By: Stephen R. Elville – Managing Principal and Lead Attorney – Elville and Associates, P.C.
Championing the Voices (hereinafter referred to in this brief article as “the film” and/or “CTV”) is a documentary and instructional film currently in production by Elville Studios, LLC about Supported Decision Making (“SDM”), the concept that persons with disabilities can (and should) make their own decisions and self-determine their own lives to whatever extent is possible, provided they have the support to do so. This film had its genesis several years ago after I met and participated in a joint presentation with Megan Rusciano, an attorney with Disability Rights Maryland, at the ARC of Frederick. Megan is a tremendous advocate for persons with disabilities who previously worked in British Columbia where supported decision making is part of the legal and societal fabric. Megan’s presentation at the ARC, introducing the supported decision making concept, including SDM as an alternative to guardianship, inspired me to launch the production of CTV, initially as a tool to assist Megan in her efforts to influence the public and eventually the Maryland Legislature to pass a supported decision making bill (at the time, SDM was law in only these handful of states: Alaska, Indiana, Texas, Wisconsin, Delaware, and the District of Columbia), and now (post-COVID-19) as both an educational and promotional tool for legislative passage of a supported decision making law in Maryland, and as an important instructional expose about the full and complete benefits and broad application of supported decision making. Although the COVID-19 disaster temporarily stopped the production of CTV after pre-production began in 2019 and actual filming started in early 2020, production of CTV resumed this fall.
The reason(s) for this article and urgent call for volunteers is as follows:
- Supported decision making now appears to be closer than ever to being passed into law in Maryland (mainly due to the dedication and herculean efforts of Megan). New draft legislation is being finalized for consideration in the 2022 Maryland General Assembly Legislative session;
- Megan’s concern is not only about passage of a new supported decision making law (the important first step), but that after passage the legal application of SDM not be “pigeonholed” or limited in practical application due to a lack of education on the part of the public, banks and other institutions, attorneys, courts, facilities (more), and instead that the supported decision making concept, to whatever extent contemplated by the new law, be broadly applied in all its intended aspects, so that supported decision making’s promise and potential for the highest and best use and benefit for all persons with disabilities be realized;
- With supported decision making’s new momentum in Maryland (there is sponsorship support for the new Bill, support in the Maryland Judiciary, and new legislative passage of SDM laws across the U.S. in other states) there is increased urgency for completion of CTV. This will involve the following (list not exclusive): continued fundraising and promotion of the film; project management, including scheduling, public relations, website maintenance, equipment maintenance and purchases, and general administration; video production interviews of at least 25-35 more participants; film production crew travel to several states, including Alaska, Indiana, Texas, and New York (United Nations); post-production (editing and final cut); distribution and release; post-release promotion and strategic use; and operation of a CTV information center for on-going public education and resource hub;
- Hundreds and thousands of persons with disabilities, parents and families of persons with disabilities, along with advocates, friends, and supporting organizations, including the ARC (national and local) in Maryland and across the U.S., are awaiting the passage and broad application of supported decision making so that persons with disabilities can have more autonomy and control over their own lives and that all lesser-restrictive alternatives to guardianship are explored prior to the implementation of guardianship; and that state government, attorneys, and the judiciary view and utilize SDM as the broad legal tool it is intended to be. This process can only occur (and be expedited) through education. Currently there are few, if any, creative, compelling, and impactful visual or recorded media for the promotion of supported decision making and its application. CTV is a much needed and urgent project, and time is now of the essence; and
- As with all independent films, funding is essential for the success of CTV. Currently the budget for CTV is $50,000 U.S. dollars. Donations, pledges, and an organized fundraising campaign are needed on an immediate basis.
Currently CTV film project volunteers are needed for the following:
- Fundraising and promotion;
- Website and database management;
- Public relations;
- Executive Producer;
- Scheduling and project management;
- Equipment organization and maintenance;
- Film crew;
- Editing and post-production; and
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer participant in this important film project that has the potential to impact thousands, and likely hundreds of thousands of lives, across Maryland and across the country, please respond as soon as possible by sending a message with your name, contact information, and interest, to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.