Season 2 Episode 2 with Isaac Zablocki

October 09, 2022 01:02:19
Season 2 Episode 2 with Isaac Zablocki
Disability Empowerment Now
Season 2 Episode 2 with Isaac Zablocki

Oct 09 2022 | 01:02:19

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Show Notes

Isaac Zablocki is the Director of film programs at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan. He attended film school at Columbia University and went on to work at Miramax films. Previously, he produced and directed feature films and developed film educational programs for the Department of Education. Since 2004, Isaac has been developing film programs at […]
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Episode Transcript

Welcome to Disability Empowerment Now Season 2. I'm host Keith Murfee-DeConcini. Today I am talking with Isaac Zablocki, Senior Director in Film Programs at the JCC Manhattan, who is also the co-founder of the Reelabilities Film Festival. Isaac, welcome to the podcast. Isaac: Thank you so much for having me. Keith: So I met you the first time I believe in 2014 at the Reelabilities Film Festival, and I was always impressed with that program. Specifically with how inclusive and broad it was. So tell me a bit of the history of you meeting your other co-founder Anita Altman and how the genesis of the program got started. Isaac: Well, thank you. Thank you so much for the kind words. We're very proud of our program for Realabilities. The Genesis of it really, it was I guess, there's a moment of fate there, but also a lot of hard work by a lot of people. What it comes down to is that our film program at the JCC in Manhattan, is one that its mission was always to show films that were not being shown and that need to be shown, and that are important to our community. And I really came to this from a cinematic perspective, because I personally believe that cinema is a form of education. Cinema changes you, for better or for worse. There's a lot of responsibility to good movies and we ran our program at the JCC as one that was with that in mind as using film as a tool for change, a tool for impact, a really powerful tool for impact. And we had shown a few films, relating to the topic of disability. And I realized this is a topic that needs to be explored. And I started seeing that there were more and more films relating to this topic that we really had a festival there. And then as chance would have it, I ran into Anita Altman who is running a network of disability organizations and it was fate. And it was like, we both had already put this plan in place and we just said, all right, like, we're gonna make this happen. Sure enough, we did. And we brought in a lot of great partners that helped us do it right and we've learned, and it's taken this further. For me personally, it's been a journey that has allowed me to get in touch with my disability and with my family members' disabilities and I really feel proud to be a part of the community. Keith: Thank you for that introduction, before we go any further, you mentioned that you approached this Film Festival from a cinematic directorship. What got you into film directing or overseeing film programs? What inspired that passion? Isaac: I've been a one trick pony my whole life and have been really about film and I've been eating and drinking film. Like I figured everybody should be right. I don't know if you're as big of a film fan as I am, but you know, film's a popular format. Shouldn't everybody. Why would you wanna work on Wall Street when you could work in the movies? Right. And why would you wanna be anything else, a lawyer? Oh, these poor lawyers. I get to work in film. This is like, you know, I have the best job ever, but I'll tell you the truth of something that I put together and I'm self diagnosing my psychological element here, but I have a learning disability, dysgraphia and reading and writing doesn't come to me the same way it comes to most people. The fact that film is a visual medium is something that has definitely affected me probably differently than most people, my whole life. And it has been the way I learn. It has been a place where I feel much more comfortable than in a book for instance, like a lot of people can curl up in a book with a book. To me, a book is torture. The visuals definitely speak to me differently. I remember through film in much better ways. I learned through film in much deeper ways. They affect me emotionally. So maybe it was out of necessity that I turned to film as my life passion. Or maybe it was just like, kind of once again, another match made in heaven. Keith: So I actually have dysgraphia myself and also dyscalculia, which is a math disability dyslexia reading disability, and so I am right there with you. How I consume books is audio books. I refer to them affectionately as my tink because I have so many of them. I have been a huge audible subscriber and I have over 500 and so that is my realm into reading. I am also a movie buff as well, but I can certainly relate to the visual aspects and the visual appeal of film. And so Anita mentioned when I interviewed her last season that you two happened to run into each other by pure coincidence at a party and got to talking. I wanted to know if you remembered that first meeting. You just said that you both have had this already conceptualized in your heads, if you can remember think back to that first meeting and what was that like, particularly, meeting someone who would become such an important part of your life, both personally I am assuming and definitely