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A documentary film about adults with autism, my brother Brian, and making a life as a disabled person in a neurotypical society
A documentary film about adults with autism, my brother Brian, and making a life as a disabled person in a neurotypical society
177 backers pledged $16,118 to help bring this project to life.
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BRIAN, a feature documentary film

$16,118

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STRETCH GOAL: $15,000!

We've reached our funding goal in just 8 days! All of the support has been amazing, so we're stretching our campaign to $15,000! What will we do with that extra $5,000? Every dollar donated above the original goal will go directly to distribution. This means that we can set up our own public screenings around the country, and even more people will be able to see the film. The more people who learn about adults with autism, the better!

Official Poster by Noah Canavan
Official Poster by Noah Canavan

Personal Connection

As Brian’s sister, this film is close to my heart. I followed Brian through his difficult transition into adulthood with my camera. At first, I was able to translate for Brian when no one else could understand his speech. I helped him learn his new environment. I believe I provided a source of comfort for him, as I was often the only familiar face in the room.

Brian & Heather as kids
Brian & Heather as kids

Brian and I were never very close growing up, mostly due to the challenges of Brian’s autistic behavior. This film has brought us much closer together. I expected this film to be difficult to make, but what I didn’t expect was to finally begin breaching the barrier of autism between us. I see a personality in Brian so clearly now. Beneath his disability, Brian is utterly human. He gets frustrated when people talk about him like he isn’t in the room. He thrives on intimate hugs and human touch. This film will reintroduce the personal element of this disability, an aspect often forgotten in mainstream media about autism. I want the audience to see Brian how I see him: human, just like the rest of us.

The Story

BRIAN opens on the scene of a high school graduation. Students adorning blue robes are crowded into a room. There’s something different about this graduation, though. Many of the students are yelling, and some need help putting on their robes. We see one student, Brian, who looks bewildered into the camera as a young woman fixes his cap. She asks him if he is alright. He absently repeats, “Alright.”

BRIAN tells the story of a severely autistic young man, facing the challenges of entering into the adult world after his “high school” graduation. Because of state policy, Brian is forced out of the education system after his 21st birthday. Now officially an “adult,” Brian moves from his residential school to his new home. His family worries that without the day to day structure of education Brian will regress to his previous violent behaviors. To combat this fear, Brian’s parents enrolled him in a newly formed program designed specifically for adults with autism. He is the first to participate in this program, as services for adults with autism are scarce in the state of Maryland.

The film is shot from the unique perspective of Brian’s sister, me, frequently breaching the wall between subject and documentarian. I, the filmmaker, explore Brian’s new life alongside him, rejecting the societal convention that Brian must work and assimilate in order to be a productive member of society. The film, instead, seeks to understand Brian’s personality beneath his disability. What does Brian want out of life, and how can that be achieved? How does someone with a disability as severe as Brian’s function in this world? What can he contribute to society? The documentary BRIAN attempts to answer these questions through the intimate lens of sibling relationship.

How Your Donation Helps

This is an independent film - probably as “independent” as it gets. This documentary has been exclusively self-funded for the past year. This film is a deeply personal passion project, and I want to see it done right. With your help, I can reach my $10,000 goal to continue shooting this summer and produce a polished, professional feature length film. Any additional funds raised will go directly towards the distribution of the film.

Production Still Summer 2015, Photo by Al Drago
Production Still Summer 2015, Photo by Al Drago

Camera equipment, crew stipends, and post-production make up the largest portions of the budget. I am fortunate to have the resources of Emerson College at my disposal, but there are still many post-production costs ahead. The money raised will go towards hiring a sound mixer, a composer, and an assistant editor. It will also help fund tangible necessities like hard drives and software programs.

After completion, I hope to distribute the film to a number of notable film festivals. I also want to hold a free public screening in Maryland for the subjects of the film and the autism community that helped make this film possible. Festival entry fees and advertising costs will quickly add up.

Your donations will be taken seriously. Every cent donated will go directly to the film. If we don’t reach the $10,000 goal, no donations will be received.

Other Ways to Contribute

If you aren’t able to donate, you can help by sharing the project with your friends and family. Small donations add up quickly! Post a link to this Kickstarter page on your Facebook or Twitter and encourage the people you know to donate. Help spread the word and we can reach our goal.

The Team

To learn more about the people behind this project, click on the links below. Each one of our team members believes in this project and has dedicated time and resources to the film out of their passion for this story. 

Heather Cassano- Producer, Director, Editor

Sean Dolan - Assistant Editor

Al Drago - Still Photographer, Second Shooter

Risks and challenges

This will be my first feature length documentary, and it is a huge undertaking! Editing is the most cost-prohibitive part of this process. Our team has already collected 60+ hours of footage, and plans to continue shooting this summer. With a history of successful short films under my belt and an incredible passion for this story, I can craft this narrative from the hours of observational footage. Making this film could be the most difficult thing I’ve had to do yet, but also the most rewarding. I’m humbled that you all are willing to support me.

