What inspired you to make the film?
My wife and I had our first child in 2007, a boy named Luke. When Luke was 3 years old he was not talking, nor was he doing a lot of things that other 3 year olds were. We scheduled an appointment with his doctor who referred us to the Child Development and Rehabilitation Center for testing. After several hours of observation from child psychologists and a developmental pediatrician, Luke was diagnosed with autism. Almost as shocking as the diagnosis itself was the fact that the experts dropped the bomb, gave us a pamphlet on autism, and said good luck. We spent the next few weeks searching our area for programs that could help Luke. We were lucky enough to have a great resource here in Eugene, Oregon called The Bridgeway House that offers therapy for children and families with autism and related disorder.
As a dad I didn’t really know what my role would be with Luke now that we had this diagnosis. What would our relationship be like? Would I ever be able to talk with him? Would he ever say “I love you”? I started looking or answers from a father’s perspective online, but only found information from a mother’s point of view. I had all these questions, so I figured there must be other guys out there wondering about the same things. My day job is in video production and I’ve made a few narrative films in the past so I decided to use my skills to create a film that would give comfort to, and answer a lot of the questions for, dads of children with autism.
I treated the filming and interviewing process as sort of therapy. I asked these dads all the questions I wanted to know because I knew if anyone knew the answers, it would be these guys.
Did you have any knowledge/experience of autism before making the film?
I worked in television news for more than 10 years as a photographer, and in that time I remember doing several stories on autism whenever the subject made headlines, but other than that, I had no experience with it until my son came along.
What other projects have you worked on?
Right now I’m in the middle of writing a screenplay that centers around a single father learning how to build a relationship with his autistic son. I have a small team of talented people that will be helping raise funds for the project. I’m hoping to direct this feature film in the spring of 2016 with a release date sometime in 2017.
Before working on “Do it Differently” I had written and directed 2 narrative films in the comedy and horror genre, and produced dozens of short films and commercials.
How did you approach the fathers in the film?
When I decided to make the film, I contacted the autism society of Oregon, who put me in touch with a couple of the dads in the film (Jonathan Ayers and Damian Goble). They were both very open to talking about the subject in order to help other dads. Mike Guido happened to be in town performing his one man show, “A Real Man – Dad. Daughter. Autism.” I showed up during his sound check and he was happy to be involved. Mike Whitty is a long time friend of my brother-in-law. He was more than willing to talk and has been the film’s strongest advocate.
My approach was to use this as an opportunity to hear from the guys we don’t often hear from – strong men who are dealing with autism on a daily basis.
How long was the filming process?
It took about 6 months to coordinate all the schedules and shoot the interviews. The original plan was to have a camera follow each family for an extended period of time, but I didn’t have the budget for that. Luckily, each family had extensive home videos, which turned out to be far more intimate and revealing than if we had followed them with our own cameras. All the families were very gracious and let us use their home movies for the film.
I felt that the film had such a positive message in that dads are important, that they have a positive role to play. Very often dads are forgotten. This film gives dads a voice. The styling of the film I felt was simplistic in that in every frame the focus was totally on the dad talking on camera. I could not take my eyes off the screen.Was this intentional?
I like to think of it as a beautiful accident. At first I thought we would have much more video to use for the film and wouldn’t be looking at the interviews so much, but during the editing process it was hard to cut away from these guys who are spilling their guts on camera. To me it hits close to home, so I wanted to see their faces more as they talk about these things that are hard to talk about.
Where will the film be shown?
Since the 2012 release, we’ve had a lot of positive responses. We’ve had several showings here in Oregon sponsored by local autism support groups, we’ve sold hundreds of DVDs through our website, fanbladefilms.com, and have just recently put the film in its entirety on YouTube for everyone to watch and share.
Will there be a follow up film?
I like to think of the screenplay I’m currently working on as a follow-up film to “Do it Differently.” Although it will be a narrative film and not a documentary, the subject matter will be similar and I hope to bring even more attention to the fathers who work hard every day raising their children and doing the right thing.
Next are the interviews with the fathers in the film.