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Cut Them Off At The Pass

Directions – which direction to go? Stay the course, go to the left, go to the right, turn all the way around? It is not a new question but one that I often ask myself throughout any given year and especially when I wake up every morning hoping and then working all day (and usually into the night) toward making it the day I finally get it to the next level which would include anything that gets me closer to the greenlight and the funds I need for going into production – not to mention finally be able to pay myself so I can pay my own bills! Everything is hoping and banking on making the right connections and I try hard to come up with anything to make this be the day it all happens, it all comes to reality, the next level – just as I described in the previous blog post “Can Opportunity Be Created?” – which is my life, my everything is connected together – my career, my company, my film, my dreams, my hopes and passions will make the right turn, the correct course direction to get it to the next level. I can’t wait until I can start pre-production, then on to principal photography, post, and marketing, the theatres and then to the next project!  I love the work and making it happen and I am sure I will also like getting paid! It’s hard to work so hard for 15 years without any financial support or resources! And especially over the past 5-7 years when it has all been within reach of getting it to the next level with finally becoming legit with the company and/or film getting the necessary funding – the almighty dollar, but every attempt – some with great promise – fails to make it happen.

Sure there is a lot of satisfaction when completing certain steps – the screenplay, the short story, the business formation, the business plan, investment memorandum, etc., or attend a function that has the promise of the right connections for investors or Hollywood players & makers that could propel all of this to the next level! But man, I feel like I have been on this verge, the edge, the starting line, with everything prepared and all my ducks in a row for waaaaaaay tooooooo longgggggg! Family and friends are probably so tired of hearing me say that I am almost there! I am sure most have written me off as completely crazy! How can anyone keep going, time after time of being rejected and failing to “make it happen” as he said he is? And frankly, I have no idea how I keep going! But I must – too much invested, too many promises to other people with a disAbility that I am going to make this change in Hollywood images of those with a disAbility happen, maybe it’s my love of filmmaking, my passion for storytelling on film, my promise to myself when I got a second chance and life – whatever the reason or reasons, I keep going. And who knows – today may be that day that I wake up wishing for every day for the past few years!

So maybe it is time to change the positions of some of the ducks! Keep them all in a row but maybe move the one in the center to the left, the left one to the right, the right one to the center…and the guy in the rear (sorry a flashback to an old Johnny Cash song I remember listening to as a child! I think the guy in the rear is a Methodist!) Anyway hear some mix ups, changes that I have been thinking of, beginning with “London Time”.

I have had a couple of storylines, plots, murder investigations that I have thought of for Detective London, Marci Waters, and Detective Richmond to work on – as sequels more or less. But more recently I have been questioning whether the first story line in “London Time” is right for the first one – dealing with an antagonist who is a fired film studio executive who returns to his corporate empire in Dallas, starts up a non profit business as a front to control all entertainment media reports, where some of the entertainment reporters have been dealt with harshly, even murdered for not cooperating and reporting and making reviews of certain films the way he has said so he can blackmail not only the studio that fired him but all of the studios – majors and the major indies – might be a hard pitch sell to “London Time” to film industry executives?!

A Local Police Officer!

The first sequel story and possible alternate to the first “London Time” story line is about a couple of murders that London, Marci, and Richmond investigate. Both have ties to questionable individuals and groups with terrorist connections. One of them has family heritage in the Middle East and the other does not and is in fact very American by way of several generations. As they further their investigations it appears that a terrorist cell has formed there in Dallas and these two murders happened because they did not comply with the cell leaderships’ requests – very important requests that appear to be link to the cell’s planned actions which are unclear but may be linked to the U.S. President’s upcoming visit. But when London and the team present this information to the Secret Service they are turned away and joked at with insufficient evidence. London takes it to the F.B.I., C.I.A., Homeland Security, National Security all give the same responses with the assurance that they know how to protect the President and the country – they do it for a living all the time and can do without a local police detective. London, Marci and Richmond all know there is a lot more to this plot and terrorist cell and therefore continue with their investigation. They get in some risky situations and just before the cell are able to complete their assassination plan, London, Marci and Richmond save the day and the life of the President!

Missing Persons

The second sequel or possible alternate story line for the first “London Time” actually is talked about a little in the opening scene of the current screenplay. But if it becomes the alternate story line then the dialogue would change that little bit in the opening scene and expand into the plot where two teenage girls are found murdered. London, Marci, and Richmond investigate to find it leads them to a human trafficking and sex slave ring that extends to several other major U.S. cities and international countries. The story goes behind the scenes of these criminals operation, manipulating their captives, marketing them as sex slaves, and London, Marci, and Richmond’s pursuit getting those responsible to end the operation and save those they have kidnapped. I saw a documentary on cable about this about a year ago and was appalled. Not only in the kidnapping and their operation but at the number of people who are kidnapped, unexplainable reports as missing persons – who are more likely to end up here in a human trafficking and sex slave operation than as a victim of a serial murderer as most movies and television programs depict. It happens much more often than is reported in the news and something that I feel should have more attention.

So should the “London Time” story go right, left, or stay on course? I like it the way it is – it is original as you cannot point to another movie with a similar story line, like you could with the terrorists’ assassination plot, but I still like these sequel/alternate stories and there is a possibility that they all get made as sequels – if the first one is really good! So which one is most likely to be the best one? Hmmmm?

Another Direction

Maybe the best direction at this point is to push another story altogether. Instead of Detective London, I could pitch “Forever Yours” another feature length screenplay that stars a paraplegic computer entrepreneur who is in love with a woman but is afraid of condemning her to a life of having to take care of a paraplegic but has to learn that is not a decision he can make – that is her decision and if he doesn’t want to live his life alone he better let her decide for herself! In the course of that story he meets her parents for the first time and they have no idea he is a paraplegic in a wheelchair – until he shows up! Sort of like “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”!

Or I could develop one of another dozen stories I have written as short stories or descriptions that I plan to adapt into feature length screenplays. I would love to do “Sunrise Surf”, or “Downsizing” which is a contemporary telling of the “Beauty and the Beast” story with the Beast being a very success business man who is a paraplegic running his empire from his mansion and a bit of a recluse. It is mainly because people do not like him and only deal with him on necessity for work. Until a Beauty comes along to try and regain her father’s job that was lost in a planned lay-off in which he did to avoid paying a large retirement pension – and just like in the original story he agrees to consider it if she will stay the weekend with him there in his home where it is discovered that he became a beast to be around because of how he had been treated when he first became a paraplegic which was also his motivation to become the hugely successful businessman. So becoming a paraplegic for him has been both a blessing and a curse! But she teaches him how to be himself around others regardless of what they think, and learn to love life with all of its challenges and advantages!

There are several other stories that can be found on the website – I love storytelling and I love seeing that story be told on the screen even more! Unfortunately I do not have time to write right now or for that matter for the past 5 years or so – due to the NEED of making the business work, get closer to the “turning point” in American cinema, make my career sustain me and my monthly bills! I am so tired of not knowing how I am going to pay for all my monthly bills every month and there is nothing extravagant, just basics, phone, electric, etc.. But I have felt I was so close to that the next level toward greenlighting my project(s) as if it was going to happen within days – but this is both a thought and feeling that I have had for the past several days, weeks, months, for the past at least 4 years thanks to the preparation, the work, the materials I have created and are ready for the opportunity which is what I have felt is right around the corner! Even in creating the opportunity (again see the previous blog entry!) But every time I come up empty, but as the saying goes “failure is nothing more than a stepping stone to success”…right? It’s hard living this way for so long, but I have to think it is so and I have to remain focused on the course – that is why I keep trying, different directions, angles, and “creating opportunities” to get the right people on board to further our progress toward raising the funds to go into production and fulfill my Mission! Making a change in American cinema forever!

