How YouTube and low-cost cameras help spotlight creators with disabilities
The past year has been a very interesting one, by most people's measure.
We're living through extraordinary times.
And I use that word to say just really unusual, stressful, bizarre, but there have been some highlights out of the past year and one of them has been more talk about the need for diversity.
Representation from all of the different voices and people in our culture.
There's been a lot of talk about this for years and years and reporters know that it's shoutout tau, what's the next step?
Today my guest is Shannon DeVito and we're here to talk about her career as a comedian, an actor, a YouTube star, a writer, and I'm sure she has some other adjectives, but also about bringing that different perspective to the world and letting all of us see that.
Inclusion matters because it's great to have people who are passionate about their work.
Talking and doing and making projects that we can all enjoy.
So thank you Shannon, for joining us.
Thank you so much for having me.
This is super cool to be here.
I have described Shannon in a variety of ways and one of the challenges she does face is that she is in a wheelchair and all of the amazing work that she's done and all of the venues that she has performed in Are handled from that perspective.
And I think it's an amazing set of accomplishments.
But before we even get going, let's start Shannon, you tell us who you are, in your own words.
How do you like to describe yourself?
Yeah, so I mean, I think that I am definitely an actor and comedian and writer all those Wonderful adjectives that you use to make me sound much more interesting than i really am.
But I'm also a wheelchair user as you said, but I think that you know, I I only think of myself really from the perspective as like all of those things kind of intersect I'm multifaceted person who is
Yes, I'm disabled but that's not the only thing about me.
Yes, I'm an actor, but that's not the only thing about me.
So I think that what I love so much about the work that I tried to do is that I try to make that all kind of blend together because everything about you kind of informs everything else.
So But yeah, I mean, I love I love being an actor and so I'm I'm really honored that you want to talk to me about it.
Well, let's start by talking about why do you wanna be an actor?
Putting yourself on camera is a difficult thing.
I don't particularly enjoy being on camera all the time.
I like talking to people and that's what I do.
Comedy is very personal.
And of course we know it's the hardest among the hardest things you can do as an actor.
So what led you to that profession?
Well I really wanted to be an athlete.
Which as a kid, I thought I was gonna be the pitcher for the Chicago Cubs.
But, I turns out not a great athlete, not sure why.
But, so I found theater and I just kind of, it felt like home, it felt like something that I loved the people that I got to be around, I got to play pretend all the time, which is Such a crazy thing that someone allows you to do and gives you money to do it.
And I think that it's just it's a it's a place that allows me to be creative and be somebody different but At the same time, I'm bringing parts of myself and showing parts of myself that I wouldn't necessarily be able to do in any other medium.
And I just really love the people that I get to be around I think that they make you better and they make you excited to be alive and I that's what I love so much about the art form is the creativity and the camaraderie around it.
So you have a YouTube channel called Stare at Shannon.
And let's talk about the name.
Well, I came up with the name, because I always said that like, if people are gonna stare at me, I might as well be doing something ridiculous.
And so people do stare because that's just human nature is I'm a little bit different than other people and They look at me.
It's not because I'm famous.
But so yeah, I mean, I think the name is just a quirky kind of piece of me and yeah.
Well, I thought it was funny and I thought it was clever because that's what acting is all about is asking people to stare at you went away, right?
Pretty much yeah.
You do have a very particular sense of humor, which I find, I mean, I was watching a bunch of your videos, on YouTube last night laughing, and there was one called Musical chairs, in which the default is that, you would win.
[LAUGH] The Musical chairs.
Cuz you bring your own chair to the party, but you didn't.
So can I just want to ask you about that your What is your sense of humor?
It seems to be very self deprecating in a way but also ironic.
I don't know.
You don't mean definitely self deprecating.
I think that I like to kind of turn things on their head like think of look at it in a different way and also kind of poke fun at disability a little bit not in a mean way, but allowing myself to kind of take disability and use it in a way that kind of breaks barriers and breaks that conversation.
I think comedy is such a wall breaker you can talk to someone and you can talk about how you laughed about something and in a way that you can't do that with anything else and, and disability is such a hot, weird topic that people don't really like to be like, what can I talk to you and I don't know what to say or what to do and, and that's totally human nature and I don't feel I've never offended by that.
