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The Smoking Hot Truth

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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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

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It Does Not Exist

So what do you do if there is a
void in something that will seriously affect 25% of all American households?

 
One of every five Americans has a
disAbility.
That is 20% of our population and not even 2% of American cinema
and television have a character that represents this population. In 2006 there
were 607 American films released – and can you tell of them how many featured a
character with a disability? Any disability and not just those who are
paraplegics like I focus on right now? For there to be 1% then there would have
to be at least 6 films. Can anybody list 6 of them for me? No, because there were
not even 1% of all American films to represent 20% of the population. One in
four households, 25% have a person with a disability and therefore everyone in
that household is also affected
by not having a validation of the person in
their family that they love by being represented in a single film.

 
I want to make one film in 2008 that I
have already written and even if the release isn’t until 2009, I suspect
that there with be at least the same number of American films produced, and
probably even more than in 2006. Still using those numbers of ’06 then my ONE film will be
but .06% of all Americans films. Is that too much to ask from Hollywood?

 
Evidently it is – at least so far
and I can prove it. I can list all the people and companies that are in Hollywood that I have attempted to contact and begin a dialogue with. I can list
names, when (both the date and sometimes time of day), the method of contact, that varied
from letters, faxes, emails and phone calls for the past two years and even
with the presenting of all the necessary elements that make a commercially
viable, authentic voice and representation of those with a disability, I have
not even gotten 1% response to any of this communication!

 
There is a void and the authentic
voice and representation that will break the Hollywood
stereotypes and help end the blatant industry wide discrimination of those with
a disAbility continues to be non-existent.

 
So if it isn’t there – create
it. That has been my philosophy nearly all of my life and I have been applying
that to this major problem for the past 12+ years. I have created both the
creative answer and the business solution to fill this void.

 
Still no where to turn and no one
to even listen.
When I found some initial objections to this proposal I found
or created the answers out of the void. And explore every angle from the
business world of Angel investors/groups, standard business loans and even
special SBA guaranteed loans to help those who are considered disadvantaged – but as I explained
in a previous entry to this blog – even the damn government does not include
disabled persons as a disadvantaged group – so unless I am Black/African-American, American
Native Indian, Hispanic, Pan-Asian or any other racial minority, or a woman, all of whom automatically qualify under the
definition of the SBA to receive special funding that has been set aside just
for them as disadvantaged I have been given the sound, personal advice of a Hollywood guru that knows
ins and outs of the business side, told me to stop wasting my energy because even
if I applied for special consideration from the SBA by filling out a form and
providing proof
that those with a disability are both economically and socially
disadvantaged – no banks would accept and the SBA would not approve Abilities United Productions for a business loan because it is in the motion
picture production industry which is too high of a risk for them!

 
So despite having spent months of
writing a business plan complete with financial projections and forming the
business side of filling this void in American cinema – it did not matter. So I
turned to the motion picture industry for help, guidance, or at least some
support.
After 12 years of living this constant rejection to fulfill a dream
and provide an essential impact on millions of American lives surely the
industry will look favorable on it and help me launch this program, right?
Wrong and not only is the production side of the movie business – above and
below the line lacking in a fair and equal opportunity to work on both sides of
the camera as individual companies, conglomerate empires of corporations in the
Big 6 = the major studios, or individual players and makers in the business –
not even the Diversity Programs accept those with a disability ( you can read
my exact experiences with this from a link on the homepage of the website).
Most consider those with a disAbility as being under all other minorities
even the gay, lesbian and transgender community gets representation in movies
and television – they even have their own dedicated programs and an entire cable network
(Logo Channel) despite being nearly only one quarter the size of the minoirty, subgroup of those with a
disAbility. Approximately 15 million gay, lesbian and transgenders compared to
56 million Americans with a disAbility!

 
Well without looking for my own
network or even a weekly television program like “Will & Grace” or “The L
Word” I just want a single movie that provided an honest, non-stereotypical and
authentic character portrayed authentically. All of which I have in a detailed plan that is business and
socially capable of success — where no body would lose and everyone would win. I have
created it but have also taken this as far as I can without help, the production and
distribution support and capital. Without it 12+ years of work will go down the drain – along with the very reason why I wake up in the morning. So now
what?

 
I continue to try and make
contact with someone who has

  • the decency to look at what I have created as a
    permanent solution to the history of problems imposed on those of us with a
    disAbility,
  • the brains to see it’s potential,
  • and the balls to take a chance.

