Aaron Wolf and Restoring Tomorrow featured on ABC with famed entertainment reporter George Pennacchio.
By now, we are all familiar with MoviePass, a subscription-based movie ticketing app. What you probably didn’t know is that the company has been offering a service to buy discounted movie tickets since 2011. Then in 2016, Mitch Lowe, a top level executive during the genesis of Netflix who would go on to be President of RedBox for a couple years, came along and decided to experiment with a subscription based service for buying movie tickets. Hmmmm, subscription based entertainment, I wonder where he got that idea… Anyways, the company started experimenting with different plans to help moviegoers buy cheaper tickets. This consisted of plans like $15 to see two movies a month or $50 to see unlimited movies a month. They got about 20,000 subscribers through this new plan, but they really weren’t growing fast enough to sustain the business model.
Enter Helios and Matheson, an analytics firm. They purchased a major stake in MoviePass in August 2017 and wouldn’t you know it, MoviePass slashed the price of their unlimited plan to only $10 a month (minus seeing two movies a day, the same movie more than once, or 3D/IMAX movies). Gasp. The news went viral. You could see a movie everyday for a year and only pay $120. Movie tickets cost between $10 and $17 dollars, so if you saw a movie everyday for a year it would cost you $3,650. And that’s a conservative estimate! And if you are confused at how this business model will work, let me break it down for you: You give MoviePass $10 a month to go see as many movies as you want. When you buy a movie ticket with MoviePass, they pay full price of the ticket, basically subsidising your trip to the movies. So you could go see twenty movies for ten dollars, and MoviePass pays for those twenty movies and you only paid ten bucks. They clearly are losing money when people see more than one movie per month, and that’s basically the case for everyone that subscribes. “THIS BUSINESS MODEL STILL DOESN’T WORK.” Of course it doesn’t. That’s because MoviePass doesn’t even really care about selling movie tickets.
“I knew it! They are trying to sell my data!” I’m going to give MoviePass the benefit of the doubt here and assume they aren’t straight-up selling your data. MoviePass claims they don’t (So did Facebook) and it kind of makes sense that they don’t necessarily have to. They are going to use it, though. Whether or not they are making money by selling subscription based movie tickets (which they aren’t), MoviePass now has a subscriber base of 2.7 million users thanks to their genius marketing. They know that their unlimited plan is too good to be true and they used this as leverage to aggregate users. Now they have the full name, email address, phone number, and home address of 2.7 million people. MoviePass, or Helio and Matheson for that matter, knows that we are living in an attention economy. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter have found success in ad revenue because basically everyone carries little billboards in their pockets wherever they go. MoviePass is looking to cash in on that as well. And I think it goes without saying that MoviePass now has your attention.
Banner ads isn’t the only way MoviePass is going to make money (notice I didn’t say selling movie tickets). They want to basically control your entire “going-to-the-movies” experience. They have begun experimenting with partnering with restaurants and ride sharing apps. You go on your MoviePass app to buy tickets to a show. While you are checking out, MoviePass tells you that if you show your MoviePass ticket receipt you get 10% off at The Cheesecake Factory. You aren’t getting a discount because you’re special. You’re getting a discount because TCF paid MoviePass a lot of money to put their coupon (basically an ad) in front of 2.7 million pairs of eyes. And when you go to TCF and use that coupon, both MoviePass and TCF see the data that shows the ad worked. So TCF realizes that MoviePass is a valuable partner and decides to give them more money to continue putting their coupons and discounts on their app. And this translates to basically any service that inhabits the movie going experience. You book an Uber ride through the app after you buy tickets (because you know I can’t see a superhero movie without some super beer-o) Whether or not you got a discount, MoviePass put Uber in front of your face so MoviePass is going to get that dinero.
If you didn’t see it coming already, MoviePass is going to market movies on their app too. You’re on their app to buy tickets anyways so pushing a movie would be insanely easy. And because they know your movie preferences, they know exactly how to market to you. This is actually a great tool for indie movies that have trouble marketing to the level of big studio films (The new Jurassic World movie had an estimated marketing budget of 185 MILLION dollars). As an indie, you don’t have money or time to put on those grandiose exhibits or marketing stunts that may or may not work. You want to put up an ad and know exactly how well your ad is doing with MoviePass’ network of 2.7 million subscribers.
