I Don't Know How You Do It

Changing the World One Story at a Time, with Filmmaker Allison Norlian

November 28, 2023 Jessica Fein Season 1 Episode 46
I Don't Know How You Do It
Changing the World One Story at a Time, with Filmmaker Allison Norlian
Show Notes Transcript

Have you heard these myths about films that break barriers and challenge perceptions? Myth #1: Only controversial films can challenge societal norms. Myth #2: Mainstream audiences are not interested in watching films that challenge the status quo. Myth #3: Creating diverse films is just a trend and not a lasting movement. 

In this episode, our guest Allison Norlian will debunk these myths and reveal the truth behind creating impactful and diverse films that challenge mainstream narratives.

Allison Norlian is an experienced journalist, writer, and filmmaker. She's a three-time Emmy nominee and the co-founder of Birdmine, a production company that focuses on amplifying the voices and stories of marginalized communities, including people with disabilities. 

Inspired by her older sister and with a passion for challenging mainstream narratives, Allison utilizes her filmmaking skills to create impactful documentaries and narrative films. Currently, she's in post-production for her documentary titled "Meandering Scars," which took her on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and is also finishing up a short film called "13." 

Allison has received a Catalyst for Change award from the ARC of Virginia and an Emmy nomination for an investigation that exposed neglect and abuse at an assisted living facility. Through her films, Allison strives to change the world one story at a time, advocating for inclusivity and challenging the way society views disability. 

In this episode you'll:

  • Discover the power of inclusive storytelling in independent films and unlock new perspectives that challenge mainstream narratives
  • Hear how one mother's commitment to her family changed the perceptions of an entire community
  • Find out what it's like to advocate for inclusivity and diversity in filmmaking, creating impactful content that reflects the world we live in
  • Learn why diversity in the stories we share is more important now than every before
  • And so much more...

Learn more:
Allison on Instagram
Allison on Facebook
Birdmine on Instagram
Birdmine Website

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Music credit: Limitless by Bells


Jessica Fein: Welcome. I'm Jessica Fein, and this is the “I don’t know how you do it" podcast where we talk to people whose lives seem unimaginable from the outside and dive into how they're able to do things that look undoable.

I'm so glad you're joining me on this journey, and I hope you enjoy the conversation. Welcome back to the show. Over the last several months, we've spoken with so many parents of children with all kinds of different disabilities. And one of the things we've spoken about is what life is like for the siblings of these children.

Today's guest, Allison Norlian, has an older sister who is severely disabled and who has had a major, major impact on her life. Allison became a journalist and filmmaker to speak for people who are often [00:01:00] voiceless like her sister, Becky. She's a three time Emmy nominated journalist, writer, and co founder of Birdmine, a production company focused on amplifying the voices and stories of people with disabilities and other groups underrepresented within society.

With Birdmine, Allison writes and produces short and long form documentaries and narrative films. Allison is currently in post production for a documentary titled Meandering Scars, and she went on a massive adventure in the course of filming this documentary. And she's also finishing up a short film she wrote titled Thirteen, which we're going to talk about quite a bit.

I have so much in common with the theme of this movie, and it's actually why I reached out to Allison initially. And I'm so glad that I did. Allison has used her platform to highlight important issues impacting people with disabilities and other vulnerable and disenfranchised communities. She won a Catalyst for Change Award from the Arc of Virginia for the impact of her reporting, and [00:02:00] an Emmy nomination for an investigation exposing neglect and abuse at an assisted living facility.

Allison's goal as a filmmaker is to change the world one story at a time. I am so excited to introduce you to Allison Norlian. Welcome to the show. I am so glad to have you with us. Thank you for having me. Let's start off hearing about your journey from journalism to the world of filmmaking. 

Allison Norlian: I was a journalist for the better part of a decade.

