Picking up where we left off with my friend Scott Rolfe. In this second and final segment, he speaks candidly about life with Cerebral Palsy.
Click Here for Part 1
Let’s talk about your work as a movie producer.
Well I’ve done The Cinema Zone…it’s a short film that I starred in, wrote and executive produced. It’s about a couple who is so stressed out in their relationship and in their life, that the only way they can communicate with themselves and the world is through famous movie lines.
Yes, loved it…very witty! How’d it all come about?
At the time I was writing for a comedy show, The American Film Institute came out with the 100 Greatest Movie Lines Of All Times, so I did a skit for the show, which is the middle scene in the film, ’cause I just wanted to challenge myself. Sometimes writers do what is called restrictive writing, where you just restrict yourself to…something. For example, I’m only going to use imaginary animals in this story or whatever. But for me using 100 movie lines, I figured I come up with something that was comedic yet practical. So when I wrote the scene people liked it so much and someone said, “I bet you could make a short film out of it”, so that’s where I came up with the idea.
How challenging is it to write a short film as opposed to a full length feature script?
A short film can be anywhere from 3 to 30 minutes. Should still have an interesting story, a clear beginning, middle and end. A good feature has all those elements as well, but a good one is very difficult to achieve. They can run from 90 to 120 pages max, a minute a page on screen. To keep the story moving and the characters compelling is quite a challenge. Much less the challenge of selling it! I have also worked on a full length feature before as an actor. It was called ah… “Strange Adventures of Triangle Woman”, which was Bozo the Clown meets the Twilight Zone…and I was The Lurking Man in that. It was fun to do that film!
Wow…(chuckles). So let’s see, you are Director of Development for Athena Pictures. What is it like to develop someone else’s story?
Jennifer Besser runs Athena Pictures. She has much experience on the production side, is an accomplished TV and film actress, a tireless worker and a fun personality. She was also my director on “The Cinema Zone.” She needed help with her scripts. I just use my vast experience in crafting stories to add whatever I think her script needs. I give her notes. She rewrites it. Then, I will write some scenes based on her scene she has written. She has the final say, but she does listen to me. If I object, she will change it. It is her story, but I must make it good enough to where investors have an interest. Feedback on her scripts have been good, she is talking to investors now. So, we will see. That job is not for everyone. Your ego must be put aside and you must be united in your goals. We are, so it works.
Let’s go back to your acting for a minute….
Well, I’m a trained theater actor. I did plays in college. I played Richard III, for example. I love the stage. However, due to my Cerebral Palsy, my left hip is flat, it did not fully develop. I can not stand for long periods anymore. ‘Causes to much stress. It is sad for me.
Can we talk a bit more about that? How else would you say Cerebral Palsy has affected your work as an actor, if at all?
I was with Linda McAlister Talent for 7 years, based on an audition for NBC. She needed someone with Cerebral Palsy in her agency. However, there is no need for my talent. People with disabilities are seldom used in Hollywood. Most of the time they use an actor who acts like they have a disability, unless in a wheelchair. In Hollywood’s defense, the person with the actual disability must be able to act. I have had 2 eye surgeries for astigmatism, known as “lazy eye”. Otherwise, I would have looked like Marty Feldman, IGor, from Mel Brooks Young Frankenstein! It can show up when I am onscreen if I don’t focus. Makes you look really stupid.
Cerebral Palsy walking on film, is different as well. I wobble some, because my balance is off. Jennifer, my director on The Cinema Zone handled it very well. I intentionally did not write the character of George Cinema in the movie as having a disability. I’m just an actor playing a part. It is Hollywood and society that puts labels on people.
The XMen series is about people with disabilities and accepting them for who they are. They have powers instead of disabilities. Too bad I don’t have a special power! If I can prove I can make money using my skills, Hollywood won’t care. Just give me the opportunity. I will prove myself!
Wow…just fascinating! Honestly, because I can’t say that I ever thought of it that way. What about directing? When noting your accomplishments, I always want to add that to the list. You seem to have a natural ability to develop and cultivate as a leader.
Thanks. I do not see myself as a director right now. I need to focus on what I know how to do well, which is writing and acting. My acting on film needs work, I know that. I love it, but I know I won’t be called on to do it often on film. Writing and producing is where my meat is.
Impressive that humility and wisdom keeps you focused. I really appreciate your going into depth today. You mentioned your desire to help raise awareness about Cerebral Palsy.
I didn’t realize that you were born with it Scott.
