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Authentic Jackson

Earlier this past Spring, March 7, 2017 to be specific, big time actor, Samuel L. Jackson made some obvious observations about a lot of British actors are taking on the roles of American characters lately. Not just that black British actors are in a lot of American movies but more specifically that they are being cast in roles that are specifically written as American characters. On Hot 97, a New York radio station, is where he gave the interview back on March 7th.

jackson hot 97

The interview and the video of it was included and written in The Guardian and on Page Six, the very next day and then on Patheos, Stacey Dash’s website where I first learned of it on the day after the next day, March 9th (I know – I am 3 months behind in writing this blog post!) and to be more specific Jackson is talking about roles that are about American race relations and how the black British actors would not know what the race relations are like and have been like in America.

Jackson was first talking about the movie, “Get Out” which had just been released in theatres on February 24, 2017 and by the time of the interview, March 7th, it had already grossed over $80 million in box office receipts.   Get Out (2017)

It is actor Jordan Peele’s feature film directorial debut and is a satirical horror movie about an African-American man who goes with his white girlfriend to meet her family. Peele is a bi-racial man that most identifies as an African-American, as he said on the AMC television show “Talking with Hardwick”, and is best known for the hit comedy, “Key & Peele” on Comedy Central. In the movie, “Get Out”, which Peele also wrote, is from his perspective about the current American relations between blacks and whites and he hired British actor, Daniel Kaluuya in the role of the black boyfriend.

 

Samuel L. Jackson remarked that:

“There are a lot of black British actors in these movies. I tend to wonder what that movie [Get Out] would have been with an American brother who really feels that.

“Daniel grew up in a country where they’ve been interracial dating for a hundred years. What would a brother from America have made of that role? And I’m sure the director would help. Some things are universal, but not everything is.”

That makes sense. I cannot say for sure because I am a white American, but let me explain how I can relate to what Jackson is expressing. I have made the comparison between racial minority portrayals and representation to disAbled minority portrayals and representation in movies and television – specifically when it comes to those that are specifically written as disAbled characters. When I read an article or hear an interview from a black or African-American talking about not enough roles, or directors, or executives representing them in the movie studios or network television stations and the movies and programs the produce, I can easily insert “those with a disAbility” in everywhere they mention “black or African-American” in their statements and it make complete sense.

Jackson’s statements in this interview is a wonderful example of what I mean and if you switch the phrase “black British actors” with “able bodied actors” and “that movie [Get Out]” with any movie that features a disAbled character, and finally “American brother (obviously referring to black American actors)” with “disAbled actor(s)” you would understand how I can relate to Jackson as a black American actor upset with black British actors taking roles that are specifically American. And I being a disAbled American being upset when able bodied actors are being cast specifically in disAbled roles. I am not an actor. I am a writer and director who is disAbled. And have felt the same way when an able bodied writer or director is hired in a project that features a person with a disAbility. I also know my fair share of actors with a disAbility and what it is like when they find out that an able bodied actor is hired to portray the role of a disAbled character.

Let us go back to the first statement by Jackson:

“There are a lot of black British actors in these movies. I tend to wonder what that movie [Get Out] would have been with an American brother who really feels that.”

And what I have been saying:

“There are a lot of able bodied actors in these movies (featuring a person with a disAbility). I tend to wonder what that movie (for example the most recent movie, 2016’s [“Me Before You]) would have been with an actor with a disAbility who really feels that.”

I have already said these words many times! Not verbatim but very close. I not only chose to speak out about the able bodied actor who portrayed the paraplegic character in “Me Before You”, but also the author of the book, that the movie is adapted from, as not being a person with a disAbility and cannot know what that “really feels” like. Let alone know what that is like – like a performer with a disAbility and a writer with a disAbility – and if you also add the trifecta of a director with a disAbility then you will know what it “really feels” like.

The next statement by Jackson:

Daniel grew up in a country where they’ve been interracial dating for a hundred years. What would a brother from America have made of that role? And I’m sure the director would help. Some things are universal, but not everything is.”

What I have been saying:

Sam Claflin (the able bodied actor who was cast as the paraplegic character in “Me Before You”) grew up in an entertainment industry where they’ve been excluding paraplegics from being cast in movies and television for a hundred years. What would a paraplegic actor have made of that role? And I’m sure the director would help (if he or she had direct relations with a paraplegic). Some things are universal, but not everything is.”

“Some things are universal, but not everything is.” How true that is and especially in the entertainment industry where authenticity that Jackson and I are talking about seems to mean nothing on their scale of importance.

Selma poster - 3

 

Mr. Jackson also responded to the black British actor David Oyelowo’s portrayal of American civil rights hero and leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. who was hired for the film role in the historical drama, “Selma.” He said:

“There are some brothers in America who could have been in that movie who would have had a different idea about how King thinks.”