And the reason that I even entertained the possibility of filmmaking was because I moved to LA in 2018, not for my own career, but for my husband's career. He's a screenwriter. Over the years, my business partner and I, we co founded Birdmine, our production company. We had talked about one day starting a documentary production company because documentary is very much an extension of journalism. And fast forward to 2020, I had been furloughed from a full [00:03:00] time job and Cody approached me and said, do you want to do this now? Do you want to start this company? That's where we began. It felt like a very natural progression to continue in documentary, but to also enter the narrative space as well.

I knew that I didn't want to stay in television news anymore. I was honestly on this journey of just trying to figure out what I was supposed to do next. Yeah, and then we ended up starting this company, which we're working on our first big documentary and short film, and it's been sort of a twisty journey.

Jessica Fein: How did you come up with the name Birdmine? What does that mean?

Allison Norlian: Have you ever heard of the Canary in the Coal Mine? 

Jessica Fein: That's a police song. 

Allison Norlian: Yeah, so the Canary in the Coal Mine is this, you know, back in the, I don't even know the time period, but like when coal miners were looking to see whether or not there was danger, whether they were about to enter into a mine that was going to somehow collapse or harm them, they would send canaries [00:04:00] in.

It was like, they would alert them to the danger within. And so as journalists and filmmakers, we're trying to tell stories that are impactful to our audiences and Essentially, to alert people to important happenings, whether it be the stories happening around the world, or alerting people to the realities they should know about and untold stories through our filmmaking.

So, Birdine came from that, and my business partner, Cody, his mother passed away when he was young, and she was a big Peanuts fan, and she loved Woodstock, and so that sort of played into the bird part. And then my mother designed our logo. My mom's an artist. And so our moms are very much part of our creation.

And yeah, so that's how Birdmine came about. 

Jessica Fein: Well, I love that your moms are both part of your creation. And in fact, one of the films that you've been working on. focuses quite a bit on your mother. You've said both as a journalist and a filmmaker, your goal was to give a [00:05:00] voice to the voiceless. This film that we're going to talk about features your mom, but when you think about the voiceless, I know one of the people who's so important to you, who you're trying to give voice to her story is your sister Becky.

Tell us about Becky. 

Allison Norlian: Becky is six years older than me. She's 40. So I'm 34. My mother was a single mother and raised us by herself. And Becky is severely developmentally disabled. When she was born, actually, they didn't know that she was disabled, you know, normal birth and all these things. And at around one, my mom started noticing some developmental Issues that were happening and she was diagnosed and actually at the time they didn't have the testing to tell my mom what might have happened before birth and eventually my mom brought my sister when she was already an adult to try to figure that out and it ended up I believe being like a chromosomal abnormality and it was like nothing anyone could have done and it was not genetic and it was sort of just [00:06:00] Things happen.

She doesn't even have an exact diagnosis. She presents herself like she has a syndrome of some sort with autistic characteristics. She's vocal but she's not verbal. And she's 40 years old and she's got developmental disabilities. She needs 24 hour care. Growing up as the sibling to someone with a disability, it was all I knew.

I was the second child and so it was very quote unquote normal for me. She was just Becky. I didn't think of her in any other way other than just she was my sister, and I really didn't have a full grasp on the fact that society views her as being different until I became older and started seeing how the world treated my sister and sort of by default treated my mother and me and my family.

So yeah, Becky is very important to me. She obviously is my sister, so that's part of the reason, but she taught me so much without even having to do anything. Her existence taught me so much about compassion [00:07:00] and Differences and how beautiful differences are. And yeah, she influenced me and my entire life.

I mean, I went into my career because of Becky. I still continue in the filmmaking I'm doing because of Becky. The films that I'm working on now are very disability driven and focused stories because my whole goal is to change the way the world views disability. Because I feel like the world views disability in such a honestly horrific way and if the world would just open their eyes and realize that disabled people live just as beautiful lives as a non disabled person and beauty shouldn't be determined by non disabled people because we all have different versions of beauty and contentment and that accessibility Is a reality we could all benefit from, disabled or not.