But I think that using comedy in a way that kind of allows you to start that conversation is such a unique and important way to do it.
My comedy is a little dark at times, as you said that video definitely shows my dark side Did you see that she's being a little ****?
I just wanna make people laugh and not be afraid to laugh about things that can often be ridiculous.
Well I now I'm gonna switch because you did.
You played a character Andrew Mumford on a Hulu series difficult people and it's a fairly famous scene where you
got up and you did a A stand up bit that was very successful.
I've seen other interviews where you talked about what an important that was just to recognize that you're a comedienne.
So can you tell us a little bit about it and how you got the part?
And maybe break it down for people who haven't seen it.
Sure, well Difficult People was created by Julie [UNKNOWN], and she wrote this part For just a beat poet, I think I was lucky enough that she is so forward thinking and wonderful, and smart.
And put me in the role of
And I was so grateful for that moment because it really was just about me being an actor.
And what was so even more wonderful about being part of that show is that Julia saw something in that and Brought me back to play Andrea a few more times and what she was able to do was she was able to find a way to incorporate my disability into this character that her life wasn't about being disabled, but she was able to make jokes using it and it was just so smart and so Wonderful and I'm so grateful to Julie for everything and I think that her writing is really something that people who want to incorporate people with disabilities into their shows should look at because it really is forward thinking and just wonderful.
I started our conversation by talking about the past year in our society and culture, and just how many conversations we've been having about the need for social change in this country and the world.
But let's just stick with the US for now.
And I wanted to ask you, you've been in this Occupation and your career for a number of years, have things changed?
Are you more optimistic?
And if so, why or if not?
Yeah, I think that from when I first started to now, it definitely is starting to change, I think, You see many more people with disabilities on screen.
And in much more varied roles than originally that you would see them there.
There was always five options sad, sick, dying, and now it's much more varied there and there's some great parts out there.
There's still a really long way to go.
I think that there's still people being cast as able bodied people being cast and disabled roles, which is very frustrating to watch.
Because I think as a kid, I would have loved to have seen myself on screen I never did and I think you know, representation is just so important and seeing yourself, everyone is valid and everyone deserves to see themselves represented, because it makes you feel a part of society.
And I think that's why it's so important to have disabled actors representing themselves.
I think a lot of the change also is happening with People creating their own content like myself, I'm my friend and I started a production company.
We actually made that that video for musical chairs in February and then everything shut down.
I don't recommend Started a production company at the beginning of a pandemic.
I don't do I wouldn't recommend it.
But we were we were so lucky to be able to kind of morph what we did over in the course of the pandemic and just talk about social change and we worked a lot on campaigns and.
For political stuff and things like that, but that's totally off what you asked me, but I do think that, I do think it's getting better.
But there is still there's still a long ways to go.
Well, we're a tech site so I love that technology has given you an opportunity To be a content creator, I mentioned your YouTube channel, Sara Chanin.
You have short films, you have your skits.
There's a lot of content there which is fabulous, and I recommend everybody go sign up and follow.
But, let's just talk about that, the accessibility of technology, that has helped you right?
You use I'm sure.
Low Cost cameras or maybe, I don't know, maybe you have a big production budget so I>> Yes.
My huge production budget that I have with me my friend Aubrey, no, I yeah, we're very, very lucky to live in a time where equipment and really good equipment is available to you.
I'm so lucky to be associated with black magic and they Have helped me with cameras and editing software I have a pocket six K camera which I'm I just love so much because it's it's small and it's definitely like high quality that you would never have been able to touch as when I was younger But it's for consumers to create, high quality, Hollywood style things and they also have an editing programme that's wonderful.
So I feel so lucky to live in a time where, we have Equipment that is for consumers but is the level of what a production who has an actual budget not us scraping together what we made during our day jobs a budget.
So yeah, it's really it's really great now to have that At our fingertips.
There's been a lot of discussion about, short form video, long form video.
