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  • Writer's pictureCandis

Creativity is taking Shape at AT&T Shape Conference 2018

I was recently invited to attend the 3rd Annual AT&T Shape Conference in Los Angeles, CA. Located on the Warner Brother’s Studio Lot, it was the perfect location for the tech meets creativity conference!

Upon arriving at AT&T SHAPE, via Access Para-transit Transportation Service, registration was a breeze for me due to an AT&T Shape employee quickly routing me to the first available registration booth for my 2-day wristband, which would give me access for both days of the conference, the Studio Lot guided tour, the Studio 48 interactive tour and all the exhibits and moderated talks. I did notice that there weren’t any pamphlets regarding the schedules of the panels, activities or exhibits; everything was online via the main site

After registration, I saw a shuttle and inquired about an ADA accessible option and to my surprise he was operating an ADA accessible shuttle! I proceeded to board the shuttle and noticed that the automatic ramp was discreetly hidden to the left-hand side and worked quietly and without any hiccups.

Upon speaking with the driver, he informed me that this years conference would host up to 15,000 people within the next two days!!! Needless to say, it was gonna be quite a busy weekend full of emerging content creators and fans of creativity and true diversity.

During my quick ride to the main entrance, my driver kindly alerted the Warner Brothers studio guided tour attendants that I was interested in taking my tour now; this would eliminate any possible wait time for an ADA accessible shuttle. The guided tour is supposed to be approximately 45 minutes, however with a couple hop on/hop off stops at different sound stages… the tour went a bit longer… about an hour and a half. The tour guide gave a lot of great history on the Studio and some of the celebrities that had graced the studio from its 1900’s roots.

The tour is quite fascinating and I highly recommend anyone who goes to the Warner Brothers Studio to take a guided tour! Here are a few photos from the recent Wonder Woman movie; all the costumes are the original movie production clothes worn by the actors.

After the tour I decided it was time for me to attempt to buy some food before my first panel at 1:45pm. By this time the sun was out with little shade to cool you down, and the conference was in full swing with large crowds everywhere. The food options at the conference were several gourmet food trucks, however if you’ve been to any type of festival or conference in the last five years you already know food truck lines are notoriously long and they don’t appear to move quickly. This was no different.

I sat in line over 45 minutes for ONE slice of pizza but after waiting so long with little movement in the line, I ended up giving up, walking away without any food, because I didn’t want to miss my first scheduled panel. Luckily, I was able to find a small café next to soundstage 29, which was hosting all the panel talks. At the cafe, named Central Perk after the infamous Friends TV show, I was able to grab a quick iced coffee and a bag of chips. which inevitably held me over for the remainder of the day. Creators:The San Francisco-based team includes Cameo Wood, Alexa Fraser-Herron, Ryon Lane, Tamlyn Tomita, and Tiffany Hines

My first panel was Fans as Creators, Creators as Fans, the title intrigued me as I can understand how fans can become the content creators that are effectively changing the scope of entertainment. It was still very informative and had a nice diverse panel of speakers. My second panel was a bit later in the day; one of the most anticipated talks during the conference, AT&T Film Awards featuring Ava DuVernay, Director and Filmmaker and David Christopher, President of AT&T Mobility and Entertainment. During this panel attendees were able to view and vote (in real time) on three short films in the Emerging Filmmaker category.

I. Filmmaker: Bola Ogun / Comedy: Are We Good Parents? Category: Best Emerging Filmmaker Bola Ogun created a short about a couple who has preconceived notions about their daughter’s sexuality and wonders whether or not they’ve raised her with acceptance.

II. Filmmakers: The San Francisco-based team includes Cameo Wood, Alexa Fraser-Herron, Ryon Lane, Tamlyn Tomita, and Tiffany Hines.

Sci-Fi/Thriller: Real Artists Category: Best Emerging Filmmaker Real Artists is a glimpse into a world where the future of work is sometimes dependent upon our ability to work with AI in artistic endeavors. Watch the trailer here

III. Filmmaker: Jonah D. Ansell / Animation/Drama: MOOSE

MOOSE, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, asks the question: can you see another as your brother? The animated short follows a teenage moose who watches his father get killed by hunters.

Are We Good Parents? by Bola Ogun

My favorite of the three was Are We Good Parents?, however, in consideration of the current political and culture divide we are experiencing domestically and aboard, I can see how Moose would be a game-changer among all ages.

Unlike traditional awards, AT&T introduced a plot twister, there was a three way tie in the Emerging Filmmaker Award category! All three contestants won! Each filmmaker won $20,000.00 for a total of $60,000.00.

