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Advocate Profile: Cory Reeder

Cory Reeder out in a field of tall yellow wild flowers, wearing a hat and black frame glasses, making a silly face holding a directors clapper

D: What is your favorite way to pass time? C: I love my work so much, so any time I get to be creative on a movie set I'm in heaven. I've always been a creative person, and a self starter, so hand me a paintbrush, pencil, camera, microphone, or drum sticks and I'll fill the time with joy. But when I want to zone out, I love watching movies with my wife, cooking, and seeing just about anything performed live: music, theater, comedy.

D: What is something people generally don’t know about you? C: I'm dyslexic and have ADD. Often with my job, people submit scripts for me to read, and it can be a real chore. I get a knot in my stomach if I have to read something and I don't know the authors screenwriting skill level. I've trudged through so many scripts and have had to learn to politely decline reading others. I suppose that's made me more a discerning reader, but the flip side of that is, when I get a well written script in my hand I can burn through it. I love a page turner.

D: Who is Cory? C: Living in Los Angeles, sadly, it's pretty common to be defined by what you do. So I'm grateful I get to lead with, "I'm a filmmaker". Quickly thereafter I follow up with the mission statement of my company Renaissance Man Productions which explains, "I create stories that move people and when doing so try to hire as inclusive of a cast and crew as possible, starting with people who have disabilities." That often turns into a much larger conversation of educating people about disability inclusion. I'm always amazed at how many people fail to realize how prevalent disability discrimination is in our society and how high the point of entry can be for people with disabilities to find work... especially in Hollywood.

D: What gets your fired up about the disability movement? C: There are two things. First giving opportunities to people with disabilities who have always dreamed of being in a movie, and then witnessing them participate in their dream coming true. Second, seeing the "woke light bulb" turn on in my co-workers who haven't worked with people who have disabilities. They always come up to me afterward filled with appreciation and wanting to be on the next production. Not because it's "inspirational" but rather the fact of being in a work environment that is truly inclusive breaks down barriers of ego that is common in production situations. The vibe is just different, better, when time is given to prepare and deliver decisions and performances with care. At the end of the day there is always a large communal sense of accomplishment.

D: What is your advocacy platform? C: My main source of involvement is participating in and promoting the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. This annual film race challenges anyone to make a film over the course of a weekend that is created by or stars a person with a disability. It's all about inclusion, audience exposure, and acceptance. This is the first year I've not directed but rather handed those reigns over to my friend Diana Elizabeth Jordan. She's an actress with cerebral palsy who has always wanted to direct a film. So as the producer this year it was my responsibility to make that happen. We found a great writer, locations and a cast and made a creepy, fun, sci-fi film called I CAN. It's about a young woman who is struggling to overcome peer pressure, parental bonds and establishing one's self when confronted by authority. And we do that all in under FIVE MINUTES! I CAN, and all the other films created this year can be found on the Disability Film Challenges' youtube page. I suggest anyone make a family afternoon or evening of watching all the films submitted, it's a blast. The quality varies from film to film, but all of them are made with so much heart, and that's what makes them all special.

D: What barriers or challenges do you face in this movement? C: As an advocate working in film and television, I often have to spend time lobbying for the right of people with disabilities to be hired. I have to encourage clients, networks, artists, record labels and studios to understand that having a disability does not make a person unqualified for any given job. That there is value in who makes a production, not just in who is on screen. This has been a focus of mine for over five years now, and though some have needed a bit of coaxing, nobody has ever refused. And I've made some great stuff with System of a Down, Jonathan Davis (from Korn), Five Finger Death Punch, Hayley Kiyoko, Seether, and more. All of them supported inclusion in their productions.

D: What do you want those who do not identify with disability to know? C: That because you don't identify doesn't mean disability does not exist. The reality is, the odds are, that you have someone in your life, most likely in your own family, that has some form of disability. If we would choose to celebrate those disabilities and light them from the shadows of our past, acceptance will open doors for us all. There is no fear you can have about a disability that the person with that disability has not already faced. So talk to them, learn, and then be of service as best you can. There's often no need to take control, but rather be a welcoming hand for when help is needed. It may sound like a lot of work, but in all honesty, it's just being a good human.

D: What areas are you still growing/hope to grow? C: I work hard to prove my skill level as a director, writer and producer. As the quality of my work improves I hope that the gatekeepers, $tudio execs, and powers that be will see a value in my directorial vision of storytelling. The bigger the budget, the more people I can bring to the production, then the more chances I have to hire people with disabilities and share the creative opportunities I am working so hard to achieve.

D: Who was the person/role model who inspired you to look into disability advocacy? Why/how did they inspire you? C: Nic Novicki, founder of the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge (EDFC). Back in 2014, I cast Nic as the devil in a short film I was directing called Unlikely Temptations. We spent two days in the desert shooting the film and in our free time Nic would tell me about the need for greater inclusion of people with disabilities in media. That year he convinced me to participate in my first EDFC, and I was hooked. My first film, Speed Date, cast fourteen people with disabilities. This was also the first time I worked with Diana. By the end of the production I had fallen in love with the gratitude the cast showed for getting the opportunity to be on camera. I cried when "that's a wrap" was called because I didn't want it to end. I told myself, this is how things should be. It was right then and there I made it a personal commitment and company mission to use every opportunity to lead by example. I called Nic, and said "I hope you like me, cause I'm hooked on this thing and you're going to be seeing a lot of me from now on."

D: When people look at you/up to you, what do you hope they see? C: Someone who is not sitting on their butt, complaining about things that can't be changed and doing nothing. I try to be someone who gets up every day and brings something to the table to help other people. Someone who is creative, driven, loyal, and fun. I suppose that's all disgustingly saccharine, but rest assured, I am self-aware. I know that before I have my morning cup of coffee, I'm pretty much a grouch. LOL

D: What are your next steps? C: Best Friend, my EDFC short film that won best film and the audience award in 2016 has just finished being written into a feature. We're full steam ahead in trying to get that produced this summer. After that, I'm almost finished writing a script based on a tragedy that happened to my family when I was fourteen. It's quite different than anything I've ever written. Very personal, introspective and graphic. The process has forced me to reevaluate a lot of things I grew up believing.

D: How do we follow you?! Personal site:

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