Autism: Behind the Camera


Autism: Behind the Camera

Autism: Behind the Camera focuses on young adults with autism and the resources needed when students with autism "age out" of high school. This program will highlight one vocational program within the film industry trying to change the unemployable outcome for autistic individuals.

AIRED: March 09, 2021 | 0:59:10

VO: Support for "Autism: Behind t Camera"

comes from the Hussman Foundation, providing

life-changing assistance through medical research,

education and direct aid to vulnerable populations

having urgent needs or significant disabilities.

Joey: It's the nature of the film program that brings

people together. Filmmaking is collaborating.

It's working together. Most kids with special needs,

they're not included in certain things or they're bullied

and they're not a part of that, that being a part of

something. We as filmmakers, as actors, as performers,

we're different. Performers are different. We like

something that's not perfect, that's a little off.

You know, that's character. We think outside the box.

All of our people that we work with, we want them to think

outside the box. We don't want to be cookie-cutter.

We want to give people opportunities.

Lillian: Autism and aging out is an issue that young

adults with autism face when their education and

social programs disappear.

This is a rapidly expanding crisis.

Services are more commonly available for children with

autism. When they turn 22, they "age out" of

the support system, leaving them wandering

at a crucial time in their lives.

But autism is a lifelong disorder, that more

often than not, will require some lifelong assistance,

support and/or services. Many think of autism as a childhood

disorder, and that adults no longer need services.

Not true! High school is over, so that must mean it's time

to get a job, or go to college. But, are we all

built for college or ready for employment? Nationally,

80 to 90 percent of adults with autism are unemployed.

Not unemployable, just unemployed. In this program,

we will highlight one vocational program that is trying to

change the "No Hiring, No Job" outcome. This show is not

just about employment, a topic in the autism community

that is all-consuming. Nor is it just about the hardship

of aging out of high school. It's about hope. When parents

first get their diagnosis, they wonder what their

child's life will be like, 20 years from now.

Will these children grow, develop and have the

same opportunities, and more? What can they strive for?

Terri: Xavier was quite a handful, actually.

He was a bit violent when he was young.

(laughs) He also was a 'bolter'.

So, he would be in parking lots under people's cars.

Huge parking lots and that was very frightening.

He would disappear in a mall and come back with

two different shoes from Nordstrom's.

He disappeared one time in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

and they found him in a bar!

Greg: Well, we started seeing signs when she was

about a year-and-a-half to two years old. She had

up to that- up to 18 months, she'd developed normally.

But, she started losing her language slowly.

Everardo: In the beginning, he didn't show any sign

of a disability. And, it wasn't until he started, like,

walking-age and then started to notice some deficiency

of some motor skills. And then, that's when I saw-

and he was- noticing it, and we took him to be diagnosed.

And, it still was a very fine line, you know? By the time

he was 3 years old, no doctor wants to really

say anything. It was still like 3 1/2 to 4 years old that they

would say 'okay, your kid fits into the autistic spectrum'.

Garye: And, he would begin to break down and

become more of a hassle to get things done.

And, he'd become irritable.

Lillian: So, when does a parent start to plan for life

after high school? When does

planning start for a career?

How do parents plan for their child's future?

When their children were little tykes, many parents

didn't have time to think about career tracks.

Most used every waking moment thinking about how

to get through the next day.

Terri: High school was a challenge!

People teased him. People were

a bit cruel, especially the girls for some reason.

I don't know why but they were.

Lillian: When he was growing up when you were

trying to get him through high school, middle school

and such and faced with all the- maybe the

bullying challenges, were you thinking about a career

for him? Terri: No. Lillian: Was he thinking about a career?

Terri: We were just thinking about the next day.

But I would say in high school, probably his

senior year, they start to do transition planning.

And then, it started to develop in both of us. He tried

college. That was not a workable solution for him.

We tried other placement places like Pride, and other

local area places. But it seemed, in his words,

"too menial" for him. He wanted something more challenging.

Greg: All the time, we were thinking of "what's

going to happen to her?" And, you just don't know!

So, we just kept plugging along with trying to do things

one step at a time to get her to learn more and more. And,

she was always behind, and some things she's never learned.

Michele: For a long time my focus was "graduate from

high school", "graduate from high school"! (laughs)

And at the point where we were close to graduating,

he was close to graduating from high school, it sort of

felt like a joint effort! (chuckles) I realized

that I really had not thought too far

beyond that because it was such a strong focal point.

And so, at the point where it became obvious that he

was going to graduate from high school (laughs),

I suddenly started to have some real anxiety over

what was going to come next. The way in which

students are taught traditionally, and this

would be true of colleges and even junior

colleges, just really is not conducive to how he learns.

And so, I recognized that we could encourage him

to continue taking classes. But, I was really worried that

it wasn't going to result in any employable skills because

that transfer of knowledge from an academic setting to

an employment setting is so difficult.

It just becomes such a huge, huge stumbling

block to success and employment.

Mike: With people with disabilities, the job market

is even less. It's been, as the years-

last four or five years, it's getting worse where it's hard

to find jobs that they can actually get hired to do.

Everardo: As a career, we always- we're still not sure,

you know? But, we always want him to do something.

Briano's a very social person. And, it didn't take long

for us to notice that he could not do a lot of schooling,

and school was not for him. But, school is not everything.

Lillian: School is not for everyone, and college

doesn't fit everyone's lifestyle. But does this mean

when high school is over the learning ends? Does that seem

right or reasonable? Many individuals with autism

can learn and, in fact, enjoy learning. For some of these

people, it's a simple matter of finding their passion,

a key element which creates a desire to learn.