Like, these are all things that I'm trying to explain and messages I'm trying to push with the content and the films that I'm producing. 

Jessica Fein: Okay. I [00:08:00] absolutely love every single thing you just said. I have like 27 follow up questions. One of the things that strikes me as so gorgeous is, as you know, and as I've spoken about quite a bit on the show, my daughter Dalia, who passed away one week after her 17th birthday, had an insidious progressive disease and was medically complex and severely disabled.

And, like you, I feel like I have learned more from her than from any other human being. I am not the person I was before I had the great fortune to become her mother. And, her siblings are, no question, the human beings they are because of her. They're 21 and 16 now, so we don't know where their journeys will lead them, but I am certain that wherever their journeys take them will be influenced by being Dalia’s siblings.

And in fact, the reason that I found you was because of this one particular film that [00:09:00] I can't wait for you to share about. 13, which is about your sister's bat mitzvah. Yes. So please tell us a bit about that and how you had the idea to take this event, which was so pivotal for you and for so many other people and to make it into a movie. 

Allison Norlian: Becky's bat mitzvah happens, you know, several decades ago. She's 40 now. And it's funny because I was 6 years younger than her, but it still had such a profound influence on me because it's something that stuck out in my mind since the day it happened and that is for a few reasons.

My mom was always such a huge advocate for my sister and really wanted her to experience milestones that everyone experienced. And so later on in life, Becky went to prom. Becky always celebrated Halloween. Becky always came to all our family functions. Like Becky was always. there and included and my mother made that very clear that that was extremely important to her and our family.

So I think Becky's bat [00:10:00] mitzvah really struck me because I remember, I mean I was a kid, but I remember the emotions of the day. Like I remember how many people were crying and emotional and crying happy tears because it was a beautiful moment because her bat mitzvah was the first bat mitzvah for someone who is she's not verbal she's vocal but she's not verbal and it was you know an extremely modified bat mitzvah obviously it's not your traditional bat mitzvah where you study for nine months to a year the torah and the haftorah and you go on and recite the torah in front of all of these people it was very unique to becky but it was still a bat mitzvah nonetheless and it was just a profound moment in our synagogue's history and in our family's history.

I say all that to say that I think it always stuck out to me. It's always something that was in the back of my mind. The Jewish Federation of South Jersey did a whole write up afterwards and Becky and my mom were on the front page of the paper and it's framed and in our house. I see it every time I come home and I just always thought about [00:11:00] it.

And then one day when I was thinking about writing a film, It just occurred to me, I want to focus on this, because again, my whole thing is I really want to tell unique stories. We see so many of the same stories, and especially when it comes to the Jewish ethnicity, I feel like we're always pigeonholed into very specific characters that are not representative of our community, and so I really wanted to tell a story that showed a part of our community that was different and how progressive we can be and how tradition can be altered to ensure inclusion and how that's actually happening.

That influenced why I wanted to write this, because it was a disability story and also it was a story focused on the Jewish ethnicity and faith that would, I hope, sort of change hearts and minds and also make Jewish people and disabled people feel seen.

Jessica Fein: When your mom decided that she's going to go ahead and do this bat mitzvah and it's the first of its kind in the community, I'm wondering if you know, how did the rabbi or the [00:12:00] cantor or whoever was the clergy at the synagogue, how did they respond?

Did they take some convincing or were they like right in it with her? 

Allison Norlian: So here's an interesting thing. So in my short film, the rabbi takes convincing. He is very focused on tradition and the fact that Jewish people have had to assimilate since the beginning of time and not wanting to modify traditions.

And that's his reasoning, but there's more to his story too. He is a very complex, beautiful character, and I'm not going to spoil the film, but you learn about him and why he made those choices in regards to tradition through the film, because it's not just about assimilation. Anyway, in real life, my mother approached our rabbi, and he was very receptive to the idea.

And they worked together to figure out how to have this bat mitzvah for my sister, because it was something that was not going to be traditional. It was going to have to be modified. So over the years, my mother, my father, my grandfather, they would teach my sister Hebrew songs like the Shma or Adon Olam.

