Meet The Artists of Lake Windfall

From D-Pan:
Meet The Artists
Feature length film “Lake Windfall” written by Roger Vass Jr. and Tony Nitko

A brand new feature length film “Lake Windfall” written by Roger Vass Jr. and Tony Nitko is making appearances around the country. We sat down with Roger, Tony and assistant director and editor Jason Roberts to talk about the film. Featuring ASL, audio & subtitles, “Lake Windfall” is a portrait of interactions between Deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing friends in a post-apocalyptic setting. While navigating this tale of awareness and survival, both Deaf and hearing realize how critical communication is to our collective survival.

Brother’s movie is act of love for sister with Down syndrome

From Tampa Bay Times:
Brother’s movie is act of love for sister with Down syndrome
By Bill Stevens, Times Columnist
Bobby Marinelli slipped into his sister’s bedroom with a script and a yellow sticky note: “Let me know if there is a part you think you’d be good for.”

He knew the answer, of course. His main character: a supermarket bagger with Down syndrome, a young and ambitious woman sidestepping a disability to inspire others.

“I can do this,” Elyse Marinelli told her brother.
This would be different from all the times as a boy Bobby drafted Elyse and his other sister, Tarah, to act in his video projects. He grew up in Hudson with a camera in his hand and by college developed a talent that took him to some of the industry’s greatest stages.

He didn’t expect this one to take off. He didn’t know if he could even raise enough money to break even on expenses. It didn’t matter. This project defined brotherly love.

This one was for Elyse.

• • •

Cynthia Marinelli had no reason to suspect anything was wrong when she went into labor on Dec. 10, 1986. She was 26, strong and healthy. Bobby and Tarah had been perfect and were now curious, active toddlers excited about the new baby. This pregnancy had been like the others, no red flags, no alarms.

A nurse placed Elyse on her mother’s chest. Everything seemed fine at first, except for the webbed fingers.

As Elyse’s condition became clear, Cynthia and her husband, Bob, began charting a course from which they have never wavered. “We thanked God for her,” Cynthia said. “Her heart and all her organs were strong. We took her home and celebrated.”

Bob built his manufacturer sales business as Cynthia took charge of the household, but the entire family raised Elyse. Bobby, in one of his first video efforts, created a program to help her learn the alphabet.

Elyse excelled as a Special Olympian while her sister became one of the best volleyball players in Pasco County. Elyse proudly wore the “manager” title for the Hudson High Cobras, led cheers and did cartwheels across the gym floor. When Tarah graduated in 2003 as salutatorian, she credited Elyse as her inspiration.

Three years later, Tarah helped the University of Tampa volleyball team win the Division II NCAA national championship. Chris Catanach, the national coach of the year, welcomed Elyse as the inspirational heart of the team. The NCAA produced a short documentary that featured Elyse and her family — and those trademark cartwheels.

Exciting, invigorating times, no doubt. But as the older siblings grew up, professional obligations cut into family time. Tarah got married and became a physician’s assistant. Bobby went off to college. Elyse bagged groceries at the Publix at Little Road and Hudson Avenue.

In 2010, Bobby earned a master’s in film production at Florida State University, where he co-wrote and directed a 15-minute comedy that took him around the world.

Waking Eloise was honored in 2011 by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It was selected for the American Pavilion’s Emerging Filmmakers Showcase at the Cannes International Film Festival and earned a Grand Jury Prize at the Dances With Films Festival in Hollywood.

Bobby traveled for months with the film, including to China. He took on other projects that built his resume but kept him on the road.

He missed Elyse. If he ever got a break, he thought, it would be nice to write something just for her.

• • •

Last summer, Bobby wrapped up a project in New Mexico and headed home to Hudson. He dropped the script on Elyse’s bed. He figured it would take at least $3,500 to get started.

In the world of independent filmmaking, a website called Kickstarter is invaluable. Bobby taped Elyse describing the project. It took one day to raise the $3,500, mainly through the generosity of family and friends. Within a month, they had $10,000.

