31. Using The Arts To Tell Your Story – A Conversation with Nic Novicki


Hello and welcome to the If We Knew Then Podcast I’m Stephen Saux

And I’m Lori Saux

And today we have a return guest Nic Novicki from the Disability Film Challenge. We had such a great first episode with him we want to get a little more personal take and so we thought we’d have him on again.

This episode is filled with a lot of jems that I’ve taken to incorporate to make my journey a little bit more peaceful more beautiful and so I can learn and grow from some of the challenges and we’re so fortunate to have him back his neck neck what a pleasure it is to have you back op thanks so much for having me again I was hoping to get a little more personal with you this time around we talked about inclusion and that’s kind of a big part of our podcast and part of the easterseals disability film challenge is its inclusion how has the lack of that inclusion affected your life you know I’ve grown up as a little person %HESITATION idly enough though they didn’t know I was a little person until I was too because my kind of door for them it’s not detectable until you’re two years old so they didn’t really know I was a little person %HESITATION but ultimately I’ve grown up just being like this is my world I’m a little person and I’m gonna do everything I’m gonna play little league almanac %HESITATION go to recess and some of that time I spent in a a lactic scooter I had a very difficult time walking %HESITATION I was certainly the smallest kid in the history of everywhere I went %HESITATION but I didn’t let that stop me from living my life because this is all I’ve known so I think it’s important for for %HESITATION people with disabilities to just get out there you know and and and be out in the world and I know sometimes it’s easier said than done %HESITATION there are certain places that are not fully accessible and that’s a challenge %HESITATION I grew up before the Americans with disabilities act was passed are the Americans with disabilities act just celebrated its thirtieth anniversary I was passed in nineteen ninety and it’s really great legislation that has helped little people live a more fully inclusive life %HESITATION but when I grew up I just did everything the best I knew and had as much fun and %HESITATION my family was supportive my friends where and I just it I think a lot of times not just with people with disabilities it’s up to you ourselves to have an outlook to say Hey I’m gonna do what I want to do I’m gonna have fun the way I want to have fun and I’m gonna do everything and they do it on my terms and that’s not just the disability community %HESITATION that’s everybody in the world that’s under represented hi I I highly encourage people have that mindset and I know sometimes it’s easier said than done and there’s apps there’s downs I haven’t always been you know optimistic a hundred percent of the time I went through junior high which is a challenging time for me %HESITATION nobody’s perfect everyone even though we see Instagram and everybody looks perfect nobody’s perfect everybody has their own issues things they overcome things they want that they don’t have so I think ultimately it’s it’s a it’s a mindset what do you think that your mindset led to how people around you accepted you because I think of inclusion not only physical inclusion like the eighty eight like actual being able to get into a building being able to use the restroom to help you do things in a physical environment how are you accepted in your life just in social socially with people I was I was always accepted you know honestly I never really got bullied people would say things but I’ve always learned how to be funny and I think I’ve always been good at speaking and so generally you don’t want to attack somebody who’s who’s kind of good with words because %HESITATION I I I I fire back so I as a mechanism always learnt comedy and always learn how to break the ice %HESITATION and I think that that’s something bad %HESITATION then I learned as being the only little person %HESITATION naturally and I think that was probably a combination of my family and my brothers being funny and my family being supportive and my school being supportive and they were always there to provide stools the lower lights I had to do things but also I would say my my parents something that was great about them is my mom was always like look if you want to watch your hands you gotta go get a stool or you should climb and figure out how to get this out of the cabinet %HESITATION so she kind of helped push me off the %HESITATION you know area where I I I needed to be are fully reliant on them so she she she did a good job in making sure I stayed as independent as I could but also I’m making sure the school was was kind of there to do other things that I needed help with so you’ve come to the M. score and use a spoken to the students for a couple years and one thing that you do talk about you tell stories about your mom and her advocacy and I think this is a really great time for you to tell that story because the parents are the same people who are listening there they’re all advocates right so now from your point of view can you just share with us a little bit about your mom’s advocacy yes so %HESITATION my mom as I said was very supportive %HESITATION and she really kinda