Diversity & Inclusion Action Recording: Disability Representation in the Film Industry - 11/17/20

Making Positive Differences in How the World Sees Disabilities

i4cp’s November 17th Action Call for the Diversity & Inclusion community offered an hour of positive insights into the unique ways Sony Pictures Entertainment and other organizations are teaming with the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge to support creativity and change perspectives on disabilities.

Representing Sony Pictures was Paul Martin, SVP and Chief Diversity Officer. Joining him to talk with call facilitator Jacqui Robertson was Nic Novicki—actor, comedian, producer and founder/director of Disability Film Challenge. The annual competition challenges entrants to create a short film (1 – 5 minutes) using volunteer cast and crew and involves collaboration with at least one individual (writer, director, producer actor, titles) with a physical or cognitive disability.

Film challenge winners receive many opportunities, including wide distribution of their films, mentoring, cameras and other equipment, heightened awareness of their work, grants, and much more.

Key Ideas Shared Today:

  1. Rise to the moment
    • Martin says that the convergence of COVID-19, the deaths of George Floyd and others, and additional challenges of 2020 created a “pivot moment” for Sony, leading the organization and its leaders to take an unfiltered look at the world.
    • That clearer view shifted organizational leaders’ attention to “listening to understand.”
    • The heightened focus on seeing and hearing more clearly drove a commitment to take an internal inventory of the organization toward its setting a better example – telling more authentic stories, better reflecting the complexity of our current world, and looking at talent differently.
  2. If there’s no path, make one
    • Novicki, who stands just under 4 feet tall, explained that he began as a youngster to speak on behalf of Little People of America to expand understanding.
    • His approach leads with humor to set others at ease.
    • After attending business school, Novicki decided on a career as an actor and comedian, but found few opportunities open to him.
    • He chose to create and produce his own content in order to make opportunities for himself. That initiative has resulted in more than 40 film and television roles.
    • Novicki’s efforts to network within the film industry and disability communities gained momentum, ultimately leading to a partnership with Easterseals and winning sponsorships and support from Sony, Universal, HBO, Adobe, SAG-AFTRA, and other organizations.
  3. Giving a voice to “the silent D in diversity”
    • Martin says that his organization’s D&I function had focused primarily on gender, race, and other aspects of diversity, calling disabilities “the silent D in diversity.”
    • When he encountered Novicki, Martin led Sony into an alliance with the disabilities community, opening doors for the company to participate in supporting greater opportunities for actors, crew members, and others with disabilities.
    • The result has been broader diversity in films and behind the scenes. The buying power of the disabilities community (as film and entertainment consumers) further strengthens the business case for that greater inclusivity.

Organizations seeking to utilize winning Diversity Film Challenge films to help educate
and enhance D&I efforts in their organizations are free to do so.
Go to disabilityfilmchallenge.com for more information and view winning films on YouTube.

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Access the recording of today’s full D&I Action Call here

Register for the next D&I Call and other weekly Action Calls
at i4cp’s Employer Resource Center

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