The Easterseals Disability Film Challenge is a filmmaking contest that challenges filmmakers to produce original films in just five days (March 16-21, 2021) and gives new voices within the industry an opportunity to write and produce short films that challenge the limited representation of disabilities in the media by telling stories to showcase disability in its many forms. Although people with disabilities are 20% of the U.S. population, a Ruderman Family Foundation study found that only 2% of characters on Primetime TV have disabilities, with only 5% of those authentically cast with disabled actors. The team behind Annatated Productions shares Easterseals’ goal to elevate this through high-quality entertaining content and create a better pipeline for disabled artists to showcase their talent to the industry.
“SOCIAL FITNESS” is a hilarious mockumentary on the shared experience of quarantine, finding humor in the commonalities of pandemic life culture. The cast and crew behind the film represent diverse communities with disabilities, including Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Autism, Mental Illness, Epilepsy, PTSD, Limb Difference, ADHD, traumatic brain injury, and Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), alongside committed non-disabled allies. With COVID-19 restrictions limiting in-person filmmaking, the team took advantage of advanced editing technology and the Zoom video conferencing platform to bring together talent from New York, New Jersey, California, and Florida in one seamless remote production.
The film’s producer, writer and director, Anna Pakman said, “Growing up with a physical disability, I rarely saw myself represented in front of or behind the camera. Making my own content has allowed me to rewrite that narrative by creating roles that defy the typical disability tropes used by Hollywood. I am grateful to Easterseals for giving us this platform to show audiences around the world what we can do.” She added “People with disabilities tend to be masters of adaptability from years spent learning how to navigate inaccessible spaces, so it felt especially poignant to look back at a time when the whole world had to learn how to adapt to an unexpected situation that changed the course of everyone’s daily lives and find the humor in the ‘new normal.’”
Pakman will be joined by a powerhouse cast featuring internationally renowned comedienne Maysoon Zayid (General Hospital, You Don’t Mess With the Zohan), Bree Klauser (Audible Original Phreaks, Apple TV’s SEE), Anita Hollander (National Chair, SAG-AFTRA Performers with Disabilities Committee, Law & Order, FBI: Most Wanted), Liz Simons (Broad City), Eric Stafford (The Blacklist, Alpha House), BJ Lange (Jimmy Kimmel LIVE!), Shashi Bangera (Sesame Street, Kelly & Cal), Mary von Aue, Josey Miller, and Sylvia Longmire. The production team also includes editor Liz Pritchard (A&E’s The Employables, ADA30 Lead on Celebration of Disability Arts, Culture, Education and Pride), advertising industry veteran Jd Michaels of Michaels.Adams, and Stefanie Parish.