I
continue to contact everyone in the business from executives, producers,
directors, actors, agents, publicists and everyone person within the industry.
And if that still doesn’t work then I will have to raise this flag a little
higher! Put it in front of a camera where the FACTS as I have listed here are
in plain view of everyone. Then we will see who is asking the question, “So,
now what?” No problem, I have a 12+ year old refined answer! I just hope it
will be soon as I ran out of time over 6 months ago and I really do not know how I
am surviving. It cannot take another 12 years – in fact I am not sure about the next 12 days
without an answer, some recognition, some promise to even just look at what I
have created.

3 D’s – Definition – Disability – Drama

I am watching “Running With
Scissors” and reading Alan Rucker’s “The Best Seat in the House:  How I Woke Up One Tuesday and was Paralyzed
for Life.” Oh, and I am writing this blog entry! Multi-tasking, baby! Anyway I
have shared some thoughts on what it seems to be the Hollywood
definition of a drama that features a character with a disability.  I may have here in this blog but do not
remember as most of them are too long even though I try to stick to one or two
subjects at a time! But I feel I really need to further explain how I see it
and if anyone differs – please express it to me.

 

On the News page of my website I
talk a little about “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, this year’s Oscar
nominated film – which despite being entirely in French doesn’t qualify for the
Best Foreign Language film – so the Academy decided to make it up to them by giving
the film 8 nominations in other categories as the best of American Cinema in
2007! Oh, yeah there is no conflict in Hollywood
– nor any confusions on definitions of what is and what is not as this example
proves that American companies using money they have or acquired from any
country makes any film not in the English language an American film and not a
Foreign Language film!  But there I go
again talking about a subplot to this drama. It does follow the topic though in
what Hollywood
considers, by their definition what is what and we are all at their mercy to
believe it as they never offer alternatives. More importantly is regardless of
how wonderful or great this film is – it is the stereotype. Even foreign films
cannot seem to break the damn mold!

 

Disability Roles Reserved for Oscar

 

This biopic, similar except for its
qualifications according to the Academy, to the 2005 Oscar winner of Best
Foreign Language film came from Spain,
“The Sea Inside.” And setting aside for a moment the most evident fact that
they are portrayed by the able bodied which as for the latter, I cannot stand how
everyone is stroking Javier Bardem this year for “No Country for Old Men.” I’m
sorry Javier, it isn’t personal and I have no idea why I resent your portrayal as
a quadriplegic in “The Sea Inside” and the fact that I DO NOT for other able bodied
actors, Tom Cruise, Eric Stoltz, Wesley Snipes, William Forsythe, Richard
Dreyfuss, Jon Voight, and others who have been in the featured role of a person
with a disAbility. Maybe it is because those others were done some years ago
and that this decade, this new century,
new millennium
; I have been trying so damn hard to end stereotypes and for
authentic voices and representation on the big and small screens. This reminds
me of how I was feeling about “Brokeback Mountain” and how a
forbidden love can be dramatized and praised for it being so bold as to …well,
dramatize it! What about love that is focused from the heart of someone with a
disAbility where society and most in our culture to this day rarely even
consider those with a disAbility as being in love, or capable of love for
numerous reasons such as we are freaks, or because we are so bitter at life and
what it has dealt us that we cannot love. And talk about forbidden, but the
expression of that love in the intimate touch in love making, or even the mere
pleasure of sex. Hell, most do not even consider those who are paralyzed or
with other disAbilities as sexually attractive because of their misconceptions
of what makes humans sexual beings so it rules out even the concept of a
disabled person as a sexual partner. The occasional exception is only between
two people with the same or similar disAbility.

 

A Bonus D – Dating

 

Come on! Because the stereotypes
perpetuated in Hollywood though the films that qualify to be made because of
those stereotypes – a guy in a chair – like myself – if I could attract the
attention of a single (I think they are and if I am wrong – leave it alone and
let my dream live on!) and beautiful woman like, Elle Macpherson, Eva Mendes,
Scarlett Johansson, Vanessa Marcil, Jessica Biel, Jennifer Aniston, and a host
of others that come to mind – the best would be a dinner date as a nice gesture
to a sweet guy who has a tough life. I do not want to characterize these women because
I do not know them but mention this as a very accepted, very general example of
what I am talking about. But maybe if there were some characters in some movies
that challenged this stereotype, show the truth as I have had in some amazing dates in the past 12 years which completely took them by surprise once I finally
got past the incredible barriers of this preconception, the stereotypes of
forbidden love with a person with a disAbility.

