RespectAbility Opens Applications for Fourth Annual Entertainment Lab; Expands To Two Cohorts

RespectAbility, a nonprofit focused on fighting stigmas of people with disabilities in media and advocating for more authentic representation, is opening applications for the fourth annual Entertainment Lab for disabled entertainment professionals. Applications will be accepted through Friday, March 11.

The Entertainment Lab aims to help develop and elevate the talent pipeline of diverse professionals with disabilities working behind-the-scenes in television, film, and streaming. At the same time, we are introducing them to studio executives and other decision makers who will advise Lab Fellows on various aspects of the industry and their craft.

“This is a unique program that merges our work in the entertainment industry with RespectAbility’s founding mission to create more opportunities for people with disabilities who desire to be employed,” said Lab Founder and Director Lauren Appelbaum, RespectAbility’s Vice President, Communications and Entertainment & News Media.

“RespectAbility honestly was probably the first to take a look and say that you’re worthy, you’re important. And it’s changed the course of my career,” said 2021 alumna Cashmere Jasmine, who recently was named to Disney Launchpad Season 2 as a director.

Lab alumni currently work for a variety of studio partners including Netflix, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, and The Walt Disney Company, as well as in a variety of writers’ rooms. Others have had films featured at festivals such as SXSW and participated in additional career track programs including with Film Independent and Sundance Institute.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lab was restructured to a virtual format in 2020 and further refined for 2021. In 2022, we plan to return to an in-person Lab in Los Angeles, taking place June 6 – July 15. To ensure accessibility for those who cannot be in LA, there also will be a virtual Lab, August 15 – September 23, 2022.

Sessions for both include: presentations, roundtables, and other workshops with high-level executives and talent from major studios, networks, and production companies, informal networking with your cohort, project workshops and table reads.

“One purpose for this program is to continue building the talent pipeline of young professionals with disabilities looking to work behind the scenes,” said Appelbaum, who is a recipient of the 2020 Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award for this Lab. “We do not want anyone to have an excuse that they could not find a disabled writer, animator, director, or any other position.”

Participants include people with experience in development, production and/or post-production, and careers as writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, animators, and other production roles.

RespectAbility received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for this year’s Lab. The Entertainment Labs have been supported by: A+E Networks, Final Draft, The Harnisch Foundation, Murray/Reese Foundation, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Pop Culture Collaborative, Sony Pictures Entertainment, ViacomCBS, and The Walt Disney Company. The Lab also was the Fan Favorite chosen by the Arc Tank audience for the Northeast Arc’s “The Arc Tank 3.0,” which was created to positively disrupt conventional methods of providing services to people with disabilities.

RespectAbility provides ASL interpreters and live captioning for all educational and related networking events and welcomes other accommodations requests. For questions pertaining to the Entertainment Lab, please contact Jacquill Moss at Lab@RespectAbility.org.

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