So Jackson points to the American character, this time based on a real person, in which an American actor would better be able to authentically portray and represent this particular character because they would have a better insight, background and context to the character. I have been in African-American homes and nearly everyone had a picture of Martin Luther King, Jr. on the wall. I am not sure if that can be said for black Brits? And Jackson’s point is that the portrayal would probably been deeper and one that would have resonated with audiences because they do have the background of living it. Feeling it. I propose that able bodied actors cannot feel it because they have not lived it to really portray a character with a disAbility. In fact, whatever Jackson feels about the Brits pales in comparison to how I feel, and I know many of those with a disAbility trying to work in Hollywood feels, when an able bodied actor is cast in the role of a character with a disAbility. Living with a disAbility, such as paraplegia every moment of day and night it far deeper than the American race relationships or portraying an American hero by a black British actor. Nevertheless, he is making a point or points about something he knows about. And that is something I can relate to.

Jackson continues in the interview and mentions why he thinks the entertainment industry hires these British actors and does this to his American brothers:

“They’re cheaper than us, for one thing. They don’t cost as much. And they [casting agents and directors] think they’re better trained, because they’re classically trained.”

The industry is show business – a for profit business. And I will defer to Jackson’s statement on the amount the industry pays for American versus British actors because he would know better than I and I agree that getting a comparable skilled actor for less money is business – not personal. But what about authenticity? Again it is show business and it does not work like a typical business. Big money and big risk are at stake for a theatrical run movie. Its success with audiences can hinge on the smallest details. The feel that it is real – even though it is “make believe” industry – it is what audiences want and can tell when they are being cheated. So authenticity does mean something. There are some directors in some film projects that insist on it when it comes to some aspect of a movie such as a regional storytelling. As for example, Ben Affleck was specific to hire local Boston actors, and members of the local population, in all the extras in his directorial debut film, “Gone Baby Gone.” He insisted that they did not hire professional extras in order to keep it as authentic as possible. Whether it is locations, people, featured actors, or stunt work performed by the featured actors, such a Tom Cruise in most of the action scenes of his movie. Many strive for the most authentic film that they can make. They know that audiences can tell and feel authenticity. Therefore, does Samuel L. Jackson have a valid point here in the black British actors being hired for specific black American roles? Ones that relates directly to American race relations and not to universal subjects or themes as Jackson opines?

What about my advocacy for the authenticity of disabled creatives in the roles of writers, directors and certainly actors when it comes to disAbled characters?

It was not hard for me to immediately find the comparison that Samuel L. Jackson was making when it comes to the authentic portrayal and representation of specific American race relations and those roles being cast with those who do not have the same race relations from where they live. They have little to no background or context to the character and/or story. Compare that to using paraplegics and others with a disAbility for roles that are too often cast with able bodied actors who also have no background or context to the character and/or story that features a paraplegic or others with a disAbility.

Therefore, I thank Mr. Jackson for his bold yet obvious statements regarding the hiring of those creatives in the roles that are specific and should insist on authenticity for a film or television program. While his is about racial and regional authenticity and mine is about disAbility minority authenticity, we both have valid points. I will add that the exclusion of authentic disAbility creatives in movies and television are exponentially worse in the entertainment industry than the hiring of black Brits for authentic American roles.

After some push back in social media from some black British actors, Mr. Jackson replied during an interview at the premier of his latest film “Kong: Skull Island” by saying:

“It was not a slam against [British actors], but it was just a comment about how Hollywood works in an interesting sort of way sometimes,”

“We’re not afforded that same luxury, but that’s fine, we have plenty of opportunities to work.”

I can testify from 20+ years of working or trying to work in the entertainment industry “Hollywood works in an interesting sort of way” as in the examples Mr. Jackson sites and I will again add that it is very true when it comes to those with a disAbility in Hollywood. And he is also correct that he and other black American actors “have plenty of opportunities to work.”

Those of us in the disAbility minority have very little work opportunities – especially in the creative roles, that either rarely include or more often exclude a character with a disAbility in the entertainment industry. And we certainly deserve to be included as we make up 20% of the American population. How can you exclude 20% of the American population in movies and television? According to the U.S. Census, blacks, African-Americans make up 13% of American population. Can you imagine what would happen if they or any other minority were excluded as much as those 20% with a disAbility are today? And what happens here in American is often followed by the international entertainment industries. Hollywood should lead in the inclusion of people with a disAbility as creatives – writers, directors and actors.