Remember when I said MoviePass wants to control your entire “going-to-the-movies” experience. Recently, the film American Animals premiered in New York and Los Angeles to a relatively good opening for an indie opening in two cities. What many people that haven’t seen a trailer or the movie noticed was, American Animals was co-acquired by MoviePass during Sundance this January through MoviePass Ventures, their acquiring and distribution branch that they conveniently founded in January too. Now this changes the business model quite a bit. Movie theaters basically give the majority of ticket sales back to the distributors and really make their money on overpriced popcorn and drinks. Now let’s think about this: When you buy tickets on MoviePass, they end up paying full price to the movie theater. The movie theater then has to give a portion of that ticket sale to the distributor...Oh snap. That means for a movie like American Animals, MoviePass actually gets some money back. Now that unlimited movie plan starts to make more sense: Acquire a bunch of movies, market those movies more heavily than other movies on your app, and watch that backend money trickle in. Now, if only they could produce their own movies to streamline the process and take out the expense of purchasing a movie outright at a film festival.
Well, you probably have figured out by now that MoviePass doesn’t just want to send you to the movies. They don't just want to acquire movies. They want to make movies. MoviePass recently co-founded MoviePass Films with EFO films. This deal with EFO films also means that MoviePass has access to their library and production slate. As we’ve seen with Netflix, creating your own content means you don’t have to pay those pesky licensing fees or count on third party creators to deliver. MoviePass is trying to become the Netflix of going to the theater, and of course they are. Mitch Lowe used to work there and he misses the old days.
And Mitch Lowe ain't no dummy. People love to sit on the sidelines and say that MoviePass’ business model can’t make money and will inevitably fail. But Mitch has been through this before. Netflix, which was started in 1998, almost went out of business too because of the dot-com bubble and fear that internet based companies couldn’t turn a profit. Oh, how naive we were. Netflix stuck to its guns and is now...Netflix. And Mitch is confident that MoviePass will do the same because of its similar business model. They both grew a large subscriber base and then used that subscriber base in creative ways. For Netflix, it was never about mailing DVDs, it was about making it easier to watch your favorite movies at home. For MoviePass, it was never about selling movie tickets, it was about better selling the movie-going experience.
By Patrick Murphy
The 90th Academy Awards will be taking place this Sunday at 5PM PST and we couldn’t be more excited to see how this year will play out. Being lovers of film, we have serious opinions about this years nominations and feel as though we should share opinions with the world. Being a company that makes films, we know all of our opinions are that of fact and feel as though we should share these facts with the world. For each category, we have chosen what we feel should win and a dark horse choice that we feel would be a great underdog win. So give it a read and let us know which picks you agree with or disagree with.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
Pick: Sam Rockwell for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Naturally, I gravitated towards Sam Rockwell as a winner because I feel as though he not only is underrated and deserves more attention, but also clearly hates playing Sam Rockwell. I feel there’s definitely a group of actors that pretty much just play themselves (which is cool), but Rockwell looks like he purposefully tries to find interesting characters to inhabit. He’s a very interesting cross between a character actor and a leading man because he steals the show in a good percentage of movies he’s supporting in. This goes the same for Three Billboards. If Frances McDormand wasn’t doing the best performance of her recent career, I would say he stole the show here, but really it’s a tug of war that I think Frances barely wins. In this film, he takes on the very difficult task of playing a character that the audience shouldn’t like, and Rockwell embraces it.
Dark Horse: Richard Jenkins for Shape of Water
Richard Jenkins is one of those actors that always catches me off guard. He looks like just an everyday-person, but his acting proves that there is much more going on. He can be scary, funny, serious, or all the above at once. He really doesn’t have a type and every movie continues to build a library of different characters he can play. In Shape of Water, he plays a lonely gay artist who shares an apartment unit with the main character, Elisa. A straight person playing a gay person is a difficult task for an actor/actress because they might be tempted to simply play a caricature of what they think being gay looks like (a lot of movies/shows makes this mistake and end up with artificial, non-believable characters). Richard Jenkins acts natural and doesn’t draw attention to himself as a gay character, but just as a character.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
Pick: Laurie Metcalf for Lady Bird
It’s not surprising that Metcalf is a mother because she plays a believable and noteworthy one. Metcalf plays the “trying-her-best” mother that feels like a real representation of the relationship between many mothers and daughters. I think the opening scene really sets the tone for her character. The way her head is tilted to the side and she never takes her eyes off the road really show the type of person she is: she’s a worrisome mother that seems more interested in sheltering her daughter than caring for her daughter. I think that is an extremely nuanced, but common type of mother/daughter relationship, and Laurie communicates that to the audience immediately.