 

More Than Just A Problem

 

Unlike some of our politicians, I am
not just pointing out the problems but I have the solution. ONE PART of which
is the material and I was writing a new story about this love and sex
relationship with a character who falls for a woman who never “saw him like
that” all because of “being in a wheelchair” and instead gets involved in a relationship
with his best friend, but that one is on hold due to my support for the Writers’
strike. But visit the website and see the synopsis, or excerpts from those I
have already written – like my feature screenplay “Forever Yours” or my short film
script, “Glacial Breeze”, the short story on three vignettes about this very
subject in “Spinning Wheels”, or the angst of this kind of absence of the possibility
of love and sex in another short story I wrote titled, “Transaction Fee.”  I also touch on this in the romantic and
sexual relationship between Detective London and Marci Waters in my feature
screenplay, “London Time.”

 

So will someone tell me which coffee
shop in LA is where the Hollywood
intellectuals sip lattes and theorize on what is and what isn’t a worthy drama
or the use of non-authentic able bodied actors in roles of something as
insignificant as a person with a disAbility. Oh, wait we are not significant
enough to even have that discussion. I’m talking. I’m talking on what is and
more importantly not what should be but what could be the Hollywood
definition of drama and obviously what the entire global film community finds
worthy of when it features a character with a disAbility.

 

Purpose in Life

 

So through the Hollywood films of
the past and the foreign films Hollywood throws awards at as a substitute for
their own lacking in having any representation of those with a disAbility and
the current definition as the example by the feature films I described above, “The
Sea Inside” and “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” shows it has to be about
transcending the human condition and has to teach us more about our selves,
inspire us to live life to the fullest and what should be a good week to week
and a half reminder of the real reason why not to park in the disabled parking
spot regardless of how fast you’ll be or the bastard that lives inside you that
you will not see a psychologist to get rid because it is your only excuse not
to be responsible!

 

All this does is confirm in the
publics mind that those with a disAbility must have this purpose in life, and
if they do not inspire, or teach, even if only by example then they are at the
other end of the spectrum and not living up to expectations of our only purpose
in society. Anything less and there are no props just for waking up everyday to
the reality of the social and physical challenges forced upon those with a
disAbility to deal with and there is no weekends off or vacation days! And this
stereotypical definition of representation in movies is a Catch-22 as it
perpetuates the Hollywood attitude of what constitutes a worthy drama of those
that feature a character with a disAbility and therefore if the script doesn’t
do that – toss it because it will not even get past the studio script reader.

 

So even when that rare day in hell
when cubed ice for cocktails is delivered and someone dares to try something
different then the stereotype I applaud them for it, such as The Weinstein
Company but if it fails then it sets us all back to confinement of the stereotypes
because the bottom line proves it. As I mentioned on my commentary on this film,
“The Ex” on the News page of the website – this film had MORE problems that
caused it to miserably fail then just not being authentic. Still it produced another
great barrier to having anyone take a chance on another non-stereotypical
character with a disAbility, let alone an authentic voice and representation. Although
on the bright side and the one I will focus on is that an overwhelming amount
of the critic and fan reviews said that the non-stereotypical look at a
paraplegic was the best part of the film.

 

The Impact

 

In fact I have tried to contact The
Weinstein Company (Michael Cole have you checked your messages or the letter
that was sent via fax addressed to you and successfully transmitted on October 2,
2007?) about my Mission but as with most of Hollywood, they have not responded
and possibly hope I just go away! I think they are afraid of being quilted into
wasting money as it surely has no basis of being a commercially successful
film. BUT if they would give me a few minutes to present what I have, what I uncovered
and created on both the creative and business side – they would be sold!
Providing they have a good business sense and I know that all of those I have
attempted to contact do – otherwise I wouldn’t bother! This is just as
important to me, to the Mission, to American Cinema, to the 54+ million
Americans with a disAbility, all those with a disAbility trying to work in this
completely oppressive industry, and future generations of those with a
disAbility and society as a whole!

 

Cameron’s “Avatar”

 

So now that this is the case, it
also brings up the fact that James Cameron is daring enough to add a character
with a disAbility in his latest film and it appears that it is
non-stereotypical. After all this is James freakin’ Cameron and despite now
being a main cog in the Hollywood machine he has been and still is a maverick
and doing films that others say he is crazy for – until the box office tickets
shows he is crazy all the way to the bank! I just wish I could talk to him –
convince him of the importance of authentic voice and representation that also
deeply affects the discrimination of actors with a disAbility to be added to
the non-stereotypical role he has bravely created. No, I am not kissing ass – I
am just stating the facts as I see them and have experienced for more than 12
years!