Textbooks and tests are not the only way to learn. For some,

"hands-on" learning is a better option, and offers young

autistic adults the opportunity to find success.

Alexander: I did go to college for a semester but

I failed both my classes cause I didn't,

wasn't motivated to really learn anything.

Timothy: The difference between here and college

is the teachers there expect high expectations,

like, from all the students by knowledge of-

from textbooks and stuff. And some, you know,

people with disabilities like me can't really learn-

well, have a little more trouble learning

from textbooks rather than hands-on.

Rich: It always seems like the only jobs that are

available to this population sector is, or

this population, is just this matter of 'you can

'take out the trash. You can mop the floors, but you can't

'really do anything else really beyond that because

'there is no real place for you within our society

to do more than that'. I think that's, you know,

in part our fault as a society that we can't

find a position that's meaningful for them.

Lillian: Planning for employment early is essential.

Middle school and early high school years might be

the best time to start the conversation and the

"discovery process". Trying to figure out, or discover,

where particular skills and interests are, and

where they might fit in an employment situation

for your son, daughter, student or client.

Debbie: We really want to get younger and younger kids.

I mean, transition-age should begin, or thoughts

of transitioning to work should begin around 14.

So, we try to get kids in summer jobs, volunteer gigs.

Anything like that where you can start building a résumé,

start understanding the work routines, things like that.

Parents become more comfortable once they know that their

kid already has those skills, so it's not something that

you're introducing when they're 18, 19, 20 and about

ready to leave school. So, we always really promote that.

We always promote, you know, it's the same expectations

for all of your children whether they have

a disability or not. The more you raise the bar,

the more expectations you can have of your child

and the more likely their success will be.

Will: So, it's just really a matter of we look at employment,

you want to find what people want, are passionate about,

what they're interested in. Because they'll tend to, then,

stay in that arena versus, 'you know, I don't really want to

bag groceries. But, I really like to do- wash cars'. Okay!

They should be a car washer, not a grocery bagger.

And, that's what employment's all about.

Carrie: When you look at a college catalog

after you graduate from high school and it's just

more academic things, roadblocks, along the way.

I'm not saying high school was a roadblock, but it was

a struggle to get through. And if you can look- and

you say 'oh, gosh! It's more English. It's more history.

It's more science, just to get to be able to do something

in this industry along with learning what's in the industry.

It was like 'well, it's not going to be a reality'.

Debbie: I think that too often we put too many of our own

barriers in front of individuals with disabilities.

Rather than seeing the capacities and the abilities,

we say 'oh, but until he learns to write', or ' until

he can behave himself', or ' until he learns to ride

the bus'. And, we put these false barriers there that the

rest of us don't have to participate in, or don't have to

prove ourselves over. So for me, that's a huge passion

of mine is to eliminate those barriers and say 'look at the

individual. Look what they bring to the table, and

let's go from there. Let's not set up these false barriers'.

Lillian: Across the nation, parents, educators,

counselors, social workers, and case managers

are currently trying to adjust to the large influx

of young adults with autism who are

aging out of the high school setting.

They're in search of programs for this population

to keep them engaged and planning for

life ahead as they continue to mature.

One project that's working to build

employable skills is Inclusion Films.

Inclusion Films, in partnership with Futures Explored,

presents a full curriculum about the film industry

from building sets to script writing.

Will: We sort of looked back in the last few years and said

'the new folks coming into our system are really folks

with autism. And, what do they need and what kind of

supports? What are the opportunities we have?'

And so, we really looked at the film process and

building that and we generally have really been

able to build a program that lets people

sort of figure out what they want to do, and become

employable in different fields.

Joey: It's the nature of the film program

that brings people together.

Filmmaking is collaborating. It's working together.

Most kids with special needs,

they're not included in certain things or they're bullied.

I didn't think of them as, like, the kid in the special ed class.

I always thought of them 'well, that's my friend' .

Joey: Mike, why don't you stand in here?

[indistinct chatter] And, he plays our beautiful

female- small part, eh?

Dale: Why don't we say "you open up doors for people, forever"!

And, that's what he does with Inclusion Films now.

Will: The film workshop is a 20-week program, and it really

runs through all aspects of making a film.

So, it starts with "what's a script? What's acting?

How do we do a storyboard? What's editing?"

Joey: We do the terms and they learn, you know?

They take an intensive camera class, an intensive

lighting class, intensive acting, and editing.

So, they're learning a little bit of all of it.

Will: Creating a script that then becomes a thesis project.

So, they do- we've done a 9-minute film and

a 25-minute film written by the group.

So, it's a group process.

So, there's teamwork. There's social interaction.

And, they go out and they cast it.

They used actors who are interested in being actors

and they come out and they actually then, work as

the camera people, the slate operator,

whatever is out there, production assistant and

they'll go out and do the job.

Joey: I had always had this concept of

a 'practical film workshop'.

I was getting young people out of the top

film schools that didn't know their way around a set!

They'd never been a part of an actual production.

They made their own films. But, you know,

when I'm talking about getting the script,

breaking it down, budgeting it, scheduling it,

getting the permits, doing all that? They were never

really a part of that. So, I always what would be

really cool if, when I do a movie,

the movie becomes the lesson plan.

Then, I take 10-15 students on.

They pay a fee to come to this workshop.

But the difference is they're not just P.A.'s.

