this, the discrimination, the
stereotypes, the non-genuine representations of a person not belonging to a
specific minority subgroup – through supporting authentic voices and
representations of those with a disAbility – just as fairly and equally that
all other minority subgroups have in Hollywood – would you?

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?”

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?