“Elyse and I had a talk,” her brother recalled. “I told her, this is serious. People are giving us a lot of money to do this. You have to make it your job.”

At all hours of the day and night, Cynthia could hear Elyse rehearsing in her room. They went on a brief vacation to Daytona Beach and Elyse stood in the ocean waves, practicing the lines she had memorized. She would portray a supermarket bagger whose courage in asking her boss for a promotion would produce some surprising results.

Bobby scouted locations around Pasco and Hernando counties for filming. He called on friends from other projects who flew in from around the country for three days of shooting in September. After a few months of editing and polishing, he had his gift to his sister, a slick 10-minute film called Check Out. The family debuted it Jan. 25 at the Spring Hill 8 theater complex. Elyse and Cynthia held hands and let the tears roll as they stared at the silver screen.

“It was my biggest night ever,” Elyse said.

A month later, the Marinellis found themselves in Arizona as Check Out was selected for screening at the 19th annual Sedona International Film Festival. Next: the Dances With Films in Hollywood and the Gasparilla in Tampa. Earlier this month, the film was selected as part of the annual Sprout Film Festival at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, a showcase for people with disabilities.

Bobby left last week for Seattle as part of a crew filming a reality series for Fuse TV about roadies on the Vans Warped Tour, which features rock n’ roll bands. He’ll ride a bus for two months and visit 40 cities.

Elyse misses him but is enjoying her celebrity status. She jokes with her mom, calling her “my driver.” It is Elyse who sets the alarm and makes sure Cynthia gets her to Publix on time.

They joined a gym and got a personal trainer. Elyse has lost 25 pounds.

At 26, Elyse seems content with her life but understands her restrictions. She’d like a boyfriend someday. “She’s in love with love,” her mom says. “We’ve agreed she should just let life happen.”

For now, Elyse hopes that might include more acting opportunities. On a yellow sticky note like the one Bobby had attached to the script, she printed her feelings:

“I like to act and pretend to be something other than myself.”

Dinklage finds new ‘Home’

from Variety, International News section:
Dinklage finds new ‘Home’
He’ll star in Paki Smith’s helming debut, being sold by Content
By Robert Mitchell

LONDON — “Game of Thrones” star Peter Dinklage is set to star in “A Long Way Home,” with Content Film selling worldwide rights at the EFM in Berlin.

The film, described as an “epic adventure about friendship, courage, magic, adventure and the lengths one boy will go to reunite his family” is the feature helming debut of set decorator and production designer Paki Smith. He recently worked on Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises” and Andrew Stanton’s “John Carter.”

Set to lense in April, “A Long Way Home” is produced by Justin Moore-Levy, David Collins and Charlie Mason, with Paul Michaels and “Star Wars” saga producer Rick McCallum as executive producers. It is scripted by Alex Rose.

Judi Dench Going Blind but Says She Won’t Retire

Oscar-winning actress Judi Dench has no plans to retire despite revealing she is losing her eyesight to a condition called macular degeneration.

The 77-year-old told the U.K.’s Daily Mirror that “as long as there is a possibility of working I’m not going to retire because if I retire nothing will work any more and it’s hard enough as it is,” she said.

She is currently filming the seventh Bond movie, “Skyfall”, in London.

She said she now makes out faces only if the person stands right in front of her.

“The most distressing thing is in a restaurant in the evening I can’t see the person I’m having dinner with,” she said. “…I know there might be something going on but sometimes I can’t see it and that infuriates me as I think I’m really missing out on something.”

She also needs an assistance when reading scripts in order to memorize her lines.

“I can’t read scripts anymore because of the trouble with my eyes,” Dench was quoted as saying. “Somebody comes in and reads them to me, like telling me a story. It’s usually my daughter or my agent or a friend and actually I like that, because I sit there and imagine the story in my mind.”

