John Penotti and Phil Lord to Mentor 2019 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge Winners

By: Mar. 25, 2019
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John Penotti and Phil Lord to Mentor 2019 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge Winners

Easterseals Southern California announced new additions to its lineup of mentors for the annual Easterseals Disability Film Challenge, the entertainment industry's premiere disability inclusion film competition. Academy Award-winning writer, director and producer Phil Lord ("Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," "The Lego Movie," "21 Jump Street") and producer and President of SK Global John Penotti ("Crazy Rich Asians") will provide mentorship to the film competition's winners for Best Director and Best Film, respectively.

Easterseals Disability Film Challenge participants write, shoot and edit a three- to five-minute short film based on an assigned genre in just 55 hours over the course of one weekend - this year it will be April 5-7, 2019. Submitted films are judged in four award categories - Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Awareness Campaign. Filmmakers interested in registering for this film competition can do so online now through April 3, 2019.

Additional mentors previously announced for the film challenge include Pam Dixon, casting director ("Angels in the Outfield," "City Slickers"), who will mentor the Best Actor winner and Tiffany Smith-Anoa'i, executive vice president, entertainment diversity, inclusion and communications at CBS Entertainment who will mentor the winner of the Best Awareness Campaign.

"The caliber of talent who have signed on to mentor and judge this year's film competition speaks volumes about the importance of what we are aiming to do: expand the diversity conversation and give more representation to disability in front of and behind the camera," says Nic Novicki, actor and founder, Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. "We eagerly anticipate the opportunity to view the submissions into this year's challenge - and encourage anyone with an interest in filmmaking and championing diversity to participate."

Further demonstrating the prestige of this film competition, the 2019 judges are:

  • Alice Austen, award-winning screenwriter, playwright, producer ("Give Me Liberty")
  • Nicole Castro, producer/distributor for BBC Worldwide, managing director of the HollyShorts Film Festival
  • Kat Coiro, writer/director ("Modern Family," "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," "Shameless," "The Mick")
  • Jenni Gold, editor, screenwriter, director, founder of Gold Pictures, Inc.
  • Kevin Jordan, award-winning writer/director
  • Ken Kragen, manager and producer
  • Steven Martini, TV and feature film writer ("Lymelife")
  • RJ Mitte, actor ("Breaking Bad")
  • Richard Propes, founder/publisher of
  • Mark Povinelli, actor ("Water for Elephants," "Mirror Mirror," "The Polar Express")
  • Danny Woodburn, veteran actor ("Seinfeld," "Watchmen," "Ninja Turtles")
  • Kaitlyn Yang, founder of Alpha Studios ("Robot Chicken," "Falling Skies")

The annual Easterseals Disability Film Challenge, founded in 2013, gives filmmakers the opportunity to collaborate and tell unique stories that showcase disability in its many forms. The film competition is open to anyone, with or without disabilities. While the filmmakers are not required to include disability in the storyline, each team must include at least one person with a disability in front of or behind the camera.

"Representation matters - and we hope that by giving the disability community a chance to show their talent as filmmakers, actors, producers, camera operators and more, we will continue to see more inclusion in film and television productions," said Mark Whitley, CEO, Easterseals Southern California. "We want to see a future where there is 100 percent inclusion across all industries and facets of life, and Easterseals is proud to help shape that future."

Key Easterseals Disability Film Challenge dates:

  • Locations, genre and themes released: Wed., April 3, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. PDT
  • Registration deadline: Wed., April 3, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. PDT
  • Props released: Fri., April 5, 2019 at 11:01 a.m. PDT
  • Submissions due: Sun., April 7, 2019 at 5:59 p.m. PDT
  • Finalists Announced: Sat., April 27, 2019 during the Newport Beach Film Festival
  • Red Carpet Award Ceremony: Thurs., May 9, 2019 at Sony Pictures Studios (invitation only)

Sponsors and partners for the 2019 Challenge include: Sony Pictures Entertainment, Deadline Hollywood, SAG-AFTRA, CBS Entertainment Diversity & Inclusion, Dell, Adobe, Film Independent, Heartland Film Festival, HollyShorts Film Festival, Universal Pictures, Variety and the Newport Beach Film Festival.

Sony Pictures Entertainment, as the official Red Carpet Sponsor, will host the Awards Ceremony. Based on the category, winners have the opportunity to receive prizes such as: the latest in computer technology from Dell, the opportunity to screen their film at the HollyShorts Film Festival, mentorship opportunities, a $2,000 production grant provided by Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, a Sony a6400L camera kit and more.

To register for the 2019 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge, view the official rules, or for more information, please visit