Update Remake!

“London Time” is pitched as a modern day, 21st century “Ironside” but NOT a remake of “Ironside”. I hate remakes of movies or television shows. I feel like it is nothing but an obvious display of no creativity – if you cannot make an original and decide to do a remake it is like stealing the original and that is cheap and it sucks. And my Detective London is not a fat man solving crimes primarily while only sitting in his wheelchair using only his brilliant mind, being pushed around from crime scene and squad room in his wheelchair and driven around in a cargo van by a token black man character. Yet still my biggest fear is that some jackass suddenly comes up with the idea that it would be great to remake “Ironside”

Ironside2BS1

before I produce “London Time” with a real honest 21st century homicide detective who happens to also be a paraplegic! This nightmare of a remake of “Ironside” is for two reasons – first is Hollywood will still screw up the portrayal and representation – as they usually do – at the very least by disrespecting the disAbility and those who live with a disAbility by casting a freaking able bodied actor. Second, is that if this remake is made before my film, then it will look as if I am trying to copy the “Ironside” success or that “London Time” is a follower instead of a leader like I know it is! Steal my thunder and make me look like a typical Hollywood copycat! WRONG! I am a leader, an innovator, and this is much more than just a movie or television series! This is an authentic representation – with an authentic voice, vision, performance that will empower people with a disAbility all over America and the world! If it is done as I outlined in both creative material content and marketing strategies as detailed in my business plans!

So I have been thinking that the only way to avoid this – as they often said in western movies – they would “cut them off at the pass” and I think I can do that by either buying the rights to remake “Ironside” and sit on those rights mostly so nobody else remakes it and crushes my “London Time” film and potential franchise – or I approach the current rights owner of “Ironside” and I offer to remake it for them! I know it sounds crazy but I can bring the authentic element and insist that we also hire an actor who is a paraplegic to portray him – give him an updated image – much like they are proposing and producing for the Fall of 2010 of “The Rockford Files”

rockford


and “Hawaii Five-O”

Hawaii_five_o_01


This way I can better assure that Hollywood doesn’t disrespect those of us with a disAbility. I would probably still have to scrap “London Time” at least for a while but I would still be able to do one of my many other films! Well, since we all know my money situation is – I have none – option one, buying the rights is pretty much out the window – so I either take a chance and keep the course of getting “London Time” produced – in either its current form or in one of the other story lines described above, or approach NBC/Universal about partnering with them to remake “Ironside”! I hate the idea of remakes but how do I avoid my work being trampled and discarded as a copycat – or one that someone produced to try and ride the coat tails of a remade “Ironside”? What direction is best?

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Can Opportunity Be Created?

For a long time I have loved the saying that “Luck is when Preparation meets Opportunity.” I have spent years, even the past 2 decades working and creating the “preparation” for a filmmaking career. One that is the essence of my being and I have committed everything from my life to making that career a viable and sustaining one to the extent that I have sacrificed a lot and continued in poverty struggling to make this and my life work! And for the past 15 years, since my accident and becoming a paraplegic, it has been not only for myself but also for the 56+ million Americans, and the additional 600 million world-wide (according to the U.N.) with a disAbility to create what Hollywood refuses to do – provide an authentic voice and fictional heroes of those with a disAbility in movies and television.

At first, I thought all I had to do was make the best preparation possible. And then when opportunity came by – BAM – luck would finally be with me! That preparation had to constantly grow – from just a screenplay, to additional screenplays and short stories, to creating a production company and the company documents that support it such as the business plans (for the company and for the company’s company to raise the funds for the individual film production) which have been written and re-written several times and has been extremely difficult. It is even more challenging than for a standard independent film or production company because I have to describe what it is that I do, which is different from most all of Hollywood, why I can do what they do not do, and how it can be done correctly as well as how it can be successful, not only commercially at the box office, but also critically, and socially without offending the very group my films represent. The latter being one of the many reasons why Hollywood has shied away from fair and equal representation of those with a disAbility in movies and television despite that we represent the largest and fastest growing minority in America.

If At First You Don’t Succeed – Prepare More!

All this preparation, the work, dedication, passion, cannot wait on the opportunity to just happen, so I had to work at creating the opportunity or at least prepare the grounds for an opportunity to see what it is that I have been doing! I created the website – I knew nothing of how to do html or work with html editors like Dreamweaver or FrontPage, but also, as I mentioned above, without money I couldn’t pay someone to do it for me, and even worse, I couldn’t even afford to buy Dreamweaver or FrontPage. And on top of all of this I couldn’t find the government or private services that serve the disAbled that would buy or provide the funds for a business such as banks, Small Business Administration, venture capitalists, grant foundations, etc.  – even for a business owned and operated by a minority, a disAbled man, I couldn’t get very far, often not even able to present the business plan because as soon as they read or I said it was for a “movie business” – so I could make a movie – or even making it as official as possible by saying this is “motion picture and television production company business” with emphasis on how this would offer a greater good by representing those with a disAbility who are not only underserved, but most often dismissed, ignored, discriminated against and finally create a film that those with a disAbility are extremely hungry for – they all said, “Larry, that sounds like a really good cause” but regardless of how much more I was able to say, even compelling evidence of what I am saying is supported by research and common sense, it always ended up with “good luck with it.”

When Opportunity Doesn’t Present Itself – Create It

These traditional methods were not working so I had to take it directly to Hollywood. I contacted several well known producers, directors, celebrities, production companies, former and current studio executives – looking for help in a very worthy cause – but most of the time I was lucky just to get their assistant to listen to what I had to say. Most of the time the responses I heard were with familiar terms like “unsolicited material” – even when it was just my company working for this worthy cause – must be submitted by an “agent” or “entertainment attorney”. Some were kind in their responses of declining to find out more info on my cause and project, but others like the Imagine Entertainment assistant from hell to Brian Grazer

Brian Grazer

whom I think is a brilliant producer and the reason why I tried to contact as I thought would be a great partner to help me make this into a great success, who would understand and feel for this cause of not only underserved but actually documented industry discriminated voices and representations of those with a disAbility and then run with it, but this assistant from hell told me when I called to follow up on the letter I faxed to him, in an incredibly rude manner and borderline hateful tone, she confirmed he did get my letter and stated if he is interested he will contact me and then making it very clear by repeating it twice to “never call here again” – even though it was my first (and now only) phone call (after only two letters sent) and I was nothing but respectful in tone and content.

Or what about creating an opportunity by presenting Mr. Hollywood, Tom Cruise with my work and saying forget the past – focus on the future – and what better way then to have an actor – able bodied actor who played one of the most famous paraplegic roles in movies to help me produce the historic “turning point” in American cinema for those who are paraplegics! But I never got a live person, assistant, secretary, and never a response from any of the letters, or voice mail messages I left.