Film about deaf wrestler winning audiences

From the North County Times:

deaf actor Russell Harvard

Deaf actor Russell Harvard stars as real-life deaf wrestling champion Matt Hammill in the biographical film "The Hammer," opening Oct. 28.

Having grown up both an athlete and a movie fan, Eben Kostbar knew when he heard the story of wrestler Matt Hamill that something cinematic was possible.

Kostbar, a producer, writer, director and sometime actor, had grown up inspired by underdog films such as “Rocky,” “Rudy” and “Hoosiers.” A former wrestler and fan of mixed martial-arts, Kostbar liked what he saw in Hamill’s story. Here was an athlete who was deaf, and managed to overcome a low-income, high-risk background to find fame and success in sports.

Hamill is a three-time NCAA Division III National Champion in wrestling, and earned a silver medal in Greco-Roman wrestling and a gold medal in freestyle wrestling from the 2001 Summer Deaflympics. Hamill was later a contestant on the third season of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality television show.

The movie Kostbar co-produced and co-wrote on Hamill’s life is called “The Hammer.” The film is opening for short runs at dozens of theaters across the country today, including the Vista Village Metroplex 15 and UltraStar Cinemas Mission Marketplace 13 in Oceanside. It is directed by Oren Kaplan and co-written and produced by Joseph McKelheer.

“I heard Matt’s story and thought, ‘Wow, that’s remarkable,'” Kostbar said in a telephone interview. “He’s an inspiring guy. He was receptive to meeting and talking about making his story into a film, and it took off from there.”

Kostbar says he knows sports films need a hook and some emotional momentum.

“Matt was open to including all of the aspects of his life,” Kostbar said. “It’s really a perfect underdog story. Here was a deaf person accomplishing something that had never been done by another deaf person. Although I knew American Sign Language, I didn’t have a lot of experience with deaf people, but I was fascinated by this. I knew that a movie would draw the interest of hearing people who wanted to know more, and would also inspire the deaf community.”

Filming for “The Hammer” happened mostly in New York, as Hamill attended Rochester Institute of Technology. While Kostbar initially considered playing the lead role himself, the filmmakers ultimately decided to hire a deaf actor, Russell Harvard, who had a role in the film “There Will Be Blood.”

“We made sure we had deaf crew members, and that people from the deaf community were involved throughout,” Kostbar said. “We wanted everything as authentic as possible.”

After finishing production, “The Hammer” was submitted for film festivals across the country, and became a festival success story, winning audience-favorite awards almost everywhere it landed.

“The audience simply took the film to heart,” Kostbar said. “We were so happy with the festival reaction.”

The festival success was so strong, in fact, that “The Hammer” was able to do what most independent, low-budget films rarely do: pick up a distributor for theatrical distribution. The film will have a DVD release early next year, but the filmmakers are encouraging people to see it in theaters for maximum effect, and to show distributors that audiences will support independent films such as this.

“The film will also make wrestling and mixed-martial arts fans happy, because the action is so real,” Kostbar said. “It will also bring attention to the deaf community in the best possible way. It’s a film that anyone who has struggled will identify with.”

Visit for more information.

Quadriplegic Actor Jim Troesh Dies at 54

From Hollywood Reporter:

Jim Troesh, a screenwriter, actor and entertainment industry disability advocate, died Oct. 1 at St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank. He was 54.

Troesh was perhaps best known for his three-season role as a quadriplegic attorney on Highway to Heaven, the 1984-89 Michael Landon NBC drama for which he also wrote.

His screenwriting credits also include the 2006 film Color of the Cross, which he penned with Jean-Claude La Marre and Jean Claude Nelson.

As an active member of the WGA West’s Writers with Disabilities Committee, Troesh was the industry’s lone quadriplegic WGAW-SAG dual member and the first quadriplegic to join the actors union. He also served on the Performers Executive Committee of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, was a former national chairman of AFTRA’s Performers with Disabilities Committee and a former president of the Media Access Office.

