By Judy Shields
Rancho Cucamonga, California (The Hollywood Times) 7/25/2020 – “For the past five years in April, I’ve looked forward to participating in the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. This year, COVID-19 and quarantine almost claimed the event as another victim. Luckily event founder Nic Novicki and sponsor Easterseals of Southern California devised a plan for this year’s event to take place a few months later, requiring people to film at
home while socially distant and challenging filmmakers to produce a documentary.” Cory Reeder, filmmaker
The Easterseals Disability Film Challenge is currently celebrating the Americans with Disabilities Act’s 30th anniversary with its 7th annual event (in this year’s COVID-19 “at home” edition): to make a short film in just six days that increases representation for people with disabilities.
Now in his 6th year of participation in the EDFC, filmmaker Cory Reeder (Best Friend, Unlikely Temptations, Scene to Screen) is an advocate for PWD as well as BIPOC. As a cisgender, straight white man, he uses his privilege to create more inclusive environments on set, working alongside the disability community to create jobs both in front of and behind the camera on his productions. In a unique turn of events, just last year he received an official diagnosis of his own disability: adult ADHD. Given this year’s documentary theme of the challenge, he turns the lens on himself to capture the myriad of emotions behind his diagnosis in his latest work and submission to this year’s challenge: Hyper Active.
Campaign Dates – Beginning Saturday, July 25 and ending Sunday, August 2nd
30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is Sunday, July 26th
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Zoom Interview with Cory Reeder
Logline: All his life Cory knew he was different, it just took him a little longer to figure out why. As he faces his recent adult ADHD diagnosis, he embarks on a quest to learn how several friends with disabilities continue to cope and how their journeys might impact his own.
The film features several poignant sequences of introspection, immersive cinematography, music and editing as well as lively conversations with featured guests including actress Diana Elizabeth Jordan, screenwriter Marc Muszynski, model Natalie Oden and ADHD advocate Kamden Hainsworth.
In “Hyper Active,” Cory Reeder fuses his considerable talents to depict the raw and passionate nature of his daily life. His is a complex journey through the ups and downs of his struggle to embrace his recent ADHD diagnosis. The film was produced for the 2020 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge by Stephanie Lincoln and Allison Gray. Reeder’s behind-the-scenes
team also included cinematographer John Calabrese and award-winning editor Nathan Cox. The music is original for the film created by Larson Schneider and sound mix provided by Jae Kim.
In all my years of participation, I’ve always prided myself on what our team has been able to accomplish. We created five films, seven nominations and three wins for films that elevated
actors with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, paralysis, autism and dwarfism. Overall, my biggest joy has been befriending actor/ director/ activist Diana Elizabeth Jordan so that she could direct
her first film, I CAN which was nominated in last year’s Disability Film Challenge for both Best Film and Best Director.
But this year, faced with the task of making a documentary at home, without the ability to feature a person with a disability, doubt crept in and I considered skipping the event. The idea of inviting anyone into my apartment to film seemed too risky. People with disabilities (PWD) are far more susceptible to COVID-19 because many of them already have compromised immune systems. So I was ready to give up.
With the deadline approaching, I couldn’t deny how emotionally wrecked I felt about not participating. So…with a sobering look in the mirror, I thought of the one thing I could talk about,
a diagnosis I received eight months ago. Something that filled me with fear to discuss beyond close circles because of how it could affect my filmmaking career. I was diagnosed with adult
I am terrified of making this documentary. Will this make me look weak, unreliable, unhireable? Feature filmmaking has always been my dream, could this ruin my chance? How can I possibly
identify as having a disability when so many people I know, love and work with have much more complicated or debiting disabilities than mine? What would they think about my diagnosis? I was afraid to be judged by them. I felt guilty for being diagnosed in the middle of my life with something that’s usually spotted and dealt with in kids. I was ashamed that my parents didn’t catch this when I was young and that I wasn’t smart enough to find out until now.
To me, a great documentary must be fearless and honest. If I was going to put my truth on screen I’d have to accept that I’d be exposing myself to others’ perceptions, showcasing my fears and revealing my secret vulnerability. Would it be worth it?
