RespectAbility Entertainment Lab 2020 wrapped July 16, after 15 sessions intended to create an industry pipeline of professionals with disabilities behind the camera.

The five-week program is sponsored by the nonprofit RespectAbility and is run by four women with disabilities: Lauren Appelbaum, Tatiana Lee, Nasreen Alkhateeb and Leah Romond.

The program targets individuals who are interested in such jobs as writing, directing, producing, editing, sound and animation work.

It featured 30 participants, all of whom have experience in the entertainment industry prior to the Lab; however, most found they were stuck in assistant-level positions. The Lab is structured with two tracks: One for emerging talent (i.e., individuals with an internship or first-job experience) and mid-career (those who are more established, with films screening at SXSW or  writing credits on network TV shows, for example).

Speakers included reps from Bunim/Murray Prods., Film Independent, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Studios, the Walt Disney Studios, ViacomCBS and others.

The program is important because people with disabilities are frequently overlooked in Hollywood’s discussions about inclusion; their presence behind the camera is even rarer.

Lab members participated in Zoom sessions with veterans in the industry. Last year’s pilot program provided networking opportunities; due to COVID restrictions, this year’s Lab added a pair of two-hour sessions that involved networking, while three more sessions had participants sharing content they had produced, directed or edited, as well as virtual table reads for peer review.

The web page lists all 30 of this year’s participants.

RespectAbility Entertainment Lab 2020 Team

Faculty advisers included producer-exec Jonathan Murray, Cheryl Bedford, Deborah Calla, Fanshen Cox, Sue Obeida, David Renaud, Shoshannah Stern, Delbert Whetter and Alex Yellen.

(Pictured: Jonathan Murray, Lauren Appelbaum and Christina Cadena)