 

Next Level

 

I’m
drawing a line in the sand about the definition of worthy dramas that feature a
character with a disAbility, but all I get is ignored. Non-responsive, which is
giving me the feeling that I am nothing more then a bug on the windshield. Well
I am coming to Hollywood and then we can be face-to-face and it could be that
the guts of that bug will get spread all over the windshield as they turn on
the wipers in an attempt to get rid of what started out as a small splatch on
the passenger side! Then we will see what happens! Spend a few minutes
attention to cleaning the windshield since the wipers failed and I can tell
you, you will see clearly then! Just a few minutes! 

Why Does Hollywood Not Consider those with a disAbility?

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What and why is Hollywood so afraid of those with a disAbility? Why does Hollywood and nearly all of the Diversity Programs not consider those with a disAbility a minority? Why are authentic voices and representations of those with a disAbility REPRESESSED – IGNORED – DISMISSED AND THROWN AWAY? You say they are not? Then where are they? Even when Hollywood does consider including a person with a disAbility it is stereotyped characters and/or stories and none are written, directed or acted by a person with a disAbility. So their frame of reference is what? Someone they know that has a disAbility? Hiring a consultant who may or may not have a disAbility? Previous movies that were also written, directed and staring able bodied people pretending they know what it is like to live with a disAbility?

 

I have been working at a solution for the past 12 years and it is much more then just a single screenplay that I am pitching or saying that if you produce it it will make all your troubles go away! No, first of all, I have several film projects as various stages of development. Two fully completed feature length screenplays, three short film scripts and several short stories aching for me to adapt into screenplays and then be ready to go into production! Second, all of them have three specific elements that are rarely if ever combined in the same film. Thirdly, specific marketing and distribution strategies that will attract all potential moviegoers based on genre, ratings and even mere curiosity since nobody has exposed them to this point of view and the disabled consumer market segment that has been alienated and even slapped across the face with nearly all previous attempts to REPRESENT our lives. This fact alone will garner theatre tickets to be paid from soon-to-be loyal and returning consumers that have been waiting for authentic voices and representation seemingly forever!

 

Meanwhile throughout the past 12 years and especially the last 2 years I have vigorously been contacting many in the business to present this well planned solution. Yet why do I not get a response, even a courtesy rejection? This only goes to proving how we are ignored and dismissed. Why is this, that even when someone with a plan is not even given a notice of “we are not interested”? Is it because they are afraid? I ask why? What is there to be so afraid of? Since I have the plan and the material to answer to every question and objection someone would have in providing an authentic voice and representation in today’s movies and television, I can only come to the conclusion that by not giving me even a courtesy rejection they can proclaim innocence to the problem or to the depth of the problem. “I didn’t know!” Well, I have a list of 87 people in various companies in Hollywood, from studio executives, to indie divisions, talent agencies, management companies, entertainment lawyers, to entertainment columnists, to celebrities that I have selected based on how involved they are in making movies in Hollywood, such as their own production companies, to those within the business that I thought would be helpful due to their own personal experiences with a disAbility or someone with a disAbility and/or through their contact info such as their through their agents, publicists, managers or staff at their companies. I have documented all of these attempts from phone calls, faxes, emails, and letters to their attention! Guess what? Ignorance is not an EXCUSE! Blame your assistant, your agent, your manager, your publicists, or staff but your name was on the communication that you have failed to even give an answer. What? Legally you couldn’t respond because it did not go through proper channels? A personal communication where I am NOT pitching you an unsolicited screenplays which you will only consider coming from an agent or attorney (everyone knows this and that is why I just want to ask about those with a disAbility and your interest in authentic voices and representation or the films you HAVE NOT produced) and therefore cannot be dismissed through the lame excuse as “proper channels.”

 

So it must be that Hollywood is afraid. Afraid of what? Those in a wheelchair might dominate and take over the industry? Afraid that they will have to pour money into films that will that have the same potential as any other film to not make any money in return? I have an answer – I have commercially viable film projects that happen to provide an authentic voice and representation and therefore will be breaking the stereotypes and helping to end the discrimination. Is providing both social and business solutions within my film projects not enough? Is it that by not recognizing those with a disAbility as a minority you can easily just create an “outreach” program that sits around and pretends to care? Take applications at your job fairs but never provide for a fair and equal opportunity? Oh, wait by doing these things you can say that you are helping even if this is shell companies and programs because nobody is questioning them. Well I am and I am being contacted regularly by those with a disAbility who are experiencing this first hand. If these diversity programs and outreach gatherings are working where are the products that show the diversity of using those with a disAbility in Hollywood?