Distributing this film will also present a challenge. There are many films about autism out there, but this one is unique. With help from this Kickstarter campaign, I want to reach audiences who are unfamiliar with autism. Bringing Brian’s lovable personality to the screen will diversify cinematic representations of autism and promote a better understanding of the disability. It is my hope that we can learn from our differences.

I have high hopes for this film, and I thank you all for taking the time to visit this campaign page. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without all of your love and support.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Thank you for your support! Every dollar counts. You will get a shoutout on Facebook and exclusive donor updates on the film's progress.

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    10 backers
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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    You will receive a high resolution digital still from production and a contributor credit in the end credits of the film.

    + Facebook shoutout
    + Donor Updates

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    17 backers
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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    A postcard of the film's official poster mailed to your door.

    + High-Res Digital Still
    + Contributor Credit
    + Facebook Shoutout
    + Donor Updates

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    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    15 backers
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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    An invitation to the Boston screening of the film in May 2017 (travel not included) and access to an online stream.

    + Postcard
    + High-Res Digital Still
    + Contributor Credit
    + Facebook Shoutout
    + Donor Updates

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    13 backers
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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    A high resolution digital copy (or DVD copy) of BRIAN after its completion in the festival circuit.

    + Boston Screening
    + Postcard
    + High-Res Digital Still
    + Contributor Credit
    + Facebook Shoutout
    + Donor Updates

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    54 backers
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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    A digital photo album of some of the funniest, most adorable photos of me and Brian as kids. Trust me, you want this. Includes awkward sibling hugs and teenage angst.

    + The Film
    + Boston Screening
    + Postcard
    + High-Res Digital Still
    + Contributor Credit
    + Facebook Shoutout
    + Donor Updates

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    4 backers
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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    An 11x17 print of the movie poster / still from the film (your choice) signed by myself and Brian.

    + Digital Photo Album
    + The Film
    + Boston Screening
    + Postcard
    + High-Res Digital Still
    + Contributor Credit
    + Facebook Shoutout
    + Donor Updates

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    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    14 backers
    $

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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    A Skype conversation with the director! Maybe you just want to reconnect or you want to pick my brain about the film. You'll get an hour with me to chat about anything.

    + Movie Poster
    + Digital Photo Album
    + The Film
    + Boston Screening
    + Postcard
    + High-Res Digital Still
    + Contributor Credit
    + Facebook Shoutout
    + Donor Updates

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    4 backers
    $

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    Learn more about accountability.
  9. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    You will receive free tickets / VIP access to a screening of your choice - the Boston screening, Maryland screening, or a potential festival showing. Plus some one-on-one face time at that screening with me to ask questions or talk about our mutual love for documentaries. Travel not included.

    + Movie Poster
    + Digital Photo Album
    + The Film
    + Boston Screening
    + Postcard
    + High-Res Digital Still
    + Contributor Credit
    + Facebook Shoutout
    + Donor Updates

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    2 backers
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  10. Select this reward

    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Wow! Thank you for believing in this film as much as I do. Whether you are a friend or family member, or just another person who loves someone with autism, you are an amazing human being.

    You will receive an Associate Producer credit in the opening title sequence of the film, and an advanced screening of BRIAN before release in the festival circuit.

    + Free tickets to a screening of your choice & one-on-one conversation
    + Movie Poster
    + Digital Photo Album
    + The Film
    + Boston Screening
    + Postcard
    + High-Res Digital Still
    + Facebook Shoutout
    + Donor Updates

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    1 backer
    $

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  11. Select this reward

    Pledge $2,000 or more About $2,000

    Amazing! I've found myself a new EXECUTIVE PRODUCER! You will see your name in the opening credits of the film. You will also get the opportunity to host your own private screening of the film with me in attendance! Invite your friends and family to show off what you helped accomplish.

    (Filmmaker attendance is limited to the U.S., but you can host your own screening anywhere in the world!)

    + Free tickets to a screening of your choice & one-on-one conversation
    + Movie Poster
    + Digital Photo Album
    + The Film
    + Boston Screening
    + Postcard
    + High-Res Digital Still
    + Facebook Shoutout
    + Donor Updates

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    Limited 1 backer
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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    A free 1 hour portrait session with the film's resident still photographer, Al Drago. Al has taken some wonderful photos for this film, including production stills and the poster photographs. He's so good, he takes photos of U.S. Congressmen for a living! You know you want this. Portrait locations limited to the U.S. East Coast.

    + Movie Poster
    + Digital Photo Album
    + The Film
    + Boston Screening
    + Postcard
    + High-Res Digital Still
    + Contributor Credit
    + Facebook Shoutout
    + Donor Updates

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    Reward no longer available 3 backers
    $

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Funding period

- (60 days)