In quarantine, I had happened to be binge-watching the show DAVE on Hulu and later saw an interview with Dave’s co-star and real-life hype-man GaTa. In episode 5, GaTa reveals that he’s bipolar, as he is in real life. He almost didn’t let producers write the episode, but then his mom and sister suggested he see this as an opportunity to show that it’s ok to be a black man and bipolar. That you can be successful and have a mental disorder. Hearing that was what I needed to take the plunge.
I started setting up interviews via Zoom. I wanted to talk to someone with ADHD about ADHD. I wanted to talk to my PWD friends and understand emotions around their personal diagnosis. I wanted to learn how can I see my diagnosis as a benefit, rather than an obstacle. How to discuss having an invisible disability. I want to become aware of obstacles that may exist, mistakes I can avoid and discriminations that I may face.
For the film’s centerpiece, I wanted to show what my ADHD looks like. It’s one thing for me to describe it, it’s another to see how complex and fast thoughts whiz by. To do this I needed a montage of sight and sound that had style and finesse, so I turned to my editing mentor Nathan Cox. Nathan’s collaborations with director Mark Pellington have earned him awards and nominations for videos with Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters and U2. Nathan excels in telling story and emotion with quick clips stitched with sophisticated narrative threads. With him on board, I collected home movies, scanned images, shot b-roll on iPhone, DSLR and RED cameras.
The rest of the film came together with COVID-19 CDC protocols in place. Producers Stephanie Lincoln and Allison Gray worked from home to prepare for the shoot. On our interview day, we all gathered wearing PPE, except for me when I had to be on camera. It was a production filled with all the rushes of adrenaline and excitement I have always loved. There was one thing I hadn’t factored, the new and emotional toll of being on-camera as the subject of the film.
I tried more than once to quit the project. There was too much fear, too many secrets were being told – I didn’t feel ready. But in those moments of crisis, there would follow whispers of grace. A call from my dear friend Diana Elizabeth Jordan, a sample of the rhythmic score from Larson Schneider, a clip of the montage from Nathan, a kiss from my wife telling me, “how brave you are for being this vulnerable.”
This film may be about me, but want you to know I did not do this alone. I was surrounded, socially distant, by an amazing group of friends and professionals who volunteered their time, and lifted me up so I could be open and honest as I claim my disability.
ABOUT THE CAST
CORY REEDER (Subject) Cory Reeder is a writer, director, producer and founder of Renaissance Man Productions. Since moving his company to Los Angeles in 2011, he has created music videos for Hayley Kiyoko, Jonathan Davis, Seether, Martin Solveig, Of Mice & Men, Five Finger Death Punch and more. In between music video productions, Cory is devoted to writing and directing narrative stories. In 2014, while directing the award-winning short film Unlikely Temptations starring Nic Novicki,
Reeder was educated on the lack of representation people with 3 disabilities have in media. Since then he has advocated for all forms of inclusion behind and in front of the camera. In 2016, his film Boxed Out won actress Diana Elizabeth Jordan the Best Actor Award from the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. In 2017, his entry: Best Friend, was nominated in all categories taking home two awards for Best Film and Audience Awareness Award. In 2019 he produced the directing debut for Diana Elizabeth Jordan entitled, I CAN, for which she earned a best director nomination.
DIANA ELIZABETH JORDAN (Interviewee) Diana Elizabeth Jordan is a rare person and actor. Her courage and heart fills every role she takes on and she finds a specific truth that makes her version of the role memorable, impacting and truly unique. She not only makes non-traditional casting easy, she redefines the potentials of traditional casting. She is usually cast in roles where her disability is incidental to the character or storyline. She has committed her career to entertaining and ensuring disability is an inclusive part of The American Scene.
KAMDEN HAINSWORTH (Interviewee) is a teacher and ADHD advocate living in Utah.
NATALIE ODEN (Interviewee) At age three, Natalie was diagnosed with autism. She was placed in school at that time and was in a special education program until she graduated from high school. She made tremendous progress during this time and went from non-verbal contact to fully engaging with others in society. Natalie has been involved in several photo shoots and even received her first magazine cover in January 2016 for M12 Magazine. She worked at the NASCAR race in Fontana, California and at Comic Con in San Diego last summer. In early 2016, Natalie also participated in her first editorial photo shoot for designer’s Vaiva Tuckuviene’s “Vaiva Style” the book collection “The Road to Modeling Success” featured in both The Eden and Happy 365 Magazines. She wants to be an example to others who have similar conditions.
