I’ve spent the past two weeks constructing a 15 minute rough cut from the footage that I’ve been amassing over the past two years. The idea is to gauge what I have and what I wish I had. The result is essentially a “tone” piece, to feel out what the atmosphere and attitude of Justin’s story as it unfolds on screen. Last night I had the pleasure of submitting this early-stage rough cut to a workshop put on by Nomadique, the multi-disciplinary creative enclave located somewhere along the G train in Brooklyn. Over the past year, I have presented other works in progress to the same group and have always come away humbled, challenged and inspired to do better work. Last night was no different. The feedback was intelligent, specific and applicable to the immense task that lies ahead. One of the main points I came away with was that the audience felt most connected to Justin when he was speaking for himself, rather than watching others speak about him. This is incredibly affirming to my original vision for the film, which is to let Justin tell his own story, and leave the postulating commentary for the birds (or as Justin would put it, “NO OPINIONS PLEASE”). As a filmmaker, my main job is to facilitate the story and compress it into a cohesive 90 minute piece, while the story’s content is a collaboration between myself, Justin and the whirl of activity that will move him from point A to point B. Another clarifying response from the workshop was the importance of first impressions. The rough cut that I presented starts the same way as the DFMP trailer – depicting Justin and his friend Dani Bowman in the car. During the course of their conversation, Dani calls Justin out for not making proper eye contact, to which Justin replies, “I have autism!” as if to say, “What do you expect?” It is a defining moment of who this young man is and how he sees himself and how we are allowed to see him. Later in the scene, when Dani gets annoyed at Justin for eating with his mouth open, Justin replies “Manners sucks!” Here Justin is not only defining the terms of our relationship to him as a viewer, but also giving voice to a feeling we’ve all had at some point. Because Justin introduces himself as someone with autism and freely expresses his frustration with cultural norms, the unbending result is that we are freed to laugh at our rigid selves. Justin ceases to be a subject and becomes our teacher and our guide through the bizarre and often nonsensical world of Neurotypicals. That is the tone that I’m after for the months ahead.
Thank you to all who have recently contributed to this project. You have made this possible!
Ben Stamper, Director of DON’T FOIL MY PLANS