In a move to support one of the most under represented groups in the entertainment industry, the Easterseals organization partnered with the LA based Disability Film Challenge founded by producer, actor, writer and stand up comedian Nic Novicki this Spring.
As we continue our coverage of the unique and diverse sectors within the entertainment industry, we got a chance to sit down with Novicki poolside at the Hollywood Roosevelt to learn more about his endeavor and recent premier affiliation with the Easterseals.
Q: Tell us about the evolution of the Disability Film Challenge and how the Easterseals got involved this year.
A: A handful of years ago I came up with the idea to start the disability film challenge to help bring awareness and to support people in the entertainment industry whom have disabilities. Over 56 million people in the US live with some form of disability. My mission with this film challenge was designed to help these marginalized groups within the creative space have a platform to showcase their unique projects through This year we had more submissions in the four years of the challenge running while establishing wonderful sponsorships and support allegiances with DELL, CBS Diversity and SAG-AFTRA.
Q: Tell us about your personal connection to this cause of disability performing artists in the industry?
A: Being that I personally represent one of the many recognized disability groups in the US, I’ve always had to carve out my own path in this industry by creating my own roles and hustle harder than most. I’ve had the privilege over the years to partner with so many talented people and organizations in the creative space over the course of career that all supported by vision by bringing the film challenge idea to reality in the last handful of years. Becoming a mentor with CBS diversity not only has helped me in my own career as a performer with disabilities but more importantly has helped bring to light the lack of diversity at the studio level.
Q: How does the Easterseals Disability Film challenge work?
A: We just completed our fourth year this Spring. People in the entertainment space with and without disabilities are encouraged to participate in our challenge. Each team produces a short film within 55 hours over the course of one full weekend lasting no more than five minutes showcasing at least one member of the cast or crew with a disability. Prior to the challenge, each participating team is emailed a short list of elements involving a genre/theme, prop/locations that need to be included in the film.
Q: Tell us about the categories and prizes the winners receive.
A: This year we partnered with DELL to offer our winners in four categories brand new computers. We also partnered with Hollyshorts Film Festival (now an Oscar qualifying festival) to screen our winning films at the famous and iconic TCL Chinese theater on Hollywood Blvd in August. We’ve got four unique achievement categories that filmmakers content for each year. Best Film, Best Filmmaker, Best Actor and Best Promotional Campaign. Winners for 2017 will be announced in the coming weeks.
Leaders from both Easter Seals and CBS Entertainment Diversity also shared with us more about their new partnerships with Nic’s endeavor. Senior Vice President of Entertainment Diversity & Communications at CBS Entertainment Tiffany Smith-Anoa’i offered these remarks about their involvement.
Q: Tell us about working with Nic Novicki and how CBS Entertainment Diversity supports his vision of the Easterseals Film Challenge.
A: Nic is a former participant of our annual Diversity Sketch Comedy Showcase. It was his undeniable talent and dedication to the program that paved the way for our continuous communication. When Nic presented his project to us we were thrilled. It is so rewarding to see former showcase participants take charge and continue to advocate for diversity in entertainment, especially on behalf of the largest and most underrepresented minority in the United States. Our support is beyond question.
Q: What type of support and scope of collaboration is involved with your sponsorship?
A: In addition to judging the submissions, a major aspect of our collaboration is having the pleasure of spending time with the winners and mentoring them to help define the next step in their careers. It is essential for these creatives to continue to develop professional relationships not only with executives but among their peers to build a strong network with opportunities and resources.
Q: Tell us more about CBS Entertainment Diversity program/s
A: Along with our annual Diversity Sketch Comedy Showcase, our department manages five additional programs for writers, directors, actors and students that like the Easterseals film challenge, aim to showcase the talent of individuals with diverse backgrounds, both in front and behind the camera. These programs create a talent pipeline that CBS and other network counterparts can utilize. We are proud to say that every year we witness participants making headway in their careers. More information on these programs can be found at www.cbsdiversity.com
Best Film: The Best Film award is presented to the leading producer based on the film’s incorporation of the required elements (theme, props and locations), production quality and plotline. PRIZE: The award recipient will receive a mentorship opportunity with Speechless creator Scott Silveri, one Dell mobile workstation and a spot to screen their film at the HollyShorts Film Festival at the TCL Chinese Theatres.
Best Filmmaker: The Best Filmmaker award is presented to the director of the film with the most outstanding direction of acting, cinematography and storytelling. Dependent upon the genre/theme, judges base their decision on the director’s ability to evoke emotions in specific scenes as well as surrounding the overall film as appropriate. PRIZE: The award recipient will receive a mentorship opportunity with actor, writer, and director Randall Park, one Dell 2-in-1 computer and a spot to screen their film at the HollyShorts Film Festival at the TCL Chinese Theatres
Best Actor: The Best Actor award is presented to the actor with the most memorable performance. Judges consider the complexity of the character and the actor’s ability to take on this challenging role. PRIZE: The award recipient will receive a mentorship opportunity with actress, writer, producer, and activist Amy Brenneman one Dell 2-in-1 computer and a spot to screen their film at the HollyShorts Film Festival at the TCL Chinese Theatres.
Best Awareness Campaign: The Best Awareness Campaign award is presented to the leading producer for the team that raises the most awareness for their film through marketing strategies. Judges will review the YouTube videos for number of overall views, shares, likes, and press coverage. PRIZE: The award recipient will receive a mentorship opportunity with the Executive Vice President of Entertainment Diversity, Inclusion and Communications at CBS Entertainment, Tiffany Smith-Anoa’i.
Q: Tell us about the mentors and judges that are involved in the challenge.
A: The Easterseals Disability Film Challenge provides both an opportunity to hone filmmakers skills and the chance to interact with well seasoned entertainment industry professionals and have their work scrutinized and screened by some very well established filmmakers . We’re proud to work with producers, writers, directors, casting directors and other crew members in two ways. Our Mentors meet with each of our winners to give advice on building a career in “the business.” All mentors and judges can be found on their website HERE.
We also got a chance to connect with the MARK WHITLEY – President and CEO of Easter Seals Southern California who shared with us some great insight on his organizations new sponsorship of the program.
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