Hollywood Professionals with Disabilities Help Millions Gain Safe Access to Food

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A group of entertainment professionals, in partnership with the disability advocacy nonprofit RespectAbility, have created a campaign to ensure that people who use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can do so through online delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This new video, which features those who use wheelchairs, are blind and are immunocompromised from all over the country, encourages grassroots participation in the #SNAPDeliverySavesLives campaign at www.respectability.org/SNAP. We hope you will participate so lives can be saved.

Nationwide, 11 million Americans with disabilities depend on SNAP, also called food stamps, to pay for groceries. Fifteen states have yet to ensure their high-risk residents can receive online grocery deliveries through SNAP, leading to millions of people with and without disabilities risking exposure to COVID-19 or going hungry.

“Being a person with a disability myself, until working on this video, I did not know that so many other people with disabilities who are SNAP recipients could not have food delivered to stay safe,” said actor and producer John Lawson, a double amputee who edited the video.

Producer Jonathan Murray and director Nasreen Alkhateeb also assisted with the video’s production. Murray is a RespectAbility board member while Alkhateeb and Lawson are alumni of RespectAbility’s Lab for entertainment professionals with disabilities.

“Creative professionals have a long tradition of helping during a crisis,” said Lauren Appelbaum, who leads RespectAbility’s work in Hollywood. “We are honored that so many people with disabilities are making an impact to help millions of people safely access food during this pandemic.”

In early April, RespectAbility Board Members Ollie Cantos, whose blind triplet sons currently are recovering from COVID-19, and Janet LaBreck held several virtual convenings for people who are blind or who have low vision. During these gatherings, participants discussed the difficulties for people who are blind to socially distance while grocery shopping and conducting other essential business. These conversations led to the creation of the #SNAPDeliverySavesLives campaign.

This week RespectAbility launched a new video to encourage grassroots participation for individuals to contact their state and federally-elected officials, as well as the USDA, to ensure that people who use SNAP can do so through online delivery. Individuals can do so via email, directed tweets and phone calls at https://www.respectability.org/SNAP. RespectAbility also tracks states as they apply for these USDA waivers.

Prior to the pandemic, just six states allowed SNAP users to order food for delivery. RespectAbility has been reaching out to every state on this issue, actively encouraging SNAP directors to quickly enable people with disabilities to use their benefits online. As of May 14, 22 states have been approved, and another 13 states have applied for USDA approval, leaving the governors of 15 states to act.

A key success is that CalFresh, which provides food to 1.1 million Californians with disabilities, now allows people to order food online. To take advantage of online food delivery, Californians can visit GetCalFresh.org or call 1-877-847-3663. A second program organized by the Los Angeles City’s Department on Disability, in coordination with the Mayor’s office, FOX and Access Paratransit, delivers lunches to individuals as well as families with disabilities. Several groups, including SCLARC, DOR and KEEN have connected their clients to this program. In the first three weeks of deliveries, the program delivered more than 30,000 meals to more than 620 families and individuals with disabilities. Los Angeles residents can 888-863-7411 for food delivery or fill out a Google Doc form.

This video features the following self-advocates with disabilities:

  • Tatiana Lee, Actress and RespectAbility Hollywood Inclusion Associate
  • Bella Cosper, Actress and Writer
  • Sneha Dave, Creator of the Crohn’s and Colitis Young Adults Network and RespectAbility Board Member
  • Tobias Forrest, Actor and Producer
  • Engracia Figueroa, Vice President of the Board for CALIF

Produced by Jonathan Murray. Edited by John Lawson. Additional assistance by Nasreen Alkhateeb, Lauren Appelbaum and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi.

SNAP delivery saves lives. Visit respectability.org/SNAP to learn how you can make a difference in your state.

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Watch on ABC tonight, May 14, at 9 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. CT

Media Access Awards Easterseals Interview Series: Ali Stroker
Our friends at the Media Access Awards are presenting a new weekly interview series. We invite you to watch this week’s interview with Ali Stroker, the first actor who uses a wheelchair to win a Tony Award for her role in Oklahoma. She talks about the importance of role models and representation of disabilities in media.

Watch Interview

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Meet The Biz is dedicated to developing educational opportunities for actors, artists, singers, dancers and filmmakers – with and without disabilities – through workshops that connect them with working entertainment industry professionals. This episode features an interview with RespectAbility’s Hollywood Inclusion Associate Tatiana Lee.

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Casting Calls, Jobs and Other Opportunities
New Opportunity: Sundance Institute 2021 Development Track

The Sundance Institute currently is considering fiction feature work-in-progress screenplays for their 2021 Development Track, which includes the following programs, Fellowships and grants:

  • 2021 January Screenwriters Lab (held annually in January)
  • 2021 Screenwriters Intensive (held annually in March)
  • 2021 FilmTwo Intensive (Intensive held annually in March; for filmmakers developing their second fiction feature)
  • Sundance Institute | Comedy Central Comedy Fellowship
  • Sundance Institute Asian American Fellowship
  • Sundance Institute Latinx Fellowship
  • Sundance Institute Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship and Commissioning Grant (for projects with scientific or technological content – science fiction is not eligible)

The Development Track application allows fiction feature writers, directors, writer/directors or writer/director teams to be considered for any and all of the above programs and fellowships for which they are eligible. For a complete description and eligibility information for all of these programs and fellowships, please visit their website. The application deadline is 6:00 p.m. PT on June 4, 2020, and you can find a link to the application here.