While I have often advocated for those with a disAbility, especially paraplegics to be portrayed and represented by those with the same or similar disAbility as the characters in movies and television because they know what it “really feels” like. They know it – they live it. How can anyone else truly portray that experience? Like Samuel L. Jackson is saying about the specific American race relationships being portrayed and represented by those who know it – that live it.

While there is some progress with the network television program “Speechless”, we are far from where we should be in the 21st Century and in an industry that promotes itself and prides itself as being the most inclusive industry in the world. So Hollywood, can we be included so you can continue boasting of being the most open and giving voice to all, especially those who are marginalized? Because we are more accepted in society than you are showing in movies and television, and more that you are accepting us within your society of creative members. It is way past time for Hollywood to get out of the Dark Ages of excluding the people and stories of those with a disAbility. And the best way is to hire those with a disAbility as writers and directors to be the voice and vision, and actors to be the authentic portrayals – all to be the authentic representation of the 20% of the American population you have ignored for far too long. Let’s work together to represent the honestly inclusive industry that gives voice to all in movies and television entertainment!

It Is Time – 2016

I would say “Happy New Year” for this first blog post of 2016 but it is already the beginning of the second week of February! I have been thinking of writing this blog entry since the beginning of January. I have in the past blogged at the first of the year with great optimism. In those years past, there has been reason to be positive and giving me reason to be excited about a new year. Usually it was because I had a promising deal in the works that would help in funding a film project, help in other ways of progressing a film project or for my business, Abilities United Productions, or that the entertainment industry is making some promising effort to be more inclusive to those with a disAbility in the creative positions within the film and/or television programs. Unfortunately, every time, in the deals for my films or the industry, those promises were broken. It has been so many “new years” that I have been through and been so optimistic and then so let down, that I have not posted such optimism the past couple of years.

This year, I am happy. And it is not related to any promises from others. I have been working on some new projects. Not just film projects, such as my short film, a short auto-biography focusing on my experiences the film industry, “American Dream: Deal With It”, but two new projects that will help all of us with a disAbility in the entertainment industry. I believe that these new projects will also be helping future generations with a disAbility to realistically dream of working as creative entrepreneurs or as entertainment creative employees in Hollywood. I am really excited about these projects. I cannot say exactly what they are because for now they are in the development stages. But as soon as I have them secured as businesses I will announce them here, on the website and social media outlets.

And speaking of the website and social media outlets, what I can tell you is that in addition to these new fantastic projects – I am going to focus on updates, which could include completely new looks to this blog site, the Abilities United website, the You Tube channel, Twitter, Linked In, starting a Stage32 page (they are billed as a Linked In site for film professionals), and other places that will keep Abilities United accessible to everyone. As will the social media presence of the new projects! I will need the help of all of you and your friends, not to mention many more to extend the reach of these updates to the current Abilities United presence but to the new projects – one of which is critical to get as many as possible actively engaging in it to make it successful for all currently working in the entertainment industry and those who will be dreaming of it. We will make our own path into the entertainment industry. So 2016 is an exciting new year. It will be known as the start of the new inclusion of people with a disAbility in the entertainment industry!

A Responsibility from the Oscar Filmmaking Community

I wanted to post this on Monday since the Oscars were broadcasted the night before but I had gotten busy. There were some controversies from some of the acceptance speeches but I do not wish to talk about them. The most interesting one is that of the Academy’s President, Cheryl Boone Isaacs. I was already laying down when she came on stage and began talking. I was very interested in what she was saying so I grabbed my camera and rewinded the dvr so I could record it and share it. SO the hand-held camera was a little shaky at first and I also had to increase the volume as I was filming. Please excuse that but I have uploaded it to YouTube and added Captions. These Captions I did my best on. If there were any spelling or grammar errors I apologize as both of those annoy me a lot. You can watch it here or skip down for my thoughts on her statements.

UPDATE: YouTube has blocked the video due to Copyrighted material – But the Oscars’ uploaded video of the show is terrible. I wanted to place it here – starting at the point of the AMPAS’ President – but the audio is off from the video. Others commented that it didn’t work at all. So, since I went to the trouble of Closed Captioning it – I made still photos of the proper section and uploaded them into the appropriated sections below.

A - Video is Blocked Globally

I was impressed with her Oscar speech. Right from the beginning she said, “Tonight we are here to celebrate the storytellers, the men and women whose accomplishments have touched the hearts of people around the world.”

YouTube for Oscars 001e - here to celebrate the storytellersYouTube for Oscars 001f - have touched the hearts of people around the world

I have often used the phrase “a storyteller on film” when describing myself as a filmmaker. I loved that – right off the beginning! She went on to describe the locations of some of the Best Picture nominees. And that these “movies have captured in compelling narratives the world we live in.”

YouTube for Oscars 001m - the world we live in

I agree. Somewhat. The world we live in was somewhat portrayed in a way that included a person with a disAbility in a movie. There are 54-56 million Americans with a disAbility. Nearly 6 million that are paraplegics and using a wheelchair. The movie, “The Theory of Everything” is about one wheeler from England and was made because it was about the famous theoretical physicist, and theoretical cosmologist (which I think is redundant since 99% of all we know about the cosmos is theory), Stephen Hawkins who has been living with ALS, a disease that quickly took over his mobility and eventually had him become a wheelchair user for the majority of his life. From what I understand, because I have yet to see the movie, is that “The Theory of Everything” does portray the earlier part of his life as he was a University student and when the ALS disease was initially began to attack his body. So while I am a very big advocate for people with a disAbility who are portrayed in movies be portrayed and represented by actors with the same or similar disAbility, this would be one that I would not criticize because it would require an able bodied actor to handle the able bodied scenes which from what I understand is a good portion of the movie. Or at least able bodied and the time that the disease was deteriorating his body and his mobility. That took some time and what the movie was about. Well, along with his relationship with his first wife and how it effected her. This movie garnered a lot a praise and even won the Best Actor award for Eddie Redmayne for his portrayal of Stephen Hawkins later in the night.

But with this many Americans with a disAbility and the United Nations estimation of 650 million people with a disAbility globally, where are the stories, the movies that include them, and not just the famous people with a disAbility, that surely are a part of the world we live in? And ones that are not only featuring or co-starring people with a disAbility AND are portrayed and represented by the actors and maybe also those like yours truly, the filmmakers with a disAbility to give the voice, view and representation of this huge underserved of the largest and fastest growing minority in America? This is the world we live in – and it not a world of famous paraplegics or others with a disAbility.

Okay. Now let’s move on in her speech. She mentions about the power of film.

YouTube for Oscars 001n - at the AMPASYouTube for Oscars 001o - we celebrate the power of film as a universal languageYouTube for Oscars 001p - that connects and unites the human spiritAgain, I have often spoken of the power of the movies – especially the universal power – the global power of Hollywood movies and with this great global power brings great responsibility. This is one of the reasons I have said they have the power and responsibility is to authentically portray and represent paraplegics in movies and television. Allow us to portray and represent ourselves!

And then in her very next sentence she states, “As we stand on this stage with the eyes of the world upon us, we as the filmmaking community have a responsibility.”

YouTube for Oscars 1 - we have a responsibility

WOW! I have been saying that for nearly two decades! And this is when I grabbed my camera, rewinded the dvr, and began to record her speech. As I mentioned above, I have argued that Hollywood has great power which brings great responsibility. And that people with a disAbility need to be included more movies and television and that those portrayals need to include people with a disAbility in the creative roles as writers, directors, and definitely actors in those portrayals.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs went further by listing the responsibilities of the filmmaking community.

YouTube for Oscars 2 - no ones voice is silenced by threat

  1. “A responsibility to ensure that no ones voice is silenced by threat.” I would end it with “silenced” period! Actually I could say that in my nearly 20 years at this as a paraplegic filmmaker I have seen a “silent threat” that if I or we as a community push this whole “we want to be authentically portrayed and represented” then we will produce even less than the already miniscule amount of movies and television portrayals that include people with a disAbility. We have been silenced by Hollywood because they believe people do not want to see those with a disAbility – so they will not give audiences a chance – and certainly not a chance with an actor with a disAbility.
  2. YouTube for Oscars 3 - ensure different opinions shared wo fear2. “A responsibility to ensure that different opinions can be shared without fear of personal or professional attack.” WOW! Again! The audience then gives a huge applause. The only time she had to pause her speech. When the applause began to get louder, the director cut to a camera on Harvey Weinstein who was clapping. He has been a champion of “different opinions” but I wonder how he would feel about the opinions of a paraplegic filmmaker? And would I be able to share them with him and without fear of personal or professional attack? In Hollywood, an attack is the same thing as a blacklist. And Hollywood does have a blacklist. I wrote about a few years ago. Again, in my nearly 20 years as a paraplegic filmmaker, I know for a fact that they do not want to have some “different opinions.” They feel that the issue of paraplegic portrayals is one that has been settle many years ago. And that is that paraplegics are not necessary beyond being “consultants” for the screenwriters, directors, and especially for the actors who will be portraying the paraplegic character. They do not want the paraplegic communities opinions and more specific, the paraplegic writers, directors, or actors opinions. I am not alone with this knowledge and personal experience. Will this change in the future? It is up to them. We continue to try.
  3. YouTube for Oscars 4 - protect the freedom of expression3. “A responsibility to protect the freedom of expression.” That is wonderful. Three very significant responsibilities that the filmmaking community have as the eyes of the world are upon them. Do the eyes of the world see any authentic portrayals of the largest minority in America, the people with a disAbility? Does Hollywood protect the freedom of expression? Sure. But that doesn’t mean they accept the expression! I have had a hard time just getting an opportunity to pitch my film projects. Nor get any representation. Unlike an actor who have agents, a filmmaker usually has to find legal representation. Entertainment attorneys have access to all sort of studio executives, distributors, A-list and B-list actors. I have tried to get them to represent me and or my production company. But none will even look at my business plans – for the company or the film projects. So I remain on my own. And I know that some actors with a disAbility have the same difficulties in getting an agent to represent them. So they also go it alone. Paraplegics and others with a disAbility are almost always an albatross in the Hollywood. The chances that they get heard or get a job, in which is how their agents or attorneys will then get paid – a percentage of the job – is not worth it to them. They have to spend a lot of time finding a job for the paraplegic or others with a disAbility and they keep getting “no” from all the production companies and studios and networks. No one is going to work for nothing. The work for the best chances. And we are barely a chance and so it is not worth it to them. And I cannot blame them. They have families to feed too! But we do deserve the same and equal opportunities. And Hollywood has the power and responsibility to provide it.