After my first panel, I decided to check out some of the exhibits and free activities that were available to the attendees. Unfortunately, I quickly noticed that many of the exhibits, if not all, were not accessible and most of the activities that were directly linked to the free gifts/swag were also inaccessible. I also noticed that the courtesy water hydration stations provided by TekSystems, located throughout the conference, were not accessible. The stations were either on an elevated platform with no ramp or the machines were too high for an individual with a disability or someone using a mobility device such as a wheelchair to access. Luckily there was a kind gentleman that offered to assist me with getting water but this infuriated me so I immediately begin seeking out some information on how this could be fixed!

I was directed to the information booth regarding the water and accessibility and after voicing my complaints to two AT&T staff I was surprised to learn that no one had complained about the water not being accessible. This shocked me because throughout my time at the conference I noticed multiple people using wheelchairs, canes and/or walkers. How could I be the first to complain?!?! Did these other attendees not notice that there was no accessible water options? That the exhibits weren’t accessible?!?!

I was also told that the exhibits were accessible via portable ramps purchased however the ramps were not deployed out today … apparently someone must’ve “forgot” to put them out. Once again I was the first want to bring this to their attention. Mind you this was after 2pm, the conference hours were from 10am-8pm. This had me wondering… was I the only one noticing this or were the other disabled attendees just not interested in sparking the conversation?

I was quickly told that the water issue would be fixed immediately and ramps would be available within an hour, now I’m no stranger to someone trying to pacify me just so they can “shut me up” or even worse, brush me aside and not deal with the issue, however, I was elated to see as I exited my final panel that there were multiple accessible water machines available to those attendees with mobility limitations and I was able to see ramps deployed and available for the exhibits and the activities.

There were two gentlemen that help to me with the ramp at the Samsung exhibit/activity and they informed me that ramps would be available all day on Day 2, when my face showed a little bit of skepticism, one of the gentlemen offered me his phone number in case I ran into any issues. At this very moment I felt like I made an impact at the AT&T Shape Conference because I took the initiative to speak up and saw an immediate change that would influence someone’s experience later that day and the next day to follow and hopefully I would spark the conversations for years to come so that this type of situation of inaccessibility would not happen again; that we would not be a second thought or treated like were were invisible but we would be apart of the first conversation when considering accessibility for everyone.

This just proves that speaking up whether it be one person or 1000, when you speak up and voice your concerns, you can impact change. I feel like many members of the disabled community have unconsciously learned to stop speaking up, to stop challenging the unjust because we have always been told “no” or told to just “deal with it” because no one cares….but that’s not living life.. your life is not meant to just “deal” but it’s to be lived vibrantly, it’s our job to make people respect us, to acknowledge our existence… because WE MATTER!

After seeing such a swift change by the AT&T organizers I decided to return for Day 2 of the conference and was excited to really enjoy the AT&T Shape experience in its full capacity.

Although the event was scheduled to end at 8pm, I decided to call it an early day and leave around 6:30pm but not before indulging in the Samsung Experience, which included creating my own personal emoji and then having that emoji imprinted on my own personal tote bag which for me was amazing because I love tote bags. I was also able to enjoy a little bit of the after hours carnival. The carnival was sponsored by LG and featured arcade games, slit walkers, popcorn, funnel cakes and the best part (in my opinion) two free drink tickets!

Overall Day 1 came with a lot of new and amazing experiences and also a lot of personal advocating, but for my first conference experience as a professional blogger, I must say I was pleasantly surprised on how it would inspire me.

Arriving at Day 2 at AT&T Shape Conference was a lot less chaotic, less crowds, food lines were under a 10 minute wait and the calm was nice! Although there were great panels lined up for Day 2, the two that were making major noise was the highly anticipated Issa Rae and Sean “Diddy” Combs panels. I was not going to miss either, especially since they were back to back.

First panel up was A Conversation w/ Issa Rae, moderated by Khadi Don. Issa Rae created a very easy and fresh vibe within her conversation allowing for audience interaction as well as learning opportunities for new and up-and-coming content creators looking to find their lane in entertainment. Check out the amazing soundbites from the panel.

Next panel picked right up where Issa Rae left off, Sean “Diddy” Combs created a true experience to a maximum capacity audience talking about everything from Bad Boy, Sean John, Ciroc all leading up to his most recent endeavor, Revolt TV. Check out the soundbites below.

Overall, I throughly enjoyed my time at AT&T Shape and would defintely recommend it to anyone looking to network, learn and engage with content creator who are interested in changing the script. Personally, it inspired me to consider tapping into my filmmaker juju and making a film about the disABLED community and changing what it looks like to be in a modified world.

Until next time, this is my world.... on wheelz!

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