25 May

The Inclusion Festival: Everyone is Invited! An Amazing Summer Music Fest in the Mountains of Eastern PA

Inclusion as a word paints a broad brushstroke for what a free society hopes to stand for.

The inaugural Inclusion Festival, coming July 28-29 to the Mountain Sky Festival Grounds in Jermyn, Pennsylvania, follows that path as a “sensory-friendly music, arts, yoga, and wellness festival for all abilities.” Expect a truly ground-breaking approach to a music and arts festival that encompasses, promotes and celebrates ALL.

As described by organizers Amy Pinder and Leah Barron, the festival is “the nation’s first outdoor, multi-day annual event that celebrates neurodiversity, promotes understanding and acceptance, provides holistic educational opportunities, and encourages healthy lifestyle choices that extend far beyond the festival grounds.”

Both Pinder, a speech language pathologist, and Barron, a special education teacher, were inspired by their experiences working in the field. They believe that music festivals hold strong potential to strengthen self-awareness, encourage exploration of passions and interests, build relationships, and connect with inner purpose to guide and sustain positive lifestyle choices. And, they also strongly believe that a festival built around the idea of diversity and openness not only benefits those with special needs but creates better understanding among the general population.

Asked about the driving force behind the festival, Pinder, whose work as a therapist primarily revolves around those with autism, says: “We ALL have special gifts and talents and we ALL have a purpose. I believe it is our responsibility as a society to support one another (with love, understanding, respect and compassion) along our path to identify, cultivate, and actualize our purpose so that individually, and collectively, we can experience true happiness and be free from fear and anxiety.”

The Inclusion Festival is being presented by All Inclusive Productions, in partnership with Accessible Festivals, a non-profit organization. All Inclusive Productions is a Benefit Corporation that offers educational and recreational activities for all ages and abilities through inclusive, immersive experiences designed to improve the wellbeing of individuals with special needs and their families.

The festival promises two full days of outstanding live music from a host of diverse bands and notable singer/songwriters. Among the scheduled performers: The Hoppin’ Boxcars, Michael Korins, The Merry Rockers, Reef The Lost Cauze, Camille WHO?, three-time Grammy nominee Brady Rymer, and Max Muscato (founder of “Rock Autism”).

This very first event from Pinder and Barron was five years in the making, starting with a dream and eventually turning to reality last summer. Its culmination takes place in just two months. The goal of having something for everyone in an all-inclusive format is ground-breaking on many levels; and the two have plans to take their show on the road to other parts of the country.

Festival Co-Founders Leah Barron and Amy Pinder

“Leah and I met five years ago at a music festival and quickly discovered we had similar interests,” says Pinder, a native of Buffalo, N.Y. who now calls Central New Jersey home. “We decided last August to do the festival and are excited at the response and participation.”

The festival not only highlights incredible music over its two days, but will have areas for people to take quiet breaks, relax and take in a variety of educational and experiential activities in its Wellness and Empowerment Villages. Inclusion offers:

  • Educational Wellness Workshops
  • Immersive, Experiential Activities
  • Live Music
  • Motivational Speakers
  • Specialized Food, Craft and Product Vendors
  • Community Resource Fair
  • Therapeutic Consultations
  • Vocational and Volunteer Opportunities

(More details found here.)

The Inclusion Festival is being held on the Mountain Sky Festival Grounds, a popular location for a variety of outdoor summer events. Pinder and Barron are hoping to draw attendees from such nearby metropolitan areas as Scranton, Wilkes Barre, Syracuse, Philadelphia, New York, Rochester and Buffalo.

Hard work aside to put on such an event, Pinder smiles when she admits “this doesn’t seem like a business. It’s a passion!”

04 Apr

Emmy-winning Producer On Embracing Your Side Hustle

Kristen Branan – Senior VP, Global Production at Zoic Studios and Founder of Adaptive Life Company(Originally posted on Swaay.com)

I first broke into the entertainment industry as a content development intern for the production company, Island Pictures. That’s where I met my first mentor, Kathie Fong-Yoneda, and learned the importance of having someone genuinely care about your growth. Kathie generously shared her experience and advice, giving me equal opportunity to participate on every level. Her mentorship was my original inspiration to do well and treat people nicely. I reflect back on that time and value the importance of being mentored by a strong female executive.

Starting out, I never dreamed I’d one-day lead the global production for an award-winning visual effects studio while balancing my own adaptive clothing company.

After graduating from film school, I started as a VFX Producer on the TV show “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” When it came to visual effects, I loved the marriage between tech and creative and put in the time, energy and sacrifice to learn everything about it. When Zoic Studios started up in 2002, I was the VFX Producer for the Emmy-winning television series Firefly and Battlestar: Galactica. Through thousands of television and feature film titles, I’ve moved from Head of Production to Executive Producer, and into my current role as Senior Vice President of Global Production. It’s been a long haul, but it’s definitely never dull.

In our industry, visual effects are still male-dominated, with the ratio varying between 60/40 and 70/30. But speaking strictly from the VFX studio point of view, I have seen a gradual, positive increase in those numbers.

