The Stan Lee Foundation has partnered with Unified Empowerment Incorporated (UEI), a 501(c)3 charitable organization that finds job opportunities for people with severe disabilities (any disability that keeps a person from holding a full-time job). The initial focus for this program is to train people with disabilities, specifically autism for this first project, to learn specific jobs within the film trades while working on production and potentially post-production of the film.
The proof of concept will be developed within the program that is producing a short film, Othello-san, owned and produced by Red Zeppelin Productions (RZP). RZP has recently produced and distributed a multiple award-winning feature film TRI and several other award-winning short films since its inception. It currently has several projects in pre-production and in-development with compelling stories and characters.
The Virginia Film Office has provided financial support to produce these movies and is also willing to provide support for this training program. This program will allow for the State and/or the Federal Governments, as well as other funding charitable organizations that may provide additional grants to train people with disabilities to get jobs in the film industry. There are many disciplines in the film and entertainment industries that can easily translate to related work in other industries as well.
UEI is a registered SourceAmerica Non-Profit Affiliate (NPA). This means that UEI can obtain government and corporate contracts and can service them specifically because it can employ people with significant disabilities. SourceAmerica links Federal and private customers who need products and services, conducts research, runs projects and develops programs to advance their mission of full and fair employment for people with severe disabilities.
According to the AbilityOne Act, at-risk youth also qualify for this program, and this would provide an ideal opportunity for the Film Office to cultivate a workforce in key positions that have sustainable job opportunities that can be found in production work. Boeing has been successfully implementing a similar program for decades to support the construction of aircraft in Seattle, Washington.
Another potential example of a disability is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and employing individuals with such a disability may qualify for grants through the Veterans Administration. They are actively seeking transferable skills for vets so that they can potentially get work after their service contribution. This program can also help to prove that this hands-on training program can be replicated and modified to train people with or without challenges that don’t necessarily fit the specific criteria within the definitions of severe disabilities.