professionally. Isaac: First of all, I've probably met Anita before because we run in a lot of the same circles but our, as the story goes, our fateful night was at a comedy event at Symphony Spaces, as I recall here on the upper west side. There was somebody famous there that night too, but Cober was there that's who it was. He got ignored by us because Anita and I were actually, and now I'm remembering that Anita's partner Gil Kuk who had just come to one of our film festivals, was talking to me about our, another film festival that we run. And I remember that Anita was trying to pull him away and he's like, Anita, don't you know who this is, this is Isaac who runs the film festival at the JCC. And she said to me, oh Isaac, I wanted to talk to you and that's how it happened. Keith: Nice, nice. And so how long ago was that? And from that meeting where you first discussed the revolutionary idea? How long between the conceptual phase and putting on the first Reelabilities Film Festival. Isaac: My guess is it took us at least a year. I'm trying to remember exactly. I think it was in the fall that we met and it wasn't until the next fall that we ran our first Reelabilities. Now abilities of course have moved to the spring. It was at least a year to kind of get it off the ground, which is actually relatively fast for, you know, not having too much organization in place, but we got it together and made that first one happen. And then it grew at tremendous speed. It was unbelievable. We till this day, I mean from, that was 15 years ago, till now continues to every year, just evolve and grow and take on new shapes. So it's been an exciting ride. Keith: So the first team, I assume very small and certainly compared to the team you have behind it now, tell me more about the inner workings of putting on a film festival that just keeps growing and growing not only in New York, but one of the only benefits of the current pandemic is that you've had to switch to either virtual or a hybrid model. A lot of the other film festivals have included the Realabilities in California and Maine. I've been to a couple where I have, where I wouldn't have been able to go. Had it not been available to me virtually. So back to the question, what is it like in the inner workings behind the scenes of a film that keeps growing and growing and growing exponentially? Every single year. Isaac: And just to add to your question, it also happens to be the most accessible film festival in the world. The disability movement keeps changing. There's a lot to keep up with. I don't know if we have like three or four hours here to go over some of the details but I could really get you into I think some of the mechanics, but I'll try to share as much as I can and try not to go on too long, but, first of all, There's we could talk about let's leave separately, the whole international aspect of it. You did bring up that we went virtual and having that definitely opened the door and we got those letters from people saying I have wanted to attend Reelabilities all these years and I couldn't and being virtual allowed people to attend and made us more accessible. And that was always the goal. In our first year of the festival, Anita came to the table, really with this idea of saying, we need to be in as many locations as possible to make this as accessible as possible. We can't just be in Manhattan. We need to be all over New York. And even in our first year, I don't remember how many locations we had. We had between eight and 15 locations that kept growing in New York to over 40 locations one year till we decided to consolidate and say, realize, okay, this is too much to manage. Let's bring this down. We can't also manage the accessibility. It was just way too much. Imagine running something in 40 locations during one week. It was a lot. Being virtual really solved that problem for us, that we could really have the accessibility available in one place for those who can't attend in person. So now we work with, I'd say around 10 locations in New York and keep it much, much smaller and accommodating. As far as accommodations go, accessibility has been also our middle name and has been a big part that's been evolving and something that we need to keep up with. And it's not just about being ADA approved. It's about being, you know, a leader in this field. We like to raise the bar every year and are constantly learning new ways and accessibility is a tricky thing, you know, what's accessibles for one person makes something inaccessible for another person. Then this is something that we're constantly working with. There's different approaches within the disability community. Some will be saying, I want this accessible element of accessibility. Some will say I want another, a different one. Again, some of those can conflict and it's a lot to keep up with. Every year, there's something new, there's new elements. We started our first year and we were like, just proud to have some basic accessibility and to have captions. The second year we were one of the early audio describers in the city. Nobody was doing audio description in New York. We had to bring somebody in from DC to train audio describers so we could have them. For one film we even had to make the audio description live, we didn't have it pre-recorded. It was a wild time. Now, luckily, a lot of this has grown and become just like, you know, basic and we could actually outsource some of it and allow others to create the audio description. And every film is audio described. Every film is captioned. Every conversation, we used to not have the budget to have a cart in every conversation that's live stenography, or to have as much accessibility to offer as much as accessibility as we can. Today we do. Now it's even more complicated when you're doing hybrid things. You have to be really careful because you need to have things accessible, both for the audience in person and for the audience at home at the same time, which you know, kind of doubles the budget for all of that and doubles the mechanics for all of that. It becomes very complicated. I'm lucky to work with a fabulous team. We bring on seasonal people. We have year round people who really make this all happen. There's never a boring day and there's never a quiet day and we're constantly working on the next festival and bringing things together. And, then of course the national program has grown and we've expanded into dozens of cities across the US and beyond. Now we call it an international program because we're in Canada and Mexico as well and some other South American countries we've grown into and spreading the word of Realabilities. There's a lot of work on our side that needs to be done, but each city also runs it independently the way we run our New York festival. None of them are as big in New York as the New York festival, but it's kind of like running a franchise. They run it, we train them, they have the brand, they have the films, they have the accessibility, they have all the pieces, but they really run their own show. Keith: So tell me about the film selection process. How do you wildle that down. I can't even imagine how many submissions you get each year to date. What is the most submission you have gotten in a year and what is the process like? Isaac: It's a great question and there's a lot to get into there. I'll talk about the technical first, but then remind me, I also wanna get into the values behind it. We really look at the cinematic side, but on the technical level, for the last I'd say probably close to a decade. We've been using FilmFreeway, which is a site that is specifically built for the selection process, which is great because we used to work with DVDs and we used to make copies of DVDs and hand them out to selection committee members, and then we would be using a chart online and it was chaos. Using Filmfreeway has made it a lot easier. They kind of have a monopoly on the business right now, which is good. And they're a nice company. The advice that I give to any film festival that's starting is to always put a price tag. This is something that I've learned, because it kind of answers your question, but the most selections we got. Put a price tag on your film festival, even though you wanna be free and accessible, if you don't put a price tag on it, everybody and their mother is gonna submit their home videos as movies for your festival, some may be relevant, most will not. You wanna kind of, actually not just allow people to submit, you wanna create a little bit of a barrier. So we put a $5 submission fee or something like that. To allow people to not just be able to submit for free, because when we did that, we literally got thousands of submissions that we had to go through. Now we've cut that down. We're also actually asked for our submissions to fill out a form where you tell us as much as possible of what we need about our film selection process. So we ask about the disability, the inclusion of the process, the filmmaking, the connections that we might have to it. And there's a whole form that you fill out beyond just also of course, all the film details and giving us the actual film. That's brought it down. So now we get a few hundred submissions every year, which is nice. We unfortunately have to say no to a lot of great films that possibly will not screen anywhere else because we are the only platform that should be for them. We only have so many slots and we try to fit in as many films as we can and every year we have to say no to films that we loved and that are important and are well made. So this is really the hardest part of my job, honestly. Within the selection process, we have a committee and now actually a few different committees that look at all the films. I personally try to put my eyes on every film and we look at films and select based on production, number one, production, high quality films. We do not dumb it down for a second. We want the best films. We also think about our audit. We like everybody to bring in their own perceptions and their own perspective, and their own tastes. And there's never been a film that a hundred percent of our committee members agreed on. There's always like, you know, 99% can love it. And that one person will say, I didn't like it. Thumbs down. Not even a, maybe thumbs down. I hated it. Wow. Like, you know, and it's amazing cause that just shows how different people are. Yes. There'll be a film that everybody hates and one person will say, this is the greatest film I've ever seen, which is an important part of that process. And we try to work with hearing as many voices as possible and not just saying, oh, this one got enough votes. This one's going in and out. No, we try to be thoughtful about it. As I mentioned, production is important. The other thing that's important is representation of disability and how disability is presented in the film, and if it's we look for what we say as a progressive approach we don't like to make things black and white and say, oh, we only take films that are a certain way. There is, I mean, as an