 

Here is a quick look at some of the facts that are supported through links and direct documents found throughout AbilitiesUnited.com.

 



  • An overwhelming majority of the Diversity Programs in Hollywood DO NOT include those with a disAbility.

 

  • Even the press such as Variety, Hollywood Reporter and the LA Times reports on Multi-Authenticity and Diversity only speaking of racial, nationality, gender and sexual preference as minorities. I have even tried getting a hold of The Oprah Show, Larry King and Montel Williams Show. The only exception is when a film like “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” come along and they can talk about how it “transcends the human condition” which is another STEREOTYPE.

 

  • 2005 SAG report on Performers with a disAbility prove the incredibly blatant and wide-spread discrimination right down to the auditions.

 

  • “There are approximately 54 million Americans with disabilities, and yet they remain virtually invisible in the media.” This is the first line in the SAG report.

 

  • By way of comparison there are approximately 40 million African Americans, 40 million Hispanics, and 15 million gay, lesbian, transgenders, and yet the largest and fastest growing minority over the past decade – that will continue to be the largest and fastest growing as the Baby Boomers enter retirement age when disabilities are more likely to occur, and with the returning military men & women from Iraq and Afghanistan with injuries and disAbilities are ignored, dismissed or a the very best given Hollywood stereotypes and blatant discrimination to represent them.

 

  • One of several recommendations of the SAG report says the industry needs to “Advocate for the inclusion of performers with disabilities in all diversity employment initiatives. Address images, language and attitudes that contribute or hinder inclusion in the workplace.”

 

  • Even of the very few movies that feature a character with a disAbility nearly all are written, directed and acted by the able bodied. There are virtually no authentic voices or representations in Hollywood.

 

  • Even of the very few movies that feature a character with a disAbility they nearly all are stereotypically all about the disability, surrounded by a political agenda, or predictably inspirational.

 

  • After nearly 3 years since the SAG report on this incredible, industry-wide discrimination of those with a disAbility – virtually nothing has changed.

 

So what is the answer? How can this change? Will it ever change even if given a complete solution? After the business community has rejected my proposals based solely on the fact that my company is in the entertainment industry (read more at AbilitiesUnited.com) – I have turned my last hope to the entertainment industry. Surely they will see – after all we speak the same language of art and business. But despite the numerous attempts, they have rejected me, ignored, dismissed, tossed me away without even a “sorry there is nothing I can do, but good luck” from everyone in Hollywood that I generally listed above. I have tried to be personable, creative, determined, informative, and nothing has worked to even get a response! Wait a minute there has been two responses – one from a manager of a well a known actress and one personally from an actress (which the most surprising is that she is one of mine favorites) which I did not send a communicative asking directly for her assistance – so it was a round about way and at least she expressed concern and support – which I can not express how much that has meant to me. But, two out of more than two hundred attempts (many of those listed above I have tried multiple times to follow up or to get any response) and so less than 1% is not going to do anything – especially when neither of the responses where to the question of assisting in this mission.

 

So now what? I have prepared to make a mark on this by presenting or trying to present a solution. Recently I have mentioned that I will mobilize the disability rights organizations and advocates along with support groups, the entertainment news media and the 54+ million Americans with a disAbility, their families & friends to protest and bring attention to Hollywood on the problems since they will not give the solution to their repressing actions they force on those with a disAbility any attention. Here are the options.

 

  1. Produce one of my short films – “Glacial Breeze” is the front runner!

 

  1. Producer one of my feature films – I prefer “London Time” but I love and have fans of “Forever Yours” too!

 

  1. Produce a documentary film that will turn the cameras on Hollywood and name the names on all of my documented attempts I have made to get anybody’s attention to this problem.

 

  1. Produce the Protests as mentioned above to focus on the blatant discrimination and problems – which there are many as I am listing in this entry – through out the blog and my website – that the industry forces on those with a disAbility.

 

So which one should I focus on? I am tired of beating my head and heart against the Hollywood wall and nobody apparently caring. Even if we were given the selected opportunity for an authentic voice and representation that they give many other minorities – at least that would be something – but we do not even get that. If I am lying or even exaggerating where are these authentic voices and representations?

 

So I need to focus on one and push it to completion. And I will. I have not given up in over 12 years even with the massive obstacles and rejections, personal sacrifices, and I surely will not now. Especially since this Mission and my passion for storytelling on film is the main reason I wake up every single day with the hope that this is going to be the day, despite all my added physical, emotional, and social challenges I will face because of being a paraplegic, that this will be the day I will get the assist to launch what we will all look back on and say was the beginning of the “turning point” for those with a disAbility on both sides of the camera in Hollywood.