It all begins with the application process. Visual effects is a niche tech industry and a lot of women don’t think about it as a career opportunity. Because of that, fewer females apply for digital artist jobs. We have work to do by spreading the word, and getting more women to recognize VFX as a viable career option. At Zoic Studios, we have women working in every technical, creative and management department of the company. We can crew a show from top to bottom with women-only and have done so. It’s something to celebrate and keep talking about, so young girls out there know that you can enter this diverse tech industry and excel in it.

Shifting the Conversation

As part of the conversation, we not only need to recruit more women into the industry, we need to keep them once they’re in it. Visual effects suffers from a heavy expand and contract employment model. Between international tax credits and shrinking budgets, you find companies having to fluctuate every few months in order to stay in business. The challenging aspect of this rollercoaster model is that VFX teams often have to live abroad, chasing work from one country to the next, living away from their families for long periods of time. It’s tough on relationships and putting down roots, which hits men and women equally hard. After a period of time, some women drop out of the industry. It will take influential thought leaders to change the current system over time. But women have a powerful voice at the table and I hope the next generation brings us back together on this issue.

Girls Red Flannel Jacket

 Adaptive Life Co.’s new Renegade flannel shirt jacket.

Fueling My Passion With a Side Hustle

I was inspired to launch Adaptive Life Company as a result of my own personal experience.

Growing up, I was a hospital candy-stripe volunteer, able to see firsthand the many physical challenges people face. I interacted with individuals of all ages who had life-altering injuries, as well as degenerative genetic diseases. My takeaway was how uplifting and positive people remained. Being inside the treatment rooms and physical therapy sessions; you see the best side of humanity, love and encouragement. Everything good in the world concentrated inside those walls! But, as you might imagine, leaving those walls behind and entering back into the “real world,” life becomes another story. The feelings of accomplishment and progress can quickly turn into frustration and intimidation. Much of the world is not disability-friendly.

Another eye opener came years later after a family member was born with cerebral palsy, resulting in loss of dexterity and mobility on her left side.

As she faced additional challenges related to her health and physical abilities, our family thought: “what could we do to change the world for her, and everyone else, to make it easier?” She is a young teen now, an age where clothes and fashion are important to her. To normalize her dressing process, we’re designing clothing she can get on by herself using one hand and still look cool, young and trendy. With her input, we’re re-engineering and re-thinking conventional clothing construction. We want to do away with buttons, zippers, lace ties, and buckles, but hide the fact that the clothes have been altered.

I knew from the start that launching my own company was going to be hard and it really is. It’s been months of researching and educating myself on the process. You wonder if consumers will be open to something new, and be supportive of the bigger impact this could have on people’s lives. But aside from all that, the biggest challenge has been to not give up through all the trial and error. Every step in this new industry is unfamiliar territory, every plan has gone out the window at least once, and every mistake has cost extra time and money. But I own my mistakes, am transparent about it, and do not make the same mistake twice. There’s unwavering persistence in the process.

Finding Balance

It takes organization and planning ahead so that my jobs at Zoic and ALC don’t cross paths. During the day, I’m dedicated to Zoic Studios, which is a busy and complex tech/creative company. There are always clients, employees and shows that need special attention, so the day is full of travel, budgeting, operational oversight, and meeting with Hollywood’s leading creative television and filmmakers. Adaptive Life Company requires a very different approach and mindset.

Still, both require strong foundation skills and are necessary for juggling both roles. Those include: calendaring progression milestones and due dates, heavy budgeting and negotiations, touch-base meetings with teams to monitor production, and a willingness to pick up the phone and call people instead of sending emails. Both companies are “people” businesses, so communicating via phone calls, Skype and in-person all matter. I get more out of a 10-minute call or meeting than I can with 30 emails. I’m also a good listener and not afraid to ask questions. You’ll always see me with a notebook writing down lists and checking off details.

We talked about ALC and its mission with focus groups, parents, clothing and product designers, as well as fashion and investment leaders. There’s a lot of support from individuals connected to the adaptive community. But I’m also challenged by people who believe it’s not a worthy endeavor or think the market is limited. In truth, the adaptive market is a vastly under-served one.

There are 65 million people in the U.S. who have some form of a disability. Globally, there are one BILLION men, women and kids struggling with a mild to severe physical issue. Everyone knows someone who’s been seriously injured in an accident or while serving in the military. We know children born with a disabling genetic condition, or a loved one challenged by the natural aging process. We can all benefit at some point in our lives from adaptive designs created to make life easier when facing those challenges.

While the idea of making adaptive products for a world that’s existed so long without them may seem like a small endeavor, it’s not. When a physical disability hits home, it’s a huge deal. It’s when you’ll stop and think, “Why aren’t more companies already doing this?”

I believe it’s a better way forward and there’s humanity in the mission. It makes the effort of juggling two careers worth it. Both of which, thankfully, come with compelling challenges and incredible rewards.