let me I live my life on my own terms %HESITATION but she was also very supportive with the school I and actually my first day at school she actually came to school with me and she passed out pamphlets to all the kids she’s like here you go there you go here you go this is my son he’s a little person read the pamphlets he adds that she was Gary hi supportive but was very kind to help break the ice with me on my first day of school in not everybody had that and you know I may not have needed that but it also made me feel confident %HESITATION it we passed a book out of I tell the kids of what being a little person is and so that was pretty cool and ultimately I I think the kids once they’re able to ask their question or find out their answer your little white little %HESITATION you’re just little okay then they’re moving on like what’s your favorite color you know so I think kids attention or you know the bullying it is sometimes it’s a lot of it is we just don’t understand in and they’re kind of afraid by their lack of knowledge but then once they get that knowledge or they understand the situation then they’re like oh he’s just a normal kid you know so I I think that that’s that’s an interesting send them again and now through the film sounds as they said we have hundreds of films that are created I really have developed a friendship with our friendship or in queens Sir just gotten to know so many of the families %HESITATION downtown to participants that sentiment sometimes like you in a you know your son has down syndrome and I’ve gotten to know you guys through the process in and it’s not just you I mean there’s countless don’t challenge operative visit I’ve really gotten to know and see first hand how they interact and and also it’s just interesting to see how kids interact with other kids and seeing kids with disabilities at screenings how does the public interact with them and so that’s always something interesting to me and you know I I grew my wife’s a little person I’m a little person I’ve been going to little people conventions my whole life so my exposure to the disability community started with just little people and then through the film challenge that net wide in the in a big way but I love giving back and working with kids and talking with kids I got a little people conventions I coach kids basketball games and I feel like I’m like Pat Riley out there you know I get really intense and I went in on that but I love that you know and and it’s interesting and I think even something else you know knowing you and knowing Liam hi this is a story that that was actually very interesting a friend of a friend I heard them talking about this experience and they know because of my film challenge %HESITATION and how much embedded into the disability community they were saying that their their son %HESITATION it was a little kid and he was about four years older five years old somewhere around there he was in school and he goes to this school and it’s I think it’s like nursery school or daycare with another boy with down syndrome and he was saying all well I don’t like this void because I you know he bites me and you know he does this or that and you’re not supposed to do that so he’s a bad kid and it was interesting because this you know friend or friend of a friend was was saying now is that that’s he’s not a bad you know and and kind of had the first conversation that not everybody is the same and that they just do things in a different way and this is not you know that the whole concept of what’s good what’s bad is this a bad boy no it’s not a bad boys he’s done things differently that’s how he does and so I think that’s that’s interesting add that needs a little bit into you said when you go to the to the screens in the disability film challenge you see how the public responds or reacts to disability what do you see well the cool thing about the film challenges we screen all over the country and all over the world and so I think in Los Angeles were exposed to many more you know if you’re going to see more people with disabilities are more just representation in general in bigger cities because there’s just more people but when you go to smaller towns sometimes they’re just not used to seeing a little person necessarily sell I’ve seen from my own point of view where people are staring or laughing or joking or have comments about me but I definitely you know and I don’t care I’m thirty eight years old and comfortable I am I am nothing has ever really bothered me and luckily that’s always been the way I band %HESITATION but it’s interesting to see this happen to some film challenge participants are some with physical disabilities some with cognitive %HESITATION sometimes people won’t know that somebody has a disability because certain disabilities are more visible than others so it’s interesting to see people interact at a movie theater and stare or ask a question or maybe say a comment that’s inappropriate and I I am an optimist at heart so I generally feel that a lot of times people don’t do this because they’re truly bad people you know they just don’t understand or they’re just not exposed to it then again this is why it’s so important to have constantly people could see that they could resonate with her game of thrones to be there and to have somebody see Peter Dinklage in a three dimensional