”What Jim brought to the disability equation was an irreverent, disarming sense of the absurd. Humor kept him going for 41 years,” said WGAW WDC Committee chair Allen Rucker, who dedicated the 2011 Media Access Awards to Troesh at this year’s ceremony held Thursday.

The Media Access Awards honor projects and artists that improve awareness, promote accessibility and champion accurate representations of the disability experience.

Troesh received the prestigious Michael Landon Award from the Media Access Office and was a recipient of the ABC/Disney Writing Scholarship.

Among his recent projects, Troesh created the TV pilot The Hollywood Quad, a sitcom that he wrote, produced, directed and starred in along with guest star Bryan Cranston. Comically chronicling Troesh’s journey in the industry, he turned the program into a podcast series.

Troesh’s other acting credits include Boston Legal, Special Unit, Notes From the Underground, Rise and Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story and Airwolf.

At age 14, Troesh fell off a roof and sustained a spinal injury that left him paralyzed.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Oct. 21 in North Hollywood at a location to be announced. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Troesh’s name to Total Improv Kids — Jim Troesh Scholarship; c/o Linda Fulton; Avery Schreiber Theatre; 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601.

Able actors in disabled roles ‘like blacking up’


Casting able-bodied actors in disabled roles is as repulsive as having white actors “black up” to play black roles, an Irish actor in the latest summer blockbuster has said.

Storme Toolis (18), whose father is investigative journalist Kevin Toolis from Achill in Co Mayo, was delighted to land a role in the feature film adaptation of the Channel 4 sitcom ‘The Inbetweeners’.

Ms Toolis, who lives in London, has cerebral palsy and is a wheelchair user.

She landed her big break when she turned up at an open audition to cast extras in the film about four loveable but idiotic 18-year-old boys.

But Ms Toolis was called back a couple of weeks later and offered a more substantial role.

Within weeks she was on the set in Majorca, having wet towels thrown over her by cast member Blake Harrison, who plays Neil and is famed for his dance moves.

“I really enjoyed the experience. It just takes a bit more effort to employ someone with a disability. You need wheelchair accessible transport etc, but it is a better and more honest approach to the role and always comes off with more authenticity,” she said.

The ambitious teenager, who calls Mayo her “second home” said the acting world was extremely challenging for a person with a disability.

“It is just so hard to land a part and it is not because there are no disabled characters. It’s just non-disabled actors who seem to get them,” she said. “The majority of the ‘disabled’ characters on TV, such as the boy in the wheelchair on ‘Glee’ are in fact able-bodied actors.

“Years ago white people used to ‘black up’ to play black characters but that would not wash these days. There would be a huge backlash, yet there seems to be different rules when it comes to disabled people,” she added.

– Edel O’Connell

Comedian Ricky Gervais defends dwarfism sitcom

From AAS via Media Dis n Dat:

Ricky Gervais has defended his new sitcom centred around Warwick Davis, insisting he doesn’t rely on the dwarf actor’s short stature for the show’s jokes.

Gervais and his writing partner Stephen Merchant recruited the Harry Potter star, who was born with dwarfism, for upcoming TV comedy Life’s Too Short, about a dwarf actor running a struggling showbiz agency.

But The Office funnyman told Britain’s Absolute Radio Breakfast Show he doesn’t poke fun at Davis’ disability in the series.

“This is nothing to do with his height. We’re not getting jokes out of him being short all the time, we’re getting jokes out of him being militant or ripping off other dwarves. He runs an agency, both in real life and in this one. In this one it’s called Dwarves for Hire and of course he’s just ripping them off. He’s getting all the best jobs for himself and he treats them like commodities and props.

“It’s not the real Warwick Davis, he’s not really like that. We’ve created a character here, a little Mussolini (dictator). And it’s not all jokes about his height, it’s much more about his character.”

