A creative micro-short film, “Third Shift,” co-produced by the Blackstone LaunchPad, InclusiveU, and College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) film and design students, recently had its world premiere at a year-end celebration in Huntington Hall Commons.
The project hatched last fall when the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University Libraries sponsored an inclusive entrepreneurship workshop with students in the InclusiveU program as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week. InclusiveU is an initiative of the Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education, committed to individualized and inclusive higher educational opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The workshop was facilitated by Jake deHahn ’19, a VPA industrial and interaction design student in the School of Design and Blackstone LaunchPad Global Media Fellow. A student entrepreneur, deHahn is the founder of Bowtie Boulevard and interested in inclusive design for people of all abilities. That is also the topic of research for his fifth-year design thesis, also set to debut this month. Born profoundly deaf, he is a unilateral cochlear implant user who proudly shares his personal story at conferences around the nation. He was recently a featured speaker at Syracuse University’s Human Library, with the message that a disability shouldn’t stop anyone from defying stigmas and dreaming big.
deHahn says his passion as a designer drives him to make the world a more accessible place: “Having a disability makes you see the world in a different, unique way.”
Whenever he can, deHahn tries to immerse himself among those with different abilities. “InclusiveU is a wonderful community of creative, intelligent, and caring people,” he says.
At the fall inclusive entrepreneurship workshop, the students discussed what they were passionate about. The group quickly came to a consensus that a startup film company would be a great way to learn entrepreneurship, and so InclusiveU Productions was launched. Through early spring, InclusiveU students worked with The Blackstone LaunchPad and VPA film students to learn how to create and produce a movie.
InclusiveU students conceived the story, wrote the script, starred in the movie and assisted in all aspects of production planning.
deHahn helped as production designer, while Peter Hartsock ’19, a VPA film student in the Department of Transmedia and co-founder of student startup 410 Pictures, was the cinematographer and editor. Janie Kahan ’19, a VPA film student who is an advocate for those with disabilities, directed the movie.
Kahan has a special interest in inclusive education, promoting the use of American Sign Language in children’s media while interning for DreamWorks. “Growing up using American Sign Language in my home, deaf culture has become a large influence in my life,” she says. “Using my experience and a new connection with the National Association of the Deaf, I was able to educate the DreamWorks executives on the culture and linguistics and how to properly represent a deaf character in a children’s television show. I plan to advocate for disability representation in my film and TV career.”
“Third Shift” stars InclusiveU students Delvon Waller, Gabriella Iannotti and Ryan Gorke. The film would not have been possible without the InclusiveU student crew, who played key production roles: Delvon Waller, screenwriter; Jon Rushmore, art, production, effects and food services; Anthony Canestrare, music consultant; and Xavier Jefferson, pre-production and planning.
“I was really excited to see what I wrote to come to life,” Waller says. “Through hard work and determination, you can accomplish anything. No matter what people think or tell you!”
Those who were a part of the project are very proud of the final result. “All the actors, behind the scenes folks and students brought their own unique twist to the film,” deHahn notes. “Delvon, the main character, curated a funny and clever screenplay, and it was exciting to see his idea come to life. But more importantly, it was wonderful to be witness to such a passionate collaboration.”