role be the boss and a leader it kind of changes the way you think of little people when you see them and I think the same thing for other people with disabilities when people see them on screen it really changes their perception of that disability in the statement that is this disability as a whole and I’m honored that through the film challenge that has happened you know I I think the biggest way that’s happened it’s been through the awareness campaign when all filmmakers they’re sharing their films at the same time and through their social channels and asking their friends and families to do it and getting on the local news and it’s reaching millions of people and so then they’re gonna you know I I I start watching that film and I didn’t know that about your son and that was really cool about your daughter %HESITATION yeah I don’t even think of that so and I think the other thing is when we’re going to the cities and we’re doing the screenings works opposing people that disability which is important we’re just there we when you’re there when you’re part of society then you’re not worried about it but it’s what it’s when you’re seeing things from afar then you have a certain perception of what disability is we use that word exposure and that’s just what the easterseals disability film challenge does and that’s what’s needed it’s the lock that opens the door to inclusion I was thinking of some past episodes we’ve had of sorry Sir in his dad who has down syndrome I think of Chris Nick who is a gentleman with down syndrome who ran a half Ironman he’s actually attempting an iron a full Ironman in November in those things open and open up in fact in that episode I talked about once someone broke the four minute mile it then just happened it became almost commonplace where it would happen multiple times the first person to know Sir Sir Edmund Hillary getting to Everest and then it opens the floodgates right so what what in your life or who in your life did you see that that was that exposure and that you saw that you said well I see this in and now maybe I I can do especially I think of you get into an entertainment industry who did you see who you are exposed to here now I think part of it was because I was always kind of good at doing accents and things like that and I had an English teacher that it’s like you know you you’re good at doing this kind of stuff and I was kind of in a funk this is in junior high I used to be an athlete and I love playing sports and physically I just couldn’t blame anymore %HESITATION certainly not with people that were double my size and starting to get very kind of aggressive and physical %HESITATION so she recommended that I try out for the school play and so I give ms Fishman I %HESITATION my English teacher in junior high a big credit for giving me a push %HESITATION out there too to start with entertainment and then did I say it was a couple other things I saw work Davison willow as it as a kid and I saw myself as like a hero I thought Danny Woodburn who is such a great person and activists for people with disabilities he’s a film challenge judging he does a lot of amazing work with that remain family foundation and with all these different organizations and he’s a little person that was acting in science out and that was my favorite show %HESITATION you know from junior high debt through high school and so getting to see him in my favorite show he’s a little person he’s being funny that was a huge milestone but a lot of times you know if you if you’re a disabled artist out there or you or your you know a parent of somebody with a disability and you’re thinking about trying to expose your your child into the arts %HESITATION a lot of it is just get out there it’s it’s trial you know you got to just jump in the deep end %HESITATION just died in and start doing it %HESITATION people not even just people with disabilities but people in general are always asking me how do I get instead of copy I say just go do it you got to just do it I’m personally that I feel like there’s no learning for that I mean there certainly is with acting you know you can take classes and training and I’m still training and learning as I go same thing with writing and other odd things in their chemistry but a lot of it is just just get up there and it’s a learning on the on the job and it’s people with disabilities at you know I know that the industry is looking for you and that just just get out there and and %HESITATION start trying to act Hey do you sent in with your brother with your sister with your mom make a YouTube thing hi register for easterseals disability film challenge I just work leads to work it but you gotta get out there and you got that be exposed to the arts into the world and I think beyond the entertainment industry I you know you you were talking about that episode %HESITATION thank you with the that gentleman from Syria and is that it is working in a factory %HESITATION and so it’s you know there’s jobs out there whatever whatever the job is %HESITATION whether you have a physical or cognitive disability try and try to get opportunities to to to work anywhere because again you know work leads to work and if you’re out there in your you know doing a job or are doing something that you’re passionate about you’ll get better and get more opportunities you would said being