I am the founder (1979) and executive director of Sprout, a private, NYC-based non-profit organization that offers travel and recreation opportunities to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. There was a movement toward de-institutionalization in the 70’s/80’s and many people were finally realizing that inclusion and integration was the way forward. Even though I had little experience (more accurately, no experience) in working with people with special needs; I was young and idealistic enough to take a ‘leap of faith.’ The organization grew steadily and I was fortunate to have overseen the growth of Sprout from its beginnings to now serving over 2,000 people with I/DD annually.
In 1994 I created Sprout’s Make-A-Movie Program through which I produced several award-winning videos featuring people with I/DD as actors and as subjects of documentaries. I wrote, directed and edited these videos, which have been seen on television and in over 40 festivals around the world. Some of the festivals which have screened these films include: The Woodstock Film Festival, The New York Underground Film Festival, the International Disability Film Festival (Moscow, Russia), International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival (Glasgow, Scotland), Picture This Film Festival (Alberta, Canada), SF Indiefest, Chicago Social Change Film Festival, Harlem International Film Festival and the London Disability Film Festival (England).
In 2003 I founded the annual Sprout Film Festival, and have been the Executive Director of the festival since its founding. The Sprout Film Festival is the first and only festival to showcase films from throughout the world featuring people with I/DD. In the true spirit of inclusion, this film festival aims not only to showcase films of artistry relating to the field, but also to outreach to the I/DD communities to attend the event, help select the films, run the festival, participate in the Q & A sessions and join in the celebration.
Due to the positive response to this festival from various agencies across the country, in 2006, I started touring with the Sprout Film Festival. In 2014, the touring festival was screened for various agencies and schools in 40 different cities with over 13,000 people viewing the films from Sprout’s catalogue. In 2008, I also started running workshops at various conferences and conventions in Making Videos Featuring People with I/DD and The Relationship of Film to the Field of I/DD.
My latest venture has been the creation of Sproutflix – an online distribution service of the largest and most diverse assortment of films featuring people with I/DD as actors in narratives and subjects of documentaries.
I believe deeply in the power of film to inspire, inform and spark change.
I have been truly honored to be able to run such and innovative organization as Sprout and I will continue to strive to foster greater inclusion, acceptance and representation for people who have historically been marginalized both in the media and society at large – making the invisible visible.
To view my latest short film, One Question: http://sproutflix.org/all-films/one-question/