example, we could easily say that we all, and actually the last few years have only taken films that are authentically cast, but we don't wanna make that as a rule cause there's some films that can't be authentically cast. So we like to look at each film individually and to really understand its disability process. But most importantly, we look about films that tell that tell stories that have human representation, that are relatable, films that we think about our audience and we wanna make sure that outsiders and insiders can both relate to the topic because this is such a great movie because you have such great cinematic language because you have such great storytelling abilities because you have a character there, with or without a disability, we are engaged with them and can relate to them because they're human and we love looking at that side of things and kind of making our decisions through those elements. Of course, we look at diversity too. We don't want all of our films to be about one disability. We look at diversity in every sense, we make sure that our committees are as diverse as possible. So it's not just one kind of representation, but actually multiple kinds of representation who are looking at these people from different walks of lives. Then we mix these all together and try through our partners. And we've actually had a really unique process where when we were having 40 different locations, we brought our locations into the selection process and they helped us finalize that final list and choose from within our short list. It's a really exciting process. I like to think it's extremely democratic in some ways, not just by votes, but by just bringing in so many different voices and making everybody apart and putting it through this process and then looking at the diversity and seeing, oh, wait, you know, too many comedies here now, that's actually never been our problem. That's a fake example. I wish we had more comedies. We have too many of a certain kind of film and too many of this genre and how do we balance things out? We rely on our partners for that, that come in experts on different disabilities, who will come in and help us with that. And cinema people who know cinema and can look at a festival and say, wait, you know, this movie is doing, has the same effect as this other film. And if you need to cut one, it's one of these two. Keith: S before we go on you've got a selection and then how do you put it together so that it flows or did that organically happen or is there a set criteria that changes every year? I mean it's been 14, 15 years.So you must have some templates of how to set it up but every year it’s different, so talk about that process. Isaac: Yeah. It's a process, it's definitely a process. I mean, you have to juggle a lot. I kind of actually really like that part of the process and I don't know what it is about it, that I like putting pieces into their places. But you look at films and you try to understand artistically, where they should go. Classically you know, you wanna open strong and close strong. I like to think that all of our films are great. Sometimes, you know, for opening night you think like, okay, there's so much else going on. It's not the one, you know, if there's a film where you really have to have a meaty conversation about it, maybe we shouldn't do that on opening night because there's so much else going on. The press enjoys knowing what your opening night is for whatever reason, even though the middle of the week screening is possibly our best film, they wanna know what opening night is. So you try to do something a little bit more that's of interest to the press if that means that there's celebrities involved or something else that would be of interest to the press that would make opening night more interesting and sometimes also drive some of our audience members to come to make it a celebratory night. You try to figure out that there's a lot of the requirements that come from filmmakers. Like, you know, the filmmaker was like, listen, I'm in Arizona on Tuesday. So I cannot do it on Tuesday night, but I'm there for the second half of the festival if you need me, then that film's gonna have to lean there, and sometimes that throws off whatever flow and balance we were building. It's really an artistic process to like look at the festival to see where things fit. What's your right for this time of day? What's right for this day of the week, where do different things fit and then there's necessity and they're like, all right, you know what? This is screening on Tuesday, that's the only night that the location in Queens can screen it. So that means, even though it fits perfectly on Tuesday, we're gonna have to screen it on Wednesday. So I think a lot of necessities with a little bit of thoughtfulness in the process and the truth is I always try to push thoughtfulness above the necessities. Like how far can we push? Like, you know, can we get back to that filmmaker in Arizona and say, can you please come in Tuesday because Tuesday's really gonna work for this. Keith: Indeed. And you mentioned you wanted to talk more about the cinematic aspect of doing the Festival because that’s a very passionate area of okay I am going to assume again, both your personal and professional life, and so how do you as a film director bring that aspect into the Film Festival. It sounds like it should be a simple question with a simple answer to someone who probably doesn't know the complexity that can go into that line of thinking, but please talk