Rivals or Friends: Tamara Mena Conveys an Important Message in her Easter Seals Disability Film Entry

By Tamara Mena

Producer of See BeyondTV, actress, speaker, model and influencer, Tamara Mena participated in the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge for the first time as a producer and actress, co-starring with the beautiful model, Dru Presta! Her short film “Rivals or Friends” is here and we want to share it with all of you. If you believe in their message of empowerment and inclusion, please share their short film, not only support them in the challenge but to inspire change in the media and promote people with disabilities. 

Learn more about it from Tamara:

How did the film come to be? Well, I already knew that I wanted to do this challenge, but I was so nervous and kind of overwhelmed about the whole process! Last year, I was intrigued by it, but I didn’t come up with an idea or team, in time, to do it... This year, I became more intrigued because I have been working hard to develop my acting skills over the past year, by attending UCB Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles, one of the best schools for comedy and improv and doing other acting workshops! 

So I thought this could be a great challenge for myself but for a while I did not have a team nor idea at all! My friend, a great actor in a wheelchair, Joe Kibler, was supposed to be my director and help me write this, but then he was booked for an acting gig and said he couldn’t do it… So I kind of got discouraged because I thought I may not be able to execute the project alone. I seriously prayed about it and asked God to help me find the right people to help me do this! 
Behind the scenes - Photo by Chris Matysuk
Out of nowhere, I reconnected with this photographer, Winnie Feliciano, whom I was supposed to do a photoshoot with a while back. We had a conversation about doing a “photo shoot” and somehow we talked about video and it turned out that her boyfriend, Chris Gallardo,is an actor, writer and videographer so I asked her if he would be interested perhaps in my project. They both became very interested and wanted to be part of it of it! Chris was willing to help me write the script and direct the film! So that is what encouraged me to move forward and just do it! 

The interesting thing about this challenge, is that you don’t know the theme or genre until the challenge actually starts and you only have from Friday at 11 AM to Sunday by 6 PM to submit an original and completely produced 3-5min short film! So you can’t really start ahead! Lol

One night, I couldn’t sleep and was in and out of sleep when I just got the idea and vision of model, Dru Presta and myself, co-starring in the film. The next day, I started to develop the idea and concept. My friend, Joe said he loved it! So I decided to move forward with it although we could not write a script until Friday because we didn’t know the genre (which I admit, was kind of nerve wracking)! I reached out to Dru when I had a better idea and she said she loved the concept and that she wanted to do it! I was so thrilled!

I wanted to base it around social media because it is such a huge part of all of us, and I think it is very easy for anyone of us to compare ourselves to others, especially with what you see on social media; typically, only the good things when in reality, we ALL have OUR OWN struggles and  insecurities. I wanted to show that vulnerability, a side that we all have and share, using comedy! 

*Most of all, I wanted this film to have a powerful message!! It’s time for women to start competing LESS, if we really want to get ahead and grow. We need to support one another and help build each other UP NOT DOWN! - especially women with disabilities! In reality, there aren’t many opportunities for us in some fields and I know, we’re all fighting for the few opportunities that do exist so it’s natural that we are competing against one another. If we actually come together and share our talents, we will be more visible and our voices will be heard because together we truly are MORE AND STRONGER!!

Women empowerment is near and dear to my heart because I was raised by a single mother and many of my aunts, who taught me how much women can accomplish when we help one ANOTHER! I believe women have come a long way, but we need to continue to grow and be unified.

Dru and I have actually gotten even closer from THIS experience and we now know one another at a deeper level - it’s been wonderful and very empowering! 
Chris Gallardo, Winnie Feliciano, Dru and Tamara - Photo by Chris Matysuk
The entire team, including actors, videographers & photographers were so amazing!! Winnie Feliciano and Chris Gallardo are very talented and were so open to working with Dru and me! As a matter of fact, they had never worked with someone with a disability, but believed in us so it was a learning experience for all those involved. They were so open about the whole experience and willing to do anything to make the project work! It truly was a team effort, and we all gave it our best!!

*We really need everyone’s help because this is a challenge and basically competition! So the more views and shares etc. that we can get, the more it will help us to win! So please share SHARE away and help us not just to “win” but to promote people with disabilities in film, talent, diversity, AND women coming TOGETHER, supporting one another! 

On a side note, you will be seeing more of me acting because I was cast for a lead role in an upcoming web series and comedy! I can’t wait to share more with you all! Be sure to be on the lookout for Dru because she will be part of a reality TV show!

Thanks to all for your support!

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