Autistic license: Teen filmmaker sheds light on his own disorder
By Tenley Woodman
Monday, December 5, 2005
It’s not that unusual for a teen, especially one from California, to be a budding filmmaker. But Taylor Cross, 17, turned his camera on a subject few directors have touched: the mind of the autistic child.
Cross’ 10-minute film “Normal People Scare Me,” which will be shown tonight at the Flutie Bowl in Boston, shows nonautistics what it is like to live with autism.
“Pretty much I’ve been living in a cave for several years, except for the autisic kids,” said Cross during his visit to Boston last week.
Autism is a developmental disorder that alters a person’s social interaction and communication skills and is typically diagnosed in early childhood.
According to the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism affects one in 166 births.
Cross was diagnosed at age 6. Doctors told his mother that he might never walk or talk.
Eleven years later, the high school junior is trying to turn his short documentary into a feature film with the help of Joey Travolta, owner of Entertianment Experience and the older brother of actor John.
“Make no mistake about it, we have pulled each other’s hair out (at times). It has not been easy,” said Keri Bowers, Cross’ mother. “Taylor looks damn good in life because he works at it.”
Cross interviewed dozens of kids with autism and their parents. Among them was world-class surfer Izzy Paskowitz, who discussed his frustration with his son’s disorder.
“It would be difficult for other kids. It would be and it is. You can imagine another teen in this situation and he’s not autistic. How would he feel?” Cross said.
Though Cross attends regular classes, he has few friends without autism. He said he chooses to hang out with autistic kids, who vary in functioning levels from verbal to nonverbal.
“I think I understand what’s been going on in the head,” he said. “It’s a comfort level.”
Cross has never been invited to a birthday party, play date or engagement by a peer without autism. Those he interviewed have had similar experiences.
“They don’t judge each other,” Bowers said.
Cross, an avid fan of film and video games, hopes to pursue film as a career. In “Normal People Scare Me” he interviewed the dean of New York University’s film program.
Though his path to success has not been easy, Cross said he believes others can make it further than he has.
“When it comes to that, work on it on your own terms. Try to reach out, because it will make you more insecure if you don’t,” he said.
A film about siblings of autistic kids is in preproduction and will be directed by Cross’ younger brother Jace, 10.
To learn more about Taylor Cross’ projects, go to www.artistsforautism.com
“Normal People Scare Me” will be screened at The Flutie Bowl, Lucky Strike, 145 Ipswich St., Boston. Tonight, 6-11 p.m. Tickets are $100, with all proceeds benefiting the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism.