Nic Novicki recently allowed Film Obsessive to have some of his time. He’s a remarkable individual with an impressive resume. Actor, comedian, writer, director, and producer — he’s appeared in things like The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, The Good Doctor, and Spider-man: Across the Spider-verse, all the while making movies such as the touching A Little Broke (2013) and the bittersweet Matthew’s Song (2013). Yet, his most important achievement may be the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge.
Nic is a little person who realized Hollywood wasn’t offering too many opportunities to people with disabilities. And what the industry dangled didn’t give folks a chance to become a serious part of things like television and film. As such, he conceived the Disability Film Challenge back around 2013. It allowed aspiring creatives with disabilities to show the skills they had to offer.
Over the last eleven years the challenge has grown. That’s because its success attracted the attention of philanthropic groups who helped it expand. Partnering with Easterseals and the Adobe Foundation not only increased the cash awards but helped expand various programs that allowed participants to acquire more skills as well as sharpen those they already possessed. Things like mentorship programs and workshops helped people develop the potential they showed in their submissions to the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge.
The results have been positive. Many past participants such as Danielle Perez and Sofiya Cheyenne have energized their careers thanks to the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. Danielle Perez recently did voice-over work in Spider-man: Across the Spider-verse, portraying the character Sun-spider, and starred in Dicks: The Musical (2023) as Danielle the Stooper. Meanwhile, Sofiya landed a regularly recurring role on the television series Loudermilk where she plays Louise.
Talking with Nic Novicki, it’s clear the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge isn’t a handout. Participants put in real work. Whether cast or crew, they make these movies happen through their own sweat, blood, and ambition. What results are often interesting stories that reveal not only a lot of talent but an outlook on life that many people miss out on. Such underappreciated perspectives are the goal of any good art, and the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge makes it possible for these unique individuals to share theirs with the world.
It’s no wonder that Nic is at the forefront of the project. Besides being its founder, he’s an outgoing individual who can charmingly deliver a vast amount of knowledge with ease. He knows the industry as well as this project in a way that comes across casually. Our conversation never felt like the recitation of bullet points. Rather, it was an exchange with someone passionate trying to let as many people as possible know about the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge.
For instance, yes, there are cash prizes, such as $2,000 for the winners alongside $15,000 in seed funding to finish films. However, winners aren’t the only ones who succeed. Nic and his compatriots have essentially created a resource for studios. The Easterseals Disability Film Challenge is basically a gathering point for a growing pool of talent that happens to be composed of people with disabilities. These are talented individuals who can add to any production, especially those genuinely interested in inclusivity.
But it’s best hearing this from Nic Novicki. This interview contains the origins of the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge, how people can participate, and this year’s current theme. Not to mention the awards folks can win. In addition, Nic lets us know where to view the various films that have been made over the years as well as the upcoming gems.