For Immediate Release

Easterseals Southern California Announces Winners of the 2022 Disability Film Challenge

“Mac & Cheese” Takes Home Best Film & Paul Raci, Rick Glassman, Sue Ann Pien, Albert Rutecki, Max Borenstein, Chris Miller, Blake Stadnik & Phil Lord among award show presenters

May 6, 2022

Media Contact:
Julia Rossen / Lindsey Brown, SLATE PR /

Last night, nonprofit disability services provider and disability inclusion resource Easterseals Southern California hosted the 2022 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge Awards Ceremony honoring the best of this year’s record-breaking applicants. After receiving 95 submissions from the US and countries across the world, films incorporating this year’s superhero theme were narrowed down and winners were selected in each of the following categories: Best Film presented by Warner Bros. Discovery, Best Director presented by NBCUniversal, Best Editor presented by Adobe, Best Actor presented by IMDbPro, Best Writer presented by Netflix and Awareness Campaign Award presented by Prime Video.

The award ceremony, held at Sony Pictures Studios’ Cary Grant Theater, kicked off with an exciting orange carpet which featured nominees, along with Easterseals CEO Mark Whitley and board members Andre Filip, David Wolf, Claudia Villamizar, Mark Bertrand, and Marilyn Lindheim, guests Bill Chott, Blake Jenner, Kurt Yaeger, Peter Farrelly (Greenbook), and Robert Ulrich (Glee), and the night’s presenters including Paul Raci (Sound of Metal), Rick Glassman (As We See It),  Sue Ann Pien (As We See It), Max Borenstein (Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty), Blake Stadnik (This is Us), producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), Danielle Perez (comedian), Jillian Mercado (The L Word), Diana Elizabeth Jordan (Boxed Out), Andrea Jennings (Skyward), Nicole Evans (Superstore) and Nic Novicki, creator of the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. Additional attendees included Byron Rader (Microsoft), Helen Hoehne (HFPA), Jeff Cafuir (NBCUniversal), Kirpi Uimonen (HFPA), Stacey Hoppe (Warner Bros. Discovery), Michelle Eunice (Sony), Brett King (Sony), Clive Flores (Amazon), Edwin Soto (SAG-AFTRA), Rebecca Krinsky (SAG-AFTRA), Rick Hack (Intel), Josh Greenstein (Sony), Paul Martin (Sony), and Jerome Core (Amazon).

The 2022 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge winners are:

Best Film presented by Warner Bros. Discovery

Andy & Kaliope – Rachel Handler

Mac & Cheese – Sommer Carbuccia

One Step Ahead – Lena Lenzen

Seven – Marie Alyse Rodriguez

WINNER: Mac & Cheese – Sommer Carbuccia

Best Director presented by NBCUniversal

Andy & Kaliope – Crystal Arnette, Catriona Rubenis-Stevens

Mac & Cheese – Amanda Pinto

One Step Ahead – Lena Lenzen, José Americo

Taco Tuesday – John Lawson

WINNER: Mac & Cheese – Amanda Pinto

Best Actor presented by IMDbPro

Cindy and Piper Drive To McDonald's – Shannon DeVido

In the Mirror – Amanda McDonough

Mac & Cheese – Sommer Carbuccia

Seven – Natalie Trevonne

WINNER: Seven – Natalie Trevonne

Best Editor presented by Adobe

Fantastic Ideas: Where do we find them? – Robert James Ashe

Life Trials – Tal Anderson

Mac & Cheese – Jake Nathanson

One Step Ahead – José Americo, Lena Lenzen

WINNER: Mac & Cheese – Jake Nathanson

Best Writer presented by Netflix

Heroes In Training – Jennifer Msumba

Mac & Cheese – Yianni Papadimos

One Step Ahead – Lena Lenzen, José Americo, Zelia Ximenes, Elda Monteiro, Natalino de Aquino, André da C. C. Soares

Superhero Inc. – Christine Bélanger, Liz Whitmere

WINNER: Superhero Inc. – Christine Bélanger, Liz Whitmere

Awareness Campaign Award presented by Prime Video

Andy & Kaliope – Rachel Handler

Aphasia Superheroes – Gillian Velmer

ILY – Jennifer Montzingo

Pandora – Anna Pakman

WINNER: ILY – Jennifer Montzingo

Created in 2013 by Nic Novicki and launched in 2014, the challenge gives filmmakers – with and without disabilities – the opportunity to collaborate to tell unique stories that showcase disability in its many forms, inviting aspiring storytellers to creatively write, produce, and complete short films.  The week-long filmmaking contest, open to all, provides a platform for new voices in the entertainment industry.

