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A tough pair breaks movie rules

Heroes with disabilities brought into the Hollywood spotlight in 'Collision.'

June 22, 2011|By Sara Cardine, Special to the Valley Sun
  • Shooting "Collision the film" are left, Teal Sherer, standing with camera is Dave Frederick, and Alexis Ostrander, standing at right.
Shooting "Collision the film" are left, Teal…

La Cañada resident Katherine Beattie knows firsthand how hard it is to build a successful career in the film and TV industry. As a script coordinator for the Showtime hit “Californication,” the 26-year-old writer has had many jobs that require long days on the set, make grueling demands and require a lot of running back and forth.

But the fact that Beattie lives with cerebral palsy, a condition affecting balance and motor skills, means she’s had to work twice as hard as most people to get where she is today. She understands how hard it is for actors who live with disabilities to break into the Hollywood scene.

“Hollywood has made some strides in the past couple years,” Beattie said of the industry’s attitude toward hiring and casting people with disabilities. “But it’s still way behind the curve, and far behind where we’d like to see it.”

Tired of waiting for a multibillion-dollar ship to change its course, Beattie, with a group of actors, directors and would-be producers who all are either living with disabilities or supporting someone who does, decided to take matters into their own hands.

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Under the direction of Executive Producer Tiffany Giddes, the group created an action film titled “Collision.” They hope it will not only entertain audiences, but go down in history as the first film to portray two female lead characters in wheelchairs.

“What we’re doing with our no-holds-barred stunts, I think it’s really going to open people’s eyes,” said Giddes, who was in a car accident that damaged her spinal cord exactly 10 years ago this Friday.

As an actor, Giddes knows directors are reluctant to cast people with disabilities in roles written for able-bodied characters. The misconception that they are fragile or cannot take the pressure of a full day’s work means actors like her remain relegated to minor roles.

“I got tired of being the girl in the background or the girl who sits behind a desk,” Giddes said. “If they’re not going to come to me, I’m going to make the kind of movie I want to make.”

“Collision” portrays an ambitious young woman, Jessica, whose life is changed forever by a drunk driver. While in rehab, Jessica meets Charlie, an assassin who takes her under her wing as she prepares to reap vengeance on the man who left her to die.

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