Becky's way of singing those songs is [00:13:00] not the way that you and I would think of someone singing. She vocalizes the songs. in her own way. And so Becky's bat mitzvah was basically my mother and her going on the bima, or the stage for the non Jewish people who watch this, and my mother would sing and Becky would vocalize these Hebrew songs that are pretty traditional songs at like Saturday services, and any service really for the Jewish faith.

So our rabbi and clergy were very receptive, but there have been other rabbis that I've heard of from other friends and family of disabled people who did not have that same experience. 

Jessica Fein: It's so interesting because you were saying a few minutes ago that part of what you're doing with all of the storytelling and the reporting is trying to change the way people view the disabled community.

And I wonder if advocates and moms like your mom really have changed the way people think about it now? Because when I think about Dalia’s bat mitzvah, I was the one who was like, well, I don't know [00:14:00] really how we would do this, right? Dalia couldn't speak. Dalia couldn't walk. And I had had my eldest bar mitzvah a few years prior, and it was, you know, totally traditional.

And I couldn't even visualize it. And I went to the cantor, Cantor Hollis, and I said, I don't know what to do. I think she should have it. And I want the other kids to see her have it. And, you know, she shouldn't be denied this, but what would it look, you know, I was a mile a minute and she was like, okay, stop.

Let's focus on what Dahlia can do. Rather than what she can't do. And she sent me to a place here in the Boston area called Gateways for Jewish Education, which had a whole classroom of kids with different abilities. Some who were non verbal but vocal, some who were absolutely verbal, some like Dalia who were non verbal and non vocal.

All different kinds of conditions who were preparing to have a bar and bat mitzvah. And this was such a magical place because really we went for a year. Dalia and I went every Sunday and we studied. And these kids learned and these kids got to know each other and [00:15:00] another beautiful aspect of the program is that each child is matched with a tutor who's a high school student.

So the high schoolers are really learning so much. It was a totally gorgeous experience. And I'm wondering if, you know, here we are decades later past Becky's, but I think people like Becky and your mom have paved the way for things like Gateways for Jewish Education and for people like me and Dahlia to be able to have celebrated her bat mitzvah.

And in fact, her bat mitzvah was such an important thing to me that, you know, my memoir is coming out and her bat mitzvah was originally the ending because it was such a joyous event for all of us. And I think so important, not only for Dalia. And for me, but for Dalia’s siblings, for my other kids, and for the community as a whole, as you said.

Allison Norlian: Yeah, yeah, and I'm sure my mother would love to hear that, you know, that she maybe was the start of some revolution in a way, and I do think she was, because like I said, at our synagogue, it was just not something that was happening, and my mom [00:16:00] was very adamant about making it happen, she believed her daughter deserved every milestone that every other child deserves and receives.

I mean, my mom is, is amazing. Like, I don't even have the right adjective to describe her. She's a hero. We used to say this about my grandfather, her father, but I also believe it about my mom that if there is a God, that God threw out the mold when he or she, it made them. Because they're just such unique people.

You just don't really find, at least I have never really found people specifically like my mother and my grandfather and my grandmother, for that matter, she's just a fighter. She's an advocate. She cares deeply about equality and humanity. She wasn't even doing it with that in mind. Like she was just living her life as a mother and doing what you would hope a good mother would do.

And I was watching her and I took that all in. 

Jessica Fein: Okay, so first of all, I hope that she would agree to be a guest on this podcast, because she sounds like such a hero. We need to have her on the show. [00:17:00] How did she respond when you told her you were inspired to make this film based on her and based on Becky's bat mitzvah?

Allison Norlian: She was emotional. And then when I sent her the script, she was crying and Yeah, she was very, very emotional and couldn't believe it. You know, I think it was one of those things where you view your own life as not being as entertaining or exciting, or view your 

Jessica Fein: Or important. 

