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Record-Breaking Participation at 11th Annual Easterseals Disability Film Challenge

May 14, 2024

Golden Globe Foundation

The five-day film challenge inspired 135 entrants with 6 winners announced and 12 grants presented at the Cary Grant Theater on the Sony Pictures Studios Lot on Thursday.

Hollywood is known the world over for its red carpet events and an air of excitement around a new project, but the atmosphere on the orange carpet at the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge (EDFC) is quite unique. When an underrepresented community takes matters into its own hands and comes together to celebrate its abilities, the excitement becomes that much more palpable.  

EDFC, an annual 5-day long contest open to filmmakers worldwide, prompts artists to collaborate on creating 1- to 5-minute films integrating story elements that acknowledge disability, making EDFC a platform for aspiring storytellers – with and without disabilities – to write, shoot, and edit short films showcasing disability in its many forms.

CULVER CITY, CALIFORNIA – MAY 09: Finalists pose for a photo ahead of the 11th Annual Easterseals Disability Film Challenge Awards at Sony Pictures Studios on May 09, 2024 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Easterseals Disability Film Challenge)

Winners and finalists of EDFC have the ability to meet with industry leaders and participate in workshops to advance their career in the entertainment business, encouraging disability inclusion in front of and behind the camera. The project aims to bring tangible, sustainable employment opportunities in scripted film and television for people with disabilities. Golden Globe Foundation funds support professional training and mentoring.

Thursday night’s celebration marked 11 years of EDFC advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion in the entertainment industry. Attendees included “Ricky Stanicky” writer, producer and director Peter Farrelly, comedian Nate Bargatze, “Coda” director Siân Heder, Caterina Scorsone of “Grey’s Anatomy,” Sheaun McKinney of “The Neighborhood,” Rick Glassman of “Not Dead Yet,” Jillian Mercado of “The L Word: Generation Q” and Heather Morris of “Glee.”

For this year’s challenge, filmmakers had just 5 days to create short films based on the Buddy Comedy genre. To participate in the challenge, one person involved in the production must be a person with a disability (in front of or behind the camera). Indicative of the underutilized talent on show, the winners in all categories were themselves people with disabilities.

A shortlist of nominees was selected from a record-breaking 135 entries and celebrity presenters announced winners in six categories:

Best Actor
Kiersten Kelly, “Emergency Contact” (WINNER)
Brett Maline, “Wrong Guy”
Harold Foxx, “Open to Interpretation”
Vincent Rutley, “Step Buddies”

Best Awareness Campaign
Sawsan Zakaria, “Out of Reach” (WINNER)
Judith Rubin, “CARPS”
Zach Anner, “Wheelchair Club”
Anna Pakman, “Wheelchair Money”

Best Director
Chase Chambers, “The Case of the Obsidian Muskrat” (WINNER)
Luke J. Salewski, “Audio Description”
Raymond Scott & Nick Hagelin, “Little Help”
Christina Cannarella, “Kind of a Big Deal”

Best Editor
Chase Chambers, “The Case of the Obsidian Muskrat” (WINNER)
Riley Madincea, “Emergency Contact”
George Thomson, “Body Swap”
Nirmal Singh & Sean Keogh, “Best Friends Forever”

Best Writer
David Radcliff, “Call the A.D.A.” (WINNER)
Luke J. Salewski, “Audio Description”
Carey Leigh Cox & Joseph Kibler, “Adoptive”
Zach Anner, Josh Flanagan & Chris Demarais, “Wheelchair Club”

Best Film
Lee Pugsley, “Audio Description” (WINNER)
Justin Jackerson, “The Case of the Obsidian Muskrat”
Brett Maline, “Wrong Guy”
Zach Anner, “Wheelchair Club”

CULVER CITY, CALIFORNIA – MAY 09: The 11th Annual Easterseals Disability Film Challenge at Sony Pictures Studios on May 09, 2024 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Easterseals Disability Film Challenge)

Winners receive:

  • Mentorship from established entertainment industry veterans
  • Academy Award-qualifying festival screenings
  • Access to a $15,000 seed fund
  • IMDbPro and Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions
  • Dell computers
  • A cash prize
  • A Sony Cinema Line Camera FX30 complete with lens, microphone and memory card.

Easterseals also presented 12 seed fund/film finishing grants of $15,000 each to selected finalists and winners to further develop their short films. EDFC founder, comedian and actor Nic Novicki said, “People who are disabled comprise 25% percent of the population and we are ready to see ourselves authentically represented in Hollywood. Disability continues to be frequently overlooked in D&I discussions and we need to be part of that conversation. We had 135 films made by and starring disabled artists and that number is only growing each year, a testament to the talent in our community.”

Novicki, who most recently voiced Lego Spider-Man in Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Animation’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” said, “As we continue to strive to build a more diverse and inclusive workplace in Hollywood, we have made advancements, but there is still much work to be done.”

CLICK HERE to watch all of the EDFC Buddy Comedy shorts!

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