What a star-studded lineup filmmaker Jenni Gold, a UCF graduate, assembled for her latest movie: Ben Affleck, Jamie Foxx, Gary Sinise, Jane Seymour, Marlee Matlin, Geena Davis, William H. Macy and others.
And their film has an uplifting message for everyone: Push forward to reach your dreams. Gold’s dream — to become a movie director — was not put aside just because she uses a wheelchair to overcome her muscular dystrophy.
Her new movie, “CinemAbility,” will be shown Sept. 16 and 18 at the Global Peace Film Festival in Winter Park and Orlando. The 100-minute documentary looks at how films and TV shows have portrayed disabilities through history, and some of the ways that media and popular culture have affected attitudes toward people who are different.
She said the film will be released in 2015 to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. “The ADA changed access but it didn’t change perceptions,” she said.
What she found in the eight years making the film, she said, is that too many stereotypical representations still persist in the industry – but it is changing.
“The film is has had a lot of support from Hollywood,” said Gold, who grew up in Miami, earned her Motion Picture Production and Radio and Television Broadcasting degrees in 1992 at UCF, and now lives in Los Angeles. “The film also celebrates the history of Hollywood to show where we’ve been and where we could go to be better.”
As CSI actor Robert David Hall, whose legs were amputated after an automobile accident, said in a trailer for the film: “If society got its ideas about people with disabilities from TV, they would think that basically we’re either pathetic or superpeople.”
This documentary looks at the evolution of “disability” in entertainment by going behind the scenes to interview filmmakers, studio executives, film historians and celebrities. The film includes clips from popular movies and TV programs such as “Forrest Gump,” “Edward Scissorhands” and “Game of Thrones” to focus on the impact that entertainment and the media can have on society.
Gold, a member of the Directors Guild of America – the only member who uses a wheelchair, she said – had access to the actors and actresses, many whom have portrayed people with disabilities or who have disabilities.
“I was persistent going after them, but when they heard about what we were doing, they were excited to participate,” she said. “A lot of actors are interested in helping good causes.”
The screenings for “CinemAbility” will be 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 16, at The Green at Rollins College, and 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, at the Cobb Plaza Cinema in downtown Orlando. The Tuesday showing is free; tickets for Thursday are $8.
Gold also has co-written and is developing narrative feature films including a suspense thriller titled “Adrenaline,” a romantic comedy titled “Mr. December,” and family films such as “Lucky” and “Ryann Watters.” She also last year directed a television pilot titled “8-Bit Animal Playhouse” starring Jason Mewes.
Working in the industry is “about pushing forward and doing what you can. It’s about following your dreams,” Gold said, adding: “I’m a Knight forever — and now my niece is a Knight.”
This is the 12th year of the Global Peace Film Festival, which will run Sept. 17-21 and feature 21 films.