Founded by Joey Travolta, older brother of actor John Travolta, Inclusion Films trains adults with developmental disabilities in the nuts and bolts of filmmaking -- from writing the script to building sets and using film and editing equipment -- with the goal of finding them jobs in the entertainment industry or some other field.
Students with autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome are trained by working cinematographers, set designers, actors and other professionals who are active in the industry.
"The filmmaking process is a great teaching tool about life," said Travolta, 61. "A lot of our students aren't going to be filmmakers and may never work in the film business, but they are going to be able to go into the workplace and have a sense of what it's like to be on the job. This builds their self-confidence."
Based in Burbank, Inclusion Films works with Easter Seals of Southern California to provide jobs to graduates of the program and is in discussions with various studios to set up internship programs for the students, Travolta said. Many of the participants are referred by the nonprofit regional centers that contract with the California Department of Developmental Services to provide job training and other services for special-needs people.
"We've seen phenomenal things happen with the students in this program," said Mike Clark, executive director of the Kern Regional Center, which in the last three years has referred about 70 students to Inclusion Films' program in Bakersfield. "They see themselves as people who can do something with their lives."