Allison Norlian: Or important. Yeah, yeah. I think she was surprised.

But I also think for so long as a child, I did not feel seen. So I am working in my career to make other people feel seen, especially people who have disabled siblings or who are disabled and honestly who are Jewish, because it's been such an interesting experience growing up as a Jewish person with a single parent and a severely disabled sister.

It often felt very isolating within the Jewish community because I was so different. With our single parent household and my sister. I didn't know anyone else like my sister. I just [00:18:00] never quite felt like I fit in anywhere, and that was very difficult for me as a child. I think that's why I became a journalist in the first place in order to change the way the world views disability, so people like me and my family don't have to go through what we went through.

And to hopefully create a better world where differences are celebrated and supported. 

Jessica Fein: Before this film, you had been focusing on documentaries, and then you moved into doing a scripted film. And I'm wondering, with this particular story, why did you decide to do it as a scripted film and not as a documentary?

Allison Norlian: Because it was focused on my sister's story, and I mean, to be able to do a documentary for an event that happened, you know, over 20 years ago, there was really no documentation other than these newspaper clippings that we have from the Federation and our synagogue also did a story about it. So it was a little bit easier, I think, for me to tell the story narratively than [00:19:00] as a documentary. 

Jessica Fein: So what was it like to cast this film to cast somebody to play Becky to cast your mother and presumably to cast you? 

Allison Norlian: So I'm not in the film. I left the little sister out. But it's interesting because I was very adamant about casting authentically because that is such a point of contention in Hollywood, especially because Jewish people are often not as Jewish characters.

And I want to add that I don't necessarily have a problem with this all the time. I think an actor is an actor and an actor should be able to dive in and play whatever part they want to play. That's the whole point of acting. But I do think that there's something to be said about casting authentically.

I mean, definitely when it comes to the disabled community, 100%. But when it comes to the Jewish community, because there is such a unique perspective a Jewish actor will bring to a role that's a Jewish role. And I saw that with my own film. I know actors who are bigger, who [00:20:00] I could have maybe asked to do this film, but it was very important to me, like I said, to cast Jewish actors, because I knew they would bring something to the film that someone who is not Jewish, they would not necessarily be able to bring because they have the history, the understanding of what it means to be Jewish.

And so we went on a search and I was a little bit nervous about finding someone to play the role inspired by my sister because I wanted to cast correctly. I wanted it to be a person who is disabled and who could identify with my sister. And obviously, you know, my sister's disability is very specific, but I know that a disabled person specifically with autism, because Becky has autistic characteristics.

would really be able to hone in on her and on, you know, her mannerisms and her experience. And I got really lucky with the role inspired by my sister. Several months prior to doing this, this woman, Judith, had reached out to me. Judith was an executive producer on our film, but I didn't know her at the time.

And she reached out to me because I was a [00:21:00] digital journalist at the time and I was pumping out stories for Forbes Women and I was working on a series called Seen, spotlighting disability representation in Hollywood. And so Judith had reached out to me to say she was the mother of a disabled actor and You know, I saw your articles and they're so wonderful.

And also I had been writing a lot of Jewish focused articles at the time as well. And she was like, I'm Jewish. And I really appreciate those articles. And we kind of connected on that. And then she told me a little bit about her daughter, Naomi, who was in a few different shows as we see it and atypical.

And so that was it. You know, but I remembered her when I was going to cast this film and I had seen Naomi in these various series. And I was like, wow, she would be. Perfect. I mean, she's Jewish and she has autism and she is great at acting and honestly it hit me one night at like 2 a. m. Like I was going back and forth trying to figure out how I was going to find someone to play my sister and I remember I woke up at 2 a.m. and was like, “Naomi Rubin!” [00:22:00] And so I contacted her mom, Judith, and I told her about the story. I was like, I'm happy to send you the script, but I think Naomi would be perfect for this part. And that's literally what happened. I sent the script, they loved it. And Naomi came on board and she was fantastic.