Dark Horse: Allison Janney for I, Tonya
Continuing the theme of mother/daughter relationships, we have Allison Janney’s character. She is a “knows-best” mother that isn’t far off from the dynamic between mother/daughter in Lady Bird. Allison Janney’s character cares enough about her daughter having a good life, but she isn’t very caring. What’s amazing about her performance is her eyes. It almost looks like she’s done something to suck the soul out from behind them because she looks and feels incredibly cold throughout this film.
Best Actor in a Leading Role:
Pick: Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour
I don’t think Darkest Hour was a crazy-good movie or anything, but he melted into the role and made me forget I was watching a Gary Oldman film. And that’s really what you want in an actor. Moving on.
Dark Horse: Timothee Chalamet for Call Me By Your Name
I know this kid had been in other movies, but he really broke out this year with Lady Bird and Call Me By Your Name. Chalamet gives his characters a nuance that is unique to them. He plays (kinda) the same character in both movies: a teenage boy growing up and looking for love, and he plays these two characters completely different and keeps them true to their stories. I feel like any aspiring actor should take note of his work because you can tell he isn’t scared to go for it. A lot of bad acting stems from timidness, but you can tell he takes on a role without fear of failure. He is comfortable in his acting, and that’s what makes his performance feel real.
Best Actress in a Leading Role:
Pick: Frances McDormand for Three Billboards OUtside Ebbing, Missiouri
Frances McDormand is such an approachable and relatable actress (probably because she is in real life). Throughout her filmography, she has managed to really channel the americana/small town spirit from movies like Blood Simple to Fargo, and now this. Her performance is great because she still plays the small town woman, but this small town woman is pissssed off. Her character is a culmination of feelings a lot of people are having right now: I’m done with this. Frances McDormand not only acts this part but also looks this part. I like to think she told the makeup artists to get lost every morning because she looks like a real, distraught mother throughout this entire movie. I cannot say enough how believable she was as a pissed off mother in this film. The way she walk, talked, or just simply held her face felt incredibly natural and on point.
Dark Horse: Saoirse Ronan for Lady Bird
Very similar to Chalamet, Saoirse plays all of her characters so differently with a carefully crafted nuance that can only be attributed to skill and talent. In Lady Bird, Ronan masterfully portrays a high school kid coming to grips with the reality that life never really goes as planned. With how believable her performance was, I feel like Ronan began to realize this harsh reality during filming as well.
Best Original Screenplay:
Pick: Jordan Peele for Get Out
The whole screenplay is a skillfully interwoven, labyrinth of honesty, story, and jokes that stick with you and elicit repeated viewing. John Truby (Author of Anatomy of a Screenplay) writes about the idea of a story being told so well that it becomes a never-ending story, a story that people want to experience over and over again. Get Out achieves this honor through it’s writing that evolves with every viewing.
Dark Horse: Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird
A common irritation for me during “coming of age” films happens whenever the young characters open their mouths. It makes sense that the youthful characters in film usually don’t sound organic because their dialogue was written by someone not in their youth. Yet, Lady Bird avoids this misstep with characters who are nuanced enough to feel true, and honest enough to feel real. Greta takes the seemingly mundane story of a girl growing up at a catholic school, and creates a movie that any person can find meaning from. That’s why I think this movie elicits an oscar. Lady Bird says so much about family, religion, love, and growing up, without actually saying anything about those topics.
