2010 Media Access Awards sees smallscreen leading way for actors, list of honorees

On Friday, October 8, Monsters and Critics attended the 2010 Media Access Awards press breakfast, where notable actors, casting agents, producers and showrunners’ exemplary work was honored at The Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills.

The event was hosted by KCBS-TV news anchor Pat Harvey, and was concluded with AMC’s “Breaking Bad” star R.J. Mitte (Walt Jr.), who flew in from Portland, Oregon for the ceremony to present his special award to Atticus Shafer.

SAG National Performers with Disabilities (PWD) Committee and SAG Affirmative Action & Diversity, along with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, AFTRA, CSA, PGA, WGAW, Friends of Californians with Disabilities, the Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and the RJ Mitte Diversity Award, come together to honor industry professionals “for promoting awareness of the disability experience, accessibility for people with disabilities and the accurate depiction of characters with disabilities.”

The 2010 Media Access Awards honors individuals and organizations in the entertainment and broadcast industries for their efforts in promoting the awareness of the disability experience, accessibility for people with disabilities, and the accurate depiction of characters with disabilities.

Breaking Bad star RJ Mitte - Atticus Shaffer - Addison Witt - John M Heller Getty Images, courtesy of Media Access Awards

“Breaking Bad” star RJ Mitte – Atticus Shaffer – Addison Witt – John M Heller Getty Images, courtesy of Media Access Awards

But many of the honorees expressed their hope that someday soon, the awards would not be necessary.  SAG Harold Russell Award recipient, comic and actor Danny Woodburn (Seinfeld, Passion, Men In Trees) said, “it will be an incredible day when this award becomes obsolete,” and shared a poignant story about actor Harold Russell, who starred in “The Best Years of Our Lives.” Russell took home two Academy Awards in 1947 for his work as a soldier home from the war, who lost his hands in battle.

Unfortunately, he never got the work he deserved as an actor after the fact. Mr. Woodburn noted that the times Russell lived in were especially tough for any actor with a physical challenge.

Today Mr. Woodburn is also a union advocate for performers with disabilities and Little People.

The Christopher Reeve Acting Scholarship was presented to actor Christopher Thornton by Ron Livingston.

Ron Livingston-Christopher Thornton - by John M Heller - Getty Images courtesy of Media Access Awards

Ron Livingston-Christopher Thornton – by John M Heller – Getty Images courtesy of Media Access Awards

Thornton’s film “Sympathy for Delicious” was recognized at Sundance film festival, and Thornton spoke about his collaboration with actor Mark Ruffalo.  He noted that all opportunities for any actor, disabled or not, started with the writing, and the best work from his peers came from filmmakers “who get it right.”  Storytellers who avoid the trap of “courageous and inspirational” hackneyed storylines, and who go out on a limb and mine the rich narratives of interesting lives, regardless of any physical limitations of the actors and subjects they portray.

What this year’s award show revealed to me was that smallscreen showrunners like Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad) and Ryan Murphy (Glee, Nip/Tuck) and their casting agents are at the forefront of Hollywood, creatives who can see an actor’s abilities beyond the surface, the physical, and appreciate and utilize actors whose abilities far exceed any disability they are labeled with.

Both Gilligan and Murphy are to be commended for establishing brilliant ensemble casts that reflect the imperfections of real life.

Breaking Bad showrunner Vince Gilligan and Showtimes Latin Divas of Comedy star Monique Marvez, photo credit www.robertkenney.info

Breaking Bad showrunner Vince Gilligan and Showtime’s Latin Divas of Comedy star Monique Marvez, photo credit www.robertkenney.info

2010 Media Access Award Recipients

·         AFTRA Disability Awareness Award – Darcy Pohland, a successful newscaster in a wheelchair (posthumously, WCCO-TV)

·         SAG Harold Russell Award – Danny Woodburn

·         CSA Award – Robert J. Ulrich, Eric Dawson, Carol Kritzer, for diverse casting of actors with disabilities (Glee)

·         WGAW Joan Young Award – Vince Gilligan, for creating realistic characters with disabilities (Breaking Bad)

·         Producers Guild of America George Sunga Award – Mike Tollin (Radio, Smallville, Coach Carter) led a group of 12 Special Olympians up Mt. Kilimanjaro in 1990, which resulted in an Emmy Award-winning film, Let Me Be Brave.

