Diversity in the film industry seems like a new trend. After all, CODA, a film about a hearing child of Deaf parents, took top awards in 2022 with the cast being comprised of amazing Deaf actors including Marlee Matlin, Daniel Durante, and Oscar winner – Troy Kotsur. Plus, more and more programs we watch and stream seem to have at least one actor with “unique needs” in the cast.
In actuality, in relation to the film industry – “diversity” is not a new term. For years, television programming, and commercial and theatrical products have been made with actors who have unique challenges. The difference is that back in 1980 the person in the wheelchair might have been in the background. Or the child with Down Syndrome was a character on a TV series for a few minutes in one episode. It wasn’t until the last ten years or so that diversity in the entertainment arena made headway to become an industry standard.
I am glad that FINALLY, we can talk about diversity in the entertainment field as if it was “commonplace.” Needless to say, I have been waiting a long time for the public to see the amazing qualities of actors with exceptional needs, as I have for decades.
Waiting for Ronald is an internationally award -winning short film I wrote, directed, and produced many years ago. It starred actors who happened to have Autism and Down Syndrome. It was one of the most delightful and insightful experiences as a director I have ever had. If you are curious, you can watch the film trailer here.
The Waiting for Ronald experience, along with years of working with people as a therapist, supporter of special needs projects, etc., taught me that there is very little difference between being a filmmaker in a film cast with individuals who are unique and those who are more “typical”.
Actors, “as a species” all have commonalities such as a passion to perform and to absorb the characters that they are cast to portray. They live for the response of the audience and an opportunity to do it all again – with some financial benefits, of course. It simply does not matter what IQ the actor possesses or if they are moving around a television set with a wheelchair. What matters is their drive, willingness to learn, and commitment to the process. All of this can be very exciting!
And let’s face it… learning to be a professional actor at a caliber that pays the bills or more – doesn’t happen overnight and usually doesn’t happen without training. So, for the person with special needs, it would be helpful to have an acting teacher/acting coach who knows how to teach using methods that are relatable, engaging, and at the pace of the learner.
That is where I come in. I recognize that not all people who want to learn to act live within the Los Angeles – Hollywood area. For that reason, and my desire to reach actors who have skills at all levels – I am offering virtual acting coaching.
Interested? Let me know by completing the form below and I will be connect back as soon as possible.
Read more about Waiting for Ronald and Ellen Gerstein in this issue of Ability Magazine.
Read here For more information from SAG/ AFTRA about inclusion and diversity with these unions and their resources.