Born4thJuly_01

 

Soooooooo, what about the opportunity with Mr. Box Office, Academy Award winning writer, director, and self proclaimed “king of the world” after announcing his first feature film since the epic Award winning “Titanic” whose featured character in his “Avatar” would be a paraplegic war veteran and the only “able bodied” segments of that paraplegic character would be all computer generated! And as it turns out, Cameron did not use the common Hollywood excuse of hiring an A-List actor for the role. Perfect for a paraplegic actor – an authentic portrayal and representation! But as most readers of this blog know how that turned out over two and a half years of attempting to contact James Cameron who obviously feels similar to the only one to respond to me in a phone call I made in early 2008, a representative from his production company that said this issue is really no big deal. And despite several more attempts at contact from then up until just a month before the premiere of “Avatar” and going from simply asking questions about his auditioning for that paraplegic role that he cast an unknown but able bodied actor Sam Worthington – to offering a mutual supporting proposal in which I would come out and support “Avatar” in return for his admitting that he did not know how significant this issue is to those of us who are paraplegics or with a disAbility that can represent themselves at the time he cast Worthington in that role for “Avatar” and is now supporting the authentic work of mine in Abilities United Productions and our first feature film “London Time”! But never a single moment of recognition from Cameron! I guess we are not even worthy of acknowledgment from the king of the world!

Documented: Time, Date, Method, Format, Response

These are all only a small percentage of those I attempted to contact. I have an Excel database of contacts that also documents the time and date when and how I attempted to contact and if any response that was given. It has over 100 Hollywood players and makers although up until this month (May 2010) none were contacted to portray a character in my “London Time” feature film. And many of them were attempted several times – in different formats, ie: phone calls, letters, faxes, etc. but unfortunately, the responses I have described above were more than just highlights, they are actually the majority of the responses! The latest from the first asked to portray the female leading character, Marci Waters, opposite our homicide detective and paraplegic character that will be portrayed by a currently uncast actor who is also a paraplegic – whose agent said that this actress has “declined to pursue the project.” But at least she was decent enough to give me a response! The overwhelming majority will not even do that. In some ways I think it is easier for them to say they never heard of me, my mission, the cause, my production company, or my feature film, which is a lot easier than to say they rejected such a worthy cause and instead decided to just perpetuate the Hollywood standard of stereotypes and discrimination.

These are the results I have been getting for the past several years. I have tried many different ways, from the simplest like colored envelopes, unique letterheads, to creating entire web pages exclusively for them to explain what this is all about, or organizing the protests (but didn’t want any negative publicity and therefore decided not to pursue) or attending film festivals to get closer, befriend on MySpace (when it was the social network) to Facebook, and Twitter to create the “opportunity” that would at least get these Hollywood players and makers’ attention to this cause and solution that I have “prepared.”

“Words of wisdom, Lloyd. Words of wisdom!”

Fall down, get up. Fall down, get up. Fall down, get up. Fall down, get up. Fall down, get up. Fall down, get up. Fall down, get up. Fall down, get up. Fall down, get up. Fall down, get up. Fall down, get up. Fall down, get up. Fall down, get up. Fall down, get up. Fall down, get up. Its not how many times we fall down, it’s the amount of times we get up! Got to knock on ninety-nine doors who say, “no” to get to the one that will say “yes”! For me the ratio has been a bit more, not only in more than 100 doors, but the multiple times I have gone back to many of them and knocked again, and I have yet to get that one “yes” but it is the principal, right?!   

With great victory, comes great sacrifice!

Which I have been doing for nearly 20 years but I wonder how much greater the sacrifice will be before victory and if I will make it! Honestly, the resolution in my heart is strong but my body and my head are tired and growing weaker with every attempt. When I began this journey I announced that I will take this fight to my death and it was a bold proclamation that was easy to say but the older I get the years of not succeeding – the more I realize that it could be a reality and I might die before this “preparation”, work, passion, dedication, and sacrifice becomes a reality, a dream come true, where an authentic voice, vision, performance, and overall representation of paraplegics and those with a disAbility who can represent themselves in movies and television happen and we get the same respect, the same fair and equal opportunity to tell our stories, to create our own heroes – to be represented by those who actually know what this life with a disAbility is like in all of its glory and pain! To empower not only those of us working in the movie business (or trying despite the discrimination) but a real empowering to the audience members who look up on the screen from their own wheelchair and see an actor who lives from a wheelchair – portraying a character that was written and then directed by a person who lives from a wheelchair! Which not only says that he understands and can honestly relate – but that he can be anything he wants despite what society believes are his restrictions. He or she can be a Hollywood star, or be like that character in the movie, be the John McLane of “Die Hard” in a wheelchair – just like Detective London in my “London Time” film project! Chances are he or she will not become that person but man, what a dream that would be and inclusion at the water cooler on Monday! Can you imagine? I can, but it is still a dream in a dream!

McCartney & Wings – “With A Little Luck”!

I must continue and create the opportunity to present my dream and my years of preparation but I am afraid I need the very thing that both of these together – preparation and opportunity – to make it happen. A catch-22? Take money to make money! Maybe the same is true for luck? Takes luck to get luck? Take preparation and opportunity to make preparation and opportunity? Whew! I’m tired just thinking about it! And makes me wonder after the numerous attempts without success – am I wasting my time? Can opportunity be created? Maybe, with a little luck!    

Am I “To Be or Not To Be” Hamlet?

Probably the most famous question ever asked in the English language and the entire soliloquy of Shakespeare’s Hamlet to endlessly be debated by literature students and actors.

Hamlet1

One of two of my favorite portrayals of Hamlet on film and to not give preference (because I think they are both brilliant) I will place them in order of their theatrical release dates!


Shakespeare’s command of the English language in the opening question “To be or Not To Be” uses the verb “to be” phrased without a noun or pronoun making it infinite. He doesn’t say “Am I to be or not to be” or “to be alive or not to be alive” which allows for it to be interpreted by the audience within the context of the play as Hamlet’s meaning of life or death, but by phrasing it in the infinitive it can also be used in personal context, which is what makes all great works of art, great! Can I take something from this and make it personal? Can it be internalize by the masses and over the passages of time and yet still be profound and not take away from its’ own context? Of course that is in part what will make it popular whether it is in character, plot, and/or dialogue. And I personalize this way whenever I watch a movie or listen to a song. And whenever we see the struggles of a character or a story we try to internalize it to relate to that character or story. Hamlet has his own issues with his mother and uncle’s affair, a murdered father whose spirit haunts him with riddles, all with the pressure of being heir to the Danish throne and rule over an entire country – none of which I am going through – so how can I relate and be touched by this character through his famous soliloquy? Let me share some of it with you by using blue font in parentheses in the following:

“To be, or not to be (my context, as opposed to Hamlet’s context to be “alive” or not to be “alive”, is to be or not to be a “paraplegic filmmaker” dedicated to honestly, genuinely, and authentically representing nearly 6 million paraplegic Americans who are often the “poster child” representing the entire 56+ million Americans with a disAbility – the largest and fastest growing minority in America – who are severely under represented in movies and television and on the rare occasion that we are it is hardly ever being represented by one of our own, and instead by a well intentioned able bodied person who has no idea what life with paralysis or other disAbility is like – and for the record, again, I know that not all disAbilities can represent themselves – but many of us can and yet Hollywood lumps us all together as UNable) — that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows (stereotypes and discrimination)

of outrageous fortune (of Hollywood)

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles (dismissing paraplegic artists as unable to give voice, vision, or performance and represent ourselves in movies and television)

And by opposing end them.

To die (to end being a paraplegic filmmaker), to sleep–

No more–and by a sleep to say we end

The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks (the Hollywood barriers of attitude that automatically rejects the worthiness and discriminates against the artistic passions of a screenwriter, director, or actor with a disAbility)

That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep–

To sleep–perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of death (of not being a paraplegic filmmaker expressing my art of screenwriting and directing) what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil (and instead being a 9-5er),

Must give us pause. There’s the respect

That makes calamity of so long life.