about that. Isaac: Another really complicated topic, but I mean, first of all, there's disability politics that come into this. We are members of a community that is so divided and it's really sad, sometimes it's really beautiful, at other times it's nice when I see things come together. As much as I consider myself, you know, I use film as a form of activism. I am a believer in finding a central ground to meet on and like bringing community together and that's why I think possibly that that's reflected in the tone of Reelabilities. Some might say we're a little soft. I think we push the envelope for definitely most people, probably even for most people in the disability community. Yet there are things that, you know, that might go too far. I think we tend to really actually love the things that go too far and wanna actually show more films that are kind of a little edgier and push the envelope in terms of disability philosophy. The cinematic side of it is really about understanding the importance of representation of disability in cinema, which has a long history, is in a very complicated place right now, as far as it's really becoming a part of everyday cinema. Coda winning the academy award is a huge statement for something that we've been pushing for, for us personally, 15 years, other activists, much, much longer. We are at an amazing point right now in cinematic history. We're witnessing change. We are, I am seeing. Here's my favorite examples. We've always gone to this. I've always said my favorite disability films are ones that are not about the disability, but rather just happen to be a completely inclusive disability. You know, the lead characters happen to have a disability and are part of it in the most normal and realistic ways for a person with a disability. I'm seeing so much of that right now. I love, I was watching on the Only Murders in the Building, the Steve Martin show. And you know, one of his fans happens to have a, you know, you see it all over there. There's disability all over that show. One of the characters happens to be deaf and it's not what the show is about. It's not what makes a difference in the murder. It's not a plot tool either. It's just like, you know, they made a decision just to be inclusive. And I love it. And I see that all over the place and you see how easy it is and how normal it is, and maybe that means like, for our films now that that's becoming the norm, maybe that means that we need to push the envelope a little bit more and show disability in ways that it's never been presented. I wanna see more of those films. I want filmmakers to feel empowered enough to really, I see that more from Europe. I have to admit. Yeah. I wanna see that in an American film too. I wanna see it. Because the European film sometimes like, both literally and figuratively will be in a different language and won't necessarily resonate. If we could see some American made independent films that are accessible to an American audience, but shine a new light on disability. That's really what I would love to program more than anything else. Keith: The films are all fantastic every year without question. What I enjoy more though oddly enough are the talkbacks with the directors, the actors, the audience. Talk about that. Was that always in the scheme of things in terms of the Festival or did that happen later on because that adds so much to actually seeing fim and even if I am not in the room where it happens, the talk back, I feel like I am and it adds so much more intimacy. So talk about that. Isaac: So this is one of the pillars of Reelabilities and a requirement for every one of our screenings for the films, not to just remain as I said, from the beginning, this is not just entertainment. This is a form of education. I call it a light term. We can't just leave the films on the screen for people to then just process on their own. It's nice. Good to have dinner with somebody and talk to them about the film. Think about it for the next few days. No, no, no. We want to actually have the community together to be a part of this process. We want to have these conversations not only just with, we want them with the filmmakers. We wanna understand that process. We wanna celebrate the cinematic elements to it and the artistry of filmmaking. But we also wanna talk to experts and partners and others who are relevant to the real world of whatever disability is being represented and want our community, members of the audience, both in person and virtual to be a part of that. So, I mean, we make this accessible in every way and have that as a crucial element of our programming and spend a lot of time in the programming in making sure that there's the right conversation after each one and an accessible conversation, by the way, we talk about accessibility aids for films, the conversation that's where I'll see, like, you know, some festival will make their film fully accessible and then their conversation will be, this happens in movie theaters a lot, by the way, because they'll have them an example is that they'll have their movie be on one sound system. So people who, let's say, have hearing loss are listening through their hearing devices, but then they'll have the conversation on a different sound system and they can no longer have accessibility. So in general, we've learned a lot about making the Q and A more accessible. And that is crucial. That means like, you know, when the person's asking that question from the audience, making sure that they have a microphone and that that's