They work in each department and they learn

what each department does.

So, they're taken through the process of

making a film by seeing. That's the way I learned.

Dale: He calls me and says, you know, "I've got this project

I'm doing. It's a film camp!

In all your experience in film and acting, and certainly

at Strasberg, the method, I would love for you

to come along and teach these kids. They're kids with

special needs, and I think you would really love it"!

I said 'you know what, Joe? I'm going to do it. I'll take

time off from my other business', and I did it.

And I just - 'fuh get about it', as a Jersey boy would say!

It just- I love these kids!

They're amazing, and it was such an incredible

experience for me. Changed my life!

It truly changed my life.

Dale: You guys, quiet on the set!

Each one of these people that are sitting in

this abandoned building the entire time and I want to

have some kind of activity that they're doing.

They're not just sitting there waiting for the

actor to come in and say his lines, right?

Mark it!

>> Scene 39-A, take 3-6. (snap)

Dale: Alright?

You all set?

Dale: Set, action!

Lillian: Each instructor has personal

goals for their students, and are passionate

about ensuring student success.

"Employment" is at the top of their list.

Hester: My main goal for my students is to get them ready

to work. It is a vocational program and so, you know,

I'm- obviously, our approach is 'individual' and every student

is at a different point in their road towards employment.

But, my goal is to help them to learn to be confident,

creative and ready to work in whatever aspect of this

field, the film industry, or in another field.

But just to help them get the confidence, to know.

Because every student that I have has skills and

abilities to go out and be employed, and so my goal

is to help them work towards that.

Hester: But is that the first job that

you're probably going to get? Class: No! Nope!

Hester: Okay. So, it's a work-your-way-up type world

in the film business. And so,

this is a chance for you guys to get

some of those real world skills.

Lillian: Do you think that some of it could transition to

other jobs, not just in this industry?

Hester: Absolutely! I told both of my acting classes today

that, right at the beginning. I said not everybody's here

because they want to be an actor,

and that applies to all the classes. You know,

not everybody's going to go be a camera operator,

or even work in this field. But the skills that they got here-

you know, in acting class, you're building confidence.

You're building your ability to speak in front of

other people. You're building your ability to be flexible in

your thinking. We work on a lot of those skills that

don't come as instinctively to an individual with autism,

or with another disability.

Presentation, putting yourself out there.

Knowing how to advocate for yourself.

Knowing how to speak up.

Knowing how to critically think.

Figuring out an answer to something, you know?

So, all of those job skills are very broad,

and can be applied across the board.

Will: The reaction for most of them has been,

especially after they've been in it for the first time,

is like a little bit of amazement and

excitement for them. Cause, it's the one where-

you know, their son or daughter may have come home from school

and they couldn't get two words out of them edgewise,

or in any way, which is pretty normal for anyone who

has a teenager! But, it's one where they come home, and

'God! Today, we did yadda-yadda. We shot this , and we did this .

'And, I blocked this and we used a green screen. It was like

really cool'! And so, they get excited by that process.

Timothy: It works out for anyone that, any level of

autism or any other disabilities,

that it will help, a lot. And, even probably

getting a passion to one of the subjects here, too.

Lillian: What would be your goals for yourself or

the students within this program?

Esther: I would like to see them employed.

And, I know that not all of the students will

have that opportunity. But even if one, two or three

of them over the course of a year has a chance at a job,

I would be super-satisfied with that!

Esther: You guys are getting there! You're not there, yet.

But, you're getting there. So what I'm trying to

create for you guys, by who I know,

is an opportunity to go outside

the film school and...kind of

get introduced into the professional realm.

People who can maybe pay you or, at the very least,

even if they can't pay you straightaway,

you'll gain more experience.

Derek: Then, let's get rollin'! Esther: Let's go!

Alright. I like it!

Let's get out of here!

Dale: My ultimate goal would be to have

these Fortune 500 companies realize that

these kids are amazing, and that

they think outside the box.

Their creative skills, artistically?

They think outside the box.

They're loyal . They're honest

as can be, and they're going to be there,

way ahead of time! I have kids that are there an hour before

I get there every morning. These companies are going to look

and they're going to see these kids. When the word is out,

and it is out. It's getting out there!

I mean, there are companies that realize 'hey! You know,

let's tap into this because these kids are amazing'. And,

I want to see more companies get that, and more people.

And people in every day Little Town, USA

open their minds up and realize they can do anything!

Dominick: This industry calls for many types of

different faces and we need to really embrace

the fact that every single face has a message to say,

whether you're- whether you have a disability or not.

I would like for the students to be comfortable

in front of the camera, and be camera-ready.

So, that means being in front of the camera

as a reporter, interviewer and such,

or even a talent like an actress/actor.

And then, also, being able to operate the camera and

everything else that comes with a camera, the audio,

the lighting, the studio. All that's important stuff.

Student: Technology. Andrew: Technology is a good one.

Andrew: My goal is to really make writing

exciting, and to make it an engaging thing.

I think for a lot of these students, writing has always

been something very boring and something that

a teacher told you to do, and they didn't engage them.

And, it didn't excite them at all.

And for me, I love words!

We're writing a script right now for a Steampunk docu-drama.

So, teaching them how- what a script looks like,

what writing for the screen looks like

as opposed to writing an essay.

And then also, how to- how to write with impact.

How to cover your who's, what's, when's and where's

but also, 'what does it smell like?

'What does it taste like?

'What did the air taste like?

What did it'- so, how do we get into that detail

and really make our viewer feel it.

And then more so, how do we make our producer and

our director feel what we just wrote down on paper?

That's what writing is about. So, it's really getting them

to understand the power that's involved in the way that

you can paint a picture with just words.

It makes me excited to see them get excited about

writing and about script writing, and just the

power of words, the power of language.

Rochelle: There's a really technical aspect to this

film school. There's a lot of camerawork, editing work.

The audio, the lights, gripping.

But there's also a lot of wardrobe, makeup,

artistry, special effects and sort of a creative

sort of area that we like to explore at this school.

We talk about the history of theater.

We talk about the history of wardrobe.

They're sketching. They're making and

creating things with their hands.

So, I try to offset the technical with

creative and artistic expression.

So, for them to take this and get the tools in which

to express themselves, and communicate their stories

so that they can communicate in a way that is

actually sophisticated and eloquent, then I think

this is a really excellent way for them to be able to do it

cause it's already a medium they understand.

Rich: We're teaching them editing skills.

And so, post-production is essentially editing. And,

they're learning how to actually physically

produce a show using a computer. There's just such

a difference between each student that

you really have to understand

their personalities and understand their backgrounds

to actually experience and overcome that. And,

teach in a way that's meaningful for each of them.

Chris: I learned a lot of things and realized that

the more flexibility and the more hands-on we can be

in general, most of the students learn a lot better hands-on.

So, I've started to incorporate more and more

activities, and I'm trying to do less straight up

lecturing and more teaching as we go.

>> Ready, Mike? All together.

Go! [class applauds]

Mike: Hey, Sacramento! Let's turn off

our electronics and let's

get ready to listen up!

And our host for today

is the very awesome...Harley Gebhart!

(class applauds/cheers)

>> Take 'one'. (snap)

>> Marker.

Harley: Ladies and gentlemen,

Lillian Vasquez!

[class applauds/cheers]

Harley: Hello, Lillian. Lillian: Hello, Harley.

Harley: Nice to have you on the show!

>> Pleasure to be here. I'm so excited!

Lillian: Let's meet the students and see what

they're learning, what they like,

and what they want to do.

They tend to have several favorites,

a sign that indicates they love it all!

Xavier: I like to learn camera operator, and editing.

But camera operator's my favorite!

Lillian: Camera operating is your favorite?

Xavier: Yeah! Cause I like camera work.

Lillian: Why do you like it? Xavier: Cause I get to be

behind-the-scenes, and then shoot everything

from a distance and see what the action is.

Lillian: What other things do you learn

about here in the workshop?

Xavier: Well, I learn about costuming which is

one of my other favorites. Acting and editing,

and building sets and 'unbuilding' sets!

That's my favorites.

Amanda: We get to learn about

costume design, makeup.

We also learn about how to act on film.

We learn how to look into the camera.

We learn how to write scripts,

what kind of questions to ask,

and we learn about how to edit footage.

Derek: It's a little bit of everything. The general idea

of the class is to look at the

film industry and see what we're capable of within it,

from directing to working camera,

working audio, acting.

Whatever gets involved in the film industry gets covered here.

Lillian: And, what of all those things do you like most?

Derek: It'd have to be directing,

cameraman and writer.

Harley: I've learned to be in front of the camera.

In this case, that talk show that we did yesterday.

And, I've also learned to be

behind it, in this case, filming.

Lillian: What do you like most about

coming to the workshop?

Harley: Well, my favorite part of the workshop is-


Lillian: Do you know what your favorite part of the workshop

is? Or, do you have a favorite part?

Harley: I'm trying to think if I do

have a favorite part?

Lillian: Okay. Maybe you don't.

Maybe you just like it all?

Harley: All I got to say is that I like everything about it.

Mike: What I like the best is editing and...maybe

being behind camera, and doing the log sheet.

Lillian: What is the log sheet? Mike: He has

a piece of paper and then

writes down the scene, the number and 'no good' and

a description like 'this person walks down

the corridor, and does this'.

Timothy: This is more hands-on than, rather than

studying books like at Ex'pressions where I was at.

And, much more easier to learn and even more faster

than I was at Ex'pressions, less complicated.

Even learning like, even other stuff I was- probably

didn't think I was interested in which is writing, too.

Amanda: I like to write about strong women

who can get themselves out of trouble.

They can outsmart the bad guys.

Because I think it's time us women be strong,

because we've been treated like property for a while. And,

it's time we turn around and show what we're made of,

and that we have a mind and we can start a revolution.

Lillian: When you first started the first day of

class, what did you think of it?

Amanda: It was interesting. I was a little nervous.

I didn't know much about film stuff.

It was all new to me. It took a while to adjust

and to learn the ropes.

Xavier: I was a little bit- unknown what to expect.

I didn't know a lot of people and stuff, new faces.

Lillian: Were you nervous about it?

Xavier: Oh, I was excited. Lillian: You were excited?

Xavier: Yes. Then, I started to meet-

then I got to know everybody!

Lillian: And, do you like it better now?

Xavier: Yes! Lillian: Why?

Xavier: Because it's a lot of fun and it

will get me a job in the film and media industry.

Jessica: I was really excited, and starting. And

you know, just getting around without my parents,

and going to film festivals.

Even though I'm autistic, I still get to explore

different places in the world.

Mike: At first, I did not want to come to here.

I did not want to try it out at first, but-

I changed my mind and it's not so bad.