Cerebral Palsy happens during the birth process…always. Me? I got tangled coming out of the birth canal. And some oxygen got cut off from my brain because I got wrapped around the umbilical cord. It cut off oxygen to my brain for an undetermined amount of time. So I can say I’m brain-damaged because I am. 70% of the people with my disability cannot speak. They speak in sounds. And mostly what you are born with…sometimes it’s not diagnosed until your two years old. With me they waited till about a year before they officially diagnosed me. You can go through physical therapy.. I had extensive physical therapy as a child at the Cerebral Palsy Center. Usually what you’re born with is the level you’re going to be at all your life. It is not life-threatening in any way. It’s important to educate people on it ’cause most people haven’t heard of it. I hope to use any notoriety I’ll have in the future to get out the message.
Thank you for entrusting authenticitee as a space to help get that message out as well…
Well you’re Ms. Authentic!
LOL! Wow…I so appreciate you sharing Scott. I didn’t realize that 70% of those diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy do not have the ability to speak. Did I hear you correctly?
That is correct. That is the last bit of information that I saw that was available to me..
So ahh…you are a miracle, trailblazing trendsetter on a lot of levels!
Well, they told my parents that I would not be able to hold a job. I wouldn’t be able to function in society. So that was the pronouncement. I was a preemie. I spent about 6 or 7 weeks in an incubator. But yeah…that’s what they told my parents.
Understand however, when I was 18 I was very angry with the Lord. It’s not unusual to go through with that when you have a disability. Nobody wants a disability. I don’t care what it is…cause the world is so visual. We live in such a visual world that when people see you, they make up their minds about you within 5-7 seconds. When you go to a job interview, they’ve already sized you up if they wanna see you before they ask you a question. They’ve already made that judgment based on your appearance. Because of that, people prejudged me a lot. People put limits on me that I accepted.
Hmmmm (real loud and church like) “People put limits on me that I accepted”, that will preach!
‘Cause it’s what I was told. If you’re told a lie long enough…you believe it.
Hmmm! (Even louder) “If you’re told a lie enough..you believe it!” Sir you speak truth!
And so that’s what society did to me…and I realized after my parents died and I would read things that they wrote…understanding that it was a different time…I could see that those doctor’s words really stuck with them.
I believe our words have power. That being said it’s an area so many of us, including myself could improve in; being aware of how we talk about ourselves. Would you say that your parents, spoke negatively over you by accepting the Dr.’s pronouncement for your life?
No, not in that way. They were the best. Loving, protective. However, they did not tell me I could do anything. I needed to hear that as a child with a disability. My Dad told me when I was 12, “My hope for you is that you become a store manager.” He said it with sympathy in his voice. I got mad and left the room. I had a temper! (Lol). After he died, a friend told me, that he thought I would be a writer. My insecurity held me back! It was the Devil’s plan. I woke up, Dad! I know he is proud of me!
“My insecurity held me back”…very powerful statement that I can relate to! Can you touch on what it was like having Cerebral Palsy as a youth?
I was just like Forrest Gump. Everybody’s seen Forrest Gump, the kids with the braces on. That was me. I wore leg braces in an attempt to straighten out my legs.
And I know you mentioned once before having to deal with a lot of physical therapy?
Is that something that’s still ongoing?
No..I’ve been working out for about 25 years but not in a medical facility. I stopped physical therapy at about age 12. They had just done all that they can do.
The braces came off at about what age?
About age 7. I would wear them to school and the whole bit so imagine being a six-year-old having to deal with all of that. Bullying.
An issue not foreign to many a modern day conversation…
Oh yes it’s worse today with social media
Talk to me…
Well I just got into a lot of fights. I was held back a year for my emotional maturity. I was bigger than everybody else so the tides turned…I fought and it’s how I got respect. I remember my third grade teacher, Mr. Alman, he was great. I told him that I couldn’t take it anymore and that I wasn’t handling it well.
In third grade you had enough sense to have that conversation?!
Yes I told him this is not going well. I’m being tormented. I’m getting into fights every day and it’s not working. I remember he told me to go for a walk and he spent that time talking to the class about how they were treating me. It got better, but years of bullying left me very insecure. The Devil kept me in fear. But, I was unaware of it. Just a low grade fear, below the surface. That is how the Devil keeps us from our calling. Everyone has something to overcome in life. People with a disability, you can SEE ours. That is a major difference. Something is “wrong.”
I might add Cerebral Palsy is not inheritable. I have to stress this. I can not pass it on. I lost two women who I cared for because they could not have children with me out of fear. They could not believe me! Do you know how hurtful that was to me as a man? Wake up people!!
Powerful Scott. Just powerful! Thank you so much for your transparency. I believe this going to bless countless lives. I’m praying that it does!
Thank you e…I do too!
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Ticket Info: I’m Always On My Mind
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