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OPEN DOORS - Changing The Percentage: The Disability Film Challenge Means Exposure And Jobs For An Underrepresented Population

Posted By Nic Novicki and Sasheen Artis, Friday, June 9, 2017

Although roughly 20% of the population has some form of disability, representation of people with disabilities in the media lags far behind its real-world numbers. PGA Diversity Committee member Nic Novicki founded the Disability Film Challenge in 2014 to change that percentage.

Nic started out as a stand-up comedian and has performed in several comedy tours for the troops in Europe, Africa and the Middle East through Armed Forces Entertainment. He has produced, written and acted in over 40 movies and TV shows. As a champion of inclusion, Nic presented at the White House’s Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0 Disability & Media Summit in December 2016 and serves as a mentor for Veterans in Film and Television and the PGA Power of Diversity Master Workshop. Nic reports on this year’s Challenge and its new partnership with Easterseals Southern California.

As someone with a disability, I created the Challenge to give aspiring filmmakers the opportunity to showcase their work and provide them with meaningful exposure leading to increased job opportunities. The film challenge is a weekend-long competition in which filmmakers write, produce and complete an original three to five minute film, integrating story elements that acknowledge disability and include at least one person with a physical or cognitive disability.

To expand our outreach this year, we joined forces with Easterseals Southern California, the leading nonprofit organization supporting people with disabilities. Now known as the “Easterseals Disability Film Challenge,” we were able to produce shout-out videos with Scott Silveri (Speechless), Danny Woodburn (Seinfeld), David Koechner (Anchorman), and James Keach (Walk the Line) and went to Facebook Studios for Facebook Live with RJ Mitte (Breaking Bad). We ran workshops in New York and Los Angeles and traveled to film festivals and universities to promote the Challenge. To date, CBS Entertainment Diversity, SAG-AFTRA and Dell have also committed to the Challenge as sponsors.

Winners of the challenge will be mentored by top industry professionals like Scott Silveri, Amy Brenneman (The Leftovers), Randall Park (Veep), casting director Pam Dixon (The Green Lantern), and CBS Entertainment Executive Vice President for Diversity, Inclusion & Communications, Tiffany Smith-Anoa’i. Winners also will have their films screened at the TCL Chinese Theaters during the Academy Award qualifying HollyShorts Film Festival in August and receive a Dell mobile workstation or Dell 2-in-1 computer.

Numerous success stories have come out of the Challenge. We’re proudest that SAG-AFTRA’s Performers with Disabilities committee reported booking union jobs off of exposure during our promotional campaign, thus moving the needle on diversity hiring and changing the percentage of our representation in the media.

For information on future events or to become a volunteer or mentor, visit or contact Nic Novicki at

- Top photograph by Robert Olin.  Bottom photograph by Libby Gatlin.

Tags:  open doors 

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