It’s going to be an incredible year at RAFF!

WELCOME TO CINCINNATI questions & answers event with the stars – Thursday, March 9, 2017 @ 10 a.m. – Open to the Public!

Come to the festival, to our parties and red carpet events and meet our celebrities! Duke Energy Convention Center – “The V” on Fifth – just off the main entrance.

 RJ Mitte, RAFF Keynote Celebrity

Appearances:  Thursday, March 9, 10 a.m. Open Press Conference; 11 a.m. VIP Meet and Greet; 12: p.m. Premier Luncheon

Best known as Walter “Flynn” White Jr. for five riveting seasons of AMC’s Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning dramatic thriller “Breaking Bad,” Mitte, reemerged this year on the big screen in DIXIELAND, which premiered at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival, portraying the deceptive CJ, in his first non-handicapped leading role. Following his “Breaking Bad” success RJ was thrust into the global spotlight as the celebrity face and model of GAP International’s 2014 “Lived in Spring” campaign. With his image appearing on mediums such as billboards, buses, and life-sized posters in cities across the world from Tokyo to Dubai and across the US, he has cemented himself as a face to know in the fashion world. In 2015 he was found walking in Men’s Fashion Week in Milan, Berlin and New York City for Vivienne Westwood, soPopular and Ovadia & Sons.

There’s nothing Mitte cannot do as he adds reporter to his name; as he was a presenter for Channel 4 (UK) reporting on the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. During its fifth and final season, the “Breaking Bad” premiere drew approximately 5.9 million viewers, a number that nearly doubled to 10.3 million by the season’s final episode. Walter Jr.’s Cerebral Palsy on the show was embellished, meaning RJ had to learn how to walk on crutches and slur his speech to create a more dramatic version of his own disability.

At the young age of three, Louisiana native, Mitte, was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Throughout the years, Mitte has been an inspiration to his peers around the world by championing his Cerebral Palsy in hopes of removing the stigma associated with disabilities.

Bryan Anderson

Anderson served two tours of duty in Iraq since enlisting in the army in 2001, attaining the rank of Sergeant of the Military Police before he was awarded a Purple Heart after losing both legs and his left hand to an Improvised Explosive Device in 2005. He is a spokesman for USA Cares, is an ambassador for the Gary Sinise Foundation, and is the national spokesman for Quantum Rehab. He also still skateboards, snowboards, wakeboards, white water rafts and rock climbs; and won gold medals at the National Wheelchair Games for table tennis and archery. Anderson has acted in CSI: NY as a Navy Seal and had other television and film parts. His life story has been featured in national media and in his memoir titled, No Turning Back: One Man’s Inspiring True Story of Courage, Determination and Hope.

Jamie Brewer

Known for her role of Adelaide ‘Addie” Lagdon in American Horror Story (2011), Brewer is also the first model with Down syndrome to walk the runway at New York Fashion Week, and a leader and advocate for those who have developmental disabilities. She was the youngest to ever be elected president of the ARC of Fort Bend Chapter.  From there, she was appointed to the State of Texas ARC Board, then elected to the Executive Board as Treasurer. Jamie was then asked to serve on the ARC Governmental Affairs Committee for the State of Texas. She spoke with Senators at the Texas State Capitol to persuade them to pass the law for Texas to abolish using the “R” word from state legislation, and regarding the needs of people with disabilities in Texas. Texas now uses “Intellectual Developmental Disability” in their legislation. Among her accolades, Brewer was honored by the Global Down Syndrome Foundation with its Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award, which recognizes individuals who have championed people who are differently-abled. “Being an advocate has been a big part of my life. I love meeting and being inspired by everyone. Advocacy encourages awareness for everyone, and it’s a good thing. I believe advocacy in our world helps us create a better place we all call home,” she said of her Award.

Richard Bernstein

Disability Rights Attorney Richard Bernstein made history on New Year’s Day when he was sworn into office and became the nation’s first state Supreme Court Justice for the state of Michigan. Justice Bernstein, who is known for his warm and ebullient personality, has said it is the challenges he has faced as someone who was born blind that has helped fuel his passion for fairness and driven his legal career.

He received his Juris Doctor from the Northwestern University School of Law before joining The Sam Bernstein Law Firm where he won several landmark, precedent-setting cases while running the Public Services Division. He successfully represented Detroit residents with disabilities in 2004 in an action against the City of Detroit to fix wheelchair lifts on buses as required by federal law. For the Paralyzed Veterans of America in 2007 he fought and won an action against the University of Michigan for failing to include adequate accommodations for spectators with disabilities in stadium renovation planning. Justice Bernstein also won a suit filed against Northwest Airlines and Wayne County Airport Authority on behalf of five passengers with disabilities to ensure that the Airport Authority would make significant modifications to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. In his spare time, Justice Bernstein is an endurance athlete who has finished 18 marathons and the Ironman Triathlon in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Rich Clifford

A retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel, Clifford is also a retired NASA astronaut and the first person to conduct a six-hour spacewalk while docked to an orbiting space station. He did that during his third space launch – a docking mission to the Russian space station Mir – aboard Atlantis (on STS-76) in 1996 and after learning he has Parkinson’s disease. Anticipating questions and concerns if he disclosed his diagnosis, only his flight director, crew and limited NASA staff knew his secret. His extraordinary story is documented in the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival Premiere Night feature film, the Astronaut’s Secret.