Now that Cheryl Boone Isaacs has spoken of the responsibilities of the filmmaking community she continues with some very positive words.

YouTube for Oscars 5 - honor the courage YouTube for Oscars 6 - cross borders test boundaries YouTube for Oscars 7 - voice to challenging ideas and alternate pov YouTube for Oscars 8 - encourage to see world and those around us in new ways

“At the Oscars we celebrate our love of movies and in doing so we honor the courage of filmmakers who cross borders and test boundaries. Who give voice to challenging ideas and alternative points of view. And who encourage us to see the world and those around us in new ways.”

She goes on about how many people are watching the Oscars and their connection to movies. And then finishes up with thanking the audience and those who are in attendance. But the words that I put in bold above I like and are encouraging for filmmakers and actors alike. Unless you are paraplegic or someone else with a disAbility. I just could not have said it better myself. It is what I have been saying for years – and can be found in my business model which is described in my business plans. My storytelling on film do “give voice to … alternative points of view. And [do] encourage [you] to see the world and those around [you] in new ways.” But no one will know this if Hollywood will not give me and others an opportunity to prove ourselves as disAbled but very capable to portray and represent ourselves in movies and television.

These were all great words from the voice of the entertainment industry. But the Academy does not run Hollywood. It is the studios, networks and distribution companies. And to many of them, these were just words. Nice words but only when they fit their business model. And although my business model and plans are very similar – in fact, they pretty much mirror those of the most successful independent films – with the slight difference that I as a paraplegic insist that I remain the filmmaker, the writer (the voice) and director (the vision), and that I hire a paraplegic actor (the face) to portray my single paraplegic featured character in my film project – to have the authentic portrayal and representation of paraplegics in my movies. Equal portrayal and representation that they give other minorities. You would not think that would be such a barrier, but it is in Hollywood. I and many other paraplegics and others with a disAbility will go on and not give up. Even if we don’t make it – although that is what we work for and hope for so much, as much as our able bodied counterparts, but if we don’t make it, hopefully we will cut a path that gets closer for the next generation of filmmakers and actors with a disAbility.

A Flare Gun in the Wild West

Last night I watched the Film Independent Spirit Awards. And the best part was for the Best Director award. The Hollywood Venus, proven even with her new unique hair style she is incredibly beautiful, Scarlett Johansson, presented the award. I filmed all of it, but edited it down to her announcing the winner, Richard Linklater for his unique and groundbreaking film, “Boyhood”. I have not yet seen it but it was filmed over a 12 year period following the life of a young boy growing up over those 12 years.

Richard was not able to attend and accept the award but his long time friend, artistic collaborator, actor and one of the stars of the film, Ethan Hawke was and accepted the award on his behalf. I was impressed by his acceptance speech. I grabbed my camera and rewinded the DVR so that I could film it to share it. Wonderful message and I want to thank Ethan Hawke for it. It means a lot to me as a paraplegic filmmaker who has been banging my hands and heart on the walls of Hollywood for 25 years and continue to get a sympathetic ear but nothing more that a “Good Luck” as they hang up the phone! But I will continue on! And I appreciate what Ethan said! Thanks again! Check it out at the link here:

I hope this shows up?

In case it doesn’t show up and you do not want to click on it, here are the words that I thank Ethan Hawke for!

