The Advocacy Newsletter of ILRCSF
Our apologies for this month's issue of DELA getting to you a little later than usual. There were a few important items we wanted to make sure to include, starting with the feature article: an interview with K. Lorrel Manning, a film director whose latest project deals with a topic many people find difficult to discuss, and some don't even know exists: post traumatic stress in the military veteran population. Also this month: PBS' presentation about the disability rights movement, a link to information about the upcoming flu season, a new Smartphone app that could put information about benefits right at your fingertips, information about an organization that helps people with disabilites get involved in sports and fitness, and more. As always, we welcome your comments, questions and suggestions.
Happy New Year
An Interview with the director of the film festival hit which addresses PTSD in the veteran community.
In 2008/09, a friend - actress Tina Sloan - mentioned a project she was working on - a film about the experience of veterans returning home after active duty.The film, Happy New Year, was written and directed by K. Lorrel Manning. Since then, the film has been completed, and has made its way around the film festival circuit, premiering at the prestigious South By Southwest conference in Austin, Texas (SXSW.)
Early this month, Tina put me in contact with K. Lorrel Manning who kindly agreed to discuss his important film, the reception it's received from servicemen and women, as well as civilians, and what he describes as the "epidemic" that is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Manning speaks best for himself, so I kept the questions, which appear in boldface, to a minimum.
Tell us a little about how this film came to be.
Happy New Year started as an off-Broadway play, and then a short film. In 2008, Lead actor Michael Cuomo and I started to raise money to make a feature film because I wanted to explore the experience of returning vets and Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD) further and to tell this story. People thought we were crazy for trying to raise funds for this project, especially when the economy took such a nosedive. Plus, films dealing with any aspect of the Iraq War were not performing well at the box office. However, it all came together, and we eventually found a brave group of investors who believed in the story and its message.
Why were you so driven to tell this particular story?
PTSD is an epidemic, and it's only going to get worse. I shudder to think what the next 20 years holds for us when it comes to vets returning with post-traumatic stress. It's something no one really talks all that much about. It's not a popular subject. Most people would prefer to ignore what's going on overseas. Michael and I interviewed roughly 80 vets and their families for this film. As hard as it was to complete this project, we felt that their stories needed to be told.
Tina Sloan, who has a role in the movie and who first put me in contact with you, has a son who has served in Iraq. I know that for her, it was important this story get told. Was this the case for other people involved in the film?
One of the reasons we were able to make the idea of this film become a reality was due to the fact that just about everyone in front of and behind the camera worked below scale. They loved the script and its message, and they wanted to see it get made. It was a labor of love, I think, for all involved. At least two of the actors, besides Tina, have close friends and /or family who were seriously affected by the war. For everyone, it was a way to give something back to those who had given so much for us.
What has the reception to Happy New Year been like?
We had our World Premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in March. We've been on the festival circuit ever since. The response, from vets and non-vets, for the most part, has been overwhelmingly positive. At each stop we make, we make a strong effort to reach out to the local vet community. We offer them discount or free tix whenever we can. It's not unusual for us to hear from vets in the audience that we really "got it" with this film. They can completely relate to the characters onscreen, particularly the lead character "Lewis." They are often blown away by the authenticity of the script and of Michael's performance. It's often hard for them to believe that neither one of us are vets. At one screening in Arlington, VA, a young female vet stood and told her harrowing story of sexual abuse and her 20-year struggle with PTSD. She spoke openly about her struggles, then admitted that it was the very first time she'd spoken about these issues aloud, outside of therapy. Why? She said she felt safe. She felt that that she was speaking to people that "got it." That meant a lot to me, as a film maker.
Of course, Happy New Year is not an easy film. As funny and entertaining as it is, it's also very dark in places. And not everyone can sit through it. In fact, I would say it's not the best idea for someone who has just returned from active service, and is only beginning to deal with the trauma he or she has suffered, to see it.
Though the majority of the feedback has been incredibly positive, there have been a handful of people who've had serious issues with the film. At one screening, in Sarasota, Florida, a Vietnam vet stood up during the talkback and called the film "a travesty" and "an attack on the VA, the military, and Christianity." He was quickly booed out of the theatre by the dozens of other vets in the audience who vehemently disagreed with him. That same night, another gentleman walked up to me onstage, shouted an expletive and stormed out of the theatre. These are very rare exceptions to the response we usually get. However, I never assume that I know how an audience is going to respond. I'm always on the edge of my seat after every screening.
In mid-September, we took the film to Germany for our International Premiere at the Oldenburg International Film Festival. Because so many people in the industry had told us that Happy New Year was a distinctly "American" film, we were totally prepared for a lukewarm response. The response was overwhelming. It turned out to be one of the best screenings we've ever had. We even walked away with the Audience Award for Best Film, the first time an American film has won. The German audience really connected with the story. There were some German vets in the audience who told us that the themes were universal. They could totally relate to the men onscreen.
