Key Initiatives

Easterseals Disability Film Challenge

This weekend-long filmmaking contest, open to all, provides a platform for new voices to tell unique stories that showcase disability in its many forms. Challenge winners receive invaluable access to entertainment professionals, opening the door to an industry notoriously difficult to enter. A number of aspiring filmmakers and talent credit the film challenge for advancing their careers.

Media Access Awards

The Media Access Awards is the world’s top awards ceremony honoring people in the film and television industries who are advancing the accurate portrayals and employment of people with disabilities. This annual virtual show, done in partnership with Easterseals Disability Services, honors entertainment industry professionals who have advanced disability-related narrative and employment in fields of writing, producing, casting, performance, and directing.

Entertainment Partnerships

Easterseals has forged a number of strategic alliances to advance important conversations about disability inclusion in entertainment, reinforcing both the creative and marketing power of the disability community.



Easterseals as an allied partner works closely with the Sundance Institute to bring more diversity and inclusion within the film industry, through a series of filmmaker conversations, events and workshops. Additionally, they are working together to increase accessibility for filmmakers, critics, and film enthusiasts with disabilities to more readily participate in the annual Sundance Film Festival.

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Film Independent

With like-minded goals, Easterseals and Film Independent have teamed up to diversify the film industry by giving opportunity and voice to a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision. They collaborate on a number of offerings and initiatives, including: Film Independent Memberships awarded to Easterseasls Disability Film Challenge winners; an intense day-long workshop for film challenge winners and finalists; and Easterseals has hosted Film Independent’s New Wave brunch to honor talented young actors who continue to deliver breakout performances and deserve industry recognition.


Hollywood Radio and Television Society (HRTS)

Through year-round activities, Easterseals and HRTS are bringing more visibility to disability inclusion across the TV and entertainment industry. Among their collaborations, Easterseals serves as the Presenting Sponsor of the inaugural HRTS Diversity and Inclusion Resource Guide, which highlights dozens of TV industry programs designed to promote inclusion, equality and representation. Easterseals created a dedicated section in the guide highlighting strategies and resources for promoting inclusion of people with disabilities. It has been widely distributed to HRTS membership and has quickly become a trusted resource. Easterseals support helped assure that.


The Black List

Launching in 2019, The Black List, Easterseals, The Media Access Awards, and the WGA Writers With Disabilities Committee partnered to create the first-ever Disability List, highlighting the very best unproduced screenplays and pilots featuring characters with disabilities in prominent roles. This curated list is an annual, real-time ranking of most promising scripts exploring the disability experience, and is highly respected within the entertainment community - the second edition of the list will be announced in November 2020.


Additionally, Easterseals is proud to collaborate with our other media partners across media and entertainment, including

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the hollywood reporter

Film Festivals

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Bentonville Film Festival

Through a series of cross-promotional activities, Easterseals and Bentonville Film Festival join forces to champion disability inclusion.  At the annual Bentonville Film Festival, Easterseals has hosted panel discussions focused on inclusion in media and has screened Easterseals Disability Film Challenge winning films in front of an influential audience, representing some of the biggest global brands.

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Heartland Film Festival

Additionally, we’re proud to partner with Heartland Film Festival and others globally to find new ways to feature disability inclusion in film and TV.

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Annually, Easterseals Disability Film Challenge winning films receive an automatic entry into HollyShorts, an official Academy Awards® Qualifying Festival. Winning filmmakers are invited to speak about their filmmaking experiences following the screening, as part of a panel discussion to advance disability inclusion.

NewFilmmakers LA

Most recently, Easterseals teamed with NewFilmmakers LA to announce the finalists of its Disability Film Challenge Home Edition, and it will soon provide a screening of our top films. Our disability creative leaders working in the industry regularly support NewFilmmakers LA across its programming and professional development offerings.

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