Derek: It wasn't just my first day. It was the program's

first day, as well. Seeing "where's the class,

what it'd be like" and all this stuff?

And, it turned out pretty well.

Lillian: What did you go and see when you went out

with Esther today?

How, what was that about?

Derek: We wanted to see a production company,

as it was. And to be honest, it's a lot like ours.

A little more- they have their stuff together

a little better, but it's still

a pretty down-to-earth company.

It's also to see what

opportunities are available to us out in the field.

And, our program is looking to perhaps talk with them

and see if we can get any internships

going, going on through them.

(snap)! >> Maybe it's being

a paid reporter. Maybe it's just

reviewing the car. You can share

with us your desires!

Lillian: When you saw that today, was it something

that you think you would like to intern on? Or, would you be

afraid, or would you like to give it a try?

Derek: I think I'd love to give it a try.

Get a camera in my hands and see what I can do with it.

Lillian: What do you want to do as a career, for your job?

Xavier: Be a camera operator, KCRA-3 reports,

here in Sacramento, California.

I want to be a wildlife filmmaker who makes my own

nature documentary films on the backs-

as a background, as a backup thing that I do besides

being a camera operator at KCRA-3!

Lillian: Wow! I guess you've thought about what you

want to do, huh? Xavier: Yes. And, I talked with

one of my camera instructors who

I've known for a long time named Esther Ritter.

She's really good with operating a camera

and I talked to her today. And, she said to me

'Xavier, you should'- when you're on break time or

'down time, you should just go in and grab the camera

and start practicing your shots and angles.'

Harley: A few weeks ago, I asked if logo designing

was a major role in movie making.

The teacher said that it was sort of a role.

It's actually a minor role because

it doesn't really happen that much.

Lillian: Creating the logos? Is that what your interest is?

Harley: Yes, even if it isn't for a movie.

It could be for a company,

a product that just got created,

or...anything in between for that matter.

Alexander: I want to be a writer and director for movies.

As for which, big or small studios,

I haven't really decided yet.

Timothy: Five years from now, I would love

to be an assistant cameraman or assistant editor.

Lillian: Who's your favorite character

that you've written about?

Amanda: Hmm? This girl named Anna.

She's 14 years old. She comes from

a divorced family. Her father

is remarried, and her mother is an alcoholic.

Her father is remarried to a black woman,

and it takes place in the 1930s Jim Crow.

Anna is determined for her education,

and she wants to help end the segregation.

Lillian: Wow!

That's awesome! Do you have a name for that?

Amanda: It's the 'Diary of Anna Maria Noland'.

Alexander: I feel great!

I feel overall, if I work hard, I can

make it work for myself and for the people

that helped me along the way.

I think some of the mistakes I made

in the workshop helped me to realize-

to grow as a person.

If I haven't grown yet, I think I will grow.

There's always room for improvement.

Lillian: Tell me how, or what you think

of the instructors here.

Amanda: They're neat people!

Lillian: Why do you think so?

Amanda: Because they have a lot of experience.

They are really good at explaining things,

cause I have trouble with things being

broken down into certain steps.

So, I just can't get all the stuff done at once.

Derek: I think they're good, well-meaning people.

A lot of them have some good experience in the field.

Xavier: They're all very nice! I've never had any situations

or problems with them. I get along with all of them.

Lillian: And, do you like working with them, or-?

Xavier: Yes! Lillian: What do you like about working

with them? Xavier: That they know what they're doing,

that they make us work quickly cause that's what

we're training for in the film world. And,

they expect us to say 'quiet on the set'.

And, we have to build things and get the job done right!

Will: And, I watched how the individuals there really

interacted and their behavior changed!

I sort of said, when they said 'quiet on the set',

50 individuals who were 'not quiet'

30 seconds ago were quiet!

Not a normal state for many of our folks

on the spectrum cause energy is high!

Lillian: Give me an overview of what the '20 weeks'

are like from the beginning, middle and end.

Hester: Production-wise, the first few weeks

are focused on writing our thesis film.

We always do a short thesis film.

It's usually between 10 and 20 minutes, every semester.

And, we film that 'weeks 14 through 16' usually,

somewhere around there. We start with 'writing and development',

and that's usually the first four to five weeks.

And then, we go into 'pre-production'.

So, we're building props. We're making things.

We're sewing costumes. We're buying costumes.

We're going to thrift stores.

We're doing location scouting, casting,

rehearsals, set building.

Whatever we need to do get ready. Lillian: All the things

that encompass-? Hester: All the things that go

into 'film'! Yeah, absolutely!

Lillian: As a group, do you guys kind of

share ideas- Jessica: Yes! Lillian: of what the

thesis is going to be?

Jessica: We vote on it several times

until we pick the one that's going to work best!

Lillian: And in the years that you've done that,

has it always been the one that you wanted,

or has it not been? Jessica: Oh, yeah! Like,

not what I wanted. Some of my ideas didn't work

too well. Lillian: But, do you like being able to share-

Jessica: Yeah! Lillian: your ideas? Jessica: I love it!

It's one of my favorite times, and

getting an idea of what collaborating is like.

Dominick: Our thesis project, called 'Rockonciliation'.

That was a title developed by our students,

and it was a film that had to do with two teenage girls.

One of them receives a ticket to see

a boy rock band called 'No Way', and that featured

our students Xavier, Mike, Archie, and...Nico.

Greg: To be able to have this chance to really

get out there, get with people that are in the film

business and can find that unique thing that each

kid has, you know? Cause each kid really has it.