Pick: Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk
The production process of this film took so many risks and tried so many new things that I’m not sure if Nolan is a director or a war general. Nolan wanted to minimize the amount of CGI used (classic Nolan) and opted for more practical effects which everyone knows is the harder way to make a movie. Practical effects mean you have to focus on timing, choreography, and detail. All of which would be immensely easier to worry about in post. But Chris decided to do it live. These are but some of the crazy ideas that they decided to run with on this shoot that were the harder (but better) way to make this movie: 1.) Using real warships (“Yeah, back to one with the warship!”) 2.) Mounting an IMAX camera on an old war plane 3.) Using an IMAX camera like a hand-held camera 4.) Walking that hand-held IMAX camera into an ocean 5.) Opting for the real (cold and dreary) Dunkirk beach, as opposed to a nice beach in let’s say, California 6). Shooting with natural lighting. He put all he had in this film and it shows. With all that said, Dunkirk was a film that didn’t really have a main character or a linear timeline, and managed for the audience to still connect with the film. That is directing a film. He has complete control of every frame and deserves this award.
Dark Horse: Jordan Peele for Get Out
Jordan Peele is a tactful and natural storyteller, which makes him an amazing director. This movie has layers...like a lot of layers. And it never really stops. There was so much thought put into every single frame and sound bite of this film that only a seasoned director would even think of. Jordan Peele created a movie that is greater as a whole than as a sum of its parts. This movie radiates Jordan Peele and not in a stylized way (like a Wes Anderson way). You can tell he was making decisions not because they “looked cool” or “created a great moment.” He made decision based on what the movie needed and what made the movie better, using narrative techniques. Nothing that was shown or heard during this film was an accident. A director is a storyteller first, and a storyteller needs to understand things that go beyond plot, character, and dialogue. A director needs to be capitalizing on symbolism, metaphor, dramatic irony, foreshadowing, motifs, etc. Jordan Peele should win because he showed me what good directing looks like.
Pick: Three Billboards outside ebbing, missouri
To be honest, I picked this one because I have a very special place in my heart for prettttttttttyyyyy much everyone in and behind this movie. The director, Martin McDonagh, is a favorite of mine with such an interesting filmography. This is his third movie and I bet you couldn’t guess what his first two movies were about. OK, if you guessed that one was about a suicidal hitman running around a small town in Belgium and the other was about a screenwriter who gets mixed up with the mob because of a Shih Tzu, then I would be impressed. Three Billboards is such a difficult (but necessary) film to make and McDonagh didn’t pull any punches, and that’s why I like him as a filmmaker. He is brutal and brutally honest with his characters, but still manages to keep it funny. All of his films, including this one have refreshing and interesting stories. I never know how it’s going to end, and when it does end, I want to continue watching these characters on screen.
Dark Horse: Get Out
I really want Get Out to win because it’s such an underdog Oscar film: a horror movie, directed AND written by a first time black director. The movie is not only good, but it’s also such a triumph for filmmaking in general: 1.) Jordan Peele had never directed anything before. 2.) The premise of the film must have looked pretty risky on paper, but he executed the idea to the best version I think it could be. 3.) It proved that the best movies can be more than just movies when they are made for a reason. I feel like people tend to look at art and entertainment as mutually exclusive (to an extent, I think that is true most of the time when it comes to movies nowadays) but this movie was equal parts artistic (this movie bleeds Jordan Peele) and equal parts entertaining (because they need to get our attention somehow) without being a mess.
By Patrick Murphy
Okay, I know what you’re thinking: “What is this? 5 Obvious Things About my Phone as Told by a Stranger on the Internet?” But hear me out.
As the cameras on smart phones progress, the line between professional and amateur filmmaking begins to blur. There are award-winning movies shot with IPhones that challenge our expectations for how movies should be made.
Practice makes perfect, and we can all agree that taking pictures and videos is something that everyone is doing…all of the time. As we constantly capture what we see through our iPhones, our eyes and minds begin to see the world through a frame. This exercise of framing images in a compelling way will help you grow as a visual storyteller.
So go ahead, snap a pic of your baby cousin, record that sweet shot of the turkey being carved and start using the phone camera to make yourself a better filmmaker!
Tip: When you’re starting out, turn gridlines on to take advantage of the famed “Rule of Thirds”
Learning Curve: Beginner
2: Adobe Capture CC
Adobe Capture is a powerful little app and a must-have for aspiring filmmakers. The program allows you to turn your own photos into themes, patterns, and typeface, but for now, we’re going to focus on the Color Palette feature.