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

Th’ oppressor’s (Hollywood’s) wrong, the proud man’s contumely

The pangs of despised love (of screenwriting and directing), the law’s delay (of fair and equal opportunity to represent ourselves with a disAbility),

The insolence of office, and the spurns

That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? (quietly take myself out of Hollywood and end all efforts to represent and passions to express my art)

Who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscovered country, from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprise of great pitch and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry

And lose the name of action. — Soft you now,

The fair Ophelia! — Nymph, in thy orisons

Be all my sins remembered.”

hamlet_branagh

 

Well, as Hamlet considers suicide, taking his own life, he debates whether it will release him from the frustrations, and pains of his trials and issues. For me it is similar because ending my dreams and passions for storytelling on film as both a screenwriter and director is ending my life as I know it and end the Hollywood trials and issues that are extremely difficult and frustrating as it is for any filmmaker trying to make his way in this industry BUT are doubled due the accepted stereotypes and discrimination against those with a disAbility. If you don’t believe that this exists, then I against direct your attention to the 2005 SAG report, SAG’s Performers with Disabilities (PWD), or merely look around and ask where are the movies that feature paraplegics or others with a disAbility and they are very few and far in between but even those use only able bodied writers, directors and actors. It is as plain as the white elephant in the room that everyone ignores and pretends is not there!

So yeah, merely trying to get anyone in Hollywood to pay attention to the issues, let alone my proposed solutions, my film projects, is extremely frustrating and discouraging. Do I ever get tired and want to end this seemingly futile quest to be or not to be a filmmaker who is a paraplegic? Do I debate what it would be like to end this life of a filmmaker and find another job, career, lifestyle that does not include all these “slings and arrows” in “a sea of troubles” along with “the heartache and thousand natural shocks” of Hollywood automatic rejection of even the idea that a person in a wheelchair can be writer or director? Sure the thoughts cross my mind from time to time, but I have to dismiss them as quickly as they enter my conscious. To give up being a filmmaker and continue on in another field is possible, in fact after I quit freelancing in video production after my days at the Art Institute in the early 90’s, I took a job to pay the bills. I was successful, and promoted within a year to management, had a new vehicle and two-story condo, but there was a big part of me missing, something that I had once, but seemed almost lost despite the aching of my soul which I found again after seeing “Pulp Fiction” in the theatre in 1994! Storytelling on film! But after trying to write and direct even a short film after working 14-16 hour days in my management position was too exhaustive physically and emotionally to get much of anything done. So, I quit that job in January 1995 and took a regular 8 hour a day job (which didn’t have any health benefits) to give me time to work my passion in life, my art, my filmmaking and satisfy that hole in my soul, and 3 months later, I broke my back, severed my spinal cord completely in half and became a paraplegic. But my passion for filmmaking was not broke, was not paralyzed like the bottom half of my body! In fact, they were magnified with getting a second chance at life, and after not finding non-stereotypical portrayals or authentic representation of paraplegics in movies my passions became more defined! And over the years since more refined! Not only in my art but in the cause that became so much larger than just me! My films will give those with a disAbility what they so want and deserve – representation in movies – and not just any representation – but authentic representation with images, characters, and stories that are not stereotypical. And for me to give all this up, leave Hollywood, take another job in any other field, as I referred to above as a 9-5er, it would be like suicide, killing my passion, becoming an empty shell of a man – and although I might still be breathing – I would be soulless, dead in my opinion. And that is how I understand and relate to Hamlet through his famous soliloquy!

I must fight on and find those in Hollywood who will give me and this cause the opportunity to produce the kind of films that will provide a fair and equal opportunity at the box office, for audiences with and without a disAbility to experience entertainment that is authentically representing those with a disAbility. Despite the barriers of attitude, stereotypes, and discrimination within the industry, and despite living only on the meager government assistance which is not enough and therefore I must ask for help to pay some of my monthly bills every month, I must carry on and make this happen even if it is to my death. Dying for this opportunity as a paraplegic filmmaker, as a representative of 56+ million Americans and hundreds of millions more world wide in movies and television, proving that this socially responsible filmmaking, can achieve critical and commercial success is better than committing filmmaker suicide and dying a soulless man for quitting and leaving Hollywood! I will continue to fight, even as a poor beggar for my self, the millions of under served and under represented in today’s society and the future generations of those with a disAbility. Will you join me? Pass this cause on, raise awareness, make a phone call if you have any Hollywood connections, or help me find new friends in Hollywood who really care about the repressed voices, visions, performances, and overall representation of those with a disAbility in movies and television! Act now or let it be on your conscious because mine is clear, and my mission is clearly defined and constantly being refine and polished to truly make it the historic “turning point” in American cinema!

Start by leaving a comment, or visiting my website http://AbilitiesUnited.com and find out more of how developed I have for the cause, the production company, and the feature film, “London Time”. I cannot do this alone as I have for the past 15 years but will continue to do so until I find those that care enough to join me! Are you one that cares enough? Prove it!

Hollywood Sign Symbolizes…

What does the Hollywood Sign mean to you? A lot of people around the world know the sign, what it means to them as the name of the entertainment capital of the world, and many can say it even if it is the only word they can say in English! There was news this week that the Hollywood Sign would be preserved and save the land surrounding it so that no other buildings or signs would obstruct or take away from the sign that stands on the mountain as a symbol of Los Angeles and the world.

HollywoodSigna

In the press conference that announced the that money needed to save this sign and the land around it, Governor Schwarzenegger who may be as iconic as the Hollywood sign itself spoke what it meant to him as he said:

“Now, everyone knows that this is probably the most recognizable, iconic symbol in the world. You know there are a lot of great symbols out there and a lot of signs and a lot of structures and buildings that are historic but I think the Hollywood sign is recognized by everyone around the world, there’s no two ways about it. It is a symbol of dreams and a symbol of opportunity and hope.”

The Governor continued,

“And I know that when I was a kid and I wanted to come to Hollywood, that is the kind of, the thing that I always had in my vision in front of me, was the Hollywood sign. And even though, when you go through difficult moments and times of studying the English language or training five hours a day in a gym to make it over here — and one of the other dreams was to be part of Muscle Beach — but the thing that always was in front of me was the Hollywood sign, so that’s what motivated me. And so I think that Hollywood has been very kind to me. When I came over here, Hollywood turned me into an action hero.

So, of course, when I heard that there were 130 acres around the Hollywood sign that need to be protected, I did what the Terminator was supposed to do, which is to jump into action. And this is exactly what I did. (Applause) And, of course, there’s no such thing as just one person jumping into action; in order to do something like that a lot of people had to jump into action. And especially Councilman Tom LaBonge has jumped into action in a big, big way, so I want to say thank you very much. (Applause) And again also the Trust for Public Land jumped into action and so we want to thank them also for the extraordinary job that they have done.

And I am proud today to say that the $12.5 million was raised and we are going to preserve this historic landscape. And what’s great about it is, it’s not just to preserve the land around it but also to protect the environment, which is so important for all of us. The Hollywood sign will welcome dreamers and artists and Austrian bodybuilders from around the world, (Laughter) to continue coming over here for generations to come.”

(The whole speech can be found at http://gov.ca.gov/speech/14995/.)