a part of society and we are a part of society but it’s not always a welcomed or a given thing I think because of you know historically and I think we’re trying to now change things as a society to change the mindset but nobody has to give that to you you don’t have to ask for that you are a part of society you are a human and this human race and I think that’s I think that’s so important I think it’s so M. amazing what your mom you know with her advocating or was her pushing you to know that you didn’t have a limit if you want to get that you go get that picked it definitely instilled something in you which is such a gift what would you say you learned from watching your mom advocate I would say %HESITATION what I learned and and mind you I’m not a parent %HESITATION you know yet I mean I I think at some point %HESITATION that’s kind of tempting it we add it you know that may happen but I think also I I learned from my mom too to give people space but be there you know I’ll be there if you need to be but also let people figure out things for themselves %HESITATION you know but then you know it wasn’t like I was raised in like out a wall stand or she’s like you can find your own blanket it was definitely like a very supportive and loving nurturing moms %HESITATION but I think it’s important to go to public school out to be it is a part of everything as your child feels comfortable being a part of %HESITATION because you want to do everything you know I want to do everything that everybody else did and that was me that wanted to do that so I you know I think she was just supportive in me kind of doing dumb stuff I probably shouldn’t have ever played basketball and you know why I’m so short I had so many physical problems but I was like I I want to do this I want to play for university of Notre Dame football and I’m like you know the the shortest person in the history of where I’m from so you know I think let everyone live their dreams and do what they want to do and and just be support do you have any advice as to what made you to where you’re you’re not bothered by and appropriateness that’s the only way I can say it is that you know what because I I’d love your sparking your fame and I love your attitude I remember when you came to school and and I think a a boy last year %HESITATION it was kindergarten so that’s what you’re saying about kids who just don’t know and I think through obviously inclusion and an inclusive classroom and being exposed it’s not this strange thing to see someone who’s different from us and I remember a boy asked if you were magical and you just go now I’m not I forget what you mean I forget what your answer was but I know one kid asked if you were a leprechaun and if you had gold coins that there because it it it sparked this whole thing where one kid asked a question and then they all jumped and they were not malicious at all because I think it was malicious it would been something different it was just this like what he’s what he does and you handled it with such such grace that I was inspired and I put a little bit of that in my pocket to remember to take pause one I I would say one big piece of advice for people with disabilities and also for family members of people with disabilities is you exert way more energy than needed by being upset and and being like I’m gonna fight everybody all the time you know you can’t eat it’s certain you gotta just have a certain mindset we are like you know I don’t live my life and I like where I am you know I’m you know and sometimes you’re not there are times that are you know there are certain days where nothing okay and that’s okay do you can’t no one is just as holy perfect all the time but I would just say to be okay with it and in the brush it off because it’s kind of like now being the thirty eight year old guy when I was in junior high you know high school I was like man I need to get it girl and I’m you know I’m not date in there you know this is so hard I thought that was like the biggest deal in the world and in the end you’re like that’s not really a big deal and who cares and you can also write these things brush off your shoulder because you can’t put too much weight instead it’s it’s got to be in the mindset of the person with the disability discrimination you know that guy just doesn’t understand that girl there you know specially kids kids don’t understand yet it takes time to process %HESITATION and I would say to to some extent to some parents let kids be kids and let them ask questions and don’t tell hi the kids question or try to shelter your child from experiences let them have these experiences where sometimes kids will ask a question in school %HESITATION say something which your child may not like but that’s life that’s not gonna you know and I when you leave the second grade or third grade or fourth grade but what can stay is a mindset to say who cares or to to brush it off or to have fun with situations yes sometimes the you know now you have all these things you can go on YouTube and watch the Dalai Lama soccer you can see all these different things that weren’t there when I was a kid but what was there is just gone you know that’s okay who cares you know and so it it ends up being a mindset you know and that life never perfect and it’s not perfect for everybody you know so I think there’s a lot of people