Have you ever been inspired by the look and feel of something in your daily life? (You’re a filmmaker so I will assume you have.) This app allows you to hold onto those moments and save the color palette of an image. A color palette has the potential to bolster the storytelling power of your visuals, when used purposefully.
Not only will this app give you a set of color palettes to use in future projects, but it will also train your eye to look at a scene and assess the colors through the eyes of a filmmaker.
Tip: The app will automatically place the points from which it picks colors, but don’t be afraid to move these around to see what colors you may like better.
Learning Curve: Easy to pick up, but more difficult to apply
*Check out @colorpalette.cinema on Instagram for some awesome examples of the power of color*
Another staple of mobile filmmaking is iMovie, a user-friendly editing software in the palm of your hand.
iMovie doesn’t have the capacity to edit together a two hour feature, but the simplicity and accessibility makes editing small projects possible. With iMovie, you have the ability to cut together footage, apply transitions, edit audio, create split-screen shots, and overlay text. Learning the basics of editing will allow you to think like an editor when writing, shooting, and directing. Cameras capture movies, but editors bring them to life.
Boost your social capital by editing together a montage of your trip to Europe during the holidays. Show off your cooking skills with a quick How To video on making the best sweet potato casserole. Make your family relive the disaster that was Thanksgiving 2016, and throw together a quick recap to show this year. Whatever you shoot, turn it into a coherent story with the magic of editing.
Tip: If you’re too lazy to record video or don’t know where to start, try making a fun slideshow with iMovie using still photos.
Learning Curve: Usable by beginners, but many features will require practice or tutorials.
4: Magic Hour
Natural light is a fantastic tool for filmmakers because it looks better than standard lighting...and it’s FREE.
The magic hour refers to the period of time right after sunrise and right before sunset when the sun bathes everything in a soft warm light that looks beautiful on camera. Magic Hour is a simple but extremely useful app that tracks when magic hour begins and ends, based on your location. The app will even send you notifications when magic hour is approaching!
We’ve all experienced the beauty of a great sunset. Now it’s time to learn how to capture the magic!
Tip: Don't forget to give yourself time to set up. Magic hour moves quickly!
Learning Curve: Very easy to use the app but using the light effectively may take some practice.
5: Weekend Read
Reading books makes you a better writer, but reading scripts makes you a better filmmaker. Weekend Read puts a large library of both good and bad scripts right on your phone, in an easy-to-read format. Even if you don’t like writing, reading scripts and understanding how visuals, action, and dialogue work together will make you a better visual storyteller. Your movie can look beautiful, but if you don’t have a good story, none of that matters.
So take a break from liking and sharing your life away, read a script and take the next step to becoming a filmmaker.
Tip: Read a script, then watch the movie. See what changed, how the words sound in practice, and imagine what you may have done differently.
Learning Curve: If you can read, you can read scripts. Do it!
Want to see what you can accomplish when you master the iPhone as a filmmaking tool?
Check out Sean Baker’s Tangerine
Aaron took to the stage with Melissa Rivers to co-host the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust’s annual fundraising gala honoring CNN icon, Wolf Blitzer. This year’s event hosted 75 living survivors among the audience, more than any previous gala.
HWP also provided the signature film for the evening focusing on 2nd and 3rd generation Holocaust survivors. The film aims to flip the narrative by sharing the stories of success by survivor’s descendants.
In the ultimate show of respect, Aaron asked for the survivors in the room to stand, then the 2nd and 3rd generation descendants. Lastly, he asked those whose lives have been touched by a survivor to rise. The Wolf Pack stood proud with every single person in the room.
With our new film, TAR, in its final stages and everyone’s favorite spooky month kicking off, we thought it was time to talk monsters.
In a time of multi-million dollar VFX budgets and CGI worlds, it may feel as if filmmakers can make anything feel real with enough time and money in post-production. But this isn’t so. Audiences have a keen eye for CGI and hate to feel like they’re being lied to. When a filmmaker chooses to make something happen in-camera, in front of their actors, they capture an indescribable feeling.
Here are five instances of profound practical effects that stand out across years of Monster Movies and Creature Features.