“If this movie serves as anything, it serves as a little, umm, a flare gun you know to shoot up for anybody that has a radical vision that has something that they want to say that they think someone should be hearing. It is possible…the truth is, you know, the impossible can happen. And what Rick (Richard Linklater) always says is that ‘It’s the Wild West out there. This art form is so young and there is so much to be done. There is so many stories to be told and it’s going to be told not by corporate America but by you.”

Uncomfortable but Requested Film

Obviously I have not been blogging much these days. Things have slowed down for multiple reasons. Some personal and some professionally. I often feel like I have said all there is to be said on the subject of authentic portrayals and representation of paraplegics, and to a lesser degree all those with a disAbility, in previous posts. That was the main reason I transferred all of my blog posts from the now defunct GoDaddy blog servers and over here to WordPress.

movie_reel_400X400

But this is a new year. And despite last years’ slowing down I have been working on a short film. I have been encouraged and most often rejected making documentary films, and especially any that would feature yours truly. I am a behind the camera guy. And I like storytelling. Fictional stories are much more fun to create and write. That is what I have been doing for 25+ years. But since my becoming a paraplegic, which this April will be 20 years, it has an incredible journey that has not produced as I was sure it would by this time in my career and life. Which for many of those years, they were one and the same! And like with many of you in my life and career there have been many ups and downs. And thanks in large part to the entertainment industry, much of my career has been dismissed, ignored, or completely unnoticed because I have insisted that as a paraplegic filmmaker, in which I create a paraplegic character in the starring role, that I only hire a paraplegic actor for that paraplegic role. To answer the industry objection that there are no name recognized paraplegic actors to carry a film to box office success, I have written strong co-starring characters that are able bodied and more of a dual starring roles in order to attract a name recognized able bodied actor. I also create stories that are universal rather than ones that would only attract the disAbility community. This creates the “golden egg” of most businesses, including the independent film business of reach a niche market with universal appeal. My film projects provides the authentic paraplegic/persons with a disAbility portrayal and representation, along with commercial appeal for mainstream audiences.

There have been countless objections and obstacles to producing such entertaining films. I have met them all with answers and proof that such films would be worthy of success. But never getting an opportunity to prove it. It is all on paper. It has been proven in the business plans and presentations that I have written but I have failed to find those that will give me more than a polite, “good luck. It is a very interesting and noble idea”. This without even looking at the written proof, the screenplays, the business plans complete with the details of the authentic niche with mainstream appeal – marketing and advertising campaigns – and financial projections.

This is just an outline of all the trials and challenges that accompanied this 25+ year journey. Along with the personal roller coaster that I have been on it is almost unbelievable. And when people get to know me, or those that have been with me through it all, find it is incredible and wonder how I have gone on and on and on. For me it has never been a question. It is my passion and truly believing that I can and will make it happen. This genuine passion for both storytelling on film and the dedication to bringing this extremely underserved minority, an authentic and non-stereotypical representation to the entertainment industry, is what most people tell me they feel when they talk to me about my career and life! I cannot argue with them on that. I am very passionate and dedicated to my film work and the advocacy work that I have had to do because of the exclusion of people with a disAbility in the entertainment industry.

So with the prompting, encouragement and convincing that telling this story of my life in, or trying to be in, the entertainment industry will be an inspiration to others – not only to those trying to do what I have dedicated some much of my blood, sweat and tears but to those with a disAbility in general. And those who are requesting me to do this feel that it is something they and many others would like to see as well.

So I am working on it right now. Although I am currently struggling with how to present the film. I am currently writing it as a first person narration. But after hearing myself narrating in a small video clip I helped put together for my sister, I heard a lot of my speech difficulties that are still present since my strokes in 2011 and 2012. So while I am already not comfortable in me being the focus, in front of the camera, and doing a documentary short film, I am self-conscious about this speech impediment and therefore considering writing it in the third person to get someone else to narrate it. But how does that look? I am the writer, director, editor, producer of a film about myself but not narrating it?

In addition, I am working on ways to make this autobiographic, documentary film that are usually done in a methodical, educational cookie cutter way – entertaining! I can only hope that this will be a success. Since the entertainment industry has not been interested in my fictional work this might be the only tangible proof that I can show after over two decades of passionately working at making my dreams a reality.

This is a new year. Time for new thinking and a new film!

Moved the Blog

Well, since GoDaddy decided to end providing the Quick Blogcast as one of their services – I had to start a new one – and I decided to move it here to WordPress. I wanted to keep all the blogs I made since I began it in 2006. So I was able to export them here! It is not perfect – some of the entries have breaks in the sentences and makes them a little difficult to read. I will try to edit each of those posts – but most are from the very early blog entries and not sure how many of you will actually go back and read them!

I also have to make some edits to links that go to other blog entries. As well as the photos that are currently on this blog are hosted on GoDaddy but only until next month! So I will have to upload and change the links for each of those photos!