are like I can only be like Johnny or Jennie year or Louise then everything will be perfect but there is no perfect they’re going through their own moments %HESITATION challenges issues are things they’re overcoming in their own life so just stay the course in and believe in that you’re good at and in that you belong everywhere and that that yeah you have just as much of a right to be there and is anyone else and you know but also just also try to have a thick skin because you gather in life and I think that’s not just for the disability can mean that’s for everybody you know not everyone’s going to say this things that you want to hear all the time that’s true you have to have thick skin you you there’s time to stand up for yourself but you can’t take everything so personal and and you you really do a great job with that and I I saw that first hand to when we’re at school and you just you just made it right what’s like yes I go to the school and there’s like a kindergarten it beats me out so he’s great when he gets out by like I told you you’re a leprechaun that’s funny because it’s funny yeah you know all these different things I you know now with these virtual all festivals and virtual shows I’m telling jokes and I don’t hear anyone laughing because they’re on you you know now I’m I’m going to do stand up and that I’m in cars people are gonna be in the cars to drive in theaters sell it you gotta get used even this where you’re telling a joke and no one is responding because literally they can’t bear you did are there inside that you know socially distance out this is definitely a time that we will remember forever and that you know I I can’t thank you guys enough for having me on and for all the work that you do and support up to easterseals disability film challenge the disability community and in just that for you guys being great parents and great people that are really amazing members of society and that adds give Liam at a chance to live the best kind of cool it’s version of the life you want to live we know last episode we asked you an if we knew then question about the film festival do you have one for a personally just something you wish you knew in the past I think it’s important to fail it’s important to learn by error so in my own life I think even as being a little person it was important for me to get picked on in certain situations it was important for me to live the life experiences that I lived %HESITATION if I would say anything if I wish I knew then now I guess maybe in junior high thank god I find that amazing white you know and I perfect girl for me you know when I was going through a time where I was I got you know there’s no one you know it’s hard I can’t date on like to me you know that normal junior high kind of period %HESITATION I think I would tell myself that all work out I love your if you do that because I I honestly so V. as in middle school and middle school is hard yeah and if you could go back I think that that’s the that’s the person we need to talk to is the person a middle school who’s come out of the you know the honeymoon of elementary school where everything is hope and you get into those changes with these all these strangers and everybody’s trying to figure it out and I think that’s a good person to talk to to say you know what you’re going to be okay and we we met your wife I would say she’s definitely worth waiting for right and if you knew that that’s what was coming up then you and that would have that would have made it all know it all worked out I think though I think gone back to it failures in down moments are important you know it can’t I think sometimes we’re living in this time where we just think everything should be perfect perfect perfect perfect and I think you need kind of down swings to make yourself happy you know that you can’t be all leveled at perfect perfect perfect perfect you know so it’s crazy is junior high was and as much of a down period as it was I think it’s important for me and I think it’s important for everybody to have those awkward awful moments where you’re all like going through puberty and Max people are awkward and yeah you’re not the big fish anymore you’re the small station I think I I think those are important yeah we were talking to someone about that just not long ago he actually was an episode of just talking about grief and that how important that is in your life do you need that %HESITATION and as part of of joy it’s all goes together absolutely Nick again a pleasure to have you on the podcast and get to know you a little bit better my friend hi thanks so much for having me and for all the amazing work you guys do on the film Johnstown and in the disability community out thank you and your attitude and grace at how you handle things are inspiring and I want to have a little bit more of that I’m always trying and learning and I think you know it is it is that constant change in our journey and in our experience and I learned from you things that especially just letting things roll off your back to not have to carry everything but then to also embrace the challenges I love that because there’s nothing that’s been wasted and if I can if I can keep that and carry that into my days when when I do experience the challenges I will be better off thank you so much.

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