·         Christopher Reeve Acting Scholarship – Christopher Thornton (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Brothers & Sisters), who became paraplegic in a climbing accident in 1992  wrote and co-starred with longtime friend Mark Ruffalo in Sympathy for Delicious which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival 2010.

·         RJ Mitte Diversity Award was presented to Atticus Shaffer

Showtimes Latin Divas of Comedy star Monique Marvez and AMCs Breaking Bad star,  R.J. Mitte, photo by April MacIntyre ©M&C Galaxy S Captivate SAMSUNG

Showtime’s Latin Divas of Comedy star Monique Marvez and AMC’s Breaking Bad star, R.J. Mitte, photo by April MacIntyre ©M&C Galaxy S Captivate SAMSUNG

From the Media Access Awards:

About the California Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities

The Governor’s Committee is responsible for providing leadership to increase the numbers of people with disabilities in the California workforce.  The volunteer membership of the Governor’s Committee is comprised of decision-makers and leaders from the private and public sectors whose expertise is essential in supporting and building systems that promote universal access, remove barriers to work, and enable people with disabilities to gain independence and economic self-sufficiency.

About the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA)

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO, are the people who entertain and inform America. In 32 Locals across the country, AFTRA members work as actors, journalists, singers, dancers, announcers, hosts, comedians, disc jockeys, and other performers across the media industries including television, radio, cable, sound recordings, music videos, commercials, audio books, non-broadcast industrials, interactive games, the Internet and other digital media. The 70,000 professional performers, broadcasters, and recording artists of AFTRA are working together to protect and improve their jobs, lives, and communities in the 21st century. From new art forms to new technology, AFTRA members embrace change in their work and craft to enhance American culture and society. Visit AFTRA online at www.aftra.com

About the Producers Guild of America

The Producers Guild of America is the non-profit professional association that represents, protects and promotes the interests of all members of the producing team in film, television and new media. The PGA has over 4,500 members who work together to protect and improve their careers, the industry and community by providing members with health benefits, employment opportunities,  the creation of fair and impartial standards for the awarding of producing credits, as well as other education and advocacy efforts such as promoting sustainable production practices and diversity in the industry. Visit www.producersguild.org, www.pgagreen.org, www.pgadiversity.org for more information.

About the Screen Actors Guild

Screen Actors Guild is the nation’s largest labor union representing working actors. Established in 1933, SAG has a rich history in the American labor movement, from standing up to studios to break long-term engagement contracts in the 1940s to fighting for artists’ rights amid the digital revolution sweeping the entertainment industry in the 21st century. With 20 Branches nationwide, SAG represents more than 125,000 actors who work in film and digital motion pictures and television programs, commercials, video games, industrials, Internet and all new media formats. The Guild exists to enhance actors’ working conditions, compensation and benefits and to be a powerful, unified voice on behalf of artists’ rights. SAG is a proud affiliate of the AFL-CIO. Headquartered in Los Angeles, you can visit SAG online at SAG.org.

About the Writers Guild of America, West

The Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) is a labor union representing writers of motion pictures, television, radio, and Internet programming, including news and documentaries. Founded in 1933, the Guild negotiates and administers contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members. It is involved in a wide range of programs that advance the interests of writers, and is active in public policy and legislative matters on the local, national, and international levels. For more information on the WGAW, please visit: www.wga.org.

About the Casting Society of America

The Casting Society of America is the premier organization of theatrical Casting Directors in film, television, and theatre.  Although it is not a union, its members are a united professional society that consistently set the level of professionalism in casting on which the entertainment industry has come to rely.  It’s more than 450 members are represented not only in the United States, but also in Canada, England, Australia and Italy.

About the Friends of Californians with Disabilities

Friends of Californians with Disabilities, Inc. a 501(c)(3), is a leader in developing statewide and national partnerships to increase employment and independent living opportunities for people with disabilities. They played a major leadership role in the partnership that created such innovative nationally acclaimed projects as the California Youth Leadership Forum for Students with Disabilities (YLF), the Media Access Office and Awards and the “Windmills” Disability Awareness Diversity Training Program.

About the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation

The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is dedicated to curing spinal cord injury by funding innovative research, and improving the quality of life for people living with paralysis through grants, information and advocacy.  For more information please visit our website at ChristopherReeve.org or call 800-225-0292.

Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.