Calling Filmmakers, Writers, and Actors: Join the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge!

Having started his career at an early age, actor and comedian Nic Novicki (you may have seen him in Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos, or Drop Dead Diva to name a few) noticed he was often the only one on set with a disability. This glaringly obvious underrepresentation of people with disabilities in the entertainment industry sparked the idea for the Disability Film Challenge which held its first competition in 2014.

Easterseals 100th anniversary logo

100 years ago, businessman Edgar Allen saw a need to change societal views on disability. When he discovered parents were often encouraged to hand their disabled children over to state institutions to live out their lives hidden from the public eye, he founded the National Society for Crippled Children, now known as Easterseals. In 2017, Easterseals partnered with Novicki to help promote the Disability Film Challenge.

2019 Challenge Details

This year, the challenge takes place from April 5–7, and anyone and everyone is welcome to participate. Here’s how it all rolls out:

Starting today:

  • Gather your cast and crew. The team can include friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, the barista at your favorite coffee shop...anyone! No experience in the film industry is required. Make sure to include people with physical or cognitive disabilities in front of and/or behind the camera (e.g., writers, directors, producers).

Nic Novicki with two men in wheelchairs, two men standing, and a woman standing. Image text reads, "You could be this year's big winner! Register for the 2019 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge at

By April 3, 2019:

  • Register your team and pay the $60 entry fee.

On April 3, 2019:

April 5, 2019:

  • Fire up the coffee pot and wait for the kickoff email to arrive (11 a.m. PDT/2 p.m. EDT) indicating required props and locations to be included in your film.
  • Get your cameras and wheelchairs rolling! You have 55 hours to shoot, edit, and submit your three to five-minute film.

April 7, 2019:

  • Submit your finished film by 5:59 p.m. PDT/8:59 p.m.EDT.
  • Celebrate your hard work and a weekend well spent!

Tamara Mena in wheelchair being filmed by a camera man. Text reads, "Help change the way the world defines and views disability! Registration for the 2019 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge closes April 3 at

And the Winner Is...

A panel of judges comprised of established writers, producers, actors, and other entertainment industry insiders will scrutinize entries during the ensuing weeks before announcing winners in each of four categories:  best film, best director, best actor, and best awareness campaign. Prize packages include things like camera equipment, editing software, mentor meetings, grants, and screening opportunities at various film festivals.

Easterseals Disability Film Challenge postcard. Text reads, "Take your career into your own hands. A 55-hour filmmaking competition to change the way the world defines and views disability. Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. Friday, April 5 - Sunday, April 7, 2019

Your Chance to Make a Difference

Doesn’t this sound like an amazing time and a great opportunity for advocacy? We think so! And so do a number of disabled actors who have participated in the challenge in the past like Tatiana Lee, Patrick Ivison, Tamara Mena, and Tobias Forrest. Don’t let those big names scare you away, though! This is an opportunity for beginners and experts alike. Newbies can get their feet wet while experienced filmmakers can continue refining their skills. And if you don’t have access to fancy cameras, boom mics, or expensive editing software, don’t worry about it — a camera phone will do the job just fine!

Large group of people. Several of the people in the front row are in wheelchairs including Patrick Ivison and Tatiana Lee. Text reads, "Register for the 2019 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge!

So what are you waiting for? Head over to to check out themes and winners from previous years, and then go ahead and click on the “Register” button. Don’t forget to mention you heard about the challenge on Wheel:Life.

3-2-1 Action!

About the Author

Betsy Bailey has a diverse background including experience in marketing research at American Express, business operations and client relations with 601am, travel and culinary writing with VegDining, and playing volleyball professionally overseas.

Betsy has been writing for Wheel:Life since January of 2017 and thoroughly enjoys the process of getting to know her interviewees. She also teaches students learning English as a second language, speaks French fluently, and travels any chance she gets!


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