interpreted by all the right interpreters. It's making sure that your stage is accessible so that the person in the wheelchair is part of the conversation. And it's part of an equal conversation. It means that, you know, you're not seating two people on high stools and one person on a lower stool because they can't get up to the high stool. There's so many elements that go into that. And then it's about having those right people talk about it, disagree about it, and have been a part of the conversation. And my favorite moments are when that person in the audience says, and this happens every year and they say, I thought I was alone until I saw this movie and now I'm seeing you and hearing you talk about it and that couldn't happen without, I mean, watching the movie alone would not be enough. It's actually having that conversation, that makes you feel that human connection exists. Keith: Are you surprised at the starpower you've been able to attract, over the years, without dropping any names, but just because you've had some very big names in terms of Hollywood, in terms of the world of Disability community, and so are you surprised by that. Surprised may be the wrong word, I just didn't think of anything else at the moment. Isaac: Listen, I'm really happy and grateful for all the support. Honestly, I'm not into the celebrity element. And much as I understand that's an important factor in running a film festival to get the kind of attention you want. I mean, Sundance with all of their great films, wouldn't it be Sundance without Robert Redford. That's why it's Sundance. Let's be honest. Should that be true? No, I'd rather do them, to not have the celebrity attached and rather people to look at the value of the films that you're showing. It's really great that we've gotten so many celebrities and it's quite amazing and I'm kind of like, you know, In awe of some of them and grateful to others. But really for me, it's about the different disabilities.I don't wanna say actors and advocates and you know, celebrities in my mind who have shown up over the years and have been a part and have given their support to this festival. Those to me are definitely the more interesting people to bring in and have the more interesting things to say. For me, it's about the content, not about the flash. The flash might help. I think that's something by the way has happened completely organically, which is also a beautiful thing. Listen, we haven't had to, some places, we have awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring in certain players. We ask and sometimes we get the right answers and people come, but what's more important, you know, having Marley Madelin there, it's not about her being an Academy Award Winner. It has to do with what she says on the stage, which is just mind blowing and beautiful and brilliant and that's really what I care about most. Keith: And so what is, if you had to pick one thing, what is your favorite thing about the Film Festival, and in constantly growing, what is one area that you wish the Film Festival will continue to drive to do better. Isaac: It's interesting. I mean, over the years with the film festival with Reelabilities, I feel like the moments are always with the audience. I have to say the pandemic was not, our numbers were higher than ever before, but I like that in person connection to the audience. That's what gets me every year, if it's at our after party where we're two members of the disability community meet and fall in love. If it's sitting in the theater and a kid who's nonverbal asks a question and has for the first time, their parents will come over to me and say, our child has never spoken publicly before and will ask a question using their iPad or whatever it is publicly that's really, you know, these like beautiful moments of how the audience has changed, or if it's the person who comes over to me and tells me that, you know, I saw this film, you know, years ago, and I've never been able to forget it. You know, you think about the impact of that. And you know, that you are the only place that maybe has shown this film and that nobody else has seen this life changing gem. So it's really that audience interaction that is my favorite part personally. I am moved to tears even now. Sorry there was a part two to your question. Keith: What is something you want to improve? Isaac: I mean listen, accessibility is improving every year. I always give this funny example of that. It took us till year eight to discover that the soap in the women's bathroom was not accessible to people in wheelchairs. It makes me really sad. It was replaced immediately, but, and I take no blame in this case. No, but in other places I do take the blame and like, you know, we learn things every year and are constantly improving. Our disabilities are constantly improving. I think our access, our approach to disability, changes every year. I mean, I don't even want to think back at the very beginning, 15 years ago, where we were in our approach to disability and how unacceptable that would be today, in how we've evolved. A lot of this, the whole community has evolved. I mean, it's something that, you know, that I'd love to be able to create Reelabilities as really a safe space that everyone can feel comfortable in. I said, the community's complicated and what's right for one group, won't be right for another. And that's something that I try to constantly improve and constantly find that common ground and, and build a space where we can really feel that everyone can feel