1: The Pale Man – Makeup and Physicality in Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth
While Del Toro’s film about a young girl during the Spanish Revolution is more fairy tale than horror, it is filled with a unique cast of creatures and monsters, the most impactful of which is undoubtedly the Pale Man played by Doug Jones.
Other than green chroma pants used to create impossibly thin rickety legs and VFX eyes in the hands, the dread of the Pale Man comes from the expertly done makeup by DDT Efectos Especiales and the physicality that Jones brings to the monster. The moment the Pale Man opens his eyes for the first time sends a chill down even the most scrutinizing audience’s spine.
(Catch Doug Jones in the upcoming Del Toro film, The Shape of Water, trailer)
2: The T-Rex – Animatronics in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park
Maybe the most celebrated example of the power of practical effects is the massive and murderous Tyrannosaurus rex from the original 1993 Jurassic Park. Spielberg brought a prehistoric monster to life and forced audiences, and his actors, to stare it down in an unforgettable “oh sh*t” moment that helped solidify this film as a landmark of movie history.
Two animatronic T-rexes, built by Stan Winston Studios (who will reappear on this list), were used: a forty-foot-long full-sized beast and another, more detailed version built from the torso up for closer shots. The animatronics were built around a complex system of hydraulics, surrounded by chicken wire, wood, steal, and 3 tons of clay, all coated in a foam latex skin.
3: The Babadook – Doing it In-Camera in Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook
In 2014, Australian director Jennifer Kent flipped the horror-genre on its head with her highly psychological and character-driven The Babadook. Throughout the film, the Babadook appears in many forms, sometimes it’s a human-like monster seen through a window while in other scenes it is a bizarre creature, crawling across the ceiling.
Kent was committed to doing as much as possible in-camera on this film. As she explains, the Babadook is a combination of various effects: puppetry, costumes, stop-motion. These simple effects not only serve to complement the visual style of the movie but create a monster that transforms with the story and serves up simple, tangible scares that will haunt the shadows in your bedroom.
4: Xenomorph and Alien Queen – Costumes and Puppetry in the Alien Franchise
Another classic of the monster movie genre is the horrifying Xenomorph designed by H.R. Giger for Ridley Scott’s masterpiece Alien. In the original film, Scott makes use of what isn’t seen by the audience to create fear and suspense. The few moments where the audience does see the alien, however, are terrifying because of the life that 7’2 Bolaji Badejo (pictured above) brought to the costume.
In the sequel, Aliens directed by James Cameron, a massive feat of practical effects work was created by Stan Winston Studios around an idea from Cameron: a 14-foot tall puppet of the Alien Queen. With two-stunt men inside, a system of hydraulics, a massive crane and 8-operators in total, the Queen came to life in an unforgettable final showdown that elevated the terror of the Alien universe.
5: Pennywise – Bill Skarsgård’s Subtleties in Andy Muschietti’s It
Last on our list is the recent horror-hit, It, credited as one of the scariest movies in recent history in no small-part because of Bill Skarsgård’s performance as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Given the premise of a shape-shifting monster-clown, it is not surprising that the film makes use of visual effects, but the most chilling elements of this movie monster come from what Skarsgård brings to the character.
In the opening scene of the film, as Pennywise attempts to lure Georgie into the storm drain, the audience sees evidence of the inhuman monster underneath. Skarsgård’s face goes blank, drool slips out of his mouth, and his eyes subtly move in different directions. Director Andy Muschietti was prepared to achieve this effect using VFX but Bill was insistent on doing it himself, breathing life into this monster and forcing the audience to squirm in their seats.
If you’re looking for a Halloween scare (or perhaps some costume inspiration?), check out these five incredible examples of movie monsters done right. While it can’t be denied that visual effects and CGI are revolutionizing film, practical effects will always provide something that digital cannot.
But, what is this indescribable thing? Perhaps it is as Montse Ribé of DDT put it:
“Most digital characters lack a soul.”
Although individuals with learning differences are vastly underrepresented in popular culture, a number of films in the past few decades have found critical acclaim by portraying these individuals and telling their stories. In light of our upcoming documentary (We Are All) Disabled, which aims to change the way people perceive disabilities, here’s a look at how individuals with learning differences have been represented throughout the years.