Gervais previously worked with Davis on a 2005 episode of his TV hit Extras.

Beyond Silence (Jenseits der Stille)

First released in Germany as Jenseits Der Stille, Beyond Silence is the story of Lara, a hearing child of deaf parents Martin and Kai. (The parents converse in German Sign Language, but since the actors who play them are American and French, I have it on good authority that their signing is accented.)

Frequently called upon to serve as sign language interpreter for her parents, young Lara translates meetings, parent-teacher conferences, soap operas, and phone calls for them (though they have a TTY, they are only seen using it once). It is not a good idea to have a child acting in this capacity, though, as Lara avoids translating anything that will get her in trouble or cause a conflict. Martin and Kai realize they’re being fooled, but only bemoan the lack of professional interpreters.

Beyond Silence, at the bank

Lara translates for her parents at a bank, but refuses to ask for early withdrawal of their money.

Furthermore, Martin constantly asks what things–flags, snow, the sunset–sound like, and Lara gamely tries to describe them in terms he can understand. “What would we do without you and your ears?” he asks Lara affectionately.

Lara insists that her mother Kai learn to ride a bicycle, telling her “Every real mother can ride a bike.” Despite inner ear balance problems, Kai practices in a meadow.

In a bit of foreshadowing, Kai narrowly avoids danger while learning to ride a bicycle.

Martin and his sister Clarissa have a strained relationship stemming from a childhood incident where Martin began laughing hysterically during one of her clarinet recitals. Clarissa resents Martin for the way he was allowed to misbehave without consequence, not realizing young Martin acted out of frustration at his inability to communicate with anyone in his family. His own parents were advised not to learn or teach him sign, as the prevailing wisdom of the times was that it would make them less likely to read lips or learn speech.

Martin embarrasses his sister at her clarinet recital, and is forcibly removed by their father.

Though early in the movie we see Martin fixing and adjusting a radio for Lara to listen to, when Clarissa gives Lara a coveted clarinet he worries that he’ll lose her affections and sours on the idea of having music in the house. From then on, any time she turns the radio on or tries to practice her clarinet, he orders that the noise be stopped. This only furthers Lara’s attachment to Clarissa, and once Lara is older Clarissa invites her to stay with her in Berlin so she can practice for an audition at a music conservatory. Martin is furious, but the family overrules him.

While in Berlin, Lara happens to see a man and a young girl conversing in sign at the market, and follows them to strike up a conversation. She initially assumes she’s seeing a girl much like herself, but discovers the little girl is deaf while the hunky guy is her elocution teacher. Like Lara, Tom is a hearing child of deaf parents; though he seems a bit better adjusted than she. He talks about Gallaudet with reverence, saying that “The Americans recognize [sign] as a language. They’re at least 20 years ahead of us.”

Tom suggests Lara become a teacher for the deaf as well, but Lara happens to attend a concert and falls in love with klezmer music. Her future career decided, she prepares to audition for a conservatory. Her relationship with Tom blooms while her relationship with Martin continues to deteriorate. But a sudden death in the family forces a confrontation, and the strength and stability Lara has begun to learn from Tom leads her to understand her father better. They reconcile as they talk across the auditorium while she auditions, Martin saying “I may not be able to hear it, but I’ll try to “understand” it.” Perhaps he’ll always rely on Lara and sister Marie to interface with the hearing, but at last the family has realized the folly of trying to force their children into their respective worlds.

Iep! (Eep! or Cheep!)

We’d like to be able to do a proper review of Iep! (translated as Eep! or Cheep!), but none of us here at Disability Movies Headquarters speaks Dutch. Nor is it available on Amazon. But what we have been able to glean is that Iep! is about a half-girl, half-bird creature discovered as an infant by birdwatcher Warre. He and his wife Tine decide to keep the girl and name her Viegeltje, but she decides she wants to fly south with the other birds and the family must join the long adventurous journey.

