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Nic Novicki & the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge

In the complex world of Hollywood, success is not guaranteed, especially so if you are a person with a disability. But one of the few who have been able to achieve that sometimes-elusive success, is Nic Novicki.

Nic attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, the school of Film and Television, UCB Theatre, and Temple University’s Fox School of Business. He is an actor, comedian and producer, residing in Hollywood, California.

Standing at three-feet ten inches, Nic admits breaking into the film industry was not easy. He found it difficult to get an agent early in his career and when he did, he was only given opportunities that were specific to his height. He then made a decision to create as much content for himself as possible, which he did, and it proved successful.

Nic shared: “I started acting and doing stand-up comedy in 2001, so I’ve been in the entertainment business for almost 20 years. I have performed all over the world as a comedian and done countless shows and speeches. I’ve also worked in virtually every position available in terms of my career as an independent producer. When you work as an independent producer you also learn how to do almost everything on set due to the lack of resources.” He now has an impressive list of career accomplishments, having to date been in over forty TV shows and movies.

As a stand-up comedian, Nic has performed on AXS Gotham Comedy Live and travelled the world, including doing several tours through Armed Forces Entertainment, performing for troops in Kosovo, England, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, France. Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Portugal and Spain. He has performed on six continents and as an actor, starred in notable shows like The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, and The Good Doctor, among many others.

He has produced several feature films, television pilots and web series for companies including Sony, CBS, Air China, Maxim and Universal. Nic is an active member of the Producers Guild of America’s Diversity Committee and is also dedicated to helping others with disabilities achieve success in film.

Recognizing that of the 57 million Americans with disabilities, this demographic is still the most under-represented in entertainment and media both in front of and behind the camera, Nic launched the Film Challenge in 2013 aimed at giving aspiring filmmakers the opportunity to showcase their work and provide them with meaningful exposure. It was hugely successful and in 2017, Nic joined forces with Easterseals of Southern California – the nation’s leading nonprofit in the United States supporting people and families with disabilities – to expand the event which is now known as the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge.

During the Challenge, registered filmmakers – with and without disabilities – are given a span of 55 hours over a designated weekend to write and produce short films (three-to-five minutes) that Help Change the Way We View Disability. Films are judged by a noted and diverse group of entertainment industry talent. Award categories are Best Film, Best Filmmaker, Best Actor and Best Awareness Campaign.

Since the Challenge launched in 2013, aspiring filmmakers from around the world have created more than 150 films which have been viewed online and at festivals.

Past winners include Jamie Brewer, who won Best Actor in 2017 for her role in Whitney’s Wedding – she was acclaimed for her role on American Horror Story and was the first model with Down Syndrome to walk the runway at New York Fashion Week; Dickie Hearts, Best Filmmaker winner in 2015, who went on to win an HBO Project Greenlight digital series competition; and Jenna Kanell, winner of Best Film in 2015, who went on to give a TEDx Talk about her experience.

After careful review due to COVID-19, a Home Edition version of the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge was relaunched this July, with Film Challenge participants making documentary short films from the safety of their homes. This year a record-breaking 87 documentary short films were created! “We are so proud of all the amazing films that were created this year!” Nic said.

Judges for the 2020 Film Challenge were: Col Needham, IMDb Founder and CEO; Sheri Linden, film critic for The Hollywood Reporter; filmmakers Jim Lebrecht (Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution), Alice Austen (Give Me Liberty), Kat Coiro (Marry Me) and Jenni Gold (Cinemability) and Steve Martini; actors Danny Woodburn, R.J. Mitte, and Mark Povinelli; comedian Kevin Jordan; disability activists Lawrence Carter-Long and Richard Propes; Nicole Castro, HollyShorts Film Festival Managing Director, and Jenn Wilson, Film Independent Nominations Manager.

Nic was the emcee for the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge: Home Edition Awards Ceremony The winners:

Best Editor Award – Scott Klumb for “Autism Ability

Best Film Award   Jennifer Msumba for “The Fish Don’t Care When It Rains

Best Awareness Campaign Award – Rachel Handler for “How Much Am I Worth?

In addition to film and comedy, Nic loves to travel and has been lucky to do so both as a comedian and a speaker. With his wife, he has visited many countries, including India, Thailand, Cuba, Mexico, Japan, and Kenya among others. On their travels, however, Nic admits that there have been accessibility challenges. “I am 3 feet 10 inches so I usually cannot reach the sink in the bathroom, and frequently have trouble getting off and on the bed and changing the temperature in the room. This can usually be fixed with a step stool and at times numerous stools, although I frequently encounter hotels that do not have stools on site! I also can’t lift things, so I travel with a small rolling bag. Luckily I’m really good at packing my bag with essentials which usually includes a suit.”

Nic wants to do as much as he can to create more opportunities for people with disabilities, and, being a part of the entertainment industry, he wants to continue using this avenue to raise awareness of the need for an inclusive, accessible world. “I feel really proud of the work we are doing through the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. We have so many talented participants that take part in the film challenge and they are getting opportunities, based on their work. I think people with disabilities are the most underrepresented population in the world and the more exposure we get the more inclusive the world will be.”

When Nic is not busy working, you will find him swimming or watching movies. “I am a fan of movies,” he said. “I love the classics.”

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