Myths about disability and filmmaking | RAINDANCE Film Festival

Disability is the largest minority in the world and yet the most underserved and represented in the media. Disability and filmmaking is an important topic.


I think this begins with how Disability has been perceived in the media over the years. And the many myths about Disability that have collated. Disability has historically been used to portray evil, for example; the character of Captin Hook, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and most recently Anne Hathaway’s character in ‘The Witches’. Disability is often seen as being a burden, for example; ‘Me Before You’, and as HuffPost reporter Elyse Wanshel recently explained,The Shape of Water” conveys the message “if you don’t fit into society, it’s better that you leave.”

Additional obstacles we are commonly up against is un-authentic casting, a lack of access to work, the lack of diverse gate-keepers, so many myths, and a ton of authenticity with integrity.

I am the CEO of C Talent, a talent management company that represents d/Deaf and Disabled artists. We are proud to represent artists such as CJ Jones, who has worked on films such as Baby Driver (2017) and the Avatar franchise. Danny Murphy, who has starred in The Parts You Lose (2019) alongside Breaking Bads Aaron Paul. Tatiana Lee, who has modeled for brands such as Apple, Target, and Zappos. Samantha Mannis who’s book is sold in Target, Walmart, and other major retailers, and Paralympian Jean-Baptiste Alaize, who represented France in the 2016 Paralympic Games and is one of the subjects featured in the recent Netflix documentary, Rising Phoenix (2020).

In This Photo: C.j. Jones, Ansel Elgort Actors CJ Jones and Ansel Elgort attend the premiere of Sony Pictures’ “Baby Driver” at Ace Hotel on June 14, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (June 13, 2017 – Source: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images North America)

We see common mis-conceptions come-up on a daily basis. So lets get down to business and started some myth busting…

Myth Busting

1) MYTH: ‘Acting is Acting, so people who do not have Disabilities should be able to play characters with Disabilities’.

BUSTED: If a Black character was played by a non-Black actor and the actor painted their face that would be Blackface. Olivia Spencer recently agreed, “Casting able-bodied actors in roles for characters with disabilities is offensive, unjust and deprives an entire community of people from opportunities.”

2) MYTH: ‘People with Disabilities are liabilities on set’.

BUSTED: Very few businesses experience disability-related claims. A review of EEOC data shows that people with disabilities filed fewer claims than any gender or age group.

3) MYTH: ’Accommodations are too expensive’.

BUSTED: Most accommodations (81%) cost less than £100 (around $130), and 73% of employers found that their employees who had disabilities did not require accommodations. Additionally, these accommodations, made for employees with disabilities, have been found to benefit organizations’ aging workforces, the report states.

4) MYTH: ‘People with Disabilities have to play characters that are written for a character that specifies they have a Disability’

BUSTED: You can audition people with Disabilities for ALL roles, doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc… Disability does not discriminate, and for most, it is a part of life. A big step to breaking the stigmas surrounding Disability is including Disability in non-disability specific work. Where it is just incidental.

5) MYTH: ’There is not enough talent with Disabilities, and they were too hard to find so I couldn’t hire any’

BUSTED: There are many organizations, such as mine that are home to professional talented diverse Disabled artists.

6) MYTH: ‘I can’t hire people with Disabilities behind the camera’

BUSTED: Representation is just as important behind and in front of the camera. Stephen Letnes, a blind film composer, says, “Disability doesn’t mean inability. There are examples of people with disabilities who are making a living — and they’re doing it in the hardest industry in the world.”

7) MYTH: ’Disability doesn’t make money’

BUSTED: U.S. consumers have a potential buying power of $10 billion a month towards stories that showcase characters with disabilities authentically – specifically by casting disabled actors. Additionally, half of the viewers are more likely to sign up for content distributors committed to a more accurate representation of disabled characters. The disability market is valued at more than $1 trillion. The success of films like Black Panther, Wonder Woman and Coco prove that diversity wins. According to Nielsen Research, consumers with disabilities represent a $1 billion market segment. When you include their families, friends, and associates, that total expands to more than $1 trillion.

From the @C_Talent _ Instagram page

In Conclusion

At the end of the day the truth sells, so there is no need to just tick-boxes, take the opportunity of diversity with authenticity and integrity.

  • Editors note:
  • Disability and filmmaking is an important issue
  • Raindance is proud to support Keeley and C Talent


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Keely Cat-Wells is an Entrepreneur and Disability Activist dedicated to making social, systematic, and economic change. Keely is the Founder/CEO of C Talent, Zetta Studios, and Zetta Finance. Additionally, Keely sits on the d/Deaf & Disabled committee at Equity UK.
“I believe to change the world we have to learn to tell and listen to a new set of stories about the world that we want to create.’’

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