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AFFMedia Workforce Development Lab

360 Degrees of Disability Representation in Media

AFFMedia Production Workforce Development Lab seeks to increase disabled representation in the media by training disabled local youth to serve as the crew, producers and editors of films/TV pilots, and have them mentored by industry professionals, thus giving our fellows the skills, experience, and connections to get industry jobs, thereby increasing the number of disabled production professionals in the media.  

Additionally, as part of their training, lab fellows will create and market tv shows/web series/short films that feature disabled characters, written by disabled creatives and portrayed by disabled actors.

Astoria, NY  January 20, 2023...  Astoria Film Festival in Queens NY is thrilled to announce that we have received funding from the NY City Council’s Cultural Development Fund (CDF) for FY 2023, which will allow us to begin a media education program, focused on providing workforce development training in media production for local disabled and/or economically-disadvantaged youth. #NYCulture


10 trainees will be selected to be part of our inaugural cohort, which begins this February. The trainees come to us from community partners CUNY LEADS (the disability employment office for all CUNYs), Bryant High School, High School of Art & Design (HSAD), and Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens (VBGCQ)

AFFLab Fellows will be taught the basic information and skills needed for careers in media production. They will also work with industry professionals on the pre-production, principal production, and post-production of various projects including short films, promotional videos for local businesses, and in Spring 2023, the trailer for a show about neurodiversity.

We are very grateful for our partners:


MBS Group and Kaufman Astoria Studios (many thanks to Irene Phan and Pete Romano) ​are very generously will be providing our students with access to the MBS Illumination Training Program - a weekend at Kaufman Astoria Studios, learning lighting and grip from the experts themselves, as well as a studio tour, and studio space for some of our shoots.  


Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens (many thanks to Andy Rodriguez and Costa Constantinides) will be providing space for filming as well as letting AFF use its computer lab to carry out the editing portion of the program. 


Daniel Scarpati of Passing Planes Productions LLC, who also wrote "Gofers: On The Front Lines of Film and Television", will be teaching about camera operation and giving instruction and tips on how to be a professional production assistant.


Ruth Fernandez LLC , IATSE Local 798 HMU and Groomer, will hold a class on makeup artistry, hair design, and grooming, for film and tv. 


AM VFX & Animation LLC, headed by Editor and VFX artist Alan Morales, will be offering the students Master Classes in Editing, VFX Engineering, and Animation.  


Zoraya Lee-Hamlin of RayZo LLC, an entertainment marketing company, will offer a Master Class about marketing films and tv shows. 


Astoria Film Festival is committed to bringing more historically-ignored voices into the media industry, so they can be more fairly represented both in front of and behind the camera.  Our overall goal is to change the face of media representation in this country, one trainee at a time; one film or tv series at a time. 

Astoria Film Festival Instructors for this program include our Founding Director Nina Fiore EdM and Lead Astoria Film Festival Film Educators Makeba L Ross and Kelly Villares, with guidance from AFFBoard Member and certified NYC DOE "Special Education" teacher Jo-Ann Grande Pjevac.

We are grateful to our amazing partners and to the NY City Council for the funding and support needed to make this program a reality.

Hair and MakeUp Vlog

One of the projects the Lab Fellows will work on in Spring 2023 is creating a few episodes of a new vlog by NYC-born Latina IATSE HMU (hair and makeup artist) Ruth Fernandez, who works in the film/tv industry.  The vlog will feature her giving tips, interviewing clients, and talking about her career.

N is for Neurodiversity

One of the projects the Lab Fellows will work on in Spring 2023 is creating the trailer for the show N is for Neurodiversity by Deirdre Morales.  In Fall 2022, our Founding Director Nina Fiore was selected to be part of the RespectAbility Disabled Children's Content Creators Lab, sponsored by Netflix, with partners 9 Story Media and SONY TV KIDS. A disabled creator and mom of a disabled child, she was inspired by this experience to do whatever she could to increase #disabilityrepresentation in the media, both in front of and behind the camera.  N is for Neurodiversity, features disabled characters and stars disabled actors and was written by a disabled writer.


The resulting projects will be featured at the AFFYouth Festival in Kaufman Astoria Studios’ Zukor Theater on June 10, 2023, and will be marketed to streaming services and other media production companies. 


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