BYU Alumnus’ Film About Disability Selected For Prestigious Hollywood Film Festival


A Brigham Young University alumnus’ film about disability has been entered into Hollywood’s prestigious independent film festival Dances With Films. Andrew Justvig, centre, is pictured with colleagues on set last year. (Andrew Justvig)

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SALT LAKE CITY — After Brigham Young University alumnus Andrew Justvig and his crew wrapped filming a movie he wrote and starred in about living with cerebral palsy, the director told him he would submit it to film festivals, but told him not to hope. .

When he recently learned that the production had become a prestigious independent Hollywood film festival Dances With Films, “I probably lay on the ground for an hour in shock,” said Justvig.

“For me, what attracted me was the fact that my film was going to premiere at the TCL Chinese Theater, where many of the most iconic films debuted, such as ‘Star Wars’ and ‘ “Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins,” Justvig said. Thusday.

“Of course, I hope this will potentially help me find future work as a writer and/or as an actor. I’ve worked on scripts and pitches for other feature films and some television pilots. However, regardless of what happens to me personally, I hope ‘The Anxiety of Laughing’ helps this movement achieve greater representation of the disability community in film and television,” said Justvig about his movie’s upcoming Los Angeles premiere.

“The Anxiety of Laughing” tells the story of a stand-up comedian with cerebral palsy who helps his fiancee – who is capable – through their challenges. It also explores the main character’s dynamic with his fiancée’s mother, who is hesitant about her daughter’s relationship.

Justvig, who was born with cerebral palsy, originally wrote the film as a play while attending UC-Riverside for his master’s degree. But the opportunity arose last year to film it for a streaming network with one of his teachers, veteran filmmaker Robin Russin, directing.

Justvig said he wanted to explore what it really means to be disabled.

“And I really wanted to show that in my own life, people don’t see me and my wife when we’re alone. The truth is, I do a lot of cleaning, because my wife has a job to do. full time, and now a baby. I’ve really become the go-to partner, so that’s kind of the context,” he explained.

With Russin’s connections in the industry, they eventually decided to film the script as an original film with professional help from Fujifilm. On a shoestring budget and without support from traditional movie platforms, they filmed at Justvig’s in-laws last year while the in-laws were sent on vacation.

The actors were so invested in the story that they “just made it happen,” completing filming in just five days, Russin said.

“For me, oddly enough, it was the easiest shoot I’ve ever done, because everyone was working like clockwork together and really paying attention,” Russin said, explaining that he worked on shows like “America’s Most Wanted” and various theater projects.

The Disability Media Network streaming service will eventually air the film, but Justvig doesn’t know when that will happen yet.

The Dances With Film festival takes place from June 9 to 19. “The Anxiety of Laughing” premieres June 14 at the festival.

For updates on the film, visit his social media account on Instagram @theanxietyoflaughing.

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