Rain Man (1988) – Autism
Perhaps the most recognizable portrayal of autism to this day, Dustin Hoffman’s Oscar-winning performance in Rain Man set a new standard for how learning differences are represented in film. In preparation for the role of Raymond Babbitt, Hoffman took care to represent the autism community with respect and accuracy by studying two individuals with Asperger’s over the course of several months. However, the film’s choice to make Raymond an “autistic savant”—someone on the spectrum with extraordinary skills in math and memory—established a misleading stereotype about autism in general. As a result of Rain Man, people began to assume that everyone on the spectrum possessed such skills, when only some 10% display the pattern.
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) - ADHD
Although his learning differences are never outwardly acknowledged, Daniel Hillard’s whimsical, immature antics as Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire make him the quintessential example for undiagnosed ADHD among adults. Played by the incomparable Robin Williams, who himself was diagnosed with ADHD, Daniel learns to balance the responsibilities of being a parent through the love and support of his family. As a result, regardless of whether or not he was intended to have learning differences, Mrs. Doubtfire’s ability to capture the hardships of parenthood has made Daniel an inspiring figure for adults in the ADHD community.
As Good as It Gets (1997) – OCD
Jack Nicholson’s Oscar-winning performance as Melvin Udall, a misanthropic novelist with ritualistic “compulsions,” is one of the few representations of obsessive-compulsive disorder to date. His rituals—turning the lights on and off five times, not stepping on cracks in the sidewalk, going to extreme lengths to avoid “contamination” from the outside world—get so intense that they start affecting his relationships with other people. However, since Udall also boasts a quirky, emotionally insensitive personality, the film unintentionally makes it appear as though his many social faux pas are also due to OCD, rather than his eccentric nature. In this regard, though the film certainly isn't “as good as it gets” in terms of representing learning differences, Nicholson’s performance was an early step in the right direction.
Finding Nemo (2003) – ADHD
One of film’s more overt depictions of learning differences comes in the form of a forgetful blue tang from the Great Barrier Reef. Though Dory’s hyperactivity certainly isn't the focal point of Pixar’s Finding Nemo, her character has become widely relatable to kids who share her difficulties with focus and memory. Rather than portraying her as a victim to her differences, however, both the original and its 2016 sequel Finding Dory also do an excellent job of showing how Dory’s strengths outweigh her weaknesses. Her iconic mantra “just keep swimming” is a powerful reminder that it’s possible to have learning differences without being defined by them
Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010) - Dyslexia, ADHD
Based on the popular young adult fantasy series by Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief tells the story of Percy Jackson, a twelve-year-old boy with dyslexia and ADHD who discovers he’s the demigod son of Poseidon. Riordan wrote the series for his son Haley, who has dyslexia, ADHD and an affinity for Greek mythology, with the intent to (literally) empower individuals with learning differences. In portraying such individuals as superhuman, Percy Jackson & The Olympians seems to suggest that our differences become disabilities only if we let them. Since the first book, there have been four sequels, two films, and two sequel-series.
Power Rangers (2017) – Autism
This year’s gritty Power Rangers reboot was a huge win for representation, featuring a diverse main cast, an LGBTQ-identified Yellow Ranger, and most remarkably, a Blue Ranger on the autism spectrum. In remaking an established franchise with a character with learning differences, the film makes strides toward diversity that go beyond gender, race, and sexuality. That being said, Billy’s intersectionality as a character who is both autistic and black is also significant, since people with autism are almost exclusively depicted as white in TV and film. Conscious choices like these set the Power Rangers remake apart this year, giving underrepresented communities a chance to save the world for a change.
Howling Wolf Productions’s own Aaron Wolf once again took the stage at the HollyRod Foundation’s annual DesignCare Gala, leading a silent auction that raised over $150,000 and addressing the star-studded audience in an impassioned speech about growing up with LD. This is the second year in a row that Holly Robinson Peete and Rodney Peete of the HollyRod Foundation have teamed up with HWP for the event, which aims to raise money and awareness for Parkinson’s disease and Autism.
HWP provided media content for the gala, held at boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard’s estate in the Pacific Palisades. Many stars showed their support, with celebrities such as Magic Johnson, Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Anderson, among others, in attendance.