But as I have spoken about, and a lot of others with a disAbility have spoken about, and even the SAG report that was published in 2005 not only spoken about but also documented and proved, that the Hollywood Sign is not much of “a symbol of opportunity and hope” for those of us with a disAbility. And although there have been numerous people whose dreams have been realized, as it has been with Arnold Schwarzenegger, thanks to Hollywood, there are countless more that have had those dreams shattered – and I can tell you that that ratio is not favorable for the odds makers it is a lot worse for those with a disAbility who dream of becoming a star as a writer, director, or actor in Hollywood. For the past few decades, really the entire history of Hollywood, has proven that even when there is a role that is specifically written as a character with a disAbility, it is nearly always written and directed by an able bodied person, and then cast with an able bodied actor to portray and represent that person with a disAbility.

If this was the case once in a while, or even 50% of the time, AND of course if it was limited to characters representing disAbilities that are not likely able or at all able to represent themselves, such as some with developmental disAbilities, as I have said before – Dustin Hoffman as Raymond in “Rain Man” could not be portrayed or represented by anyone with the same disAbility as that character with autism, then this wouldn’t be as BIG of an INJUSTICE as it is. But far too many in this industry just look away and will not pay attention to this so that they do not have to feel any guilt for not doing anything about it! Therefore this portrayal and representation, which is already very limited in movies and television, represses the voices, visions, and performances of those who actually know what it is like to live with a disAbility. This is true for all but the very few and far in between exceptions for those with a disAbility that can represent and portray the characters in movies and television – and of course I talk a lot about paraplegics – because I am one and I can represent as a writer and director on any movie or television production lot, studio or location! 

There are a handful of reasons that Hollywood does this, and I can and have gone on for several pages to explain these as well as what impact and the results these reasons have, but want to single out one that was used by the producers of the television show “Glee” who said that there wasn’t any actors with a disAbility that has the talent they wanted for their paraplegic character, Artie. 

Do you think the talent pool of actors with a disAbility will grow and offer more choices to be cast in these roles of characters with a disAbility if they continue to dismiss the talent of actors with a disAbility and casting able bodied actors in these roles?

Dreaming for a opportunity to be hired as an actor for a single role, let alone a career as an actor in Hollywood, if you have a disAbility (and again I am speaking only of those who have the ability to represent themselves) is crazy, improbable, and nearly foolish when you consider the odds that an overwhelming amount of those roles will go to able bodied actors. Dreaming of and working toward becoming an actor in Hollywood is extremely tough as it is for anybody – but it is at least twice as tough if you are a person with a disAbility and the more visible the disAbility – like being a paraplegic using a wheelchair – the odds are astronomical – even getting an audition – let alone a fair audition, instead of the “parking lot” auditions because they were held in an inaccessible place – or when considering that most casting directors, directors and producers in Hollywood already have their mind up about what an actor with a disAbility can and cannot do. They have a barrier of attitude that is thinking but to be politically correct will not openly say is “we cannot hire a person with a disAbility – regardless of their talent – we don’t want someone like that in our movie. Nobody wants to see them up on the screen, they are not attractive people, they are not even whole people. We have to dismiss them as a real possibility for the success of movie with audiences.” And even when there is a character with a disAbility in their movie – they still cast an able bodied actor 99% of those limited opportunities.

This is not a guess or speculation – look at the movies – how many feature either a starring or supporting role those that have a disAbility? And out of them how many are written, directed or performed by a person with the same or similar disAbility? Plus I hear from actors with a disAbility on a regular basis – I hear horror stories of how they are treated, looked at, and considered as not even a possible actor for any role. They have the same passions, desires, dedication, dreams, training and education that their able bodied counterparts have – but the “opportunity and hope” that the Hollywood sign symbolizes is not the same for those with a disAbility.

This is what I fight for and work for, an “opportunity and hope” to provide an authentic representation in movies. This is why I modified the Hollywood sign to be a symbol for Abilities United Productions. Where ever you see it on the website and click on it it will take you to the home page!

HollywooddisabilitySign

I write movies and hope to direct those movies that give those of us with a disAbility a fair and equal representation, expression, inclusion on the big screen! I have also written and developed all the material necessary that proves how and why this “opportunity” can be and will be successful. Now all I need is the key people – the Hollywood players and makers – to at least give me the opportunity to show what it is that I have – the “London Time” screenplay, the Abilities United Productions business plan – the blueprint that shows what movie elements and the marketing strategies that are necessary for box office and critical success which will in turn will change their attitudes and barriers to using those with a disAbility in these creative roles.

I believe then the Hollywood sign will not need to be modified to be “a symbol of dreams, a symbol of opportunity and hope” for everyone – and finally for those with a disAbility. After all, if an Austrian bodybuilder can immigrate to American and move to Hollywood to become the biggest action hero, then certainly Hollywood will take a chance on a paraplegic homicide detective character, which is authentically represented and will become a hero for all those in a wheelchair! That is why “London Time” has to be produced with a professional independent budget – $8-15 million, and secure professional independent or major distribution contracts – and to get that we need talent, Hollywood Star talent that provides the attention not only with audiences for success at the box office but with these key elements of funding and distribution that will raise the quality of the film that audiences expect and require when shelling out for movie tickets.

So yeah, despite the realities of Hollywood’s current environment toward those with a disAbility, the incredible odds that are against me to stand firm in my commitment to produce a high quality film that has specific elements and strategies that will break the Hollywood stereotypes and go against the industry wide discrimination of those of us with a disAbility.     

 

I will keep hope alive and just like Schwarzenegger said “I did what the Terminator was supposed to do, which is to jump into action. And…in order to do something like that a lot of people had to jump into action” so I am now engaged in attracting and attaching these key elements, “a lot of other people” such as: the Hollywood Star Power talent, experienced executive producers, entertainment attorney representation, public relations and publicity, all that will contribute to securing the production funding and distribution that will make “London Time” a very attractive option to movie audiences that include the huge and completely underserved target market segment of disAbled consumers, as well as mainstream moviegoers world wide! Do you know one of the key personnel? Are you one of these key personnel? Call me, email, contact me – let’s make a movie that is entertaining for all and what history will record as a significant “turning point” in American cinema for those with a disAbility so that the symbol of the entertainment capital of world, “The Hollywood sign will welcome dreamers and artists and Austrian bodybuilders from around the world, to continue coming over here for generations to come” with or without a disAbility!

The “Lost” Wheelchair

Of course I have several issues with Hollywood’s portrayals and representations of those with a disAbility – and of course even more on those specifically who are paraplegic characters! But it is even more disappointing when a movie or television show that I love, admire and respect cannot even fake it that well. As an example was a blog entry I made a couple three months ago about the BBC show “Inspector Lewis” that is shown in a first run here in the States on PBS’ “Mystery Masterpiece Theatre”. And I have been meaning to make mention of another of my beloved television shows, one of the few created and filmed here in the U.S. and is also loved by many, “Lost”.

I have been a fan of “Lost” since the very first episode which I could not miss because it debuted right after my then and still all time favorite television drama show “Alias” (which as strange as it sounds one of my career dreams is to work with every one of the key players and makers of “Alias”) which both shows were created by genius JJ Abrams. I love the attention detail, the characters, the story, the history, the photography, direction, all of which combined with the wonderful performances I think is what makes these shows so fantastic, great, the best on television. And in “Alias” it was great when in one episode of season 4, they cast actor Alan Toy as a character in a wheelchair and he is a person with a disAbility who uses a wheelchair. Bravo to those who cast Alan in that role.

