Harder Than You Think and P&G Studios announce new film to coincide with Paris 2024

● Harder Than You Think and P&G Studios announce the next chapter in the Rising Phoenix story – a documentary feature film due for global release in summer 2024 ● The film follows on from the success of the double Emmy Award winning film Rising Phoenix, released in 2020 ● The new film will be produced by a critically acclaimed team, including Academy Award nominee Jim Lebrecht and Academy Award winner John Battsek. The film will be directed by Sheridan O’Donnell, who identifies as having a disability. 23 Jun 2023
Rising Phoenix
Paralympic film Rising Phoenix premiered globally on Netflix in August 2020 to coincide with the one-year-to-go celebrations for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

Harder Than You Think (HTYT) and P&G Studios have announced they are partnering to create a new documentary feature film that aims to ignite a conversation on disability equality the world over.  The two organisations have assembled an acclaimed, award-winning team to bring to life the vision of “Rising Phoenix: A New Revolution (w/t)” which is set to be released in advance of the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. 

In pursuit of equity and equality for people with disabilities, the film will delve into critically important issues like global leadership, the fight for employment, the importance of representation, changing the image of disability, cultural attitudes, inclusion and the need for accessibility and rights.

The film follows the critically acclaimed and double Emmy award winning ‘Rising Phoenix’ 2020. It is the next chapter in a series of films, TV programs and podcasts, produced by HARDER THAN YOU THINK, that will chart the story all the way to the LA 2028 Paralympic Games. 

Team behind the film

Director Sheridan O’Donnell will chronicle his own story through the film as a low vision filmmaker and his personal journey as he grows to embrace life with a disability. In addition to the story of the director and several Paralympic athletes, the film will go beyond sport to spotlight the experiences of various entertainers, activists, influencers and world leaders.

“I’m honoured at the opportunity to direct such an important documentary that will debut ahead of the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games,” O’Donnell said. 

“Three and a half years ago when I became disabled, I was afraid. Not of how I see myself, but how the world might now see me. Now I’m proud to be disabled. That change came from immersing myself in the profound yet untold stories from our community. This film will aim to transform the way we see disability, bridge the gap between the disabled and non-disabled people and push for a more inclusive and equitable world.”

The film is being co-produced with Ventureland, and the production team also includes:
●    Jim LeBrecht, the co-director and co-producer of Crip Camp, the 2021 Academy Award Nominated documentary, alongside Nicole Newnham. He has over 40 years of experience as a sound designer, mixer, filmmaker and disability rights activist. Jim is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. He is also a co-founder of FWD-Doc and the 1in4 Coalition, two organizations that support people with disabilities in the entertainment business.

●    John Battsek, Acclaimed Documentary Producer, Academy Award winner and founder of Ventureland. Under the Ventureland banner Battsek has produced PGA and BAFTA nominated The Rescue (Nat Geo Doc Films); double Emmy Award-winning Rising Phoenix (Netflix); Critics Choice nominee The Real Charlie Chaplin (Showtime);  Bobi Wine: The People’s President (National Geographic Documentary Films), which premiered at Venice International Film Festival (2022); and Boom! Boom! The World vs Boris Becker, Alex Gibney’s portrait of the former tennis legend which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival (2023) before its debut on Apple TV+.

●    Greg Nugent, Emmy Award winning Producer & Creator of the ‘Rising Phoenix’ 

●    Sarah Thompson, Producer The Deepest Breath, If These Walls Could Sing, Australian Dream

Nugent, producer and creator of Rising Phoenix, said, “The next chapter of Rising Phoenix will be our most ambitious storyline. 

“On the eve of what we all hope will be the biggest Paralympic Games ever, we want to tell a story that will connect all of us, globally, with the fight for disability equality. Having Sheridan at the helm, telling this globally important story, makes me excited by what we can create and bring to the world.” 

Jim LeBrecht said: “I’m very excited to join the team for this film as an Executive Producer because this project is going to be entertaining while simultaneously shed light on the barriers that people with disabilities face all over the world. This film will let us experience the quest for a meaningful, full life that exists for all of us regardless of our perceived differences.”

A bold goal to increase representation 

According to the United Nations, more than 1 billion people, or around 15 per cent of the world’s population, have a disability. However, they represent only a very small fraction of those working in the entertainment industry today. 

The shared mission of HTYT and P&G Studios is to change this model and increase diverse representation for people with disabilities in front of and behind the camera.  

The team has set a groundbreaking target for representation of disabled talent with the goal to have at least 50 percent of the production team identifying as disabled.

Partnering for disability equality

As a Worldwide TOP Partner of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, P&G shares a common desire with HTYT to advance disability inclusion through the extraordinary power of storytelling, which is aligned with the company mission to Widen the Screen through diverse voices and talent. 

This film is the second production between HTYT and P&G Studios, having previously produced the podcast series, “Equal Too: Achieving Disability Equality.” The podcast was hugely successful globally in the summer of 2021. 

“At P&G Studios, we’re constantly looking for culturally significant storytelling that moves people, and challenges us all to think differently,” says Kimberly Doebereiner, Head of P&G Studios. 

“We are so excited to be partnering with HTYT on this film, because we know the end result will be thought provoking, and more importantly, will hopefully be a piece of the larger puzzle towards creating deeper and more meaningful visibility for people with disabilities.”