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When: Thursday, May 25
7:00 pm
Where: The Players
16 Gramercy Park South
New York, New York  10003
United States

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The PGA East Neurodiversity Task Force and Diversity Committee
invite you and a guest to...


This event is open to all guilds and industry professionals

Thursday, May 25
6:30pm: Doors open, mingle
7:00: Presentations followed by breakout groups

The Players
16 Gramercy Park South

"Think different" is one of the most famous advertising slogans of the last twenty years. But over this same period of time a whole generation of children have been born whose brains literally do think different, a spectrum of neuro-diverse people who are now coming of age and entering the workforce. Many of these young adults are highly creative and are drawn to media and content creation. Join us for discussion and collaboration around the inclusion of individuals of this community on-screen and in the entertainment workforce. As content creators, at our best we tell stories that shine a light and build bridges towards our common humanity. As a working group of interested PGA members, we would like to explore ways for our industry and NYC production community to advance this important conversation.

Last month, Sesame Street introduced viewers to Julia, a new Muppet with autism. And the other week, Rachel Israel's film Keep the Change, a romantic comedy about and starring individuals on the autism spectrum, won Tribeca Film Festival's Best U.S. Narrative Feature and Best New Narrative Feature Director awards. The time for this important conversation couldn't be better. 

Yudi Bennett, Co-founder and past Director of Exceptional Minds, a visual effects and animation school and studio for young adults on the Autism Spectrum. She holds a Masters degree in Communication and a certificate from the LEND Program (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) at USC/Children’s Hospital LA. Yudi has been a member of the Directors Guild of America since 1978 and received their Frank Capra Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003. She is also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences with credits in over 30 movies, including “Broadcast News” and “Kramer vs. Kramer.” Yudi is a founding member and past president of Foothill Autism Alliance and currently serves on the FAA board as well as on the board of the Uniquely Abled Project. She is inspired everyday by her son, Noah, a young animator who was diagnosed with ASD in 1997. 

Benjamin Lehmann, Supervising Producer, Sesame Street
As Supervising Producer, Lehmann oversees the Sesame Street Production and Digital Production departments for the iconic children’s show. He is responsible for all aspects of production for content experiences across linear and digital platforms for Sesame Street. He is also a director for the show. Lehmann has been with the series for 14 years and has won 8 Emmy Awards for his work, including his first Emmy for Directing in 2017, as well as 4 Producers Guild Awards. Lehmann currently co-chairs the Community Action Committee for the Producers Guild East (where he is a former two term Executive Committee member) helping to connect film and television productions with volunteer opportunities.

Autumn Zitani is the Senior Director of Content in Sesame Workshop’s Curriculum and Content Department. Autumn has been with Sesame Workshop for over 15 years and is responsible for the development and implementation of Sesame Street’s whole child curriculum. In her role, she reviews, creates and integrates educational and developmentally appropriate content across Sesame Workshop’s media platforms, such as television, digital media, outreach and licensed products. She received her Master’s Degree in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Rachel Israel, Writer/Director, Keep the Change (Winner, Tribeca Film Festival 2017 Best U.S. Narrative Feature and Best New Narrative Feature Director)
Rachel Israelreceived her B.F.A. from Rhode Island School of Design and her M.F.A. from Columbia University. Rachel lives in NYC and is an adjunct professor of film at Rhode Island School of Design. She was an associate producer on Violet & Daisy (2011), and has directed short films that have screened at festivals around the world. Based on her award winning short, Rachel’s feature directorial debut, Keep the Change, has received support from The Sundance Institute, Rooftop Film Festival, and the Princess Grace Foundation. Keep the Change world premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival 2017, where it was awarded several prizes including Best U.S. Narrative Feature and Best New Narrative Feature Director.

Venue Dress Code
Please note the dress code required by The Players: No shorts, tshirts, torn/tattered jeans, workout or warm-up attire, fitness/athletic shoes, or ball/casual caps are allowed in the clubhouse.



Special thanks to Harbor Picture Company, ArtYard, Panavision, Phosphene, and The Molecule
for their support of this event!