 

I am curious, who will it be that contacts me or that accepts my call and to add their Abilities to be United with me and soon to be so many in “Breaking the Hollywood Stereotypes & Ending the Discrimination of Characters and People with a disAbility.” Providing a permanent solution with Abilities United Productions providing an authentic voice and representation and becoming a home for Hollywood with disAbilities!

Been Here & Done That!

Hello everyone, anyone? Well I just wanted to say that I am still here! I know its been a while since my last blog entry – but I have been busy with the website and for about 6 weeks went back to work full time – until I was let go 2 weeks before Christmas. 

Everyday right now I hope will be the day that all of this will be recognized by someone. I contact people in the business everyday. They never respond but I continue to work on this from the time I get up to even while laying in bed before going to sleep. My plans to make it to Sundance – a mere 2-3 hour drive south, to create awareness and gain support for this Mission was obviously not meant to be. Moving back to LA, after 20 years will happen sometime this year. My resources have once again dwindled, thanks in large part to not getting Abilities United or any of the film projects funded and being let go from the damn job. So I am back to the mercy of the money gods!

Meanwhile, I have made some good discoveries – well they are not so good but it is good to discover them so that I can address them and then move forward. It came to my attention that most in Hollywood assume there are programs that are like mine – or that help those like myself, that have a disAbility and want to contribute an authentic voice to express my point of view of the world! BUT that is a false assumption Hollywood! Even your own Diversity Programs primarily focus on those of a racial or nationality minority. Gender and alternative lifestyles or sexual preference whatever fucking politically correct term you want to use to describe a minority that is less than a quarter of the size of the disabled community – yet they have programs on television, movies, an entire cable network and diversity programs that are substantial enough to provide an authentic help for their authentic voices! If you did not come here from the homepage, then I strongly recommend that you go back to AbilitiesUnited.com and find all the new stuff I have added.

So if I hear of one more minority bitching in the news about not having a fair representation of the size and importance of their group in today’s movie and television programs – and it is not from one of the 54+ million Americans with a disAbility – I may totally fucking lose it! I am already on the edge – after all I am at the end of the rope – again – it is not the first time. In the past 12 years, if I take off my socks, I could count the times I have been here. It causes a lot of anxiety. But the only thing I have to hold onto, so I guess you can say that the rope is hope. I damn sure hope and on occasion just know that it will happen today. And when the day ends as it is right now, I cling to tomorrow!

I do not worry about making this Mission happen – I know I will – I have come too far and been through too much to make this happen – to break the stereotypes and help end the discrimination of those of us with a disAbility by providing an authentic voice and representation. I am more concerned about WHEN. What is going to happen to me while I continue this dedication, passion, sacrifice. This is it, this is  my everything and as it has been made very clear to me – it is all I can turn to, their is nobody or anything that I can turn to. So let us all sleep well tonight, dream of tomorrow and when we wake, smile, genuinely and positively smile and have the attitude, force yourself out of bed, drag yourself into your chair, plop into the bathroom and get ready for this will hopefully be the day that the we move to the next level. I am not foolish enough to think that will solve all the problems – but it just means that finally after 12 long years and the 4,380 days of keeping it real – that I am making progress that is not alone or confined to my dreams and my computer! That day is coming! Will it be tomorrow? Cling baby, cling as I hope it is!

Catch 22 with Authentic Voices

I work so hard at selling Hollywood the authentic voices of those with
a disability.
My authentic voice of those with a disability and then in the
future other’s can provide their authentic voice of those with a disability through
Abilities United Productions. The crazy part is that the disabled community is
the most diverse – it includes those who belong to all other minorities and
whether a person is born with or acquired a disability the one thing that is a
constant is that the disability affects those of all backgrounds and does not
discriminate – it afflicts those from all races, nationalities, economic class,
gender, lifestyle, age, no one is immune.

 

Forget about the voice for a moment and just concentrate on
the authentic. Being a person with a disability is extremely difficult and
nobody except those with a disability can understand all that it includes. The
problem I have is with the contradiction I face everyday of my life. I try so
hard for everyone else to see me, treat me, love me, hate me, desire me, think
of me as no different then the man standing
next to me. Treat me the same but I am not the same and in no way can expect to
be the same. In this effort I guess what I am really trying to do is have you
treat me as fairly as you would the person standing
next to me. What I want is for you to look at my eyes, my heart, my soul
without the judgments and stereotypes, the pity, the fear of saying the wrong
thing, the book cover, the pre-conceived notions of those with a disability.