It's just that when they're so special,

you just got to find it. And,

they'll be the hardest workers you've ever found!

Lillian: Each workshop shares their thesis project,

sometimes as part of a film festival.

It's kind of a wow moment.

Woman: Oh, my gosh! It's going to be so awesome!

Hey? Do you have an extra VIP pass for a friend?

>> Yeah, here's mine. Gotta go.

Lillian: What was the 'Rockonciliation' movie about?

Mike: We played instruments. One was a singer.

Two of the band members were the guitarists,

and my character is the drummer.

Lillian: Do you play the drums?

Mike: I did not know how to play the drums

but I learned how to.

Lillian: You were in the group 'No Way', right?

Xavier: Yes! Lillian: What was that about?

Xavier: The three members- Phoenix, Alex Jimenez and me.

My character's name was Jimmy Hopkins.

We went to this restaurant scene, and we were at

a restaurant, and then when Erin played by our lead,

my co-star actress Petra Van de Hey.

And when she says 'hey, you guys!' I remember, then

I said 'Uh, hi! I'll have a cheeseburger!'

And, I said some other lines.

Petra: Hey, you guys! How you doin'? I'm Erin.

Xavier: Uh, hi! I'll have a cheeseburger and-

Petra: Oh, I don't work here!

I'm such a huge fan. It's such an honor to finally meet

you guys. I'm sorry to hear about Jake.

Xavier: Well, thank you.

He's doing a little better.

At least he's out of the hospital.

Petra: That's such a relief! He's my favorite,

but I love all of you guys!

Xavier: I remember when I was going

over the scene, we kept having

to do many takes.

Because Maggie Metzger, who used to be an instructor here

and is not anymore, she was the director and she said

my acting voice sounded like a robot.

Even when the first time my mom said to me that

special needs people's voices, in acting,

sound like robots, they really didn't believe her!

Lillian: And so, did you get it? Xavier: I did!

Lillian: Eventually get it? Xavier: Yes. We had to do

retakes over and over again because of my voice!

Dominick: So, the students did write the entire script.

They secured the locations themselves.

They were the "crew", if you will.

And, they were also the talent in the film, as well.

So, they took the whole experience of the class

and really put it all into one big film.

Lillian: Why do you think this works?

Hester: I think for people on the

spectrum a lot- there's that

certain 'literal' leaning.

You know, tendency to like structure and to

having things be- make sense, in that way?

And, I think filmmaking does that. There is a certain

structure that you have to kind of adhere to.

There's protocol, and those things kind of have to be there.

But then, like within that bubble,

there's just an infinite amount of creativity.

And, I think that's very true of people

with autism, in their minds.

It's like there's this 'things have to make sense,

and there's a way that things need to be' a lot of times?

But within that, is just oodles of creativity!

Lillian: In your time doing this, what are some of the

'a-ha moments' that you've seen with some of your students?

Hester: One of my favorite stories to tell.

It was an 'a-ha moment' both for me,

but also I think a great breakthrough for her.

At the time that this happened, she was around 18 or 19. So,

she was pretty young but had finished high school.

And, she didn't speak. She was a 'select mute'.

She could speak, but she didn't.

And, we were sitting around in a room and we had written

our script. And, I was like "okay. We're going to see

"who's going to play the parts in the script.

"So, everybody tell me or

write down which part you want to read for".

And, she would write things down, and she wrote

down 'the lead' in the movie, on the piece of paper.

And, I'm going 'well, you know, she can't do this.

She doesn't talk! How is she going to be the lead in

the movie?' This is where I learned from this moment!

And, we were kind of like 'okay.

Well, we'll hand her the script and see what happens'.

So, we're going around. Everybody's reading their lines.

It gets to her line, and she-

you know...I don't remember the line. But you know,

'where did you put the pillow?' This like beautiful ,

resonant voice comes out of her! Perfect inflection.

Like, perfect reading of this line.

I just started crying. And, I ran out of the room

and got our camera guy, and was like 'you have to film this.

She's talking! ' And, we had her

in the class for probably five to six weeks

at that point, and never really heard her speak above,

you know, a whisper every once in a while.

And, she played the lead in the movie! And, she's

played the lead in multiple other films.

So, that was a huge example!

And, those moments kind of remind me to

never underestimate anybody.

Lillian: How have you found the program to be for you?

Chris: It's been really rewarding for me! I think

besides just being like a total blast every day,

and having a lot of fun working with the

students all the time, it's really rewarding

to see the kind of progress that they make.

Even- I mean, now I've been here three semesters.

So, I'm starting to get to see some of the

kind of longer term changes. But even-

especially when we have new students even from

the beginning of a semester to a couple of

weeks into the semester- at the end of the semester,

just seeing the kind of progress that people

can make is really pretty awesome!

Lillian: What will change with the students?

Chris: I think by the end of the semester,

everyone really feels like a solid team

the same way a crew might feel at the end of a long shoot.

Cause they've been through so much together.

We shoot several different student projects, and

we shoot our thesis film. And,

everybody gets so much time not just in class

but working together on set, and I think that really builds

that kind of crew atmosphere by the end of the semester.

Lillian: What have you learned from your

experience, or your time with these students?

Petra: They're so inspiring. They just-

just being around them makes me feel

really good about- you know, they make you feel good

about yourself. But, they're so honest. There just-

it kind of teaches you to be a better person

and be thankful for what you have because they're so

thankful for so much.

Dominick: I have a young male student

extremely camera-shy, and often comes back

to that barrier and says "I can't do this".

But, I give him a little pep talk and everybody else

in the class is very supportive of this individual,

and we all give him our support.

And now, he just laughs at it and then

he says "I'm ready. I'm ready to do this", and

he's actually done it a few times.

And so, he's able to trust me and I give him the confidence,

and then he goes on, and carries on his mission.

Andrew: Watching them work together and having worked in

the arts community and worked on big groups of

artists before, the first time I came in and saw these

guys do a talk show, we had a student who had a little issue.

He wasn't ready to be on camera. He was really shy.

And, watching every one of the other students huddle around

and support , it was so moving and so inspirational!

And they genuinely, like, care about the rest of the class.

And, it's incredibly inspiring and I feel like

the entire entertainment industry could probably

learn a lot from the way that these guys work together.

Esther: My hope is for this program to expand. There are

a lot of people out there who want to be

in film and television who are autistic,

but they're just languishing! There's no opportunity for them.

They can't go to a regular school, maybe.

They edit at home but they're very isolated . And,

coming to this school brings them into a huge community.

They work with people who are in the business.

They're learning the terminology. They're learning

the techniques. So for me, even if they don't

get jobs, they're still part of the film community,

and that- they love that!

Kelley- I asked her like, I think it was about two weeks

into the program and we were storyboarding something.

And I said 'so, you know, how's it going so far? Are you

enjoying the program?' And she looked at me, and she goes

"I'm living my dream"!

And it was like, I literally was like,

I had to turn around and cry because Kelley

was somebody who loved to edit.

Her brother's an editor. Her father's an editor.

And, she would sit home alone, literally,

in her room and edit. Now,

I mean, look at her! She's out here. She's funny.

She edits. She shoots. She, you know, she literally

is living her dream! So, I would love for a lot more

people to come into this program and live their dream.

Lillian: What have you gained from the experience,

and what do you get out of it?

Dale: I gain, just this...huh!

(cracks) You may make me cry! (laughs)

Dale (soft): If you can make a change...(pauses)


Dale: There's nothin' worse than a big fat Italian guy crying!

I gotta tell you!

If you can make a difference in these

kids' lives, and we do!

That's the greatest feeling in the world.

It's like seeing these kids change and seeing them

tap into's incredible!

I love waking up in the morning and I can't wait to

get here to make a change, and see these kids evolve.

And, see them- work with them and see that ladder,

that mountain they're climbing, that road of optimism

that they're going down. And, that's the greatest feeling.

It's almost like that feeling of

watching your child being born. It really is!

(chuckles) It's exhilarating!

It's incredible. So that for me is great,

and I think for Joey and I both,

to leave a legacy that these kids will have

[clears throat] that ability to take it from there.

Kind of take the torch and run with it.

Lillian: You moved to Bakersfield to do this!

Dale: I know! (laughs)

And, you know what? I probably should've

moved here a long time ago!

Because I love this community, and let me

tell you why. This community is the most giving

community I've ever seen in my life!

I can go down any of these streets right now and

tell them who we are, what we do and a lot of them

know who we are now. And, I need to shoot in here tomorrow

at 3 o'clock, and we're going to hang lights.

"Absolutely. Do what you want".

We have a mayor here that is hands-on,

that has an ambulance company.

When we need an ambulance, it's there .

When I need a police car with a cop ,

with a police officer, it's there .

Our production value in our movies

for our school is incredible.

We had an airplane loaned to us for a day, with a pilot,

for a scene. I mean, it's incr- these people just come-

they realize what we're doing. They come together and

they want to help. If I was in LA doing this,

everybody would have their hand out: money .

It's all about money. And you know, what we're doing here,

this is like- this whole city is our 'backlot',

and we- it's just amazing.

So, we're trying to make this the next Hollywood. We had

two films today in the festival, and they were- you know,

when people saw 'Bakersfield', it was like 'yeaaah'!

And, it's neat. And, you see the Woolworth's, the Kress

Department- all these old buildings in town

that we shoot in, because we do a lot of

period pieces from the '60s

usually. And, it's just really neat! It's really neat.

Lillian: What do you hear from parents?

Joey: "You've changed my child's life". You know,

"you don't know the impact". From the very

first camp, the head of Oakland University,

she said "I've only seen you work for two weeks.

"I watched the kids and how they reacted to what-

"the program that you were doing, and you know?

"You don't know who, but I guarantee you several

of these kids are going to be impacted for life!"

And she was right , you know, cause I know

a lot of those kids now. And, they've gone on to college,

and they've gone on to be filmmakers.

We have a young lady who's from the New Jersey camp.

We've had more of an impact on her in the

month-and-a-half that she's been here

through high school, college,

anything she's ever done. And, you know?

That makes it, you know?

It makes it all worthwhile.

Mike: It's something that he was interested in.

You know, he just- they teach them so much,

it's really unreal. I mean, it's- the

capabilities of the structure

of what they have from making the films to

just doing sets or doing whatever,

he's just- he's pumped! He loves coming here.

He couldn't wait to come back to the program,

as it starts today. And, I just think his creativity

is really- I mean we're out somewhere and he'll say

"dad, you need to shoot a shot over there",

or something. He just brings up different things!

You know, his ideas are listened to, now.

I mean, when they talk about making a movie or

Joe will talk about different scenes they want to do,

he'll bring it up and talk to

friends of ours and different things. What he thinks

they should just shoot and different things. And,

he's very- definitely enthusiastic about it!

