Amy’s oldest child, Emily, suffered from a severe infection at the early age of 11 months. Against all odds and doctor’s expectations, Emily survived the traumatic experience, but in the course of the illness, she suffered limb loss and brain trauma. Very early in her recovery, Amy was introduced to the EasterSeals Foundation, which has been a constant source of support for the Hopper Family over the last decade.
Today, Emily is a thriving 16-year old high school student in West Los Angeles, and has been acting for several years. In a recent interview with CNN, Amy discussed Emily’s passion. “She definitely finds her people within the acting community. Most of her closest friends are people she has met through acting. It’s where she feels most comfortable expressing herself – where she gets to just be EMILY. As parents, we all have to help our kids find their jam….what makes them happy…what they are passionate about, and focus our efforts to help them achieve their goals. You find what brings them joy and quality of life. For Emily, that is acting. It is what she loves most.”
Emily’s younger sister, Lizzie, is also an aspiring actress. Amy’s husband, David Hopper, also works in entertainment as a film editor. “We are definitely a creative family. We help each other with ideas and concepts, and all find a way to participate in various projects,” explains Amy. “It has definitely created a bond that keeps us strong as a family.”
In 2018, Amy and Emily decided to enter the newly launched EasterSeals Disability Film Challenge. Their first entry was entitled “Best Enemies,” a film about two “enemies” coming together and realizing they weren’t so different after all. In explaining Emily’s vision and message for the short film, Amy said, “Everyone in life has challenges. The challenges may be different, but we all have them, and that makes us all much more the same than we realize. If we just take the time to discover those similarities instead of focusing on the differences, we will start to see how alike we all are. Many of the people we think are enemies may just turn out to be our best friends.”
“Best Enemies” was a finalist in the 2018 competition, and when the 2019 competition was announced, both Amy and Emily were eager to compete again – and the idea for “Parents, Inc.” was born. “Parents, Inc.” was released in early April, and recently won the 2019 Disability Film Challenge for Best Film. It’s director, Harald Zwart (12th Man, Karate Kid) was also nominated for Best Director. Harald also directed “Best Enemies.”
Thanks to the involvement of several friends in the production world, “Parents, Inc.” was a much larger scale production than the previous year. Amy brought back Harald and reached out to longtime friend, cinematographer Steven Shaw, ASC. Steven is an award-winning cinematographer and director whose career in film and television spans more than 30 years. Having worked with the likes of Steven Spielberg, John Landis, Aaron Spelling, David Chase and Burt Reynolds, he accessed his vast network of relationships that helped Amy assemble an A-list crew for “Parents, Inc.” As production began for the quick-turnaround short film, Amy decided to officially launch her own production company, Hard Things Productions.
“Throughout Emily’s life, there have always been challenges for her. She is incredibly resilient and strong, but like all of us, some days and some things are harder than others. She would say to me, ‘Mom, I can’t do this. It’s sooo hard!!!’ One time many years ago, I found myself saying, ‘I know Emily and I’m sorry. I know it’s hard, but you are a girl who can do hard things.’ Somehow that phrase “stuck,” and it literally became our mantra. When I decided to start my production company, Hard Things just seemed like the perfect name.”
The short-term goal was to oversee “Parents, Inc.,” but Amy has much bigger plans for the future of her company...“I know that there are many people out there, children and adults, who have various abilities. I would love for my company to be able to make more content like we have done for the EasterSeals challenges. In today’s entertainment culture, the theme of inclusion is extremely relevant. People with special needs are the largest minority group in this country, yet they are the most under-represented in entertainment. I want to be part of the movement to change that. That’s MY jam. That’s Hard Things Productions.”
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