Bentonville Film Festival & Disability Film Challenge Announces Alliance

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BENTONVILLE, Ark. (News release) – Easterseals Southern California (ESSC) – which assists more than 10,000 people with disabilities throughout Southern California – has formed a new alliance between its Easterseals Disability Film Challenge, April 13-15, and the Bentonville Film Festival (BFF), May 2-7, to promote disability awareness and inclusion through film. 

With a series of cross-promotional activities, these forward-thinking organizations are joining forces to champion inclusion, changing the way the world views and defines disability.  BFF will host panels focused on inclusion in media at both Sundance and the upcoming BFF.  Additionally, Easterseals Disability Film Challenge finalists will be announced during the fourth annual BFF, where they will also be screened. 

The two organizations made the announcement at the Sundance Film Festival, currently underway in Park City, Utah (Jan. 18-28), prior to an inaugural panel of filmmakers, producers and corporate changemakers to launch the discussion.

On hand to help introduce the new alliance and talk about the 2018 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge was Film Challenge founder and ESSC board member, actor/comedian Nic Novicki (Boardwalk Empire, Gotham Comedy Live), a little person who has successfully navigated the challenges of a working actor in Hollywood with a disability.  

BFF, was co-founded by Academy Award-winning actress/producer Geena Davis, founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Commented BFF President of Programming Wendy Guerrero, “BFF is proud to champion inclusion in all forms of media. Part of our vision has always been to embrace all creative voices and expand on the diverse content we showcase at the festival. Inclusion drives innovation and our partnership with the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge is truly an asset to our mission and event.”

One in every five Americans is living with a disability, making it the largest minority population today.  Yet far too often, their important and varied stories go untold. Of the top 900 films since 2007, just 2.7% of characters were portrayed as having a disability, according to the USC Annenberg report, “Inequality in 900 Films.” Looking at television, 1.7% of TV roles feature a character with a disability according to the GLAAD report “Where We are on TV.” 

“As the entertainment industry strives to build a more diverse and inclusive workplace, we must keep disability in the conversation,” said Novicki. “We created the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge to help accelerate change within Hollywood.  Joining with the Bentonville Film Festival, we strengthen our resolve to give everyone equal opportunity to reach his or her potential.”

Now in its fifth year, the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge addresses this underrepresentation by giving filmmakers – with and without disabilities – the platform to collaborate, tell unique stories that showcase disability in its many forms and support Easterseals’ goal to change the way disability is viewed. 

BFF exhibits work that features inclusion – both in front of and behind the camera – and a balanced representation of gender, ethnicity, sexual identity, ability and age. By connecting diverse creators with engaged industry leaders, BFF has a unique opportunity to amplify commercially viable content, solutions and initiatives that accurately represent the world around us and create a seismic change in how media inspires young minds to do great things: If they can see it they can be it.

Added Mark Whitley, president & CEO of Easterseals Southern California, “This important alliance with Geena Davis and the Bentonville Film Festival are an enormous step toward our goal of true diversity and inclusion in entertainment and in all aspects of life. We are most appreciative of the support of such dedicated advocates for change.”

About the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge
Since the Challenge launched in 2013, aspiring filmmakers from around the world have created more than 150 short films (35 submitted last year) which have been viewed online and at festivals. Supported by a who’s who of Hollywood from both in front of and behind the camera, winners have included Jamie Brewer, who won Best Actor in 2017 for Whitney’s Wedding, has been acclaimed for her role on American Horror Story and was the first model with Down Syndrome to walk the runway at New York Fashion Week; Dickie Hearts, Best Filmmaker winner in 2015, who went on to win an HBO Project Greenlight digital series competition; and Jenna Kanell, winner of Best Film in 2015 who went on to give a TEDx Talk about her experience. 

Registered filmmakers are given a span of 55 hours over the designated weekend to write and produce short films (three-to-five minutes) that Help Change the Way We View Disability. Submitted films are judged in four award categories – Best Film, Best Filmmaker, Best Actor and Best Awareness Campaign – by a noted and diverse group of entertainment industry talent. 

Winners, who will be announced at a red-carpet event May 10, hosted by United Talent Agency in Beverly Hills, are awarded industry mentorships; the opportunity to screen their film at the Los Angeles-based HollyShorts Film Festival (August 9-18), an Academy Award-qualifying competition; grants provided by Universal Filmed Entertainment Group to be used towards the filmmakers’ next production; and other desirable prizes, including Dell computers. 

For more information or to register, visit:  www.DisabilityFilmChallenge.com

Full rules & regulations can be found at:  http://bit.ly/2k5I4HV

Questions?  Email us at:  Info@DisabilityFilmChallenge.com

About the Bentonville Film Festival
Co-founded by Academy Award® winner Geena Davis & Inclusion Companies CEO Trevor Drinkwater, the Bentonville Film Festival is a one of a kind annual event that champions inclusion in all forms of media. BFF is a yearlong platform culminating with an annual six-day festival, in partnership with founding sponsor Walmart and presenting sponsor Coca-Cola. The Bentonville Film Festival is held the first week of May of every year in Bentonville, Arkansas and includes an impactful Inclusion, Research and Content Summit. Connecting engaged entertainment industry leaders and major corporate change-makers with a diverse array of storytellers affords BFF the unique opportunity to amplify commercially viable content, solutions and initiatives that adequately represent the world around us. Because if they can see it, they can be it! www.bentonvillefilmfestival.com 

About the Bentonville Film Festival Foundation
Bentonville Film Festival Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on promoting underrepresented voices in the entertainment industry through research, education, mentoring and industry partnerships. The primary partner of the Foundation is the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (GDIGM). The Foundation believes that by convening the media ecosystem – advertisers, content creators and content distributors – in support of media that accurately reflects the gender balance and diversity of our country, it can create a seismic change in how we inspire young minds to do great things. The Foundation also hosts events throughout the year in multiple locations and in collaboration with other like-minded organizations.

About Easterseals Southern California
For nearly 100 years, Easterseals has been an indispensable resource for individuals and families with developmental disabilities or other special needs. The services provided by Easterseals Southern California (ESSC) – in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Imperial, Kern, San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura counties – make profound and positive differences in people’s lives every day, helping them address life’s challenges and achieve personal goals so that they can live, learn, work and play in our communities. With 2,300 employees, 60+ service sites and hundreds of community partnership locations, each year ESSC assists more than 10,000 people, providing adult/senior day services; autism therapy; child development/early education; employment services, veteran employment support; independent living options; and more. At Easterseals, 87% of our income is spent on services. Join us in changing the way the world defines and views disabilities.  Visit us at:  Easterseals.com/SouthernCal

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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