We also won best film at the Anna's Vision/North Country Film Fest in Brattleboro, Vermont. This award is especially meaningful to me, since the festival is sponsored by the Brattleboro Retreat -one of the only specialized private mental health programs for uniformed services such as police, firefighters and combat veterans.
So, I would say that, with very few exceptions, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
The few negative responses you describe sound very emotional. Do you have any thoughts about that?
Well, I think some people don't want to discuss or even admit to the negative aspects of coming home. It's hard. PTSD is still seen by some as a weakness, and there are some people who think that vets just need to "hold their heads up high." We address this in the film. The suicide rate among returning vets is staggering. Civilians who see Happy New Year are often shocked - they can't believe this is going on right under their noses. Like I said, this isn't an easy film to watch. I've had vets come up to me after a screening and say, "I love you for making this film, and I also hate you for making this film."
I know you're taking Happy New Year to film festivals around the country, and that cities such as New York and Los Angeles are already on your itinerary. What can people who are interested in seeing the film do to support your effort and help you get wider distribution?
The first thing people can do is go to our website and join our mailing list - www.happynewyearfilm.com
, under the "contact" tab. We send out a very informative monthly newsletter. There are also links on the site to connect with us via Facebook and Twitter. We will open in select theaters around the country in the 1st quarter of 2012, and we need all the help we can get in spreading the word.
As you know, ILRCSF provides work space and support to the Veterans Art Guild, and we're hoping to try and get you out to San Francisco for a screening of Happy New Year. The Veterans Art Guild is in the early stages of trying to raise funds to do a major mural here in SF. What would you say to independent artists trying to fund creative projects such as murals or films?
I'd tell them that perseverance is everything. Like I said - people thought we were crazy when we first started to raise money to make this film. It's been an incredibly hard road, but we didn't give up. And here we are!
LIVES WORTH LIVING Premieres on the PBS Series INDEPENDENT LENS
Thursday, October 27 at 10 PM During
National Disability Employment Awareness Month
Powerful Documentary Chronicles the History of America's Disability Rights Movement
Despite the fact that there are over 54 million Americans living with disabilities, Lives Worth Living is the first television history of their decades-long struggle for equal rights. Produced and directed by Eric Neudel, Lives Worth Living is a window into a world inhabited by people with an unwavering determination to live their lives like everyone else, and a look back into a past when millions of Americans lived without access to schools, employment, apartment buildings, and public transportation - a way of life unimaginable today. Lives Worth Living premieres on the Emmy Award-winning PBS series Independent Lens, on Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 10 PM (check local listings) to coincide with National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Lives Worth Living traces the development of the disability rights movement from its beginning following World War II, when thousands of disabled veterans returned home, through its burgeoning in the 1960s and 1970s, when it began to adopt the tactics of other social movements. Told through interviews with the movement's pioneers, legislators, and others, Lives Worth Living explores how Americans with a wide variety of disabilities - including blind, deaf, physical, intellectual and psychiatric - banded together to change public perception and policy. Through demonstrations and legislative battles, the disability rights community finally secured equal civil rights with the 1990 passage and signing into law of the Americans with Disabilities Act, one of the most transformative pieces of civil rights legislation in American history.
To learn more about the film, and the issues involved, visit the film's companion website at www.pbs.org/independentlens/. Get detailed information on the film, watch preview clips, read an interview with the filmmaker, and explore the subject in depth with links and resources. The site also features a Talkback section, where viewers can share their ideas and opinions.
Flu Information Online
Flu season is on the way, and SF Department of Public Health has updated their site to include important information about the the vaccine for 2011-2012, including: who should get the vaccine, what the availability will be, and where people can get vaccinated at low cost or for free.
Prepare for winter - check out the the DPH's site.
Use Your SmartPhone to Find Out
An app has been developed for people with questions about disability benefits who use SmartPhones. Disability Answers is a free download which provides answers to basic questions you may have.
Download Disability Answers in the Apple iTunes app store or the Android market by searching under "Disability Answers" or "The Advocator Group." For more information please visit the company's website at Advocator.com, blog at advocator-blog.com, or contact Jackie Zima-Evans at 610-228-2138 (office), 215-534-2973 (mobile), or write to Jackie@GregoryFCA.com.
Being Productive Doesn't Mean We Don't Need Support - Sign the Petition!
Currently, under SSI 1619, an individual with a disability may work and remain eligible for Medi-Cal (or Medi-Aid), which pays for life-sustaining devices such as ventilators.
In California, Medi-Cal eligibility also allows for In-Home Support Services which provides the money to hire personal assistants to do housekeeping and assist with daily personal needs. These services enable an individual with a disability to hold a job, shattering negative stereotypes surrounding people with disabilities.
