Easterseals Disability Film Challenge Announces $15,000 Seed Fund and Film Finishing Grants, Here’s How to Register

Los Angeles, CA (Release): The 2024 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge (EDFC) opens registration on January 20 (registration at DisabilityFilmChallenge.com), with the competition taking place April 2-7. The awards ceremony will take place on May 9 at Sony Pictures Studios.

This year, in addition to the traditional Film Challenge awards of cash, goods, subscriptions, mentoring and screening opportunities, EDFC will award ten $15,000 film seed funds/finishing grants. Made possible by a grant from the Adobe Foundation, as part of the Adobe Film & TV Fund, the EDFC scholarships will be awarded to the winners of Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenwriter, Best Actor and Best Editor to develop more the winning film. short film and/or accelerate the development of their projects into feature films or episodic series. Additionally, grants will also be awarded to five former EDFC participants who can submit their previous Film Challenge entries for consideration by a review committee, with winners announced at the EDFC awards ceremony . The grant will also fund EDFC workshops and other activities throughout the year.

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(L to R) Eileen Grubba, Mario Fierro, Sebastian Gonzalez, Christine Marshall, Camilo Godoy, Marie Alyse Rodriguez, Layne Apffel, Sophia Morales, Chase Chambers, Brandon Simmoneau, Peter Farrelly, Justin Jackerson, Nic Novicki, Jamie Brewer, Jules Dameron, Mila Davis-Kent, Kat Coiro, Diana Elizabeth Jordan, Joci Scott, Cory Reeder, Allison Friedman, Nathan Cox, Valerie Harvey and nominees attend the 10th Annual Easterseals Disability Film Challenge at Sony Pictures Studios on May 4, 2023 in Culver City, in California.  (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Easterseals Disability Film Challenge)
(L to R) Eileen Grubba, Mario Fierro, Sebastian Gonzalez, Christine Marshall, Camilo Godoy, Marie Alyse Rodriguez, Layne Apffel, Sophia Morales, Chase Chambers, Brandon Simmoneau, Peter Farrelly, Justin Jackerson, Nic Novicki, Jamie Brewer, Jules Dameron, Mila Davis-Kent, Kat Coiro, Diana Elizabeth Jordan, Joci Scott, Cory Reeder, Allison Friedman, Nathan Cox, Valerie Harvey and nominees attend the 10th Annual Easterseals Disability Film Challenge at Sony Pictures Studios on May 4, 2023 in Culver City, in California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Easterseals Disability Film Challenge)

The genre featured for the 11th annual Film Challenge will be revealed at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival, during IMDbPro and Prime Video’s Intentionally Intersectional panel (January 19).

Since the Film Challenge launched in 2013, aspiring filmmakers have created and submitted more than 600 short films (a record 115 last year) from nearly every state and around the world.

According to the CDC, 25% of U.S. residents, or more than 61 million people, have a disability, making them the largest minority population today. Yet, according to a study released last summer by USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, the number of speaking characters with disabilities in a major motion picture was only 1.9% in 2022. GLAAD also released a report in 2022 which revealed that only 2.8% of series regulars on prime-time television (22 out of 775) were disabled characters. And according to the Ruderman Family Foundation’s most recent study, about 95 percent of disabled characters in Hollywood’s top movies and TV shows are played by able-bodied actors.

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Phil Lord, Chris Miller and Nic Novicki present the Best Director award to Christine Marshall for
Phil Lord, Chris Miller and Nic Novicki present the Best Director award to Christine Marshall for “Rain in My Head” onstage during the 10th Easterseals Disability Film Challenge at Sony Pictures Studios on May 4, 2023 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Easterseals Disability Film Challenge)

“As we continue to strive to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace in Hollywood, we have made progress, but there is still much work to do,” said Novicki, who was recently seen in the film award-winning Spider-Man. : Across the Spider-Verse. “Disability continues to be frequently overlooked in discussions about diversity and inclusion and we need to be part of this conversation. I created the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge to help accelerate change and showcase talented filmmakers and actors, providing them with the opportunity to overcome obstacles and achieve their dreams. We are proud of the exceptional films produced over the past 11 years and I am grateful that the Challenge has provided a high-profile platform that has enabled many of our participants to achieve such success.

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“Saying yes to my first Easterseals Disability Film Challenge and facing my fear of the unknown literally put me on the path I was meant to be on,” said actor Danny Gomez, a wheelchair user who will participate in the Film Challenge for the seventh time this year. “It showed me that anything is possible for disabled actors. There is a place for us in this industry. It also led to me signing with my first agent and my first guest star on NBC’s “New Amsterdam.” It was life changing.

Mark Whitley, President and CEO of Easterseals Southern California, said, “Hollywood is only beginning to harness the power of inclusion and highlight this important segment of our society. The Easterseals Disability Film Challenge gives filmmakers, actors and their teams the opportunity to change the way we all experience and understand disability.

(L to R) Tobias Phillips, Bob Farrelly, Apple Farrelly, Nic Novicki, Peter Farrelly and Melinda Farrelly attend the 10th Annual Easterseals Disability Film Challenge at Sony Pictures Studios on May 4, 2023 in Culver City, California.  (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Easterseals Disability Film Challenge)
(L to R) Tobias Phillips, Bob Farrelly, Apple Farrelly, Nic Novicki, Peter Farrelly and Melinda Farrelly attend the 10th Annual Easterseals Disability Film Challenge at Sony Pictures Studios on May 4, 2023 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Easterseals Disability Film Challenge)

During the Film Challenge, registered filmmakers have a five-day period within the designated period to write and produce short films (one to five minutes), based on the genre announced for the year, that promote inclusion of people with disabilities. Submitted films are judged in six categories: best film, best director, best actor, best screenwriter, best editor and best awareness campaign.

Winners gain access to entertainment leaders and resources, opening the door to a notoriously difficult-to-enter industry, as well as a variety of prizes to help them achieve their career goals, including:

● Cash prize of $2,000 to each winner.

● $15,000 film seed fund/finishing grant awarded by the Adobe Foundation to winners of the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenwriter, Best Actor, and Best Editor awards to further develop the winning short film and/or expedite production development of their projects into feature films. or episodic series.

● Dell Technologies Computers.

● 1-year premium subscription to IMDbPro, the essential resource for entertainment industry professionals.

● Screenings at Oscar-qualifying festivals including Heartland Film Festival, HollyShorts Film Festival and NewFilmmakers LA.

● One-year subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud, the world’s best platform for creative apps and services, letting you create whatever you can imagine, wherever you’re inspired.

● Mentoring meetings with entertainment industry executives and talent, including Emmy-nominated actor Ryan O’Connell (Special, Queer as Folk); Ivana Lombardi, director of cinema, Netflix; Karen Noble, Senior Director, Creative Talent and Content, Global Talent Development and Inclusion, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group; Steven O’Dell, president of Sony Pictures Releasing International; and Tiffany Smith-Anoa’i, Executive Vice President, Entertainment Diversity & Inclusion, West Coast, Paramount Global, among others to be announced.

The 2024 Film Challenge will be judged by entertainment industry talent including: Nicole Castro, Executive Director of the Hollyshorts Film Festival; director Kat Coiro (She Hulk, Dead to Me, Marry Me); Jerome Core, head of US and global DEIA content at Amazon MGM Studios and Prime Video; filmmaker and activist Jenni Gold (CinemAbility: The Art of Inclusion); Tim Gray, executive vice president of the Golden Globes; Stacey Wilson Hunt, editor-in-chief, The Hollywood Reporter; Andraéa LaVant, disability inclusion expert and founder of LaVant Consulting; model/actress Jillian Mercado (The L Word: Generation Q); filmmaker and activist Jim LeBrecht (Crip Cramp, Battlefield Earth, Pitch Black); Col Needham, founder and CEO of IMDb; journalist Allison Norlian, three-time Emmy nominee; actor Mark Povinelli, president of Little People of America; journalist Richard Propes, The Independent Critic; journalist Cara Reedy (CNN, NPR, The Guardian); Gil Robertson, president of the African American Film Critics Association; actor, dancer and Deaf advocate Shaheem Sanchez (Sound of Metal); journalist Lindzi Scharf (Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly, WWD); Jennifer Wilson, director of independent film nominations; and actor and comedian Danny Woodburn (Mirror Mirror, Jingle All the Way, Seinfeld).

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