Although the roles for disabled actors in television and film are starting to appear here and there, the media still has a long way to go — it is still rare when they get it right. Too often, the industry falls back on tired, stereotypical portrayals of “inspiration,” “overcoming the odds,” “angry, bitter villain” or my least favorite, an outright caricature like “Artie” in Glee. Speaking of Artie, don’t even get me started on the subject of casting non-disabled actors in roles that call for characters that have a disability!
But how do we change this? Putting pressure on Hollywood from the outside is OK. Even better, is what can happen when people with disabilities are writing scripts, directing and calling the shots. When we’re in charge, we get movies with realistic portrayals of disability. Born on the Fourth of July was written by activist, writer and paraplegic Ron Kovic, and The Water Dance was written and co-directed by writer, director and paraplegic Neal Jimenez.
Add screenplay writer David Schroeder to the list of talent that writes realistic portrayal of disability from experience. Schroeder, an award-winning screenwriter and teacher, has been teaching screenwriting at Miami-Dade college since 1984 — he is also in his 43rd year as a C5-6 quadriplegic who is a former world record holder in wheelchair racing, and six-time member of the U.S. Disabled Sailing team.
Speaking of Schroeder, he has a Kickstarter project to fund his screenplay This Modern Man is Beat into a short film, a stepping stone that major studios want to see before funding major projects. It’s a great script that has already won 10 “Best Screenplay” awards from Beverly Hills to St. Tropez.
Schroeder will also produce the film and is already assembling his team, which will include director Alex Merkin (who has directed talent from Queen Latifah to Peter Fonda), Emmy-winning actor Jordi Vilasuso, and actress Michelle Romano.
Shroeder’s goal is to produce a successful short film that will in turn get the big studios to produce his other award winning screenplays, including Halfway Home, a feature that is driven by a protagonist with SCI.