Nonprofit disability services provider and resource Easterseals Southern California announced today that Critics Choice Award-winning comedian and actor Michelle Buteau, Actor Matthew Jeffers (New Amsterdam), Academy Award nominee Paul Raci (Sound of Metal), and Tony Award-winning actor Ali Stroker (Oklahoma!), will all serve as presenters during the 2021 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge: Home Edition 2.0 virtual awards ceremony on Thursday, May 6.

Stroker will also serve as a mentor for one of this year’s winners, along with Gena Desclos (SVP of Post Production, HBO and HBO Max), Tiffany Smith-Anoa’i (Executive Vice President, Entertainment Diversity & Inclusion, West Coast, ViacomCBS), Brett King (VP, Creative Programming, Diversity & Inclusion, Sony Pictures Entertainment), and Emerlynn Lampitoc (Vice President of Inclusion – Talent & Content for NBCUniversal).

The second at-home edition of the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge saw a record-breaking number of submissions, with 93 films put forth from the US and places all across the world including India, The Netherlands, Ireland, Australia, Canada, and more. Entries can be viewed at Finalists will be announced on Thursday, April 29, with the virtual Awards Ceremony powered by Microsoft Teams set to take place on Thursday, May 6.

Created in 2013 by Nic Novicki and launched in 2014, the challenge gives filmmakers – with and without disabilities – the opportunity to collaborate to tell unique stories that showcase disability in its many forms, inviting aspiring storytellers to creatively write, produce, and complete short films. It is a week-long filmmaking contest, open to all, that provides a platform for new voices in the entertainment industry.

The Easterseals Disability Film Challenge will be presenting five awards to film challenge participants: Best Film presented by WarnerMedia, Best Director presented by WarnerMedia, Best Editor presented by Adobe, Best Actor presented by IMDbPro, and Awareness Campaign Award presented by ViacomCBS.

Winners of the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge receive invaluable access to entertainment professionals, opening the door to an industry notoriously difficult to enter, as well as a variety of other priceless gifts to help them achieve their career goals:

  • $1,500 grants provided by NBCUniversal in addition to participation in an exclusive and customized workshop focused on career development, curated by NBCUniversal executives
  • Dell Technologies Laptop
  • One-year subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud – the platform for creating, collaborating, and inspiration consisting of apps, services and community to help you unleash your creativity
  • One-year membership to IMDbPro, the essential resource for entertainment industry professionals, including the IMDbPro Discover tool, which empowers members to find people based on a variety of key IMDb data, experience and expertise
  • The winning films will be highlighted in a video playlist on the homepage of IMDb, the world’s most popular and authoritative source for information on movies, TV shows and celebrities
  • Screenings at numerous Academy Award-Qualifying festivals, including the Heartland Film Festival, HollyShorts Film Festival, Bentonville Film Festival and NewFilmmakers LA
  • One year membership to Film Independent
  • Mentorship meetings with entertainment industry executives and talent

The Easterseals Disability Film Challenge will be judged by a wide selection of influential voices within the entertainment industry, who will lend their expertise to select the best films this year. They include: Jim LeBrecht (Director, Crip Camp), Lawrence Carter-Long (Film Critic), Nicole Castro (Managing Director, HollyShorts Film Festival), Kat Coiro (Director, She-Hulk, Marry Me) Jenni Gold (Director, CinemAbility: The Art of Inclusion), Brett Greenstein (Greenstein/Daniel Casting), Sheri Linden (The Hollywood Reporter), Marc Malkin (Variety), Jillian Mercado (Model and Actor The L Word: Generation Q), Col Needham (IMDb Founder and CEO), Mark Povaneli (Actor, President, Little People of America), Richard Propes (Film Critic), Gil Robertson (President of the African American Film Critics Association), Lolo Spencer (Actor), Stephanie Thomas (Stylist), Mara Webster (Co-Founder & Head of Programming, In Creative Company), Jennifer Wilson (Nominations Manager, Film Independent), Stacey Wilson Hunt (Entertainment Journalist) and Danny Woodburn (Seinfield, Mirror Mirror).

Previous Easterseals Disability Film Challenge winners and participants have gone on to achieve great success within the industry, landing roles in major television shows and films including New Amsterdam, Superstore, The Good Doctor, Loudermilk, Marry Me, and Moxie, and earning accolades and grants from prestigious organizations all around the world!

The Easterseals Disability Film Challenge is made possible through generous support from Adobe, Dell Technologies, IMDbPro (a service of IMDb), Intel, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sundance Institute, ViacomCBS, and WarnerMedia.

For more information, click here.

Easterseals Southern California has also recently launched its “Easterseals in Entertainment” website and resource center. The site highlights Easterseals’ ongoing initiatives, which aim to change the way the world defines and views disability, using the Entertainment industry as an incredibly powerful tool to do so. The site also serves as a resource center, offering tools for finding actors and creators within the disability community, providing a Best Practices Guide for writers looking to bring authentic disability representation to their work and writers rooms, and much more! Click here.

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