In “Lost” one of the great characters John Locke, portrayed by Terry O’Quinn whom I think is a brilliant actor, is a paraplegic character! For those who do know, the character of Locke was paralyzed from a spinal cord injury after a fall out a building window years before the show opener that had airliner Oceanic Flight 815 crashing onto the island where he survived and miraculously he immediately found that he was no longer paralyzed as he stood up and walked on the beach of the island with the other survivors!

WOW! Okay, so in this instance there has to be an able bodied actor which I have no beef with. And the idea of a paraplegic walking again borders on fantasy, but on what we come to learn is a very mysterious island where all kinds of strange and super natural events happen, it becomes a plausible and enjoyable dream! A wonderful balance in story and character that even those audience members who are paraplegics can accept and therefore enjoy without going, “Yeah, right! Give me a break!”

So where is my problem? The show mixes the current plot of the survivors surviving on the island with flashbacks of the characters before they crashed on the island. In those flashbacks with the Locke character, he is a paraplegic and where we find out how he was paralyzed. But what is so disappointing, and what my beef is, is one of my pet peeves commonly used with paraplegic characters in movies and television – portraying them using the most basic wheelchair – what we call the hospital chair! It is a standard steel metal frame, a cheap sling back which a paraplegic who broke his back wouldn’t care it is terrible for support of posture (yes sarcasm added for emphasis’), high bulky armrests, standard foot rests, push handles, and all in all very basic.

manual_wheelchair

Oh and if that wasn’t enough, they rarely if ever are using a cushion on the seat! Whether it is a hospital chair or a regular chair used by paraplegics there has to be a cushion to help prevent pressure sores. Not as glaring to the uninitiated but such an important detail if you are portraying a paraplegic in a wheelchair! Any paraplegic, doctor, nurse, or other disAbled persons who have to use a wheelchair for their mobility knows that if you sit in a regular wheelchair seat with no cushion they are extremely vulnerable to pressure sores. Sometimes Hollywood will portray an elderly person in a home health care facility using one of these basic chairs with a pillow on the wheelchair seat – and in some case depending on how often the chair is being used – that may be the case. But an overwhelming majority has to have a specifically designed seat cushion that will help to prevent pressure sores. They do significantly reduce the risk of getting a pressure sore (aka a bed sore) and that is why they can easily cost $400 or more to help reduce this huge health risk.

So it really irks me when I see a paraplegic character, one who is being portrayed as an established paraplegic and not one who is just leaving the hospital, using a hospital chair and one without a cushion as their everyday typical chair! It is almost like watching an athletic character playing basketball or football in a movie or television show wearing men’s dress shoes instead of sneakers or cleats! It is that ridiculous!

basketball_dress

The power of Photoshop! Nice shoes and socks, huh? Who cares what shoes a character is wearing? Or what wheelchair a paraplegic character is using?


This kind of hits close to home to me right now because my chair is in the shop waiting to be repaired – waiting for Medicare approval and then the repairs – so I have a “loaner” chair – which is great to have – let me say that up front – because without it – I am stuck in bed 24/7 – but it is a rather basic chair – a hospital chair. A big difference from my TiLite wheelchair which I love (yes it is an endorsement – are you paying attention TiLite – this is not a paid endorsement so if want please throw me a bone!!!) But even in this hospital chair, I am using my Roho brand air cushion that I think is the best design with air pockets to shift the pressure as I sit and move on my seat. Although I have gone through a few chairs and cushions over the years, I have always remained with Roho cushions since I was paralyzed 15 years ago (again not a paid endorsement so if you feel so inclined Roho send me a free replacement cover for my cushion!!!). 

Earlier this season in “Lost” there was a featured episode that primarily centered on Locke in flashbacks and what they call a flash sideways (if you watch the show you understand what that is) which he is not on the island and is a paraplegic. And when they showed Locke getting out of his wheelchair accessible van, on a wheelchair lift, but in that same old hospital wheelchair and without a cushion – IT JUST DROVE ME CRAZY! A show that is so good at details can make something this blatantly ignorant is very disappointing.

I guess this is just another glaring example that even when brilliant movie and television makers, like those on “Lost” try to fake the portrayal and representation of a paraplegic character they just follow the same old stereotypes of those that came before them in Hollywood. Perpetuating the images of paraplegics the only way they know or the only way they care to. Come on guys and gals of “Lost” even your disAbled consultant (which most often is a paraplegic and Hollywood uses as their excuse to be authentic in their portrayals) didn’t tell you this is a disregard to details? Basic details? Or even if you didn’t hire a disAbled consultant, you couldn’t find out this basic information on portraying a paraplegic character? One of the best, highest rated series in television and this is the best you can do – using a hospital wheelchair? Come on, a show with this kind of budget and that has raised the bar so high on its entertainment of American television can go so far below the bar of common portrayal of a paraplegic? No big deal, huh? Oh, I guess they couldn’t afford a real wheelchair. The hospital chair can be purchased for around $200 and a chair that a real paraplegic would use is around $3500. The strength of anything is measured only by its weakest link and this glaring dismissal in the portrayal of a major character does diminish the overall value in the show.

So tell me which one of these characters do you believe are actually paraplegics? Not just someone who is temporarily injured but is a paralyzed person living his everyday life?

John_LockeLost2

This is the John Locke character in a flash sideways segment. Does he look like he has been a paraplegic for the past several years as he is portrayed to be?

In another flash sideways segment (from an earlier Lost episode this season) that features the character Claire, who is pregnant and being rushed into the hospital uses a more modern “hospital wheelchair” (and very much like my current “loaner” chair) as you can see below.

LostClaire_Ep3_Season6_ABC1

Even Claire’s wheelchair would be a more believable chair for a paraplegic then the one they are using for John Locke, an actual paraplegic character! But lets look at another Hollywood television portrayal of a paraplegic character below.

Glee_Season1_promo_01_rs

Here is a promo picture for the character Artie who has also being portrayed as a paraplegic for the past several years. He is using a chair that is typical and not a hospital chair. This is downsized to fit in the blog but in a full shot you can also see there is a cushion that he is sitting on. Of course I have my issues with this character as can be read in the blog entry Glee is Everything to Everyone but at least they got this health and image portrayal issue correct! And what makes it this even more difficult personally, I love Lost and don’t care at all for Glee!

But nevertheless, which of the Hollywood television character portrayals do you believe is more realistic as a paraplegic? Does the fact that one is an older adult and the other is a high school teenager play a factor? No, it shouldn’t. Look below!

DanMurphy1

wheeler_vacuums

Tom_Muxie_businesst_RS

DaveNicholls2

All of these adults actually are paraplegics using their everyday wheelchairs. Not a sports chair to go play tennis or basketball – just their everyday wheelchair and this is how paraplegics live.

And none are using a hospital chair!

IF they had gotten a real wheelchair that a paraplegic would use, then the John Locke character would be a lot more believable as a paraplegic. It is kind of demeaning to me as a paraplegic that the image that is being portrayed of a paraplegic is one that uses a cheap, underdeveloped chair for those who are temporarily injured or sick. One that doesn’t care or respect his disability. And speaking of image – frankly it does have a lot to do with it. Aside from the health issues that a hospital chair does not address – the seating, positioning, including the proper back support, image is important. I can tell you as I go out in this “loaner” chair it does have an affect on me in both my health and self image. My chair is as much a part of me as my legs in function and as much as my clothes in image. But how is Hollywood suppose to know any of this when they only use able bodied to write, direct, and act in roles written as paraplegic characters! Obviously the John Locke character has to be portrayed by an able bodied actor, but if Hollywood did use paraplegic writers, directors, and actors for other roles of paraplegic characters they would know this and be able to address it with characters like Locke – which will only enhance and give depth and some authenticity to the character! And what will that hurt? Does the character of paraplegics not deserve the same respect in image and depth as all the other characters in movies and television? Well that is but one aspect I hope my films will change!

In this past week’s episode (“Everybody Loves Hugo” April 13, 2010), at the very end of the episode, in another flash sideways, the Locke character is wheeling across a school parking lot and gets hit hard and deliberately by a car – his body flies out of the chair and my second thought is a hope that the hospital wheelchair is demolished!

Look on the bright side – Abilities United Productions and my first feature film “London Time ” will show all of Hollywood how to portray and represent paraplegics the CORRECT way. In a respectful way and although it will also show how incompetent Hollywood has been in their portrayals – I hope it will set a new standard – a realistic standard – in a more genuine and authentic portrayal and representation of paraplegics and others with a disAbility! It is a shame that I have to blaze a trail only to raise the standard to being a basic and realistic portrayal. And I guess that is why I feel that because I take it further than merely realistic, to being authentic portrayals and representations is why I think history will record it as a significant “turning point” in American cinema for those with a disAbility. And everyone, most who will be able bodied, who joins with me in producing London Time will be recognized as blazing this trail and participating in the “turning point” in American cinema. So let me ask, “Are you in?”Tell others, visit my website, make comments here or on the website, follow me on Facebook (use my email address: Larry@AbilitiesUnited.com and/or also search for the “Abilities United Productions” page) and/or Twitter (@wheelrFilmmaker). Let others know this is an important issue to you, to American cinema, television, to the images and opinions of society in general and therefore on the population of 6 million  paraplegics in America and the additional 50+ million Americans with a disAbility. I am not just pointing out the issues, I am making a difference – providing a permanent solution but I cannot do it alone. I need you and many others to support with as little or as much as you can do. Do you even care that we are not discriminated against and instead allowed an equal opportunity to provide our own voice, vision, and performance with characters that are paraplegics and those with a disAbility who have the abilities and can represent themselves? If you are not part of the solution (in doing anything mentioned above to advance the cause, or the production of “London Time”, or even merely raise the awareness by voicing your opinion or adding your voice) then you are part of the problem. Take a moment and be proactive! Are you with me?

The Oscars

Wow! After the Golden Globes this season, I was a bit worried the proper credit would go to where I felt and thought it should go. Yes, I am talking about the credit the Hollywood Foreign Press lavished on Avatar and James Cameron. And it is not fair that I be biased since I have not seen, even to this day, Avatar. And because I think he is a brilliant storyteller on film. But that might be limited to unpolitical sci-fi and historical epics because I have read the Avatar synopsis, details on the story, and it seems aside from the technological breakthroughs and wonders, it seems like a tired old story with political agendas and a fairy tale ending portraying a person with a disAbility who becomes able bodied. A new twist in the same old fairy tale ending in which he becomes a computer animated able bodied blue alien smurf! I know that smurf crack was a little cheap but I didn’t originate it, I read it from some other reviewers!

 

But then the Oscar nominations came out and as usual I went right to the categories that I love, screenwriting, directing, and picture! Knowing that Cameron and Avatar won the Golden Globes and giving it that bump at the beginning of the awards season, I worried that it would sweep the entire season ending with the Oscars. Again it is not fair for me to say which is best because I have not seen all the nominees, but I did see and love, “The Hurt Locker.” I felt it was definitely the best picture I had seen in 2009 and wanted to see it get the credit and accolades it deserved but going up against a monster picture with the monster marketing machine of Avatar who had already won the Golden Globes?

But my faith was restored in Hollywood when the Producers Guild of America gave The Hurt Locker the award for best movie of the year, the Writers Guild of America awarded Mark Boal with best original screenplay for the Hurt Locker and then the Directors Guild of America awarded the best to Kathryn Bigelow! The chronology may not be correct because I have a terrible memory and do not feel like Googling it!  

 

So with all those awards that does give credit to the movie and the people who made it but the biggie, the Oscars! Here it was tonight – 9 award nominations for “The Hurt Locker” and despite the momentum it rightfully took from Cameron and Avatar, there was a little scandal many probably were not aware of (but I get the email
updates from Variety that keep me in the know) but one of the Hurt Locker producers got a hand slap (and banned from attending the show) for submitting a letter asking Academy voters to vote for Hurt Locker and ask their friends to vote for it over the mega-budget and mega-box office successful competition.

 I began watching the red carpet show primarily from my favorite local television network, KTLA channel 5 because I adore Jessica Holmes (and the main reason I watch the 9 o’clock hour of the KTLA Morning Show) who was one of the two doing the red carpet interviews (OK Sam Rubin I will give you props too but Jessica
is just hot, and cute, and sexy, and beautiful and, and, and!) and was thinking how the Oscars in the past usually upset me with their picks for the winners. Well, there is usually some that I agree with and some that I completely disagree with and every year it seems to be different on it being 70-30, 40-60, or 50-50! But as the stars walked and were interviewed, James Cameron came on screen, and despite my animosity toward him from dissing me for two and a half years, his gracious credit he gives to all those who work with him on his productions, and generally speaking about how regardless of who walks away with the awards that they all should feel like winners for being there, you cannot hate him!

 

On with the Show!

The Oscar show started out good although I was taken aback a little with a Broadway opening song and dance, you cannot help but love Neil Patrick Harris and the song was funny. And the hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin I thought was great compared to the last few years – the best from the past I feel since Billy Crystal.

And then the first award went to Christoph Waltz for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. I agreed that his performance was fantastic in “Inglourious Basterds” and my choice for the award. It continued to go well and when Original Screenplay came up I was a little torn because although Mark Boal won for “The Hurt Locker” which I already mentioned that I loved, I also was pulling for Quentin Tarantino because I love his work and the significance “Pulp Fiction” played in reminding me back in the day it was out in theatres of my passion and dream of being a filmmaker that I had put on the back burner to get a paycheck to pay the bills in 1994 and months before my accident. But still both “The Hurt Locker” and “Inglourious Basterds” were worthy to win the best original screenplay so I cannot complain.

 Later in the show the award for Best Cinematography went to “Avatar” DP, Mauro Fiore. Are you serious? Not that he isn’t an excellent cinematographer, but for “Avatar” which was nearly all done on green screen and animated computer generated images! “Avatar” did win for Best Visual Effects and who can deny that? That award was deserved but this is a little strange for cinematography!

 

In between those two awards was the award for Best Music/Original Score and I wasn’t too familiar with the nominees until I saw the nominees and the one I certainly recognized was Michael Giacchinio for “Up”.

I am a huge fan of the television series “Alias” which I have all 5 seasons on DVD and re-watch about once every 12-18 months! I took note of some of the bonus features at the end of the Season 2 where they did a featurette about the last episode of that season and JJ Abrams talked about sending the episode over to Michael Giacchinio to do the score and they showed him working on it. I always recognized that his music score on the show was spot on and when I saw how fast he did it – well his talent is amazing. I was thinking how great it would be to get him to score “London Time”.  He has also done two other favorite television shows – which just happen to be JJ Abrams creations as well, “Lost”
and “Fringe (which thank heaven was just picked up for a third season)” and has done movies – interestingly enough for JJ’s helmed “Star Trek” and a few other movies including “Up” which when the envelope was opened – Michael’s name was read! He just won the Academy Award for Best Musical/Original Score.

michael_giacchino-oscars

And while the night would go on to be memorable – to me I think Michael’s acceptance speech was incredible and right on top of the things that were memorable. He did not go through the typical thank you’s – instead he told of how from a young age his parents, teachers and friends all encouraged him to do what he wanted to do.  Nobody told him he couldn’t do it or that it was foolish to chase his dreams, but that he recognized that not everyone has such a support group and that they should know they can and should follow their dreams. It was a great speech and inspired me. I can say, many people in my life, have not been that great of support of my dreams. Nearly all of them think and some will actually say that I am “foolish to chase [my] dreams.” So, thank you, Michael. That was inspiring to me and I mean that above and beyond my desire to have you score my movie! After all, now that you are an Oscar winner, my chances of getting you on my indie film probably shot right out the roof, but I think your work is amazing and after that personal and unconventional acceptance speech you personally are amazing as well.

 

Best Director

Ok on with the show! Let’s jump to the other ones that I was most interested in! Best Director. Wow, it was great and groundbreaking with the first woman director winning the Oscar and inspiring to me – yes I am man and not a woman but still, Kathryn Bigelow is a wonderful filmmaker and “The Hurt Locker” was another fantastic example of her incredible talent as a director. And as a writer/director with a disAbility, it does give me hope that Hollywood would look upon me and others with a disAbility in this industry will be judge by our talent and work and not by how we are different from them and the past winners. And I must say that James Cameron was gracious as Kathryn was going up on stage he was applauding respectfully and where the cameras could see his hands. Not crazily like the over amphetamine Nancy Pelosi every time President Obama opened his mouth when he addresses Congress, but very dignified, especially since Kathryn
is his ex-wife and competitor for the Best Director of 2009! My congrats to Kathryn Bigelow for winning the DGA and the Oscar for Best Director!

 

Best Picture

With time having run out, Tom Hanks comes out and immediately opens the envelope for Best Picture, and happily it went to “The Hurt Locker”! A low-budget independent film, that had to find money and then distribution from outside the studio system of Hollywood, comes in and wins the top honors – 6 of the 9 awards it was nominated for. Independent films are still alive in Hollywood! And my faith in the industry is restored! They gave proper credit to the BEST even over their own super high budgeted movies! And finally here was a successful movie about the war on terrorism and I think it was successful because as Collin Farrell said when he introduced the best actor nominee, Jeremy Renner for his role in “The Hurt Locker”. Mr. Farrell said of the movie it was neither right nor left (politically) but about the people, the soldiers involved, and the story of what they had to do. I hope future war movies keep that in mind rather than preach their views about it. Meanwhile, independent films won on this night at the Oscars and that is encouraging. Especially movies like “The Hurt Locker” that are not all about special effects and huge runaway budgets! Other nominees if all categories prove this, it is about the story – such as “Precious”, “Up In The Air”, “Crazy Heart”, “The Blind Side”, “A Serious Man”, “An Education”, “Invictus”, “A Serious Man”, “The Last Station”, and others. In fact they dominated the nominations and the winnings at the Oscars, and throughout the award season despite the faith bending beginning at the Golden Globes. So Hollywood, keep it up and hey, how about a film about a paraplegic that is written, directed, and acted by paraplegics? A film that gives that authentic representation along with its portrayals in a movie that is entertaining to all? I have one that you might consider for next years award season! Providing we get it completed and find a distributor by the end of this year!

TV Writers Settle Age Discrimination

In case you didn’t get the news, it was reported last Friday in Variety that the decode long class action lawsuit of tv writers against the television networks and talent agencies was settled. Here is a link to the article:  www.variety.com/article/VR1118014185.html?categoryId=14&cs=1&nid=2854

The suit was because some writers claimed there was “systematic age discrimination by talent agents who aided and abettednetworks and studios by refusing to represent and refer older writersfor work at the studios.” I do not know all the facts of the case but I do not think there was any “industry reports or research” to support their cause – probably the fact that there were not that many show or programs that featured characters over the age of 40 – which was the age discrimination age group of 40+ so I wonder what a class action suit against these same agencies and tv networks would say if there were a disAbility discrimination class action lawsuit against them – especially when there is a industry reprot, commissioned and published by SAG in 2005, conducted by UCLA researchers that showed this industry is incredibly discriminatory against those with a disAbility?

I warned about this in a blog entry or two over the years – that IF they don’t listen to us, listen to me who not only knows the issues, but also have the solution ready for production, then what would be the next logic step? Lawsuits against them directly – and if they disn’t change the “system” to be more inclusive then maybe legislation and suddenly there is an “affirmative action” imposed on Hollywood to include those of us with a disAbility! Well now there is a legal precedent – so Hollywood – are we going to play? Softball or hardball? Its your field, you tell me? Either way, I’m game, and I am the star pitcher that will strike you out on every batter (issue) you bring to the plate! Its all clear, like the white elephant in the room, and someone is going to call you on it and when they do – count on a big smile on my face! Especially if I am the one directing them on call you out!

Do we need a check list?

Your so-called “Diversity Programs” that rarely if ever include a category for those with a disAbility and when they do they are only some minor outreach program that looks like your helping. If you did – where are the movies and television programs that feature those with a disAbility? Oh, yeah “Glee” and “Avatar” and yet the writers, directors, and actors who portray those characters are ALL able bodied. Hmmmmm, and after 3 years of trying to contact Mr. James Cameron for a little recognition and ask a couple of questions, might like to finally answer them in court that he never even auditioned any actors who were paraplegics for his paraplegic character – oh and he cannot use the excuse that he needed a A-List actor to attract audiences to his movie (as Hollywood loves that excuse) because he hired a no-named actor for the role.

Lets ask each TV network and Hollywood studio – how many people with a disAbility do you have or have you hired for creative roles – as writers, directors, actors who can provide the authentic voices, visions, performances of those with a disAbility? Where are our voices, our heroes?

I tell you what – I would much prefer to “settle” this issue before it becomes a lawsuit, before it becomes legislation, let’s settle with accepting my film “London Time” with the same production and distribution support you’d give any other worthy indie film! And when “London Time” becomes a mega-hit – which I know it will because of the movie elements that I have included go way beyond the authentic representation element then I will settle – with all those who supported me in the film and we will all smile as we travel in the car pool lane to the bank with our trash bags full of money! I would prefer that money, then YOUR money in the settlement! But again – this is your home field – how do you want to play it?

We will SOON see! Meanwhile I will continue with fund raising for the production of “London Time”! You have my number! I have been contacting many of you the past 5 years so you might want to ask your assistant who blew me off! I have a database with over 100 contacts – all with the documented times, types, and content of communications with you. Or attempted communications with you.

Your Honor, I would like to submit this database as exhibit A. The SAG report as Exhibit B, and the law suit settlement of the tv writers in the age discrimination as Exhibit C! Employment records of the Studios and networks for the past 5-10 years as Exhibit D! The charter and program outlines for the studios and networks Diversity Programs as Exhibit E! The results of how many films were written, directed, acted by those with a disAbility as Exhibit F! Statistic of those with a disAbility being the largest and fastest growing minority in America as Exhibit G!And then I would like to call actors with a disAbility who have been on auditions by the hundreds and never get cast in any roles – even those specifically written as characters with the same or similar disAbility to the stand!

WE are not going to continue to lose this battle in Hollywood! So again, how do you want to play this? My film? Or in the courts? And then to the Supreme Courts and have affirmative action for those with a disAbility to have fair and equal representation in the creative roles in motion pictures and television? Your home field. Let’s play!