The 5-minute short film directed by Anna Pakman and Jd Michaels was made as part of Easterseals Disability Film Challenge.
Although there have been positive changes in recent years, it's still rare to see proper representation in the film and TV industry. One in four Americans live with a disability, according to the CDC, and yet the representation of disabled people in TV and films remains woefully low. Lauren Appelbaum, a vice president at RespectAbility, noted that roughly 95% of roles of disabled characters are still being played by actors who do not have disabilities. “When disability is a part of a character’s story, too often content can position people with disabilities as someone to pity or someone to cure, instead of portraying disabled individuals as full members of our society,” said Appelbaum, reported The New York Times.
Easterseals Disability Film Challenge was created in response to the underrepresentation of disabled people in film and TV. A short film named "Pandora" is showing how films can be inclusive. The short film was submitted as part of the challenge and 80% of the actors in this film are authentically disabled. The Easterseals Disability Film Challenge is helping diversify the narrative and propel change in terms of representation in media, with a focus on films and TV.
Pandora is a five-minute short film set in a world of superpowers and features Maysoon Zayid as Supervillain Pandora who aims to steal the superpowers from superheroes all over the world. Pandora aims to then use those superpowers for her evil plans rather than for good. Pandora is out to ambush "Time Bender" and steal her power to rewrite history. "Do you know what people would give for the power to rewrite history?" Pandora menacingly asks Time Bender, played by Anita Hollander. As Pandora attempts to throw a fireball and steal her powers, she is interrupted by "The Kid" who's Time Bender's sidekick. The Kid, played by Shashi Bangera, has mysterious origins and takes the blow of the fireball instead of Time Bender. As Pandora goes about her day, she realizes that she has stolen The Kid's empathy, turning her into a good person. The rest of the short film shows Pandora expressing her frustration as she unintendedly helps other people. The short film is directed by Anna Pakman and Jd Michaels.
Actor Nic Novicki is the person who launched the Disability Film Challenge back in 2014 in response to seeing disabilities underrepresented both in front of and behind the camera. As someone with a disability, Nic created the challenge to give aspiring filmmakers the opportunity to showcase their work and provide them with meaningful exposure.
In 2017, Nic and Easterseals Southern California joined forces to expand the challenge, now known as the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. "Challenge winners receive invaluable access to entertainment professionals, opening the door to an industry notoriously difficult to enter," states the website. Nic Novicki is an actor, comedian and producer who has performed on six continents and is the 2017 recipient of the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists’ Harold Russell Award for his ongoing contributions to the overall awareness of the disability experience through the media.
One of the positive representations from last year was Pixar’s “Luca,” which features a character born without an arm and takes the rare step of portraying a character with a limb difference without making it a defining characteristic.
You can watch Pandora on YouTube here: