- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
Fifteen creatives have been named as fellows for RespectAbility’s first-ever Children’s Content Lab for Disabled TV Creators, a five-week training and mentorship program that aims to increase the presence of talent with disabilities in preschool and children’s TV.
Adam Hurd, Asha Chai-Chang, Charlie Frazier, Deirdre Morales, Kimberly Manky, Mars Gorman, Matt Opatrny, Miranda Hoyt, Myles Hunt, Ty Freedman and Tyler Hoog comprise the cohort’s 11 writing fellows, while Cassie Palmisano, Maddy Mermelstein, Nina Fiore and Shannon Ryan selected as the inaugural four development fellows.
With support from Netflix’s Fund for Creative Equity and production partners 9 Story Media Group and Silvergate Media, which is part of Sony Pictures Television, those Children’s Content Lab fellows will experience both virtual and in-person programming based in New York City that gives them access to workshops, trainings, panel conversations and networking events.
“RespectAbility does incredible work in identifying opportunities and advocating for disabled creative talent, which we know is key to creating better representation on screen,” Heather Tilert, director of preschool content at Netflix, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to support their first Lab focused on children’s content creators, and this talented cohort of writers and development executives.”
“We are excited to host this year’s lab participants at our 9 Story studio in New York and have the opportunity to share our industry knowledge, tips, and professional experiences with these aspiring creatives,” Farrell Hall, chief inclusion officer at 9 Story Media Group, added in his own statement. “This program that focuses on creating opportunities for up-and-coming talent in the children’s entertainment space is what real authentic inclusion looks like while we partner with community organizations like RespectAbility.”
Each fellow will be assigned a mentor and will also attend script review sessions, comprised of a smaller cohort based on the intended audience of their work. That will span preschool, children’s and young teen content. The intensive will conclude with a showcase, specifically table reads of each writer’s project performed by disabled actors.
“When children watch content, they are constantly learning,” Lauren Appelbaum, the lab’s founder and Respectability’s senior vice president of communications and entertainment & news media at RespectAbility, said. “With one in five individuals living with a disability, it is vitally important that disabled children can see themselves represented on screen, and for nondisabled children to see disabled peers being fully involved in community life. The best way to do this is to ensure disabled individuals have the opportunity to create this content, as writers and creative executives.”
Following the end of the five-week program, fellows will have monthly access to career development training with industry experts for up to a year after their participation to assist them in securing employment opportunities. And to further help program participants secure employment opportunities, the Lab also includes a variety of career development training with industry experts that will continue monthly for one year.
The Children’s TV Lab is part of a growing list of entertainment-related development opportunities for talent with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health and other disabilities and led by RespectAbility, a disability-led nonprofit that works to create systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities. The inaugural cohort will join 122 alumni of RespectAbility’s Entertainment Lab, which focuses on advancing inclusion throughout the entertainment industry.
Alumni have gone on to work at DreamWorks Animation, Netflix, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment and The Walt Disney Company, with others participating in Film Independent and Sundance Institute career track programs and having their work featured at SXSW Film Festival.
“We launched the RespectAbility Entertainment Lab in 2019 to address a need to ensure more disabled content creators could be connected to more employment opportunities. Since 2015, we have worked with a variety of studios and production companies, many which have a focus in the preschool and children’s content space,” Appelbaum stated. “So, we wanted to create a specific opportunity to increase the number of disabled individuals being given the opportunity to work in this space.”
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day