I mean, she embodied my sister in a way that I cannot even, it was so beautiful. It was so beautiful. She's so charismatic and authentic. And she brought something to the role that no one else could have brought. Naomi brought it and it was a gorgeous, gorgeous performance. And then we cast Jewish actors for her mom.

Rena Strober is another Jewish actress who plays the role inspired by my mom. And she's amazing and has. Done various shows and productions. And then David Pevsner plays the rabbi. He's also Jewish. And so they understood the material because they've all been there. They've all had bar and bat mitzvahs.

And honestly, like with Rena, she's worked with disabled people and she's studying to be a cantor right now. So there was so much authenticity that was [00:23:00] brought by these actors. I'm so excited because the film is going to be amazing. 

Jessica Fein: What did it feel like when you were filming the actual bat mitzvah scene?

What did it feel like for you to be back there? 

Allison Norlian: Oh, I cried. There's a photo. Yeah, that was very emotional scene for me. I was watching and I just, I just lost it. 

Jessica Fein: Well I always say if it doesn't make you laugh or cry, then you're not telling the story well. So there you go.

Allison Norlian: I cried because it really did. It brought me back to that day.

And like I said, Naomi really embodied my sister. So it was very emotional to see her and the relationship that her and Rena had created as a mother daughter. It was my mom and my sister and it was so beautiful and emotional. It was very, not difficult for me to see, but it was touching. It brought out, you know, a lot of feelings and emotions.

Jessica Fein: You have another film coming soon that you helped film, write and produced called Meandering Scars. Yes. What is that one about? 

Allison Norlian: So, Meandering Scars, that's our [00:24:00] first film that we've been working on since 2020 and that is a full length documentary film. And it's about a woman who was paralyzed in a domestic violence incident in her 20s.

And she spent the better part of two decades with suicidal ideation and depression. And then in 2019, she discovered a non profit that helps people with disabilities compete in obstacle course racing. So like the Spartan Race, Tough Mudders, I don't know if you've ever heard of those. And she started doing it and it really changed her life.

And she decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise awareness about suicide and mental health struggles in the disability community. And by the way, Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. It's the rooftop of Africa. So we followed her for two years leading up to the climb in her everyday life.

We went back to the accident site for the first time with her since she was paralyzed. We met her family and her friends and watched her as she trained for this monumental feat. And then we went with her to Kilimanjaro. [00:25:00] 

Jessica Fein: Oh my, okay. All right. So first of all, she's paralyzed. How did she climb Kilimanjaro?

Allison Norlian:So a few different ways. She had a sport wheelchair. It was made for rough terrain. So she had that type of wheelchair. So there were certain parts of the mountain where she could push herself. And so every time there was a flat surface, that's what she did. But she had a team, so members of her team here in the U.S. came with her to Kilimanjaro. And there were various ways that they helped her up the mountain. I won't go into all the specifics because it is part of the film, but you'll just have to see exactly how they assisted her up the mountain. But one of the biggest crucial parts of this is that she wanted to do as much as she could on her own, and so that was a huge part of this.

Jessica Fein: How long does it take to climb Kilimanjaro? 

Allison Norlian: So it's a seven day trek. It's five days up and two days down. 

Jessica Fein: And you went with her as a film crew? Yes, I did it. Did you personally need to [00:26:00] train physically to do that?

Allison Norlian: Yeah, it was two years of training, of strength training, of hiking constantly. It was a lot.

It was, it was a lot. Cause I had never intended on mountain climbing. You know, that's not like my thing. It was definitely an interesting experience, but yes, myself and the other filmmakers who were part of our crew. We all went up with her and we were filming. 

Jessica Fein: Wow. How many people were in the crew?

Allison Norlian: So the film crew was five of us.

It was my business partner, me, our DP, and we had two other videographers. So one person was like on drones and GoPro, and the rest of us were shooting or filming with our cameras. And then her crew was made up of like seven to ten people. 