John Lawson

Lawson is a television, film and commercial PWD actor with past roles in the long running television crime dramas, Law and Order, Law and Order: SVU and FX’s hit show American Horror Story. He began playing the piano at age 3, started lessons at 4 and studied piano for 17 years. Then, in 1987 his life changed when he left the NC Jaycee Burn Center with hooks to replace where his hands had been after an electrical accident burned nearly 30% of his body. He and his story were featured in the documentary, Pursuing Happiness. Lawson also is a certified pilot and the first double amputee to be certified as a SCUBA instructor.

Nic Novicki

Nic Novicki attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and the school of Film and Television. Since then he has worked as an actor, producer, director, writer, and stand up comedian. As a Comedian Nic has toured all over the country and he has done several tours for the troops overseas through USO, and Armed Forces Entertainment. He has done stand up on the tv show Gotham Comedy Live and acted in the TV shows Boardwalk Empire(recurring), The Sopranos, Jack and Triumph, Drop Dead Diva, The Neighbors, Austin and Ally, Private Practice, in the films L!fe Happens, The Last 5 Years, and the upcoming Dead Ant,  He has produced several feature films, tv pilots, web series, and web content for a variety of companies including Sony, and Universal.  He is also the founder/director of the Disability Film Challenge, which partnered with Easterseals in 2017 to become the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. www.disabilityfilmchallenge.com

Lauren Potter

As an actress, Lauren is best known for her popular role as Becky Jackson in the popular television show, Glee. However, she also devotes much time to advocating and raising awareness for disability related causes..and against bullying. In November, 2011 she was appointed by President Barack Obama to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. In 2015, she was an ambassador for the Special Olympics World Games promoting inclusion. Her anti bullying advocacy includes serving with the International Board of Best Buddies and  its joint campaign with Special Olympics, “R Words: Spread the Word to End the Word” which is about ending the inappropriate use of the word ‘retarded’. She and her mom, Robin Sinkhorn, also are featured in a video for AbilityPath.org in an effort to end bullying of children who have disabilities. Lauren is the star of one of the 2017 Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival short films, Guest Room.

Michael Schlitz

A Purple Heart recipient and retired army ranger, Schlitz medically retired from the United States Army in March of 2010 after 14 years of service when, after losing all of his platoon brothers in Southern Baghdad, he survived but lost vision in his left eye, both hands; and sustained burns over 85% of his body. Schlitz gives back through speaking engagements, events, mentoring veterans, and through his work for the Gary Sinise Foundation.

The day was February 27, 2007 when his life would forever change. Schlitz and his platoon were performing a road-clearing mission in Southern Baghdad when two artillery shells attached to a propane tank exploded. He was thrown from the vehicle and survived, but he lost all of his platoon brothers in split moment. He also lost vision in his left eye, both hands; and sustained burns on 85% of his body. In his mission to give back to veteran and ranger communities, Schlitz regularly travels the country for speaking engagements and veterans events. He has returned to Iraq three times to mentor wounded and non-wounded veterans, supported the establishment of several new non-profit organizations, and had the honor of speaking at two US Army Ranger Graduations. Schlitz will continue his quest until every service member comes home safely.

Ali Stroker

Stroker is a New York York City actress and singer, and has been for over three quarters of her life. She studied at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, concentrated in drama. Stroker has been paralyzed from the chest down since she was two years old and uses a wheelchair because of a car accident. She wants to inspire others with disabilities who want to be performers to follow their dreams. She originally auditioned for The Glee Project at a casting call in New York City. Ali is a Mezzo-Soprano but because she is paralyzed, she cannot engage the diaphragm, stomach, or core, she creates her own singing techniques. She’s a strong swimmer, and learns to surf with the group Life Rolls On. She also was a contender and runner-up of the second season of The Glee Project and guest starred on Glee (Betty) in 2013. In 2015 Stroker made history by becoming the first Broadway actress in a wheelchair to appear on a Broadway stage. She originated the role of Anna in Deaf West’s 2015 revival of Spring Awakening.

Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt

These two best friends from Rhode Island met in Special Olympics and are filmmakers of the wildly popular, kick ass movie, Spring Break Zombie Massacre.

Elizabeth and Steve Wampler

As the world and his family watched, Steve Wampler who was born with a severe form of cerebral palsy, pulled himself with one hand 20,000 times in six days to conquer the world’s biggest rock, El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. His journey was beautifully told in the documentary, Wampler’s Ascent, which was shown at the 2015 Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival. The Wampler’s returned to Cincinnati in 2016, speaking to a packed audience of TEDxCincinnati. Elizabeth and Steve’s Stephen J Wampler Foundation’s mission is to make adventure programs accessible to all children regardless of their background or ability.

Kurt Yaeger

A former professional BMX rider turned actor, Yaeger is an actor who captured the attention of filmmakers and critics alike when he starred in the feature film “Tenderloin.” Since then, he has appeared in multiple film and television projects. Some of his film credits include “Dolphin Tale” with Morgan Freeman, “War Flowers” with Christina Ricci, “Knife Fight” with Rob Lowe, “Camel Spiders” with Brian Krause and “Piranhaconda” with Michael Madsen. His most recent TV credit s include the fan favorite character on FX’s hit show Sons Of Anarchy, the new Cinemax show Quarry and a new major recurring role on CBS’ hit NCIS: Los Angeles.

Yaeger is a below the knee amputee following a motorcycle accident that broke his pelvis, fractured seven vertebras and tore his bladder.  He was in the hospital for more than three months and after twenty-eight surgeries and many months of rehabilitation, he made a full recovery.  His spark for acting never ended and  and he hasn’t let anything stop him. He continues to ride motorcycles to this day. This will be Kurt’s second year participating in the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival.

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