And speaking of photos, I will try and update the look of this blog. I am learning on what is possible and how to do it here on WordPress! Also, all the blogs I wrote on my previous blog hosting site had the author as “Larry the Rolling Filmmaker” and when I exported them here it changed my author name to my WordPress name “Yogi1964”. I didn’t know that would happen as I was lead to understand the Yogi1964 was just for signing in! But it is one and the same! It is me! Larry N. Sapp II – also known as Yogi. So there it is for now!

Meanwhile, this is the new location for my blog rants about paraplegics and others with a disAbility in the entertainment industry! Thanks for following this blog!

Looking Forward in 2012!

Happy New Year – it is now 2012 and I am really glad for it! While every year brings new hope and promise, last year started well for me, but had a very unexpected turn. For those who do not follow me or my Abilities United Productions’ page on Facebook, on March 8, 2011, just as I was about an hour away from finishing my short film, “Too Different For Who”? I stopped my editing at about 4:00 a.m. and went to sleep. I woke up about 11:00 a.m. and not realizing it for the next 2 hours (primarily because I lived alone and did not have any phone calls or other interactions with people during that time) I found out I was having a stroke! I was then admitted into the hospital and then into the stroke rehab facility where I spent 3 weeks before returning home. I have been a paraplegic for nearly 16 years at that time and only 46 years of age, so a stroke, which I thought only happened to much older folk in retirement age, was far from my mind of happening – but it did. The good news is that I have recovered the right side paralysis and most of my speech as a result from the stroke. Of course I am still a T-7 complete paraplegic from the Spinal Cord injury I survived back on April 1, 1995, which when the stroke took away the right side of the 40% of able bodied functions that I had on the top half of my body (that was the part left alone from the SCI accident and paralysis) – I was truly relieved when I got that right side part of my function back during my stroke rehab! Taking away half of a half is a real attention getter! And I am still a filmmaker – loving the storytelling on film as a writer, director, producer, and as the businessman, the founder and president of my own independent motion picture production company, Abilities United Productions, as well as an advocate for the fair and equal rights of paraplegics and others with a disAbility in the entertainment industry.

 

As soon as I got out of the rehab hospital and returned home, I finished the short film – of which I was real glad I had already finished the narration before the stroke, and published it on my home page as well as on YouTube and Facebook. I had some in-home rehab which is normal care for a stroke survivor, but drew extra attention from my hospital doctors and therapists because as a independent person who already lived with challenges as a paraplegic, I was also one who preferred living alone.  So with physical occupational, and speech therapists and a medical nurse visiting me regularly, I completed the in-home rehab and they recommended out patient rehab.

 

In addition to all of that going all – I had a deep desire to once again join up with the “Life Rolls On” foundation’s flagship program “They Will Surf Again” for the second time in my life, when they kicked off the 2011 Season with an event in Huntington Beach, CA, my most beloved home town in SoCal. That was very exciting even though there was a rather unconventional and strange weather storm that hit the area the night before which nearly threatened the event itself, the next morning – the storm had cleared, but the tides were rough causing the surf to be choppy that morning and afternoon of April 9, 2011. And they remained a bit rough when my turn finally came up and so my first run on the surf board riding the wave actually crashed upon me big time. Can you say, “Wipeout”?

North-Side-choppy-waters

I seriously flipped from my feet over my head and the surfboard as the wave engulfed me and I went completely underwater. It was a serious wipeout but I kept my head and was confident that I would float back up to the surface of the water, as my friend, John had testified to later. I was glad he and the many volunteers of the event were right there to help me recover and despite the extreme pain from the wipeout that I felt on my left side rib cage, I was able to manage to get back out there for another wave! I didn’t confess to the pain because I feared I would not get another chance to ride another wave – because even though it was choppy – this was surfing, and not just surfing, it was surfing in Huntington Beach, California! So even though this event and day wasn’t as good as it was my first time joining the “They Will Surf Again” program in La Jolla, CA, the year before, which also landed exactly on my birthday, September 11, 2010,

Riding it in! (2)

and despite this event in 2011 was taking place so early after my stroke (shhh, it was only 10 days after I was released from the rehab hospital) but this was…

Huntington Pier, by Woody Woodworth

Huntington Beach – again not only my favorite home town from the past, with many fond memories and where I had surfed many times before (although it was years ago and before my SCI paralysis), it was also the only time the “They Will Surf Again” program was going to be in Huntington Beach for the 2011 season, and this is where both professional and amateur surfers and the city of Huntington Beach, righteously nicknamed it, “Surf City”

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– which is the long time home of the U.S. Open Surfing Championship, where surfers from around the world come to compete,

 

Kelly-Slater-wins-ASP-season-opener

Nike-US-Open-of-Surfing-4

US+Open+of+Surfing-2010-brett-simpson

and all together made this a huge event in my mind and especially in my heart! This was still a very special surfing event for me! And can now, I can cross that wish, that dream, that I thought was nearly impossible of happening since becoming a paraplegic – off my list!