Jessica Fein: There was a big team of you going up and coming down.

Allison Norlian: Yeah, there was a team and some things happened to that you would never expect.

So yeah. 

Jessica Fein: Okay. Lots of cliffhangers here, [00:27:00] literally and figuratively, I guess. Lots of cliffhangers. How do we see that film? 

Allison Norlian: So that one's going to take a little bit longer. It's in post production as well. We're hoping that it'll be done by mid to late next year. We have a distribution company that's given us a letter of intent.

So once we get the first cut of the film, we're going to send it to them. The hope is that it'll end up on a streaming service of some sort. TBD. TBD. 

Jessica Fein: Okay. Now I have to ask, you did not consider yourself a mountain climber in any way prior to this. Having now climbed Kilimanjaro, which I think many people who are in fact mountain climbers aspire to, you have now done that.

Are you like, what's the next mountain? Like you're turned on to this or are you like, there's no way I'm ever doing that again. 

Allison Norlian: Never again. 

Jessica Fein: Gotcha. Okay. All right. You did that. So then, my question is, what is next for you and what is next for Birdmine? 

Allison Norlian: Well, we're working on some new scripts right now, and the hope for Birdmine is that we are an independent film company, production company, where we [00:28:00] are creating both documentary and narrative independent films.

And hopefully one day we're successful enough where other people who are driven in the same way we are to tell underrepresented, unique stories that are not often told in mainstream filmmaking and media, they can work under the Birdmine name, like something where we can finance them. And we're just executive producers on the film, but they have all of the pull, if you will, on their own films.

Sort of, I don't know if you know A24's model. They very much do this, but with scary movies and horror. We hope to do that with just social justice driven content films. Right now, both those films are in post production and we're both working on some new scripts. We'll see what happens. 

Jessica Fein: Okay, last question.

What do you hope the audience, for these films and for the future work that you're going to do, what do you hope they take away? 

Allison Norlian: I really do hope that audiences see the beauty of diversity and difference. [00:29:00] And I hope it changes the way the world views disability. And honestly, we're living in such a weird time, and I feel like we've lost something.

Like, we've lost something in our society. And maybe it was never there, and maybe I was just naive, but... This beauty of diversity and difference, all of a sudden it feels like everyone's pitted against each other. And I hope that these films, even with Thirteen, right, it's a very Jewish film, obviously, but I believe that it's a narrative that no matter what your religion or ethnicity is, you can understand.

Because we all have tradition, we all have these various experiences that we grew up with, and... We're all hopefully working towards a progressive future where everyone's included. And so I believe everyone can relate to that sort of narrative. And so I really hope that it reminds people of their humanity and the fact that even despite our different ethnicities and religions, at the end of the day, We are literally all the same.

And as cliche as that sounds, and [00:30:00] I just hope it reminds people of that. 

Jessica Fein: I love that. I cannot wait to see both of these films and to see every other thing you ever work on through Birdmine because I can tell already how incredibly special. Every project you touch is. Thank you so much for sharing your story, for sharing your mother's story and Becky's story and all the other stories that you share through your work.

I'm so glad to know you. 

Allison Norlian: Thank you so much for having me. 

Jessica Fein: Here are my takeaways from the conversation with Allison. Number one, beauty should not be determined by non disabled people. We all have different versions of beauty and contentment. Number two, sometimes we're just living our lives and doing what we're doing as a mother or a friend or whatever, and someone else is watching and taking it in.

Allison's mom cares deeply about equality and humanity, and lives her life accordingly, and that's made a lifelong difference for Allison. Number three, we all have our own abilities and traditions and experiences, and despite our differences, we are all the same. That feels especially important to recognize and acknowledge in these [00:31:00] crazy times.

I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you know somebody else who you think would like it, forward it along to them. I am so excited about the episodes between now and the end of the year. I have fantastic guests lined up. So go ahead and follow the show. It will automatically download into your feed and have a great day.

Thanks so much. Talk to you next time.