BAG OF TRICKS: EXPLORING THE MAGIC OF THOSE WITH DISABILITIES is the working title of a short documentary about self-discovery and self-determination told through the voices, faces, and hands of incredible individuals who struggle with some of life’s most difficult challenges. This film shares the real stories of real people from all over the world and their efforts to overcome what others might consider “impossible” odds. Most importantly, it’s about hope – the hope and confidence they gain by achieving the “impossible.” Their stories are phenomenal, encouraging, and life changing!
Our goals with the Bag of Tricks crowd-funding campaign:
- To change people’s attitudes and perceptions about individuals with disabilities;
- To raise awareness of international disability issues and provide opportunities for individuals with different abilities to share in the global society.
- To begin a meaningful conversation about the power of the arts in our communities to challenge, transform, inspire, and change lives.
- To raise money to finish the documentary – filming some international projects, editing, music, distribution, legal fees, etc.
WHY THIS FILM AND WHY NOW?
Everyone who supports people with disabilities is, in some way, an advocate for their best interests. The future of individuals with disability is contingent on the perceptions and attitudes of those without disability. It is pivotal that we stop focusing on their disabilities and start appreciating their abilities.
Almost every person in every society around the world has been touched in some way by a person living with disability. Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, extended family, and friends – all have been impacted by the life of someone with a developmental or intellectual disability, including the almost epidemic explosion of autism spectrum disorders.
In the United States, 1 in 7 children are born with a developmental disability. Around the world, there are more than 110 million children and 650 million adults living with a disability. And those numbers are going up every year.
In spite of international laws and policies, many people with disabilities still find themselves pushed to the margins of our societies. And almost all encounter prejudice, bullying, insensitive treatment, and discrimination. These attitudes and actions cause their world to become smaller. Their opportunities become more limited, and, ultimately, they withdraw from the wider community. That’s not acceptable – and that has to change. I can think of no better time than NOW to confront these attitudes in a positive way and jump-start the change that can make a difference in their lives.
WHAT’S THE GOAL OF THIS FILM?
The international conversation about disability issues has been taking place for years but real change must happen in the hearts and minds of ordinary people, not merely in policy and law. You can’t “legislate” change in the way people think and feel.
I believe part of the process that will lead to this meaningful overhaul is to provide a platform for differently-abled people to tell their stories in a compassionate and captivating way. Their experiences can move us one step closer to transforming attitudes and fostering hope. Without this change, there is little chance for those living with disability to improve their struggle to find relevance in the community at large.
The reality is these individuals don’t want our sympathy; but, in order to flourish, they do need our understanding and support. They want us to know they are capable of doing remarkable things, that they can lead full and productive lives, and that they can participate richly in the life of their communities.
I believe the stories I’ve captured deserve to be told. They come from all over the world – Belarus, Africa, Southeast Asia, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Australia, and the U.S. I want to share them with as many people as possible so that, together, we can raise awareness of international disability issues, change people’s perceptions and attitudes, and provide opportunities for individuals with different abilities to share in the global society.
That’s a huge goal! This film would provide anecdotal evidence of hope, happiness, and a sense of accomplishment of those with different abilities – and do it in a fun and entertaining way! It would also give hope to those concerned about the future of their own loved ones.
EXPLORING THE MAGIC
Yes, this film is about the power of magic tricks – and I’m the first to recognize that magic tricks might seem “geeky” or “lame” to a lot of people. So, in some way, this film is about changing those perceptions too.
Over the last 10 years, there has been a tremendous amount of scientific research that has demonstrated the positive influence learning magic tricks can have on a person’s self-esteem and physical skills. Who isn’t intrigued by the seeming impossibility of a magic trick?? Learning to perform magic can profoundly transform the way an individual sees himself – and the way s/he thinks other people see her/him. Giving people who have been labeled “disabled” the ability to do something that the normal “able-bodied” person can’t do – a magic trick – is a tremendous boost to their self-esteem and self-confidence. And that boost can motivate them to take on bigger obstacles in their lives. Simply. Life. Changing.
See for yourself – check out the trailer featured in the video above!
I CAN'T DO THIS ALONE -- I NEED YOUR HELP!
This is my mission! I've dedicated countless hours and tens of thousands of my own dollars to make this project a reality (my wife has been very understanding and supportive). I believe in the potential of this film to initiate change by allowing people to see those with disabilities in a whole new light. But I can no longer do it by myself. I need your help to finish the project. So much of the filming has already been done, only a small amount remains. But as much time, energy, and money as it took to film the documentary, it’s going to cost even more to edit, produce, release, and distribute it.
In addition to the few final filming projects, there are other details that require funding:
- Editing and organizing the raw footage.
- Filming “pick up shots.”
- Hiring and filming the Host narrative.
- Storyboarding and planning.
- Editing of the final documentary.
- Color correction of footage.
- Sound mixing.
- Licensing the soundtrack.
- Legal fees and release licensing.
- Graphic design and packaging.
- Distribution rights for the film (online and offline).
- Marketing and promotion (online and offline).
- Film festival and registration fees and filing.