Winners of the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge receive invaluable access to entertainment, opening the door to an industry notoriously difficult to enter, as well as a variety of prizes to help them achieve their career goals:

  • $2,000 grants provided by NBCUniversal 
  • Dell Technologies computers
  • One-year membership to IMDbPro, including access to the IMDbPro Discover tool, which empowers members to find other professionals to hire and collaborate with, based on a variety of key IMDb data, experience and expertise. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, IMDbPro is the essential resource for entertainment industry professionals.
  • The winning films will be highlighted in a video playlist on the homepage of IMDb, the world's most popular and authoritative source for information on movies, TV shows and celebrities
  • One-year subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud – the platform for creating, collaborating and inspiration consisting of apps, services and community to help you unleash your creativity
  • Screenings at numerous Academy Award-Qualifying festivals, including the Heartland Film Festival, HollyShorts Film Festival, Bentonville Film Festival and NewFilmmakers LA
  • One year membership to Film Independent
  • Mentorship meetings with entertainment industry executives and talent

The Easterseals Disability Film Challenge was judged by a wide selection of influential voices within the entertainment industry, who lent their expertise to select the best films this year.  They include: Allison Norlian (Journalist), Col Needham (IMDb Founder and CEO), Danny Woodburn (Actor & Comedian), Gil Robertson (President of the African American Film Critics Association), Jacqueline Lyanga (Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for IMDb), Jenni Gold (Director), Jennifer Wilson (Nominations Manager, Film Independent), Jim LeBrecht (Filmmaker), Kat Coiro (Director), Lindzi Scharf (Journalist), Lauren “Lolo” Spencer (Actress), Lawrence Carter-Long (Director of Communications at Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund), Mara Webster (Producer), Mark Povinelli (Actor & President, Little People of America), Nicole Castro (HollyShorts Film Festival), Nigel Smith (News Editor, Movies, PEOPLE), Richard Propes (Journalist), Stacey Wilson Hunt (Journalist) and Stephanie Thomas (Stylist & Author).

Phil Lord, Chris Miller and Tiffany Smith-Anoa’I, (Executive Vice President, Entertainment Diversity & Inclusion, West Coast, Paramount) will also serve as mentors for one of this year’s winners, along with Emerlynn Lampitoc, (Vice President of Creative Talent & Content, Universal’s Global Talent Development & Inclusion)), Gena Desclos (SVP, HBO and HBO Max Post Production), Greg Berlanti (WGA, DGA and Golden Globe nominated writer, director, and producer), Ian Bricke (Vice President, Independent Film, Netflix) and Brett King (VP, Creative Programming, Diversity & Inclusion, Sony Pictures Entertainment).

Previous Easterseals Disability Film Challenge winners and participants have gone on to achieve great success within the industry, landing roles in major television shows and films including New Amsterdam, Superstore, The Good Doctor, Loudermilk, Marry Me and Moxie, and earning accolades and grants from prestigious organizations all around the world!

The Easterseals Disability Film Challenge is made possible through generous support from Adobe, Dell Technologies, Intel, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, Prime Video, IMDbPro, Sony Pictures Entertainment, HFPA, SAG-AFTRA, Microsoft Teams and Warner Bros. Discovery.

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About the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge

As someone with a disability, actor, comedian and producer Nic Novicki launched the Disability Film Challenge in 2013 in response to the under-representation of talent with disabilities both in front of and behind the camera. Novicki created the challenge to give aspiring filmmakers the opportunity to showcase their work and provide them with meaningful exposure. In 2017, Novicki joined forces with Easterseals Southern California – the nation’s leading nonprofit supporting people and families with disabilities – to expand the event, now known as the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. Learn more at

 About Easterseals Southern California

Easterseals is leading the way to full equity, inclusion and access through life-changing disability and community services. For more than 100 years, we have worked tirelessly with our partners to enhance quality of life and expand local access to healthcare, education and employment opportunities. Easterseals Southern California provides essential services and on-the-ground supports to more than 15,000 people each year—from early childhood programs for the critical first five years, to autism services, daily and independent living services for adults, employment programs, veterans’ services and more. Our public education, policy and advocacy initiatives positively shape perceptions and address the urgent and evolving needs of the one in four Americans with disabilities today. Together, we’re empowering people with disabilities, families and communities to be full and equal participants in society.

 Media Contacts

Julia Rossen / Lindsey Brown



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