welcome. Keith: I asked Anita towards the end of her interview, if she could project and see a, not an end point certainly but a Anita, towards the end of her interview, if she could project and see not an end point certainly but a goal of where to get the Film Festival to make it as accessible as possible and I believe she said eventually a streaming service, so I wondered if that’s 10 to 15 years down the horizon or if there is another goal. I mean you two seem to be in it together for the long haul and trust me we all are very grateful and very honored that you are. SO what is, again not the end point, because I don’t think there really can be an endpoint, but what’s the peak outcome or situation that by the time you retire from Reelabilities, which hopefully it is not for 20 or thirty years, but that is just my projection. What would be the peak place you would want to give Reelabilities before you hand it off to the next person? Isaac: Thank you and it's a good question. The big part of Reelabilities is its changing perceptions. I have to say with all of our accessibility, with all of being, you know, a place to celebrate disability and put the spotlight on disability, the legal change has happened. The cultural change for the disability community has not happened, and it is crucial to change perceptions and break taboos and this is an uphill battle, and we are unfortunately with all the great change that's going on and Coda and Crip Camp and all this representation, people with disabilities and, I see it constantly. Disability is still not a mainstream word. There might be legal access, but is the disabled community being looked in the eye in the same way? I think there's a lot to break down, especially with the mainstream, especially with people who don't yet realize that they have a connection to the disability community, or will someday have a connection to the disability community. This is something, you know, changing the word the way I think a lot of people perceive disability. Even in the best cases as a community that gets either sympathy or is kind of used as a form other than, as an emotional device, these are things that we wanna change. These are elements that we believe our films actually create change. And I know I've always said that, you know, we want Reelabilities to be obsolete. I want Reelabilities to get to a point where our films are so mainstream and they're everywhere that there's no need for us. And unfortunately, I'm constantly with all the wonderful changes that are happening and I don't like to talk about the negative too much. I'm constantly faced with all the bigotry that's out there. This is gonna take a generation possibly, if not more, and it's an uphill battle and it's going to be a constant fight. So I do see that there's a lot of work that we need to have done, until then we'll also be a resource to others and, you know, that's what we've become is like, you know, people come to us constantly for how to make things accessible. How to talk about disability in our school, in our place of employment, how to make this a little bit more accessible and we hope to, you know, push that line up a little bit. In regards to a streaming site, it's built, it's ready. We're getting the films on. It's gonna. Very soon. Keith: Oh, okay. I did not expect that answer. I thought it would be more like five years out. Isaac: We wanted to announce it at this past year's festival in April. We took more time to make sure it's all working correctly to get it to the best place possible. We're still in that period. Before next year's festival, it will be launched. Keith: Wow. So, well, I'm so looking forward to that, and I'm hoping so many other advocates, that's my dog who scratched the door. So 'm very much looking forward to that and I hope so many attendees are looking to that as well. Well, wrapping up, unfortunately, because there's so much more we could talk about. I feel like we have only scratched the very tip top of the gianganic mission and purpose that Reelabilities has and always have had. I like to end every interview asking the guest two questions. And they are very related to each other. I like to think that this podcast is listened to by both people who have disabilities, and those who have yet to have disabilities. And I like to think that certainly there is some overlap between what different groups get out of each episode, but I am also very aware that there may be differences. So if you had to think about what you would hope for the next generation of disability advocates who are maybe just making their way through college or graduate school and wanting to know more about how to become an effective self advocate. What are some action steps that you as a young filmmaker would have gotten at the beginning. What would you do to encourage and empower the next generation of advocates? Isaac: So I think that I have a lot to say about the next generation of advocates and I see a direction where the movement is going, which I kind of mentioned before is a little different from where I stand personally. I was taught to meet people where they are and to try to change them, you know, Move the dial a little bit and, and try to change them by meeting them where they are. Otherwise you're just gonna be ignored and it's just gonna create it's gonna polarize the community. So I think my advice is yes, to look out for that polarization and to understand how people need to be spoken to in order for them to move a little closer to where you are. And this is often missed. I think our community has gotten to a point where we are fed up and, you know, the only way change is gonna happen is if we go to the extreme. I don't necessarily love extremes at all times. I think the extremes will create that isolalization and I think therefore for an advocate to be more effective is to think about how you can better communicate to the other side. Keith: Yeah. And so what. What about some takeaways that you hope that people who either don't yet have a disability or disabilities are aware that they are or will soon become part of this very expansive divergent community? What are some takeaways that you hope that they will walk away in hearing us speak today? Isaac: I'm really trying to put my new agenda is to really push this whole kind of meeting somewhere in the middle and knowing how diverse this community is, you know, they say for some reason, they said about the autism community, but it's really about all humanity and disability specifically. They say if you met a person with autism, you've met a person with autism and one, and it's not, you know, oh, now I know what autism is. Because I met this one, you know, person who happens to have a certain, a certain specific kind of autism and every person is different. Every disability is different. And for that, you need to listen very carefully and know that, you know, you can't make generalizations often help us, but you can't make generalizations. You have to know that every experience is different and respect that and embrace that. As hard as it is to say, oh, no, you know, I wanted to put this whole community into one specific tag to know that tag doesn't work for everybody. And to know that's okay and even from within the community, like I know some people, you know, you've been hearing me, I say person first for disability. Some people say disability first. And I understand it and appreciate it. And for me, it's, I haven't taken my identity into that way and I hope I can be respected for that. I know people listen for it. I hope people will listen to this podcast and listen for it. I don't think that there's, there's a wrong way of being yourself Keith: Indeed. And so now that the streaming service is about to be launched and I thought that was going to be the peak situation, but coming back to that question before we end, if you can project even though that is a bit dicey to do, where would you want a Reelabilities to end up before it becomes this obsolete concept that is no longer needed. Say that ultimate goal, while it is both heartbreaking, it is also worthy and noble to have that be the peak. But if we can't get to that point by the end of our lives, where would you want to leave it? Isaac: I mean, I think as long as we're showing high-quality cinema with progressive approaches to disability that are creating life changes that are films that are not being shown as much as they should be. To a community that is coming together. I think that's really where I'd like to be. We're expanding. I mean, there should be a Reelabilities in every city and I mean, we need the resources for it. We, you know, this international growth that we've had I said was our organic, I mean we didn't have a full-time person to manage the city growth. Imagine what could have happened if we were actually trying and putting the resources there. So that's something that really needs to grow. We wanna see that grow. You know, I'm sitting here with a small team of really wonderful eager employees who are building this festival along with three others. When the truth is we should be having, I look at other operations and see that there's these huge teams running much smaller organizations. I think we need to grow to that and we are, and we're growing. So we will get there. Keith: So if someone wants to learn more about Reelabilities, or the JCC or reach out to you directly, I know that is a mouth full, but how can people reach out and get involved in reel abilities and its expanding mission. Isaac: I would love that and I would love for people to reach out. We're always happy to hear from people, who can help support, be a part or just even partner and we have the Reelabilities website, R E E L, um, A B I L I T I E , I possibly spelled that wrong, but Reelabilities.org has all of our information and there's contact information there too. And believe it or not, a lot of it comes directly to me. I'd be happy to hear from people. Keith: Well Isaac, not only am I empowered and intrigued and always encouraged by your work and your team's work but I really hope that it's only the first conversation we have about the expansion of Reelabilities. I want to see it not only in every state in the country, but hopefully most of if not the whole world, because the disability community is not only a big part of this country, as you know, but it's a huge part of our world and the more and more we can the message out the better and better we all will be in the long term. And so thank you again for your passion and your commitment and your dedication. And I hope that you will come back on the podcast very soon my friend. Isaac: Thank you so much. Keith: You have been listening to Disability Empowerment Now. I would like to thank my guest today and you, the listener. More information about the podcast can be found on visit on disabilityempowermentnow.com. The podcast is available wherever you listen to podcasts or on the official website. This episode of Disability Empowerment Now is copyrighted 2022.

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