There was a big experiment in short form video quibi last year that really just didn't go well, but I don't know whether it was the short form video, or whether people didn't want to sign up for another subscription service.
[LAUGH] There are many but you play in the world of short form video.
And that is not to say you don't you have you've done movies, you've been on television.
You play a lot though in the world of short form video.
So what about that medium Do you find most appealing?
Well, I mean, I think that first and foremost, it's easier to do then and you can do it with a limited budget.
I think that also as Americans and me being one of them, I think our attention spans have gone down a little bit.
The world is so crazy right now and, and everything is like coming at you at all times and the idea of some days so it's great to be able to sit down and watch a television program and just turn your mind off or or focus on that.
But sometimes, you know, in the middle of the day, you just wanna watch something quick.
You don't have time to watch a 30 minute show.
And yeah, I think I think it gives you the opportunity to get in front of a lot more people who are able to see what you're capable of.
Okay, so I just asked you that short form.
What are your aspirations though for longer Former you like what are you doing in quarantine?
Sitting around eating a lot.
I'm not sure what you're doing in quarantine but I have gained a lot of weight.
I've been writing a lot.
My dream obviously, not obviously, My dream is to have my own show.
I would love to Have a sitcom that I get to play with all my friends and be funny and, and really represent a character that I think is different and interesting and and is also disabled.
I think that that would be just The joy upon joys.
I have a couple movies that one that my friends wrote that we really hope to get made because it is so unique and interesting and funny.
I mean I want to do everything I think, I know that's the worst actor answer ever because like pinko Wayne but, I, yeah, I just I want to do as much as possible that also kind of circumvents what society thinks that you should be doing as a disabled woman.
Speaking of Hollywood, one of the videos that I watched on your channel, you did summaries of all the Oscar pics for last year and like you did your condensed version of what they were about, which is Which was super funny.
But I was curious, okay.
Any movie that you could start in like go back to last year or I don't even know or two years ago that you would have want to be in?
What is your What is your goal movie that you would have wanted to be in and what is the role My gosh.
Wow that's so hard.
I mean, honestly, probably a Pixar movie, like toy story or something like that.
But let's see a live action movie though.
Live action and let's not do like live action Milan because I think that [CROSSTALK]
And it doesn't count.
That's basically the same thing.
Probably a Christopher Guest movie.
I love his humor and the people in that and, and the way I started an improv, so
The reason I fell in love with comedy and I said in the beginning, you're surrounded by people who push you to be better and make you funnier.
And I think that those casts are just a perfect example of people supporting each other and having quirky ideas and allowing yourself to be different and weird and funny and Like Best in Show is just one of the greatest movies that's ever existed and, and I still quote it every single time I watched the Westminster Kennel Club show I can't not I'm so proud.
Probably something along those lines.>> Okay, Christopher Guest if you're watching past Shannon and your next movie, whatever it is, that she has Yes,>> that would be great.
I mean, honestly, the real answer is probably anything Chris Evans has done and I just want to stand next to him for a while.
But, yeah, I guess that's why you chose Chris for a guest.
You've done a lot of work right and as we say in journalism show don't tell.
You wanna show what you can do and not just say it.
You're optimistic that things have changed, but there's still more room For improvement, people like Ava DuVernay now is casting movies and making diversity and inclusion part of how they even put together the teams of people who work on movies not just using front of the camera but who's behind it, which I think is, you know, super important as well.
What would you like to say to Hollywood?
What should they do once we get out of quarantine and we can go back to making movies on a grand scale?
Yeah, I think it's just a matter of being inclusive.
I think don't brush people off because you think they can't do something.
There are so many people in front and behind the camera who are disabled who are ready to work who are good at what they do, who are are going to make your film better because they bring a different perspective and just give people a chance.
You know Ava is such a great example of that.
But I would love to see more disabled people in her work.
I think that she's so inclusive and wonderful and I watched bridgerton more than I allowed myself to tell people.
But I think that that's that's the last thing you just if you can include people do it.
Because we're ready.
Shannon DeVito thank you so much for your time and diversity and inclusion matters.
It makes a difference and the audience is ready for it.
So let's go.
Thank you so much for having me.
This was so lovely.
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