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Joey Travolta, Sephora, and Accessibility Goes Punk


By Rob Gerth

Here's what's been Trending@KesslerFdn. Items that might be of interest to our community.

Joey Travolta's Short Film Camp

We visited Tenafly, New Jersey, last week to check in on a grantee of ours, Joey Travolta's Short Film Camp produced by MarbleJam Kids. Joey Travolta (yes, he's John's older brother) and his crew of nine professional filmmakers, teach young kids and teens with special needs the art of film making from creative concept to completion. He's been running these camps for 10 years.

The campers are divided into three teams, each with the goal of scripting, shooting, and editing a short film during a two-week period. The end result is three short films, which are intercut with a behind-the-scenes film that is being made in the background the whole time. Forty-nine kids were at camp this year from July 29 – August 9 at Academy of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The first step involves getting a green light for an idea. Two representatives from each team have to pitch their project to Joey and his crew. We were lucky enough to catch a pitch for a film about bullying called "Mask of a Boy." The team gathered in one of the classrooms as Joey listened to the pitch. The presenters seamlessly tag-teamed their presentation. After some questioning and thoughtful pacing around the room, Joey gave them the go ahead.

After lunch, we caught one of the teams as shooting a few scenes in the school's cafeteria with lots of extras pretending to eat lunch as background. With two cameras rolling, the assistant director and director barking out orders, and actors performing their lines, the set had the feel of an independent film. Joey and his crew are using the same cameras and audio gear they use on all of their commercial films.

A few things you need to know:

  • MarbleJam Kids is a nonprofit in Bergen County, NJ that offers psychotherapeutic services and therapeutically supported enrichment programs to meet the challenges of individuals with autism spectrum disorders, developmental disabilities, emotional and social challenges, and other special needs. They host the film camp.
  • Joey Travolta started out as a special needs teacher.
  • Joey is the founder of Inclusion Films which, beyond these summer camps, teaches film making to individuals with developmental disabilities in five dedicated production studios throughout California. The end goal of these longer form classes is to get his student jobs in the industry, which he has done.
  • The kids at this camp are having a ball!

Learn more about other programs Kessler Foundation funds.

See some photos at the end of this post.

Sephora: Enabling a Workforce

Major companies such as Amazon, Cintas, JetBlue, Pepsico, and Sears are meeting their hiring needs by actively recruiting people with disabilities. Certain practices and procedures contribute to the success of these efforts, according to the 2017 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey: Supervisor Perspectives.

Sephora, a global beauty retailer with more than 19,000 employees worldwide, has implemented a successful hiring initiative. The company’s newly opened Southeast Distribution Center in Olive Branch, Mississippi, has a goal to fill 30 percent of the positions with people with disabilities. On the way to reaching that goal, Sephora has hired more people with disabilities than any other employer in the state, and was recognized as the 2018 employer of the year in Mississippi. (We featured Sephora on the latest nTIDE webcast. It should be posted soon.) 

This video called Enabling a Workforce with Disabilities does a wonderful job of capturing the thoughts and feelings of some of their workers. 

Meet Gaelynn Lea

Gaelynn Lea plays the violin. She sings too. But it was the story she told on the Moth stage that caught our attention. Gaelyn lives with osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic bone disorder characterized by fragile bones that break easily. She gets around in an electric wheelchair. She's been on the road for two and a half years playing everything from folk music venues to basement bars. Issues of accessibility have been daunting for her and her fans. During her Moth performance she talked about how she thinks punk is going against the establishment, it's going against the grain. It's DIY, it's freedom. So, her new motto is: Accessibility is the new punk rock.

"So I am lucky that on the road I get to meet other disability advocates and other disabled artists. And we don't all face the same barriers because we're not the same. We don't all even agree on the best way to go about making change and that's okay. But we all have one common goal which is that we want to see the world become a more accessible place. And the truth of the matter is is that we don't have to be the only people fighting for this. Whether you're a performer, disabled or not, whether you are into heavy metal or bluegrass or jazz or folk or country, I want us all to unite so that the world can see the truth that accessibility is the new punk rock."

You're sounding very Patti Smith!

Speaking of supporting each other, everyone's invited to our Stroll 'N Roll September 22.



Joey Travolta at pitch meeting

Two campers (backs to camera) pitching their story to Joey Travolta (standing r.) and Barry Pearl (sitting). The camera crew is recording it for a behind-the-scenes documentary of how the short films get made.

Setting up the next shot

Joey Travolta and the crew set up the next shot.

Camper and crew rehearsing a scene

Camper and crew rehearsing a scene.

Group shot of Joey and folks from Kessler and MarbleJam Kids

Anna Villa-Bager, executive director of MarbleJam Kids Rob Gerth, director communications Kessler Foundation Joey Travolta, founder Inclusion Films Elaine Katz, senior VP, grants and communications Sarah Melone, director, Joey Travolta’s Short Film Camp at MarbleJam Kids