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What I Hope the Movie 'Triumph' Will Teach People About Disability

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“Believe to achieve.” Those three words come from dialogue I wrote in my revised screenplay titled “Triumph.” Ironically, when I wrote this first screenplay of mine around 30 years ago, I titled it “Going the Distance.” Today, after revising my screenplay throughout the years and striving to produce the movie, those three words are a strong testament to never giving up and going the distance.

“Triumph” is now an upcoming movie. The inspirational sports-drama movie stars RJ Mitte (“Breaking Bad”) and Terrence Howard (“Crash”) with other great Hollywood talents such as Colton Haynes, Johnathon Schaech and Grace Victoria Cox. Triumph is currently being screened for distribution. Taylor and Dodge are the sales representatives for Triumph’s worldwide rights. I am hoping for a good theatrical release at some point to help increase awareness of the movie and its audience.

“Triumph” was directed by Brett Leonard and produced by Massimiliano Musina of the MAP Group, Michael Clofine of Digital Ignition Entertainment, and myself. I like writing, casting and producing.

My story is inspired by a true story based on my youth and high school days growing up with the physical challenge of cerebral palsy. The movie is set in the mid-1980s and has awesome 80s hit songs that emotionally relate to the scenes.

“Triumph” is about a bright and determined high school senior (played by RJ Mitte) who strives one last time to be a wrestler despite having cerebral palsy and goes to humorous lengths to try to win over the heart of a classmate, the girl of his dreams.

I wrote “Triumph” to not only entertain people, but also to help promote awareness and understanding of cerebral palsy. Some people tend to think they know what they first see, and that automatic pre-judgment can lead to damaging actions such as bullying, discrimination and exclusion of people with cerebral palsy and other disabilities. Knowledge replaces ignorance.

Cerebral palsy is not a disease. Cerebral palsy (CP) is usually caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain before, during or after birth. In my case, the umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck during my breech birth, causing a lack of oxygen to some areas of my brain that control motor/muscle function. My coordination and speech are affected, but do not hinder me much. I strive to live life to the fullest. From living with extra challenges, I have developed more determination to try to triumph over all challenges I face — to fight the good fight and never give up.

A banner promoting The Mighty's new Our CP Journey group on The Mighty mobile app. The banner reads, Join Our CP Journey — a supportive and uplifting space for anyone who has cerebral palsy. Let's help each other find the courage to keep going. Click to join.

I wanted an actor who has cerebral palsy like myself, so I reached out to RJ Mitte’s representatives. I worked to get RJ on board for the lead role. In my opinion, RJ could win some awards for his amazing and heartfelt performance in “Triumph.” He is already a nominee for the 2020 Ruderman Family Foundation Seal of Authentic Representation award.

RJ Mitte and Michael

I am very happy that Terrence Howard plays the role of Coach Cutting, who is based on the coach who helped me one-on-one with exercises in the eighth grade. Terrence is a strong, compelling actor with heart and soul.

In the spirit of “Rudy” and “The Karate Kid,” I believe “Triumph” will grip and uplift its audience, inspiring them with a powerful story of love, friendship and the triumph of the human spirit. Win from within!

I am hoping “Triumph” will help even more with disability inclusion in the film industry so that people with disabilities can have more opportunities to share their talent. Today there is an increasing Hollywood movement for disability inclusion and authenticity in film (i.e. “The Peanut Butter Falcon”) and more awareness of the anti-bullying movement. With the strong awakening of these important movements, these themes in “Triumph “are now more relevant than ever.

Disability understanding and inclusion matter. Pursue your dreams with passion and never give up. Believe in yourself. Believe to achieve!

Originally published: June 10, 2020
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