The role of Viegeltje is played by Kenadie Jourdin Bromley, who is one of about 30 surviving people in the world who has primordial dwarfism. You can learn more about Kenadie from TV documentaries Born Different: Unbelievable Medical Conditions and Incredibly Small: Kenadie’s Story, or her website

If you speak Dutch, please enjoy the following “making of” videos.

Inside Man

You might think Inside Man‘s “Mobile Command Officer Rourke” is just another non-disabled actor plopped into a wheelchair for a bit part as the token cripple–there’s no way a uniformed policeman in a wheelchair could easily get inside a mobile command unit with narrow doorways and stairs–but Daryl “Chill” Mitchell is the real deal.

Born a biped in the Bronx, New York City, Mitchell enjoyed success as both a rapper in the ’90s and later as an actor in House Party and its sequel, Sgt. Bilko, Galaxy Quest, 10 Things I Hate About You, and the TV sitcoms The John Larroquette Show and Veronica’s Closet. He was paralyzed from the waist down by a motorcycle accident in 2001. Fortunately, Mitchell already had a disabled friend to show him the ropes, and support from friends including Denzel Washington and Chris Tucker allowed him to continue his acting career.

He has since appeared on TV shows Ed, Law and Order, Brothers, Desperate Housewives, and Wizards of Waverly Place, started the Daryl Mitchell Foundation, received the NAACP Image Award, and serves as a spokesperson for the Christopher Reeve Foundation.


It’s not uncommon for little people to play elves in Christmas movies, but Elf bucks tradition a bit by casting people of average stature as the elves (through the cinematic technique of forced perspective), and a single little person (Peter Dinklage) as a highly paid children’s book author with an attitude.

Disability themes are hinted at; throughout the movie, especially during the beginning scenes at the North Pole, Buddy the Elf notices he’s different from the other elves. He can’t make toys as fast as they can, and though his elf supervisor tries to cheer him up by pointing out all the things Buddy excels at–like changing the lightbulbs every six months–behind his back they gripe that he’s slowing them down. Buddy overhears one such conversation, and is sent to the equivalent of a sheltered workshop for “special elves” (here the word “special” is used as a pejorative) where he performs repetitive busywork. A maniacal Jack-in-the-Box terrifies Buddy, and Santa must intervene.

Santa tells Buddy that he’s really been human all along, and must go to New York in search of his biological father. Buddy catches the next ice floe out of there, but after a socially awkward reunion with Walter Hobbs, his reluctant father believes Buddy is mentally ill.

Buddy persists in trying to form a relationship with his father, and (after an unusually quick paternity test) Walter is convinced of his duty to Buddy. He takes him home to a very understanding wife and son for nurturing, but after realizing he cannot leave Buddy alone in an unfamiliar world, takes him to work in the hopes he’ll sit quietly in the corner.

Buddy barges in on a meeting with the aforementioned children’s book author Miles Finch and mistakes him for one of his elf compatriots. Miles takes offense, lists his accomplishments (houses in various cities, plasma TVs, more “action” than Buddy’s ever seen), and challenges Buddy to “Call me elf, one more time!” Unaware of the human world’s sad history of labelling assertive disabled people as “angry”, Buddy whispers that he must be an “angry elf”.

Miles charges down the length of the conference table and opens up a travel-size can of whoopass. Someone’s been taking his adaptive martial arts lessons. Watch the full “Angry Elf” scene (unfortunately not embeddable). The scene is played for laughs, but such a beatdown is quite possible; little people do have normal or almost normal strength in their arms and legs. Combined with a low center of gravity, judo training, and the element of surprise, and it’s small wonder that Miles prevails.

Interestingly, the Elf Original Motion Picture Score lists the incidental music track for that scene as “Attack of the Little People”. The words “dwarf” and “midget”, currently considered pejorative, aren’t uttered in Elf. The producers show a sensitivity to disability issues, and even wring some humor out of them.