Artisans with disabilities say they are often overlooked for production jobs in Hollywood
Rather than impede the production process, these workers can rise to any challenge and help move things forward
HOLLYWOOD, AIMING FOR MORE diversity, hopes inclusion riders will help broaden the composition of behind-the- camera crews. But so far, people with disabilities — who comprise nearly 20% of the population — have been left out of the conversation.
David Shore, creator of Sony TV-ABC’S “The Good Doctor,” is one of the few execs who has been scrupulous about giving opportunities to people with disabilities behind the scenes. “These people are incredibly underrepresented in films and TV,” he says. “It’s important to have characters like this on-screen, but it would be hypocritical to put them in front of the camera and not behind. They’re capable of so much, and we should make it possible.”
Though statistics on below-the-line hiring are shockingly low, some individuals are proving that the practice is successful.
James Cude has been working as an editor for 18 years, on series including MTV’S “Suspect” and Syfy’s “Cosplay Melee” and “Haunted Highway,” among others. Since he was a teenager, he’s had sensorineural hearing loss, often caused by damage to the inner ear. “People don’t think of an editor as someone who’s hard of hearing,” says Cude. “But I can hear enough sounds. For the rest, I have a lot of techniques I’ve learned over the years, plus some really good technical tools that allow me to do my job.”
Those tools include audio streaming from computer to hearing aids (for dialogue), wave forms (for music) and automatic online transcriptions. “There are some things I can do better than most people, some worse,” he says simply. “But that’s true of everyone. It balances out.” And he’s been consistently getting work, without an agent, via word of mouth.
Since 2007, Joey Travolta and his Inclusion Films have been offering training for individuals with developmental disabilities, who learn by working with below-the-line pros. The organization also helps them find work. This summer, Travolta placed five PAS on the indie film “The Poison Rose,” starring brother John Travolta, Brendan Fraser and Morgan Freeman.
Able Castillo, one of the four Inclusion Films members on the autism spectrum, did so well in the camera department he was bumped up to video village. Marissa Erick-
Working Model John Travolta (center) joins “Poison Rose” crew members Able Castillo, Jeff Gerard, Marissa Erickson, Jackson Brueheim and Larry Glenn. At right: Jo O’meara.