The problem is that under SSI 1619, fellowships - along with scholarships and grants - are defined as "unearned income." That means that if a person takes a fellowship, scholarship, or grant, she will become ineligible for SSI 1619. In effect, the current law keeps many people with disabilities from working by saying, "Ok, since you received a $5,000 scholarship or grant to pursue your education/work on a book...you NO LONGER NEED VITAL SERVICES. That $5,000 is your annual income and should cover your housing, food, health and other costs for a year. You no longer need IHSS!"
Advocates are urging the Federal Government to correct this issue that continues to hinder scholars, artists, and people with disabilities from achieving further prominence in their fields due to income restrictions. In order to make the world more accessible to all Americans, we ask Congress and President Obama to add fellowships, scholarships, and grants to the Longmore Amendment.
If you know anyone with a disability, think about how the existing statute hinders their personal growth, prevents them from moving forward, and deprives all of us of the great things they might be doing if only they didn't have to worry about vital services being cut just because they've received a grant or scholarship.
Please Sign the Petition to Enable Folks with Disabilites to Receive Scholarships Without Fear
Get Active and Have Some Fun
Are you interested in getting involved in sports and fitness, but think you can't because you have a disability? Are you a parent of a child with a disability, who is hoping to get your child involved in teamwork? Are you someone with a disability who wants to have fun, get out of the house, and meet other physically active people, but you don't know where to do this?
The Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program (BORP) may be just the place you're looking for.
BORP is a non-profit organization working to improve the health, independence and social integration of people with physical disabilities through sports, fitness and recreation programs. BORP was founded in 1976, by people with disabilities to create access to the outdoors, to fitness, to sports and to recreation for a population that had been left out. In the 1970's, there simply were no recreation programs in the state specifically for people with disabilities. Initially started as a small student program at UC Berkeley, BORP has since grown to serve children, adults and families from all over the greater Bay Area. Over the past 30 years, thousands of people have benefited from BORP's innovative programs, trainings, referrals and consultations. If you're interested in sports, fun, the great outdoors and meeting other people who share these interests, check out all that BORP has to offer.
Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco
Community Computer Program
Need a quiet place and a computer to:
- do some school research?
- order groceries?
- look for housing?
- catch up with emails and social networking?
- type up your resume?
Schedule computer time at ILRCSF's Accessible Consumer Computer Kiosk
Call 415-543-6222. Ask for an Assistive Tech Educator.
Half hour/one hour slots available from 9am to 4:30pm. Please, no drop-ins. Computer is only available for persons with disabilities.
This is not a training session. If you have questions or need support around your computer tasks, you can pre-arrange a more personalized session with an AT Educator.
The development of this accessible workstation was made possible by a grant from AT&T, and with the expertise of The Center for Accessible Technology.
ILRCSF is wheelchair accessible and provides reasonable accommodations on request, including ASL interpreters and print information in alternative formats. ILRCSF is a scent-free office in order to be fully accessible to all people with disabilities. Please do not wear any scented products including perfumes, aftershave, hairspray, etc. to any meetings, groups, or workshops held at or by ILRCSF. If you are wearing scents, you will not be able to remain in the office.
ILRCSF Benefits Workshop Schedule
ILRCSF offers two different workshops on benefits:
1. Basic Benefits Overview
2. How Employment Affects your Benefits - for those on SSDI &/or SSI
All workshops are on Thursdays at 9:30am. However, only one topic - basic benefits or employment -- is covered each Thursday. Please attend the workshop that best suits you. For example, if you need information about applying for SSDI, SSI, Medi-Cal or other benefits, come to the Basic Benefits Overview workshop. If, on the other hand, you already receive SSDI or SSI and are considering going to work, come to the workshop entitled How Employment Affects Your Benefits. At this Employment Workshop you will learn how to use work incentives to keep some of your benefits as you transition into a job, as well as how to use the PASS program, and Ticket to Work. To hear the schedule of upcoming workshops, call 415-543-6222 ext. 155.
How Work Affects Your Benefits - for those on SSI &/or SSDI
Basic Benefits Overview
How Work Affects Your Benefits - for those on SSI &/or SSDI
Basic Benefits Overview
NOTE: ILRCSF is wheelchair accessible and provides reasonable accommodations upon request. In order to be fully accessible to all people with disabilities, ours is a scent-free office.
When visiting ILRCSF, please do not wear any scented products, including perfumes, aftershave, hairspray, etc.
The Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco is a 501(c)3, not-for-profit organization. Donations from the public support our mission to ensure that people with disabilities are full social and economic partners both within their families and within a fully accessible community.
Tax deductible donations may be sent to:
649 Mission Street, 3rd Floor,
San Francisco, CA 94105