If ever there were a story that embodies the heart of America, it’s the story found in families and individuals affected by autism.
As people often fret about America, one can’t help but hear the daily drumbeat of how folks have their best days behind them. To many so-called authorities, the situations faced by individuals and families dealing with autism are hopeless, as they seek to define for others what is “normal.” Many parents attempt to navigate a system that is corrupt and/or inept and lose hope while their support systems crumble, leaving them to go it alone. Yet, in the face of such obstacles, some manage to rise above the fray. What drives them? Who are these people and how are they changing their communities?
This was the quest of one man who undertook a 40 day journey across the American landscape to find the answers for his family and son. With interviews that include the widest spectrum of backgrounds – each conducted in the participants’ original language – the film weaves a broad and compelling tapestry across the spectrum of American life in all its faiths, disparities, colors, and cultures. What he learns along the way will change not only his life, but the lives of those he meets, forever. It’s a story about the best days that still lie ahead for our nation, the families, and the people who give America its heart.
How the Project Came About
Sugey Cruz-Everts was writing a book on various cultures and how they dealt with autism. As a first generation hispanic, she knew from her experiences, as well as families from different cultures all around the nation, that autism became a different struggle for every family. One day she discussed with her husband, Richard Everts, about the idea of putting a documentary together to go with the book. Their initial idea was to talk with 4-5 families in the Northeast of the United States. Little did they know what would happen a few months later.
The Pepsi Refresh Project
In December of 2009, one of our board members came to the Tommy Foundation with this new fangled thing she heard called the Pepsi Refresh Project, which was set to debut in February. Pepsi bypassed advertising in the Superbowl and decided instead to give the money away to charities in a monthly voting contest. The best ideas would receive the most votes and the charities could win anything from $5,000 to $250,000 for their project. Ten awards would be given to all the categories, except the $250,000, which would have two awardees.
We decided to be one of the first contestants, so we put our names in the January slot for $50,000. That month we came in 14th place, just missing qualifying, and were automtically re-entered for March. From the momentum we had at the end of the previous month, we started March in 1st place and continued to hold a position in the top ten through the end of the month. On April 1st, at 12:01 am, we knew that we had placed in 8th place and were going to be awarded the first Pepsi Refresh Project grant for autism in the nation.
Putting Everything Together
We went through a lot of paperwork with Pepsi to make sure we were legitimate and could handle a project of this scope. We then posted applications right away on our Facebook pages, website, and twitter so we could get the most applications covering the widest range of people. By the time of our deadline, we received more than enough applications to go across the United States to get our story. Within six weeks of receiving our grant money, we had planned the trip across 11,000 miles, including hotels, scheduling, and the myriad of other things most films have months to prepare. On June 22nd, we shot our first footage. You can follow the rest of the trip on our blog where we recorded every day for 40 days, starting here.
What We’ve Done So Far
Over 100 US Screenings
There are hundreds of documentaries about autism out there, yet the largest autism films in the country have always reached the 100 showing mark before going to Blu-Ray/DVD or digital distribution. So, we sold out a New York City theater for our world premiere on April 5th, and now tens of thousands of people have seen the film across the United States. We’ve had over 100 showings in the US and the UK. You can find more information about our public screenings here.
Raising Money For Autism Around America
Far too many times we see larger organizations that claim to be for autism hold walks or fundraising events around the country and then take the money and run back to their national headquarters. Since we started the project, we wanted to find a way to put money back into local autism communities around America, putting the money to use where it should be on the front lines. So, we donate over 25% of every theatrical showing, or 100% of donated funds over costs at private fundraisers, to local autism organizations and groups. We find that every little bit helps, and we can make a huge difference through our work.
To date, we’ve helped raise over $20,000 for local autism groups, individuals, and organizations. We continue to hold theatrical showings, private fundraisers, and more to help the autism movement. You can find more information about screenings here.
Starting in August of 2013, we released the film in countries with PAL, including a run in the United Kingdom in August and November. We’re excited to bring this American story to the world, and sharing our world of autism with everyone who wants to more about the condition.
The official Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack of the film from the Tommy Foundation is now available on GetAutism.com, as well as Amazon. The Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack contains the HD version of the film as well as 65 minutes of extended material, including a special Behind the Scenes Featurette and 35 minutes of missing and extended interviews from along the trip. This version also contains Spanish subtitles and Closed Captioning through full English Subtitles.
The iTunes release will be coming soon so please stay tuned.
Doing Our Best
86th Annual Academy Awards
The ultimate recognition of any film is an Academy Award.
We felt that all those with autism and their families deserved recognition through a film that encompasses the entire autism movement without judgement. So, we took the bold step of doing an independent run at the 86th Annual Academy Awards on March 2nd, 2014 in Hollywood California.
We fulfilled our Oscar run requirements at the Quad Cinema in NYC August 9th – 15th and Laemmle’s Playhouse 7 in Pasadena, CA from August 16th – 23rd. After getting our reviews, placing our ads, and doing our best to raise the recognition of the film for the voting committees, we were the only movie out of the 151 Qualified Documentaries that focused on the entire autism spectrum, and one of only two movies to mention autism at all.
After reviewing the 15 movie shortlist, not one documentary on disabilities made the 86th Annual Academy Awards review.
View More Information:
The Crew for the Movie
The Families in the Movie
The Facts About Autism
The Resources Available to Families and Individuals
The Press Kit for the Media
The Wallpaper Downloads for Computers and Mobile Devices
The Blog that Follows Everything About the Movie