Reflection for Civic Engagement: PSA for Autism Society of America
I became involved with this PSA for Autism Society of America because it was an amazing opportunity to showcase my work at over 4,000 AMC theaters nationwide. I was able to bring awarneness and acceptance to the gerneral public about the capablities that people with autism have, and also to bring hope to people with autism that is it's possible to have a typical life with the right help.
I accomplished the following Civic Engagement learning outcomes:
- Working Across Civic Contexts
- Knowledge in New Context
Autism is a neurological disorder that affects communication and social skills. Autism comes in a spectrum, from the severe non-verbal autism to the mildly affected Asperger’s Syndrome.
Like the character "Allie", I'm also diagnoised with autism, and we share similiar repeative behaviors, which I included in my depiction of Allie in the PSA.
In the United States, 1 in 68 are diagnosed with autism, over 5,000 individuals with autism will turn 18 this year, and about 90% of adults with autism are unemployed or underemployed regardless of their education and IQ level.
Those statics are unacceptable.
Working Across Civic Contexts
There are many autism organizations around the world, and each one has a different purpose. Some are looking for a cure, some are looking for the causes and preventions, and others want autism acceptance. Autism Speaks is America’s largest, most well know, and very well funded autism organization, which dominates over the much older Autism Society of America (ASA). Despite being founded earlier in 1965, ASA is not as well known as Autism Speaks (which was founded 40 years later in 2005). To raise visability of Autism Society of America, Matthew Asner's (son of famous actor Ed Asner and Autism Society of America's vice president of development) goal is to raise awareness of this organization.
In late 2016, Matt Asner wanted to produce a 25 second PSA for Autism Society of America to be shown at over 4,000 AMC theaters nationwide, to help raise visibility of this organization. Asner contacted me and Matthew Manning (a director and animator for projects at Stoopid Buddy Stoodios) to come up with a pitch for the PSA. Matthew had two pitch ideas, and my pitch was "Building Lives Together", which was selected.
Premise: Building a Life Together.
A child is playing with building blocks in her bedroom, making rows, stacking them up, all the sudden she builds a perfect house out of blocks. Mother walks in and is amazed. A second person walks in, wearing an ASA T-shirt, looks at child and smiles at mom.
Same girl as a young teen obsessed with metrics and mathematics built a house structure for the science fair, and won a blue ribbon. Mother is in the audience, looking so proud, and next to her is another person wearing an ASA T-shirt, looks at the teen and smiles at mom.
Same girl is graduating from University. In the audience is a very proud mom with a person wearing an ASA T-shirt next to her, looks at the girl and smiles at mom.
Same girl, now a workingwoman, uses her concept maps to build houses. Mother is standing by looking very proud, and again next to her a person wearing an ASA T- shirt, looks at the woman and smiles at mom.
Same woman, now a senior looks at her grandchild lining and stacking up blocks with a person wearing an ASA T-shirt next to her grand child. The senior smiles proudly.
The PSA ends with the ASA logo that states “Autism Society of America: Building Lives Together”.
“Focus on the Positive”.
The first four scenes or life stages show the mom realizing that her child is serious about getting her life together. The final scene will show Awards and Achievements displayed around the woman’s office, showing her success over the years. At the same time, Autism Society of America is standing by.
I worked on this project while taking animation classes at Woodbury University, and Manning visited every Thursday to direct me on this project. This animation was done on ToonBoom Harmony 14 and composited in Final Cut Pro 7.
The inspiration for this idea came from my own personal experience, unlike "Allie" who got services from Autism Society of America, I got help from my aunt and uncle.
What I learned at Woodbury University and Matthew Manning reenforced was that everytime I do a composite, I get edits. It takes tons of fixing and editing again and again to get the project deliverable.
Knowledge in New Context
While producing this PSA, I had my professors and animation professionals Dori Littel-Herrick (Chair of the Animation Department), David Brain, and Sue Kroyer review my animation as I developed this project. We met every Tuesday and Thursday to review and improve the animation during my Junior Studio 2 class. My professors at my Junior Studio 2 class gave me edits and suggestions to improve my animation.
One of the challenges of working on this project is learning to work with the 25 second timespan that I was given for this animation. I overcame this challenge by working with my storyboards, and highlighting shot scenes in a person's different stages of life.
Another challenge I had was recording the dialog because I have a small lisp. It was difficult for me to be clear while pronouncing certain words like "typical" and "Alice".
Early Recording for "Hi I'm Alice" in a kidde voice.
Early recording: "They were told that I would not have a typical life." Alice was the original name that I came up with for the main character
Then I changed the wording around; for example, I changed the character's name from "Alice" to "Allie". And for "typical", I moved it to the end of a sentence.
I had to re-record it over and over again. At the end, my voice over turned out well.
From left to right, Madison Shafer, Dori Littel-Herrick, and Dani Bowman. Madison had worked on the backgrounds for this project.
My course work helped me in this project because in my "Junior Studio 2" class, I learned how to collaborate with a team. I also learned how to delegate work. For example, I asked a fellow animation student at Woodbury, Madison Shafer to help me out with the backgrounds, and Lauren Dair Owens (a musician and actress from FOX's New Girl) to re-record the song "Better for You", a song that she originally wrote for me a couple of years back for one of my animated shorts, The Namazu (2012).
In the Autism Community, some adults with autism have planned their career paths based on their passion and skills, but may need help preparing to enter the workforce. For example, I’m a gifted animator; however, I still need help with preparation, speed, and organization to help me enter the workforce.
The Autism Society of America helps and supports people like me to have a productive and successful life, and this PSA helped get their important message out to the general public and the autism community. The animated PSA demonstrates how this organization provides services for individuals with autism from childhood to adulthood, like having a student aid to help a student like the character “Allie” through their lifetime.
The song for the PSA “Better For You” (performed by Lauren Dair Owens, and music produced by Bob DeMarco of DeMarco Productions—who also has a son on the spectrum) emphasises the message in the PSA.
The AutFest Logo
This video was uploaded on Facebook, March 31st, 2017, and went viral with over 20k views, 505 reactions, and 293 shares in 3 weeks. Not only was it shown at over 4,000 AMC theaters nationwide, it was also shown at Autism Society of America’s first annual film festival called “Autism International Film Festival” (or AutFest), a film festival that features films made by individuals with autism and/or featuring characters with autism. This film festival ran from April 22nd to the 23rd at AMC Orange 30 in Orange County. This film festival is a great example, showcasing the talent of people with autism in the film and animation industry, and it was attended by Ben Allfick of The Accountant, and the directors of Disney Pixar's Inside Out, Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera.
Autism Society of America is one of the autism organizations that help individuals with autism by providing services that can help them from their childhood to a successful and productive life, but Autism Speaks overshadowed this organization. The animated PSA was a huge success with over 20K views on Facebook, and was shown at over 4,000 AMC theaters nationwide. This PSA benefits the organization because it helps raise its visibility of their funding, mission, and goal to support individuals with autism to have a productive and successful life, and I was very honored and happy to to help produce this project.
I learned the importance of working in teams, and delegating projects. This was the first time my work was this widely shown to this large of an audience, and it's unreal to finally see my animation on the big screen. How even more unreal is to realize that a dream I'd been stiving for since I was 3 years old was reached.