 

But how do I get you to look beyond all of that when it
seems my mere appearance cannot help but have those challenges on the front of
your mind? I feel I can only do that if I hide the pain, the challenges that
are physical, emotional, social, economical, because I fear if I show just a
moment of any of that then it will take away from all of my efforts of being
seen as a man first, a person, a human being treated as equal to the man standing next to me. And this is a
challenge that has to be added to those I am already facing day in and day out.

 

I just watched “Talk to Me” with Don Cheadle who is a great
actor and the film was a great story and it reminded me of a thought I have
from time to time and especially when I liken my work of breaking the
stereotypes and ending the discrimination in Hollywood of those with a disability
– to the stereotypes and discrimination of black characters and actors and
people before the time of the great actor Sidney Poitier and the filmmakers
around him in the 1960’s. Interesting part that struck me was the fact that
those of us in the disabled community do not have a spokesperson, someone to
stand up for us on a national stage like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or Malcom
X. Maybe it is because we are so diverse and those with different disabilities
are almost like those of a different race. But when we come together we have an
unspoken connection and can still relate to one another through the common
challenges that at the very least the same in societies’ opinions and treatment
toward us all with a disability.

 

As far as culture that we as a community have and is often
ignored thanks in part because of the Hollywood
stereotypes and incredible discrimination of those with a disability – there is
a voice and in some cases a language that only those within the community can
understand. “That wheeler is twelve years post banged T-7,8 complete! Bagged or
intermitted. Reflex, voluntary, manual, digital, managed, powered.”    

 

We do have a voice and my conflict of contradictions between
the life I lead and the face I present to the world so I am hopefully treated
the same as the man standing next to me is part of that voice! Both are crucial
elements of my life – so writing stories that do not have much to do with the
disability and ones where it is more prevalent as to the character and what he
or she is dealing with are both a part of the authentic voice. I never ignore
the disability in my screenplays and stories but I also do not focus on it –
and I try to show those characters in ways the general public is not familiar
with and then go – WOW! Similar to the audiences’ reactions to the documentary
film “Murderball” about the quad rugby team preparing and going to the
Paralympics and won the Sundance Audience Award! My screenplay, “London Time”
provides moments, certain scenes including the opening scene that changes that
perception, stereotype even when the majority of the story you forget that
Detective London is even in a chair!

 

Other stories it is more prevalent like the three vignettes
about wheelers dealing with love, sex and relationships. Or the “Up, Up and
Away” about the pilot wheeler who crashes in the Rockies on his solo flight to
his writing retreat and it shows the old castaway story in a new light from a
new perspective, well new to the general able bodied audiences and I hope, I
certainly feel it is entertaining!

 

Maybe in some way I will make this challenge of
contradictions more of the make up in one of my characters but in the meantime
I am satisfied that all are authentic voices of those with a disability! The
more that can be shown the better the representation – but first we have to
convince Hollywood that even one of these stories is an authentic voice and
that they better help us portray it on the big screen before a media force
begins focusing on the FACTS of their blatant discrimination and awful stereotypes
of those with a disability on both sides of the camera continues regardless of how one of it’s own guilds – SAG pointed out these facts over 2 years ago and still nothing has been done!

 

Wake up Hollywood – I do not want to focus on the problem
but rather feature the solutions and I have detailed them out in every respect
– and speaking of respect – how is the lyric go from the queen of soul, Aretha
Franklin? “R.E.S.P.E.C.T. find out what it means to me!” You better realize
what it means to all of us – all 54+ MILLION AMERICANS with a disability!

 

This is Fair Warning, Hollywood,
otherwise a writers strike is nothing compared to the way of public relations
trouble this will bring! So do you want to talk to me about the problems or the
solutions?
Either way you will be talking about it soon! If we take this to the media to talk about the problems, I already have a list of people and companies who have ignored me and I will not have much of a problem talking about the exact treatment and replies or non-replies I have gotten so far! And if you think you can call on ignorance as an excuse – think again – think again!

I am going to be
“Breaking the Hollywood Stereotypes of Characters and People with a Disability”
and it is your choice to cooperate and be known for helping end the
discrimination and stereotypes or for continuing to repress and ignore those
with a disability. Again, I am going to make it happen, how it happens is your
choice!

What’s Up, Doc –umentary film?

I have to apologize for the rather long blog posts lately! I ramble and sometime too much! But I do try and keep them all relevant and hopefully thought provoking. Today I have been seriously thinking of recording, documenting my journey in providing the authentic voice and representation of those with a disability in today’s motion pictures!

Maybe if I turn the camera on Hollywood and ask them the questions I have been politely in phone calls, letters, and faxes and bring a camera to their offices for a response, that should get an answer, right? Only if the documentary film actually gets shown – so it would be real important that it delivers the same Hollywood medicine that it dishes out!

The questions I am and would ask with a doc camera:

Does everyone deserve to be heard and be given a fair and equal opportunity regardless of race, gender, age, nationality, lifestyle or disability?

With over 54 million Americans with a disability, compared to the approximately 40 million Hispanics, 40 million African-Americans, and 15 million gay, lesbian and transgenders, deserve to have a voice and be represented in today’s motion pictures?

Is it important that the voice and representation be authentically written, directed and acted by those from their respective minority or sub-group?

Doesn’t every business want to capitalize on niche product that has universal, wide appeal?

Why is that nearly every other industry in America made changes to their product, service and/or marketing to attract the disabled consumer market with an aggregate income that exceeds $1 trillion annually and has over $220 BILLION in discretionary spending power, except for the motion picture and television industry?

Why is it that an industry with so many of its individuals, companies, organizations and associations proclaim how inclusive they are to all people, all nationalities, all races, all ages should be given an equal chance or at the very least an opportunity to voice their opinions and be heard — except those with a disability? What? That isn’t true? Show me the motion pictures that have been either produced or distributed with one of the established studio names on it, and that includes those “indiewood” companies that the studios have boughten or created such as Miramax, New Line, Searchlight, Vantage, etc. that feature a character with a disability. How many are there? And of those how many are stereotypical? Stereotypical meaning they either center on the disability, are surrounded by a political agenda, or are predictably inspirational? And of those, how many are authentically written, directed and/or acted by someone with the same or similar disability?

Isn’t not being able to walk, or see, or hear to any degree let alone at all, a little more then having a dialect coach for an Irish accent? What would  you think if the writer and director of “Boys in the Hood” or “Do the Right Thing” was Clint Eastwood or Brett Ratner? And acted by Ben Stiller in make-up? How authentic would that be?  Do you think it is not as significant being paralyzed as it is to be African-American? I am NOT saying they are the same or equal in “being” but I am saying that despite the talents of the actor, being able bodied and acting paralyzed is equally authentic as a white actor acting black. Eminem doesn’t count!!!

The days of Al Jolson’s in a wheelchair are over!

So I have the questions, but ` what about answers to what I can only presume would be Hollywood objections or concerns. The main one being audiences might not want to see a person with a disability because it reminds them of how finite and delicate this life is.
Answer: The 2005 Sundance AUDIENCE Award went to “Murderball”! Today’s audiences are intelligent and discerning. They also want to see things from a different perspective and so long as there are some universal points they can relate to, such as not being accepted in certain circles, overcoming challenges, etc. they will love the movie.  It is about story and character and in a fresh, new way of presenting it that is what I strive for.

There is risk in new ventures and that can be really expensive. Why risk on this perspective that has never been all that successful unless it was in a stereotypical story and portrayed by able bodied – name recognized actors?
Answer: Simple it is always a risk. And while the risk of losing can be significant – so can  the potential for profit! Stereotypical roles and stories will only get you a limited audience and especially today and therefore will not be that successful and in fact would most likely not make any ROI. Something a little different, risque, touchy subjects, Brokeback Mountain, Little Miss Sunshine, Crash!

And I know I can attract and attach a name recognized talent to co-star with my actor with a disability for at least two reasons. One is the script, character and story. They are good parts and co-starring roles not supporting roles. Second reason is that actors know what it is like being an actor. Actors are passionate people and just like how my storytelling on film goes to who I am, acting is for actors – A-Listers were not always A-List actors, they know what it is like to struggle in getting parts and parts that are good! And when I present to them how their participation in my film(s) is going to help end the discrimination against those in their own field of acting – that there are plenty of actors out there right now that are struggling just as they did BUT add the discrimination – the largest discrimination of those with a disability then most industires – they will want to help end that terrible injustice!

And my company vision is that one day, in the future the actors with a disability will become household recognizable A-List talent just like the able bodied celebrity counterparts of today!

There are other questions and guess what – there are answers for them too! Bring it on and I can answer them for you! And Hollywood better hurry up and ask me otherwise I am going to be asking them questions and I will have a camera operator with extra battery packs with me! What’s Up, Doc?