WORLD PREMIERE AND DISTRIBUTION
There are several avenues of distribution once this documentary is complete: International Film Festivals, Domestic Film Festivals, Collaborative Screenings, and Disabled Film Festivals. All of these have categories that are appropriate for this type of film. I have details on each of these and you can find them below.
My personal goal is to premiere the documentary at the Biennial Conference of the International Association of Special Education in Vancouver, B.C. in July 2013. Submissions would also need to be made to several international film festivals. The major international premiere of the film would coincide with the International Day for Persons with Disabilities and the United Nations Enable Film Festival in December 2013. Global leaders would have the opportunity to share in the magic of this experience. What an incredible platform for these extraordinary individuals to share their successes!
That’s an ambitious schedule but one I am confident I can meet. With the help of this campaign, I can move forward with my talented team of videographers, editors, and producers to help build the story, edit the film, and begin the application process.
With your help we can make it happen - and get this message out to the world!
I can’t thank you enough for all your support. Simply by sharing this project with others, you’ve already begun a grassroots effort that will make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities. That is a truly generous and awesome thing!
SPENCER’S UNIQUE HISTORY
Kevin Spencer is uniquely qualified to produce Bag of Tricks and to offer his perspective on the impact of the arts on individuals living with disability. Early in his professional entertainment career, things in his life shifted. He was involved in an auto accident. The car he was driving was crushed by a tractor-trailer. He lost consciousness and woke up in neurological intensive care with a closed brain injury and lower spinal cord injury. He spent almost a year in rehabilitation therapy working hard to regain the skills that he lost as a result of the accident. He experienced, to a much lesser degree, the frustrations that are present in the lives of people with permanent disability.
After tremendous effort, he fully recovered with no lasting effects from his injuries. But he’s never forgotten how he felt after that accident. Spencer notes, “It changed my life in so many ways. I became more aware of people with disabilities – of people with different abilities.” Since that time, he has dedicated his time, money, and energy to the exploration of arts-integrated therapies using his field of expertise, the art of magic.
SPENCER’S PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS
He is a respected illusionist with an international reputation and dozens of accolades to his credit including 2009 International Magician of the Year and six-time recipient of the Performing Arts Entertainer of the Year award. He and his wife, Cindy, travel with the largest touring theatrical illusion production in the U.S. and has performed to sold-out audiences around the world..
In 2010, he formed the Hocus Focus Project as a 501(c) 3 charitable corporation with the mission of improving the lives of people with disabilities. Part of that mission is to empower educators, therapists, and family-members with research-based, peer-reviewed information and curricula that provides them with visual, exciting, and motivating ways to allow individuals to explore, improve, and development functional and academic skills. He has personally financed work in Cambodia, Namibia, Belarus, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Norway, Canada, Australia, and dozens of other countries.
He has presented research at numerous education conferences world-wide including RIGA 2010, the East Asian International Conference on Teacher Education Research, the International Society for Teacher Education Seminar, the International Scientific Conference on Rehabilitation and Education, the International Association for Special Education Conference, and the DISES Round Table Seminar.
Because of his extensive research, he is widely considered the leading authority on the therapeutic use of simple magic tricks in rehabilitation and special education. He was honored with the Harry Chapin Award for Contributions to Humanity for his work with individuals with disabilities. In 2011, he accepted an Adjunct Faculty position in the Occupational Therapy Department of the University of Alabama in Birmingham. In 2012, the American Occupational Therapy Association granted him their coveted Approved Provider Status allowing him to offer accredited continuing education training for therapists in the use of simple magic tricks as a treatment technique. He completed his Certification in Autism Studies and registered as a Qualified Autism Services Practitioner. He has collaborated on research and published two papers in leading international education journals – the Journal of the International Association of Special Education and the Journal of the International Society for Teacher Education. The data demonstrated the benefits of integrating magic tricks into the learning experience of children with special challenges, i.e. Downs Syndrome, Autism, Developmental and Cognitive Delays, Emotional Behavior Disorders, and Learning Disabilities.
Currently, Spencer is partnered with special education teacher, Richard Milne, in Adelaide, South Australia to bring the Hocus Focus Project to a class of six young adults on the autism spectrum attending Gleeson College. In 2011, Spencer and Milne collaborated on an identical project with a similar group of 11 students with tremendous success resulting in a final performance that brought the entire student body to its feet. Unfortunately, that process was not documented on film. Because of this group’s success, Spencer will include this autism group in the documentary. Spencer believes that some of his greatest successes have taken place in the lives of people with autism.
FILM DISTRIBUTION – POSSIBLE MARKETS
There are several avenues of distribution once this documentary film is complete.
- International Film Festivals
- Domestic Film Festivals
- Collaborative Screenings
- Disabled Film Festivals
International Film Festivals: The possibilities include major film festivals that present shorts and documentaries. The majority of these festivals are held outside of the U.S. with some exceptions. Festivals that have presented this type of film in the past include Sundance, Tribeca, Toronto Film Festival (Canada), DOXA Documentary Film Festival (Canada), Cape Winelands Film Festival (South Africa), Busan International Film Festival (South Korea), FreedomFilmFest (Malayasia), ViBGYOR International Short and Documentary Film Festival (India), BeyondTV (Wales), and Pentedattilo Film Festival (Italy). Slamdance deserves to be explored as well because of its reputation as a showcase for innovative filmmakers that serve emerging artists, filmmakers, and storytellers.
