Banner graphic

The Right Talent, Right Now: Expanding Opportunities in Filmmaking for People with Disabilities

By Carolann Murphy

October is Disability Employment Awareness Month, and the theme for 2019, "The Right Talent, Right Now," is a fitting one for industries fueled by the creative arts. Every year, the disparities in hiring in the entertainment industry take the spotlight during the Hollywood awards season, and the film industry’s lack of diversity makes the headlines. There is interest in stories involving disability, however, and support for inclusion of people with disabilities in casts and crews is growing. To provide that talent, programs such as Joey Travolta’s Inclusion Films are helping people with disabilities take advantage of the broad range of opportunities in creative and technical jobs.

To take advantage of the many opportunities for employment in the creative arts, people with disabilities need orientation to potential careers, hands-on experiences to explore their talents, and the social skills needed for collaborative projects. Inclusion Films, based in California, offers film-making camps and workshops that foster creative development and reinforce social and vocational skills for teens and young adults with autism and developmental disabilities. In addition to five production studios in California, Inclusion Film’s popular programs are hosted by nonprofit organizations in cities around the country.

Inclusion Films was founded in 2007 by Joey Travolta, the actor, producer, director and screenwriter. Motivated by his positive experiences working with youth with disabilities, Travolta dedicates his efforts to expanding their opportunities for fulfilling employment in the entertainment industry. Inclusion Films’ production team provides custom video services for clients that include Easter Seals, NBA Cares, the Phoenix Suns, and the Bentonville Film Festival. These projects are incorporated into the camps and workshop curricula to provide students with real work experience and industry connections.

A crew of 70% individuals with developmental disabilities recently produced Inclusion Films’ first feature-length film, "Carol of The Bells," starring RJ Mitte from the AMC hit series, "Breaking Bad." The film tells the story of a young man who searches for his birth mother, and finds that she has developmental disabilities. The holiday-themed film premiered at the Bentonville Film Festival in May 2019, and is scheduled for release in December. Get a sneak peek.

Inclusion Films offers training in all aspects of filmmaking — from script writing to technical editing — to meet the growing need for talent by the entertainment industry. The company’s mission echoes the theme, "The Right Talent, Right Now." The instructors are cinematographers, set designers, actors, and other working professionals. In Travolta’s experience, the students actively join in the creative process, and are adept at learning the technology required for editing as well as for developing creative content.

"A capable workforce is being left untapped," Travolta asserted. "Our students are dedicated, dependable, and bring a different perspective to problem solving. They are a good fit for many of the skilled jobs in film-making and related fields. As for employers, hiring people with disabilities is easier than ever, and businesses can take advantage of on-site support and training for transitioning new hires, at little to no cost. All that is needed is leadership at the top, an open-minded team, and a commitment to diversity that includes people with disabilities."