 

I have and continue to thank all of those at the “Life Roll’s On” foundation, and the entire “They Will Surf Again” program with its great volunteers and supporters of the program (individuals and companies that have donated products and services to make this event happen for so many) and of course my dear friend, who is like a brother, John Narvaez, along with his wife, Joelle, and young son, Jack, for not only supporting my choice to attend this against the odds and some would argue common sense (something that I often hold in high esteem), but for coming out to the event and being there to share the moments as well as being my solid support, a mental security, a peace of mind, just in case anything happened during the event that might have been related to the recent stroke I had (which I was very reluctant to share with many people at the event in case it would disqualify me from participating as a surfer that day)

Johns Patio - chillin with cold ones - 01 (2)

Having John there was very important to me as I had recently learned how very challenging it is when you cannot think properly or communicate what you need or feel – a surreal lesson from the stroke! Learn from your challenges otherwise they will only serve as a bitter disappointment rather than way to improve yourself. So my deep thanks to everyone, as I gave and continue to give a lot of love and appreciation for that day, the entire event, and the now cherished memories that brings a smile to my face every time I think about it!

 

After that event and special opportunity for me, my life also rolled on! I continued with the stroke rehab, and with some very personal reflections that included re-examining what is important in this life and the common sense Pros & Cons of getting older, which is exponentially faster as a paraplegic and now also as a stroke survivor, I carefully considered and ultimately decided that it was best to follow a new opportunity that meant moving in with my sister, Renee and her wonderful kids who were about to move to Logan, Utah, where I had lived for a couple years just prior to my much anticipated return to my home of SoCal where I grew up! It was a difficult decision since it meant giving up my much coveted living arrangement of solitude and it meant leaving my beloved SoCal, but like most of life’s hard decisions – there is both good and bad that goes along with it! And despite what I had to give up, I did gain a lot – I love my sister and her kids, so being with them and sharing with them every day, along with the comfort of knowing that if I were to have another health challenge – which I am now at a higher risk of having, including the standard 30% chance of having another stroke, plus the additional challenges that I don’t normally talk about but are mostly related to my 16 years as a paraplegic – I feel that this is a great choice!

 

Therefore, in June of 2011, with help of my family, I moved to Logan, Utah. I immediately had separation anxiety from leaving my home in SoCal, and had the additional challenges of getting all of my healthcare insurance and doctors and prescriptions switched to a new out-of-state location, along with shrinking my stuff into and sharing a living space with 4 people, has taken some getting used to but I am happy! Plus my brother, Travis and his family whom I also love and who also lives in Logan, Utah has been of great comfort!

The Fam 2

Meanwhile, I have also continued my self directed rehab of speech therapy to hopefully, eventually recover 100% from the stroke. I am getting there but still have some challenges with finding the words at times and then speaking them, all of which in itself is a bit difficult for a guy who is known for talking a LOT as everyone who even knows me slightly will attest that I am that guy!

 

Nonetheless, I have done what was best, and unfortunately, this is also why I apologize that I have not blogged except for once during this past year, back in January 2011. That is a big difference from my usual multiple blog posts every month as it was in 2010 and the years proceeding – since I started blogging back in 2006. Not that I think a lot of people read this blog – for many reasons – maybe the content, maybe that it is not on a blogging website and instead is part of my own website – but this is where I am today and for the past 12 months!

 

This brings me to this Happy New Year of 2012! And I can assure you that I am keeping the faith, hope and promise of an authentic representation for paraplegics and others with a disAbility in American entertainment alive for another year. I do use the common phrase of learning and cherishing the past, living for today, and dreaming of tomorrow, throughout my life but especially at this time of the New Year! So I hope the best for everyone this year and hopefully – even if Hollywood does not change how they operate their portrayals and representation of the images of paras and others with a disAbility in movies and television – I do hope that they will stop repressing those of us that want to provide a solution to the common and often accepted practices of discrimination, and stereotypes, the barriers of attitude toward people with mobility disAbilities and provide us with a fair and equal opportunity to represent ourselves just as all other minorities are given in Hollywood! So, come on Hollywood – let’s all have a truly inclusive industry and live up to the promise that you yourselves proclaim as a proud part of your foundation – that every one has the right to represent themselves in today’s entertainment industry – on both sides of the camera! Let’s all have a great 2012!