MARC MUSZYNSKI (Interviewee) is a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
CORY REEDER (Director/Producer) See ABOUT THE CAST
STEPHANIE LINCOLN (Producer) Stephanie Lincoln is a documentary director, producer, and attorney who is currently working on a feature-length documentary for HBO Documentaries with Nick Bilton, Annabelle Dunne, and Mary Recine. Previous projects she has worked on include Spielberg (HBO), Fonda in Five Acts (HBO), #FreeMeek (Amazon), Kids Behind Bars: Life or Parole (A&E), Afflicted (Netflix), The Race Card (TNT), A Golden State of Mind (KCET), and City of the Damned. She earned a B.F.A. from New York University.
JOHN CALABRESE (Cinematography) John Calabrese is an accomplished cinematographer based in Los Angeles. John has found his home as the director of photography in narrative indie films, though he also thrives in the realms of virtual reality, documentaries, music videos, and television. Having shot multiple award-winning short films, John was recently sought out to shoot a feature-length female-driven period piece in Spring 2021. John has worked around the world filming with high-profile talent including Kesha, Hilary Duff, Wiz Khalifa, Rick Springfield, Ben Higgins, Portugal. The Man, Jonathan Davis, Lil Wayne, and more, whilst creating content for Hulu, Google, Walmart, Verizon, Ford, Toyota, LexusPlus, Nissan, Coachella, and Lollapalooza, amongst others. John hones his skills by training and working under his mentors Doug Emmett, Byron Werner, Eve Cohen, and Matt Sakatani Roe as he continues building a 4 portfolio of creative, story-driven films.
NATHAN COX (Editor) Nathan developed an intense passion for film at an early age, directing super-8 stop-motion movies with his Star Wars action figures. As a teen, this love of filmmaking was heightened by an obsession with horror flicks and punk rock music. After getting involved in the subversive outlaw art of graffiti, Nathan was accepted into Otis/Parsons School of Art and Design, where he earned a degree in fine art. Upon graduation, Nathan delved into the world of filmmaking. After assistant editing for legendary editors such as Angus Wall (Fight Club, Panic Room, Zodiac) and Tom Muldoon (Transformers), he began an extensive editing career. His editorial work includes videos for Jewel, Staind, Natasha Bedingfield, Rage Against The Machine, N*Sync, P.O.D., Ricky Martin, Metallica, System of A Down, Muse, Disturbed, Marilyn Manson, Foo Fighters, Live, Kid Rock, U2, Godsmack and The Fray to name a few, as well as commercial spots for large brands such as Seiko, Honda and Budweiser. With his directorial work, he constructs visuals that entrance, evoking dark fantasy and urban grittiness. His work includes videos for Marilyn Manson, Queens of the Stone Age, Lit, Megadeth, Chevelle, Linkin Park, Staind and System of a Down. He grabs viewers with inventive camera work that constantly shift and mirror the rhythmic flow of the subject matter, introducing different elements. “The music is like a skeleton to hang the images on.” His unique combination of styles has earned him eight MTV nominations as well as multiple MVPA and Billboard music award nominations. He received an MTV award for “Best Rock Video” for Linkin Park’s “In the End.”
LARSON SCHNEIDER (Score) Los Angeles based producer Mike Larson Schneider started Barstool Astronaut after years of touring and session work as a drummer. Feeling a creative limitation behind the kit in bands (and with the schematics of the music industry in general), he picked back up his first instrument – piano – and started making instrumental electronic music with borrowed software and semi-blind ambition. After a few years creating music with no artistic limitations in mind, Schneider has carved out his own sound from the electronic-leaning genres of IDM, ambient, and instrumental hip-hop, often blending them with a layer of acoustic instruments, inspired by post-rock dynamics and composition.
JAE KIM (Sound) Jae Kim is a sound editor, dialogue editor and sound designer based in Los Angeles. Working mainly in documentary films, his prior clients include HBO and Redbull Media. Jae was nominated for a 2017 daytime Emmy award in sound editing for Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse.