Private Project

6,000 Waiting

Three Georgians with cerebral palsy fight to live life on their own terms. But as their families bind together, state policy tries to tear them apart.

  • Michael Joseph McDonald
  • Timothy Moore
    Executive Producer
  • Irene Turner
  • Ben Oxley
    Key Cast
  • Nick Papadopoulos
    Key Cast
  • Naomi Williams
    Key Cast
  • Noah Williams
    Key Cast
  • John Oxley
    Key Cast
  • Zach Read
  • Nicholas Lott
    Aerial Cinematography
  • Michael Joseph McDonald
  • Zach Read
  • Michael Joseph McDonald
  • Lexi Read
    Script Consultant
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Runtime:
    29 minutes 4 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    January 26, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    95,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Michael Joseph McDonald

Michael Joseph McDonald is a writer, filmmaker, and disability activist. Before filmmaking, he worked as a ghostwriter in Kenya, publishing four nonfiction books on social justice. He’s best known for his animation Freebird (2021) which qualified for the 94th Academy Awards, and his documentary 6,000 Waiting which was screened in the White House and led to the creation of Georgia Senate Bill 208. From 2015-2018, he traveled the world, co-directing films with people with intellectual disabilities on six continents and co-developing a more inclusive method of filmmaking called "adaptive filmmaking." He’s a big fan of triptychs, overlapping story structures, and Sri Lankan buffalo curd.

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Director Statement

I’ve always been curious about why certain bodies are disqualified from the human community. This curiosity (which is more like an ulcer than a question) has been one of the driving forces behind my artistic and intellectual undertakings. It's led me to leprosy colonies in Guayaquil, to refugee camps in Jaffna, to drug dens in Nairobi, and most recently, to a stack of papers in downtown Atlanta.

If I were to say, “I’m going to make a film about medicaid waivers,” even the politest of eyes would glaze over. Medicaid waivers aren’t entertaining. They’re dry, impersonal, and obscure. Nothing dramatic about them.

That is, unless you approach them--not from the position of those who define policy, but from the position of those whose lives are defined by policy.

What does that position look like? Here are three snapshots:

“Why am I here?” Nick, a 38-year-old man, was staring out his nursing home’s window, watching the rain. He turned to me and posed the question again, “Why am I here...if I’m just going to die in obscurity?”

“I honestly feel that the state believes people with profound disabilities would be better off dead.” Naomi rolled her sleeve up and showed me an elephant tattoo. “Female elephants don’t have tusks.” Then she pointed to the top of her forearm, “but I do.” She reached over to her son Noah and placed her hand against his cheek. He broke into a smile.

“You have to make a choice.” Ben said, rotating his joystick to the left, so he could address me straight on. “If you go to a human warehouse, there’s no red tape, no delay; the government would support me being warehoused any day!” He took a sip of his mom’s sweet tea. “But if you want to stay out in the community, the government adds your name to a dusty stack of papers in an office building and your name sits there until you grow tired enough, poor enough or bored enough to consider being warehoused.”

Nick, Ben, Noah and Naomi are just four of 6,000 Georgians and of 800,000 Americans imploring their state governments to support them in their pursuit of a non-warehoused life.

As they wait, they’re actively inventing new ways forward through family, friends, and now, through film. Whether inviting our crew to sneak camera gear through a nursing home window, or off the edge of a plane, or into the back of a pickup, or onto a front porch, they called out all of our creativity and spent hours baring their souls to us in hopes that this could happen--this right here. That a stranger--someone else somewhere else--would pause, and click, and 29 minutes later would emerge with a deepened sense of what even their neighbors haven't quite grasped (not to mention their legislators).