Bringing skills of disabled into focus | July 1, 2016 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |

Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - July 1, 2016

Bringing skills of disabled into focus

Company gives hands-on experience for jobs in filmmaking

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Producing a film takes many talents and skills, noted Hester Wagner, director of Futures Films in Livermore. That is why her company finds it a good fit to train and employ people with developmental disabilities to do many of the jobs -- minor and major -- that are needed in the industry.

"Our vocational training program teaches everything from development to post production -- writing, acting, directing, camera, lighting, sound, wardrobe, props, editing," Wagner said. "It encompasses a wide range of skills -- visual artists, those good with their hands -- it can fit all types."

Futures Films officially launched in March when it opened its office on Las Positas Court.

"We can do filming here for clients or we can come to you," Wagner said. "Our production company can get hired by anybody at any time to do anything."

Futures Films was hired to do a series of three one-minute commercials for the Livermore Valley Film Fest in May.

"The content was developed by one of our employees," Wagner said. "It was given the theme 'Science Meets Art.'"

To this end, the production team created a sequence bringing a Frankenstein character to life, filmed at Livermore Lab.

"Sometimes a client wants us to develop a concept. Sometimes it's just the editing, sometimes just the shooting. We are available for any part of the process," Wagner said. "Next week, we are doing a pedestrian safety video for the school district in San Leandro."

The company also will be filming a video this summer for a synchronized swimming organization for people with developmental disabilities. And the nonprofit REACH (Resources Education Activities Community and Housing for Special Adults of the Tri-Valley) hired Futures Films to produce a training film to prepare for a big disaster.

"We are doing a wedding this Saturday, a video and stills," Wagner said. "It's our second one."

Another client is the Livermore Chamber of Commerce.

"Our next big thing is to get our guys working outside of Futures Films," Wagner said. "We have some who have worked for other companies with short-term projects."

Futures Films is a subsidiary of Futures Explored, a company that helps adults with moderate special needs get training in life and work skills throughout the Bay Area. It is funded through Regional Center of the East Bay.

"Students come here if they are Regional Center clients," Wagner said. "We get paid and budget accordingly."

Futures Explored includes Joey Travolta's two-week summer film camps, whose attendees are mainly young people diagnosed with high functioning autism or Asperger syndrome. The camp began last week for 60 students between the ages of 12 and 22 at St. Mary's College campus in Moraga.

"They'll be divided into four classes," Wagner explained. "Each class makes a short film -- they are woven together with a theme."

Travolta, who has had a singing, acting and directing career in movies and television and is the older brother of actor John Travolta, also has a degree in special education. He runs film camps all over the country to get young people with special needs involved in filmmaking.

Travolta's Inclusion Films offers the 20-week Futures Explored vocational programs to provide an entry-level working knowledge of film production. Many of these graduates go on to work at Futures Films, where they are on crews with experienced professionals.

Wagner believes more companies and organizations will hire Futures Films for their video needs as they recognize the high quality of its work.

"We are still young and growing and making our reputation. Our next step is to get connected with other companies," Wagner said. "I know that will happen, I'm confident it will happen. The amount of work we are getting now is really exciting."

For more information and to see videos, visit futuresfilms.org.

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