If you have additional questions, please visit the Development Track FAQ or email

Last Chance: The MPAC Hollywood Bureau

The MPAC Hollywood Bureau’s TV Pilot for a Limited Series contest around what is going on with the pandemic: This is your opportunity to share what is going on with your friends, family in community and a chance to have your work read by Grainne Godfree, an Executive Producer of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow on a 90 minute Zoom session!

The requirements:

  • Must be Muslim identifying (or at least one of the writers are if applying as a writing team)
  • Thirty pages, of any genre
  • Script contains at least one character that identifies as Muslim and is an integral part of the story
  • The script can be of any genre, and while it can contain some levity, it should not make light of the serious consequences around the virus
  • Scripts must be registered with the Writers Guild of America

Submit screenplays prior to May 15.

Last Chance: 2020 NBC Production Office Coordinator Program

The Production Office Coordinator Program gives ethnically diverse participants an opportunity to shadow a PRODUCTION OFFICE COORDINATOR on an NBC series. For the 2020-21 season, finalists on a scripted series will be dedicated to one show over the course of the season while participants on unscripted series will rotate through several shows during the same production period. Candidates must be eligible to work in the United States and should have at least one year of production experience. They should be available to start the program in July. Deadline to apply is May 17.

Learn More

NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship

AAPD is offering eight (8) NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarships for the fall semester of 2020. The NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship is available to undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities who are pursuing an interest in the media, entertainment or communications fields. Each recipient will receive $5,625 to help cover the cost of education. Deadline to apply is May 21.

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ViacomCBS 2020-2021 Writers Mentoring Program

This is a comprehensive writing program that helps launch the careers of diverse television writers, pairing them up with ViacomCBS executives as mentors to develop new material. They select five to 10 writers, assign them executive mentors to work on a pilot for four months, followed by four months of weekly workshops focused on the soft skills of maintaining a career in the industry. Deadline to apply is May 31.

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The 2021 Walt Disney Television Writing Program

WRITERS: Apply now! The 2021 Walt Disney Television Writing Program application is live. The deadline is Friday, June 5, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. PST.

This year’s application process has changed, so be sure to carefully read all application materials, following these steps to submit:

1) Read the Application Instructions: http://bit.ly/wdt-wpinstructions-2021
2) Read the FAQs: http://bit.ly/wdt-wpfaqs-2021
3) Complete the online application: http://bit.ly/wdt-wpapp-2021

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Casting Call: Cheaper By The Dozen – 12-Year-Old Girl Who Uses a Wheelchair

HARLEY BAKER: Actor to play 12, caucasian girl who has great wit and humor. She’s a superstar when it comes to stunts with her chair.

STORY LINE: Cheaper by the Dozen is a comedic portrayal of a loving, sprawling, racially-mixed blended family, in which the challenges and triumphs that come with divorce, remarriage, adoption, multiple religions, truly define what makes a family.

Please email the below address with your headshot, resume and location: [email protected]. Open to all levels of acting experience.

Casting Call: Deaf/Hard of Hearing Woman

We are helping Crypt TV cast a role for an upcoming episodic streaming series. Talent must be deaf/hard of hearing. Talent must be able to voice lines clearly in English and must be fluent in ASL.

[OLIVIA] Mid 20s – Early 30s. Olivia is guarded and reserved but strong. She has convinced herself that she’s healed from her devastating childhood trauma through her passion — music. That trauma left her nearly deaf, reliant upon a hearing aid and sign language to communicate. Because of that trauma, she never had a normal childhood. Now, she and her co-worker, Tracy, run a music center for children. In teaching them, she experiences joy and wonder through the eyes of youth.

Email to contact casting director

Casting Call: Documentary Series About Dating and Relationships Featuring People on the Autism Spectrum

Northern Pictures is looking for SINGLE people, living in the United States, who
are on the autism spectrum and are interested in dating. You may have no history of dating, or you might be an experienced dater, feel free to get in touch and say hello. They are also looking for COUPLES, or people who have just started seeing each other, even if you’re not yet official! Either one or both of you might be autistic.

There are many misconceptions out there about autism, one of them being that people aren’t interested in finding love. Northern Pictures wants to show that this isn’t true, and to help people understand more about neurodiversity. They aim to make an honest, sensitive and insightful documentary series.

If you or someone you know might be interested, please send an email with a brief description of yourself, where you live and a photo to: production.

Thank You to our Readers
Entertainment contributes to the values and ideals that define us. What we see, we feel. And what we feel impacts how we act.

This newsletter is for entertainment professionals and journalists wishing to ensure accurate, diverse and inclusive media portrayals on screen as well as behind the camera.

We also are glad to list job opportunities and casting calls for people with disabilities looking to enter and advance in the industry. Sometimes we are asked to give specific referrals, so please reach out directly so we can help make connections!

Looking for a script review or other advice on how to be inclusive? Have an inclusive film you would like reviewed? Reach out to RespectAbility’s Vice President of Communications, Lauren Appelbaum, LaurenA!

Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and visit our RespectAbility.org website, where you can find free online learning opportunities and other resources. Please reach out to us if we can provide any assistance.

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