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Options for All Partners with Joey Travolta to Train Adults with Developmental Disabilities in Filmmaking

Options for All has created an unexpected and exciting career path for Bay Area adults with developmental disabilities — filmmaking. The nonprofit works in partnership with Inclusion Films, founded by actor and filmmaker Joey Travolta.

“To me, everybody is the same,” said Travolta, who traveled from Los Angeles for the grand opening of the Options for All Film and Media Studio in Sunnyvale on May 15. “The process of making a film is working together and learning a skill along the way.”

Travolta, the older brother of actor John Travolta, was once a high school special education teacher. In 2007, he started Inclusion Films to train adults with disabilities in filmmaking, believing they are a capable but untapped workforce.

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Stockton resident Kimberlee Dibartolo’s 18-year-old son, Michael Dibartolo, participated last summer in a filmmaking camp run by Travolta for teens and young adults.

He liked it so well that he enrolled in an Inclusion Films studio training program. Guided by industry professionals, Michael does hands-on work in film direction and production, cinematography, art, sales, marketing and film distribution.

“This opened up the opportunity for my boy for a fruitful, independent life working in a field where he’s able to leverage his immense capability,” said Kimberlee Dibartolo at the Sunnyvale grand opening. “I feel so grateful I found this program.”

Inclusion Film’s first feature-length film, Carol of The Bells, is the story of man searching for his biological mother. He discovers that she is developmentally disabled.

The film premiered at the Bentonville Film Festival in Arkansas in May. View the trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DeqSWCfyx8.

“Including neurodiversity is the last bastion of the ‘Me Too’ movement. Its time has come,” said Karin Babbitt, Options for All Film and Media Program Manager at the Sunnyvale studio. “Because of prejudice, people with neurodiversity are left to do crafts in day programs or work in mundane, repetitive tasks, and they’re dying inside.

“It’s time to stop being afraid and judgmental and start being inclusive,” continued Babbitt. “We start by opening the doorway to high-tech jobs, creative technical jobs.”

Sunnyvale resident Deborah Ramos has been in the filmmaking program since the studio’s soft opening last February.

“I’m liking it a lot. I want to be a good filmmaker,” said Ramos.

“I’m able to learn things I never knew I could do. I’m able to get creative and bring my ideas to life,” she said before resuming acting in the newscast she wrote and set in Hawaii and the North Pole.

“If their dream is to be in the film industry, this is the right place for them,” said Vincenzo Tarantino, Options for All director of film and media.

The 80-week training program, divided into four semesters, is $16,000 per semester per student. (optionsforall.org/film-media-studios). Registered clients of a state regional service center may be eligible for financial assistance.

Options for All serves children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout California. It previously opened film studios in San Diego and San Bernadino. Since 2017, 50 of about 75 participants from those locations are now employed in the film industry.

Businesses are encouraged to consider Options for All/Inclusion Films studios when looking for a company to produce films, public service announcements and commercials.

Contact Babbitt — kbabbitt@optionsforall.org or (408) 423-9489, ext. 120 — for information about commissioning films, enrolling in, or teaching at the Sunnyvale Film and Media Studio at 1243 Reamwood Ave.

“The time has come to embrace a huge part of our population that have multiple neurodevelopmental challenges,” said Dibartolo.

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