Challenged by the 48-Hour Disability Film Challenge

A while back, I was in a bar in New York City talking shop with a few other actors and artists from my alma mater the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. We were talking about creating our own work and brainstorming on ways we could collaborate together. I soon found out about the 48-hour Disability Film Challenge. It was created to encourage artists with disabilities to collaborate with each other, and other working artists without disabilities to make fun and engaging short films. I went back to the UNCG folks I was talking with at the bar and pitched the idea that we work on making a film for this challenge. We did. It was a fun experience and we created a silly romantic comedy called “The Kerfuffle”.

This past spring, I reached out to the guys I worked with the year before to “get the band back together.” We all agreed we wanted to do the film challenge again, I paid the registration but a few weeks before the challenge our band began to fall apart. Unforeseen conflicts led the filmmakers on the team to back out; I was left with just me, someone to help write, and donated camera gear. I don’t have the skill set to film or edit anything. How was I going to make this work?

I thought about giving up. I began to listen to that voice in my head telling me that it was a lost cause, that I did not have the time or resources to make a film this year. After several restless nights, I reluctantly reached out to my sister-in-law, (she went to film school), but that voice kept saying, “why would she want to do this?” “I’m sure she would not want to do a crazy 48-hour challenge.”

Well, she did want to help and we were able to bring in a few additional people to contribute to the project. We made a film – a film that I was very proud of called “Lefty & Loosey.” A film that won “Best Film” in the Disability Film Challenge.

My performance and speaking work is centered on reminding people that we all will face challenges, but it is our choice to not let those challenges and obstacles define who we are. This process reminded me that it is always a constant battle and I am always in need of a reminder to keep moving forward. Our fear and insecurity will always get in our way and it takes real courage to continue to move forward into the unknown toward our dreams and goals.

Not only did my short film win the Disability Film Challenge, it also won the “Best International Actor” prize for the Focus on Ability Film Festival in Sydney, Australia. So, by pushing through my fears and making this short film I was able to go with my family to Australia, take acting classes with the Australian Film and Television Academy and have the trip of a lifetime. We don’t always win in this game called life but if we don’t push ourselves to be a part of it, we can never know the possibilities.

Let’s remember to always move forward, despite our fears, despite our uncertainty. Sometimes our path is going to need a detour but as long as we keep moving we will find our way back to our journey.

David Harrell wins award for best international actor disability film festival