Domestic Film Festivals: These possibilities include film festivals that are held in the United States that present shorts and documentaries. These festivals are also international in scope and are numerous. Some of the festivals that have presented films dealing with complex social issues include film festivals in Atlanta, Boston, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nashville. Others include Cinequest Film Festival, Green Mountain Film Festival, Gulf Coast Film & Video Festivals, and Moondance Film Festival.
Collaborative Screenings: My 20 year involvement in the Performing Arts industry has allowed me to build relationships with some of the most influential arts presenters in the nation. Many of them have expressed an interest in screening this documentary in their venue as a part of a larger event dealing with social issues. The arts community has always been on the front lines of social change. This type of “grass roots” effort would provide access in communities across America allowing us to create a great awareness and initiate change.
Disabled Film Festivals: There are several international film festivals dedicated to presentations that deal with issues related to disability. The most significant of these is the United Nations Enable Film Festival. Other prominent festivals include ReelAbilities Boston Film Festival, International Disabilities Film Festival (Calgary), Superfest International Disabilities Film Festival, and disABILITIES Film Festival.
THE PRODUCTION TEAM
KEVIN SPENCER – Executive Producer and Director: Kevin is an Educator, Researcher, Writer, and Artist. He believes in the power of the arts to make a difference in the realities in which we live, learn, heal, and work. He is Adjunct Faculty in the Occupational Therapy Department of the University of Alabama in Birmingham and works primarily in research and continuing education. The Healing of Magic program allows him to train healthcare professionals in the therapeutic use of simple magic tricks in rehabilitation medicine in hospitals, rehab center, and universities around the world.
He is an Education Researcher exploring the benefits of arts integration in the classroom for students with learning challenges. His research has been published in several leading international education journals. The Hocus Focus Project opens doors for him to work with special educators on arts-integration techniques for children with learning disabilities, including individuals on the autism spectrum and those with developmental and cognitive delays. He speaks regularly at education conferences and participates in education research. Currently, Kevin is involved in a 2-year multi-disciplinary, arts-integrated research project with Kansas State University to develop an intervention model for students with emotional/behavior disorders and autism.
He is a Writer. He has authored two instructional books that are being used by therapists and educators around the world. He is an Expert Panel member and regular contributor to KidzEdge Magazine, a publication dedicated to homeschool parents who are seeking new teaching techniques to motivate their children in the learning process. And he has contributed articles to major healthcare and education publications.
He is an Artist. His production, Theatre of Illusion, is a combination of storytelling, state-of-the-art technology, Broadway-style theatrical elements, and sophisticated stage illusions that allow his audiences to take a journey to the brink of impossibility. This unique approach to the art of illusion has garnered him several recognitions including International Magicians of the Year and Performing Arts Entertainers of the Year. He is also the recipient of the Harry Chapin Award for Contributions to Humanity.
THOMAS J. PITTS – Producer: Tom has a diverse background in entertainment technology as well as the business of entertainment. He is a Senior Partner and the Chairman of the Board for VASE Entertainment Group, an international 3D production company, and he has been President of Thomas James Productions, an entertainment technology corporation, for the past 23 years. Tom recently produced and directed a documentary for the United Way’s “Success by Six” program. Previously, he worked with the Miss America program where he was an Executive Producer for four years. He has worked on many feature films, theatrical productions, and concerts over his professional career. Interestingly enough, Tom is also a 27-year member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. Something that makes him uniquely qualified to be on board a project like this.
MWITA CHACHA – Camera Operator/Editor: Raised in Tanzania and educated in the United States, Chacha has a multicultural background. He’s traveled extensively and has developed a global communication style and sensitivity to other cultures. His curiosity and respect for all peoples has produced an eagerness to learn and share their stories through the medium of film and video. He has worked with clients from South Africa, St. Vincent, India, East Africa, and across the U.S. from all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.
DR. DIDO GREEN – Consultant: Following a career as a professional ballerina, Dr. Dido Green qualified as an Occupational Therapist in 1990 and has extensive clinical and research experience as Clinical Expert and Research Pediatric Occupational Therapist specializing in pediatric neurodisability. Dr. Green worked for 14 years at Guy’s & St. Thomas NHS Hospital Trust, London before taking up an academic post at Tel Aviv University in 2009. Research interests focus on translational medicine emphasizing an ecological approach to understanding challenges to performance and participation. Dr. Green took up position in 2012 as Reader in Rehabilitation at Oxford Brookes University. With extensive international collaborations, she continues to develop research into the neuroplasticity of motor learning and behaviour, including 3-D motion analysis and advanced brain imaging and neurophysiology techniques, to optimize rehabilitation outcomes. Identification of factors contributing to outcome and predictive modeling of response to treatment are important components of her work, reflected in numerous publications on intervention effects in childhood disability. In 2012, Dido formed Breathe Arts Health Research with Yvonne Farquharson with the specific aim of integrating the arts in health care with a robust research programme.