Greg: She talks about what she's done every day when

she gets home. I think she just really loves the program.

I wasn't sure she'd be able to- to really be able to

participate for the entire five hours a day

that was at this program because she'd never really

done anything that long, or that intensive before.

But, she comes home just fine.

Before, it seemed like other tasks, it would-

she would really tire after an hour or two with those tasks.

But, she can handle this like a breeze!

Garye: He's shared quite a lot about it, and

to be honest, I felt jealous because of some of

the things he's learned. And, it seems like it's really fun.

I've spent today, just watching how they're doing

things, and it really seems like they're

learning a lot and they're all really enjoying it.

And I think if I had the chance to,

I'd probably want to do something like this.

Michele: I think that he just likes the idea of

having a role in which he has the ability to be

confident, in which he's an expert when he- you know?

Knowing what he knows and knowing its value, and

knowing how to apply it is just huge for him, cause I think

much of his life he's felt like he was the one who

didn't know! There has been a tremendous change.

He's opened up more.

He's more communicative. I was

really worried that his social skills that he had

developed were starting to just sort of degrade.

He has become far more self-confident.

He will actively advocate for himself,

which was something even through high school,

he didn't want to be involved in. I think that

I described this at one point to someone in the film program

here as "he's comfortable in his own skin",

for the first time that I've ever seen!

And, it's just been really an incredible change,

a wonderful change. And, I think that the entire family

has seen it. His grandparents have commented on it.

His brothers have commented on it.

My husband and I see it all the time.

Carrie: She pretty much skips to the car

every day, after class! (laughs)

And, she always tells us exactly what happened

during the day and is excited to learn all the

new things that, you know, every day is something new.

But, this kind of has brought her out of her shell.

I gave an example when the class first started,

where one of the teachers asked Kelley to go to another-

'time and space' are kind of hard for Kelley. And, the

teacher asked her to go get something out of another

room that's kind of around the corner and down the hall?

And, she goes 'mom, come with me'! The teacher

said 'no. You can do it, Kelley'. Without even

thinking again, she went and did it!

But, it's totally made Kelley feel

more independent and confident.

Lillian: With her sibling, does she share dialogue or

conversation about this industry now?

Carrie: He's very impressed! He says

he wishes he had this background!

Terri: But, I knew he was ready. He's talked about

doing documentaries most of his childhood,

his teen years. He loves animals.

So, I knew he was ready.

And, I think I would tell other parents if your

child has any interest in doing something that's not

simple and repetitive, which tends to be

what's out there for these kids, and uses his

imagination and will foster his courage and

his social skills, look into it! Definitely.

Lillian: Everyone likes to receive a paycheck.

These students are no different, and some of them

are doing it! And, doing it with something

they value and enjoy.

Timothy: Getting paid is just a bonus of

what I'm passionate about, which is editing and

behind the camera, you know?

Even getting a paid a little.

I don't even care because I love doing

what I'm doing and I do it at home for free! So... (laughs)

Nick: My job was being the slate.

Lillian: Were you paid for the job? Nick: Yep!

Lillian: How did it feel to get that first check ?

Nick: It felt awesome!

Timothy: I did do one promotional video

for the art classes at the Lafayette site,

again, run by Futures.

You know, I think I did a good job.

Just a 'good' job but I'm really critical of myself.

You know, I guess others think it's excellent.

William: I want to encourage them to further

their dreams and get into the film industry.

And I work with a company, Sideshow Productions,

for my friend Chris Folino, and we shoot

a lot of television commercials. And, we have

the best of intentions to use some of Joey's kids

to help on the sets when we're shooting commercials.

Lillian: How can parents help get their child ready?

Will: I think the most, it's to be...a member

of their community. To be active in

art classes, or whether it's playing on a soccer team,

doing whatever, and encouraging them

to be a part of that community. Looking at what's out there,

supporting that talent, supporting their ability

to sort of interact and work with friends,

find friends, and give them

the opportunity to explore the world and see what's out there.

And it's not easy. I understand. Especially with folks who have,

you know, their behavior challenges and change

isn't easy! But, if your answer

to that is 'then we won't

change anything', they'll never sort of gain that flexibility.

Lillian: Can this flexibility expose them

to more, allow them to learn, help them to

make decisions and possibly become gainfully employed?

Raising a child with autism takes a village,

and demands so much. But parents need to help

provide the tools for them to succeed.

While this program highlights one specific

curriculum, that of Inclusion Films with

Futures Explored, this program is really a reminder

that curriculums like this are needed in

all cities and states, and in your community.

If it's a program to teach the fundamentals of film

or the television industry, keep in mind

it's not just Hollywood that produces TV and Film.

There are production companies throughout the country,

and a project like this can be duplicated.

This is both a wake-up call and a push of encouragement.

As the number of young adults who are "aging out"

continues to rise, so will the need for the programs

in every community which might help these young

adults discover how they can contribute to society

and in the process, help them become self-supporting.

Gainful employment is possible only when skills

are identified and developed.

The talent is there. Many individuals

with autism have keen attention to detail,

a desire to please and an intrinsic need for routine.

They, more than you might think, have the potential

to make outstanding employees

if only given the chance.

I'm Lillian Vasquez. Thanks for watching. Bye for now!

VO: Support for "Autism: Behind the Camera" comes from

the Hussman Foundation, providing

life-changing assistance through medical research,

education and direct aid to vulnerable populations

having urgent needs or significant disabilities.