Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Film Camp for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

"OK," the director said. "Roll camera."
"Scene 1, doctors walking into building, Take 1," announced the kid in charge of the scene marker as he slapped down the black and white slate, hopping in and out of the camera shot.

"And action!" yelled young director Eddy Alvarez-Petit.
But the pint-sized actors -- standing outside Oakland University's soccer dome Friday wearing hospital smocks and doctors' masks -- didn't move.
"And cut," said director Joey Travolta, who for the second year is running a film camp for children and teens with autism at the university for the organization Jack's Place for Autism.
"Guys, on action you gotta move," Travolta implored.
Participants at the two-week camp, which ends Thursday, are making a version of "American Bandstand," with music videos and commercials, like the doctors scene, a spoof on Geico ads.
Because autism is a neurological disorder that affects socialization and communication skills, the camp helps participants improve verbally and socially, said Lisa Price, founder of Jack's Place for Autism in Southfield.
"The beauty of film camp is, even though it's still structured, they have to live outside the box," said Price, who named the organization after her 12-year-old autistic son, Jack.
Outside the soccer arena Friday, Jared Weinberg attempted to put on blue latex gloves for the commercial.
"Hey guys, hang on, I'm not even ready," the 13-year-old from Troy said. "Oh boy, here goes nothing."
"Eddy?" Travolta asked as he searched for the 11-year-old junior director, who had a tendency to wander off to talk to friends or to play with grass or water pooled in a nearby tarp.
"Here," said Eddy of Shelby Township.
"Come on, you gotta be in on this, buddy," Travolta said, pulling in his protégé.
Travolta -- older brother to John -- is a special education teacher-turned director, who has held five camps across the country for kids with autism this summer.
About 50 students are participating in the camp at OU. Most have autism. Some campers are attending with brothers, sisters or friends who have the condition. In November, all of the young filmmakers will reunite for a red-carpet unveiling of the 20-minute film at OU.
But, first they have to finish the commercial.
"Take 2," Eddy called out, as the actors moved back into position. "Scene 1, doctors walking into building, Take 2," the kid with the scene marker said, snapping the slate.