There’s no business like show business. It’s exciting and glamorous—and it’s tough. Aspiring filmmakers find themselves constantly fighting an uphill battle to get noticed. Add the challenge of having a disability and show business can be a big “No!” business.
Cue: Joey Travolta. The successful filmmaker, who has produced and directed more than 20 films, is making it his mission to break industry barriers for young people with developmental disabilities.
“These kids need a voice,” said Travolta. “And as a filmmaker, I know how powerful filmmaking can be in giving them a voice.”
It’s easy to see where he gets his passion for students with special needs. He started his career as a special education teacher. It’s one of the reasons why he founded his company, Inclusion Films, which provides vocational workshops to young filmmakers with disabilities. The programs teach the skills they need to work in the entertainment industry, skills that will also help them navigate their way in the world outside of the set.
“When I worked on a film, I loved the sense of family that filmmaking brought,” Travolta, said. “A lot of kids with special needs don’t get that in school or they’re excluded from that. So, I wanted to give them an atmosphere where they learned how to support each other and do something together. These are skills that will help them in the community, even if they don’t end up pursuing film careers.”
You’ll get a front row seat to watch the work of Travolta’s students beginning on September 16, at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., when the “Inclusion Short Films” series debuts its first short film, “Revelations,” on the YurView network on Cox Communications in San Diego, Orange County, Palos Verdes and Santa Barbara. A new episode will air monthly every Saturday and Sunday at 4 p.m. on the following channels:
San Diego – Channels 4 and 1004
Orange County – Channel 1003
Palos Verdes – Channel 1003
Santa Barbara – Channel 1004
Each short film will showcase a student pitching Travolta their idea, behind-the-scenes on the set, and then reveal the finished film.
“I want the audience to see these guys doing the work. I wanted it to have a Project Greenlight feel,” said Travolta.
He added that people with disabilities are quite often very creative and focused, two skills needed when creating a film. His programs provide students a place to cultivate these artistic gifts, while also giving their parents, hope.
“For parents, they say, ‘What’s out there for my child?’ These skills their children are learning in filmmaking will prepare them for life,” Travolta said. “Putting together a film and interacting with people, it’s those soft skills that set you up.”
He’ll be speaking at “Cox Presents: A Salute to Teachers” on September 16, airing live at 8 p.m. on Cox Channel 4 and 1004.
“This is what is great about Cox, they’re giving us the platform to shine. They’re giving the teachers a platform to shine. They care about the community.”
Here is a clip of Billy Ryan the Director of this week’s episode “Detentionairs” from the San Diego workshop, he is on the autism spectrum: