D: What is your favorite way to pass time? J: I used to answer this question by saying building and racing cars, but I've had so little free time the past few years that I haven't done any car related activities in quite some time. Nowadays if I can catch a new documentary or indie film (in theaters or online) in between my hectic schedule I consider that a victory. Ha! I also play bass as it's another creative outlet of mine and leaves me feeling really fulfilled after noodling around for an hour or so.
D: What is something people generally don’t know about you? J: That I had an entirely different career in the restaurant business at a young age, working my way up from dishwasher to partner and opening our own location, before giving it all up to go back to school for film in my 20's.
D: Who is Jason? J: I'm not someone who loves to define/label myself, and I have a lot of eclectic interests, so I usually just lead with my name (I'm much more comfortable asking others about who they are). But if asked directly I sometimes introduce myself as a filmmaker, although that description feels pretentious to me so I usually just say I work in "film & television," and if the conversation continues in a positive way I'll describe what I do in more detail.
D: What gets your fired up about the disability movement? J: Accurate representation. The fact that so much of what we see in media about people with limb differences is created and presented by non limb different people is incredibly frustrating to me. It's a very formulaic “inspiration porn” narrative that I feel isn't connected to the way most people with limb differences actually see themselves, and I want to change that.
D: What is your advocacy platform? J: My documentary Despite The Loss. I never saw myself as an advocate so to speak, but the film was my way of exploring the topic of limb difference and stigmas associated with disability; first within myself, then outwardly through putting the film out into the world.
D: What barriers or challenges do you face in this movement? J: The unwillingness of traditional media outlets to embrace different perspectives regarding disability. I was told so many times by people in the "industry" that my film didn't focus on my disability, my accident, or talk about the hardships of disability enough... It was incredibly frustrating, and I believe a reason why I didn't gain traction or garner traditional "success" on the film festival circuit. Media outlets are still looking for, and expecting, inspiration porn, and I refuse to bend my film creatively to meet those expectations. But if I'm honest, the larger barriers are more my own internal feelings about my identity within this movement. I spent so much of my life wanting NOT to be known as the guy with one hand that I've struggled at times with my newfound embrace of that identity. In many ways I still straddle the line between identifying as able bodied and disabled, not really feeling like I belong to either group. In a lot of ways it's what my film is ultimately about, trying to figure out where I belong and how to forge my own identity within the world moving forward.
D: What do you want those who do not identify with disability to know? J: I think I would answer this differently depending on who I'm talking to. For able bodied people, I'd like them to look at people with limb differences as people first, and know that we're just trying to live our best lives and make our own way in the world just as they are. Our stories matter, and shouldn't exist solely as inspiration porn to make them feel better about their own life. For people who are limb different but don't self identify as disabled, I'd want them to know that there's nothing wrong with that either. Language is an incredibly personal thing, and everyone has a right to identify as they see fit. The same tolerance and understanding we demand from the able bodied community needs to apply to those with different viewpoints within our own community as well.
D: What areas are you still growing/hope to grow? Personally? Professionally? J: I'm someone who believes that humans are constantly a work in progress, and I'm always looking for ways to grow and evolve, and that growth is really important (and key) to a happy life. The opinions I held in my 20's were different than that of my 30's, and now having just turned 40, I'm still evolving. Personally, having held negative views of my body and self image for much of my life, learning (and practicing) self love was incredibly empowering, and I'd like to continue working on that to become even more comfortable in my own skin moving forward. Professionally, I'd love to just continue learning new skills and pushing the boundaries of what I can do as a filmmaker.
D: Who was the person/role model who inspired you to look into disability advocacy? Why/how did they inspire you? J: I don't think there was one person or specific incident that inspired me towards advocacy, and that it was more just something that came over time as I pursued my documentary and personally evolved. But Jim Abbott was a big inspiration when I was younger (having met him at an early age after the loss of my hand), and his life and advocacy are something I admire.
D: When people look at you/up to you, what do you hope they see? J: Someone who is comfortable in their own skin and unafraid to take risks or be vulnerable both personally and professionally.
D: What are your next steps? J: I've just come off a long 8 year journey making Despite The Loss, and although that chapter has come to a close, a whole new adventure is beginning by independently releasing and promoting it this summer. I'm really looking forward to the process, hopefully traveling and interacting with various groups around the country while promoting it, and becoming more involved in limb difference advocacy because of it.
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