I vividly remember the day my son Dane’s physical therapist pointed out that there was an elephant standing in the middle of our living room.  We had all been so busy concentrating on Dane’s cerebral palsy diagnosis that the adorable, curly blond headed boy, full of autistic tendencies, staring at the TV screen, spinning in circles, seemed to go unnoticed.  But when our eyes were opened, and we processed the situation, my beautiful son, Jett, went unnoticed no more.

He was a textbook spinning, rocking, stacking, non-verbal, no eye contact, and fits of endless rage kinda kid.  This happened, just like the research predicts, after 20 ‘typical’ months of having a happy, smiling, dancing, loving child.  With devastation came realization.  Acceptance brought therapy, and lots of it.

Two years passed and each day got better.  We hunkered down.  We did the work.  Jett progressed but his odd tendencies remained.  He would focus on something SO HARD that it was an obsession.  I kept thinking, “If only that power could be used for good.”  I knew, one day, it would.

Pre-school came and went.  Jett was incredibly bright and learned to read early.  He wasn’t so keen on other children but he would find a captivating subject or task and put everything he had into it.  Creative endeavors: paint, crayons, clay became his closest friends.  Everyone marveled at his passion and intensity.

By the time Jett hit kindergarten the angry fits had stopped.  He was starting to play with other children.  Jett began taking an interest in what his family was doing and wanted to be a part of things, a part of us.  As a filmmaker and parent of two special needs children I couldn’t have been more thrilled.  I would never discourage any of my children’s interests (barring anything illegal!) but watching both of my boys become inspired by the arts made me more proud than I ever thought I could ever be.

I had begged Jett to be in all of my films.  My younger son, Dane, cerebral palsy diagnosis and all, is a huge ham and loves his time in front of the camera.  Jett refused me for two years.  But, knee deep in kindergarten, he asked me if he could make a movie of his own.  At that particular moment we were about to have dinner.  I quickly showed him my favorite stop motion film, WESTERN SPAGHETTI by PES, gave him a quick, two-minute tutorial and then went into the kitchen to eat.  Just moments after we’d finished, a very excited Jett came rushing into the kitchen, with his Grandmother’s cell phone, and declared that he had made a film, PEOPLE WHO BURY ANIMALS.

I reluctantly grabbed my mom-in-laws phone assuming that he had just randomly snapped a bunch of pictures that she would need to spend the next hour trashing, but what I found was a film, an actual film!  It wasn’t perfect.  It wasn’t as detailed as Jett had envisioned, but dammit, it was a film.  I got all teary eyed, showed my husband, and said “Edit this for him… now!”  Jett watched excitedly as Daddy downloaded his ‘footage’ into our editing software, and rightly so, didn’t change a thing.  He added titles, music and credits only.  Jett was very verbal about the fact that the music needed to be creepier.  Maybe we’ll change that for the director’s cut some day.

When Daddy was done we announced Jett’s filmmaking debut to the world via facebook and Jett proudly watched as our friends and family showered him with compliments.  His eyes shone with confidence every time he’d see another ‘like’.  I decided to send PEOPLE WHO BURY ANIMALS into a local film festival on the off chance that they might be willing to throw my little guy a bone.  Unfortunately, they chose one of my shorts but not Jett’s.

I had another ‘No doubt I’m a mother moment’ when realizing I would have traded places and rejection notices with my son in a heartbeat.  But I understand that festivals can’t indulge everyone and this would still be a great experience for the boys, as they had never been quite ready to attend a festival with me.

A few weeks later, just days before the festival, I was trolling my own IMDb page, checking on some recent updates, and noticed an extra ‘Producer’ credit.  To my great surprise, there it was, a producer credit for PEOPLE WHO BURY ANIMALS.  I about died.  I had applied 13 times to get an IMDb for my first film, but there it was, in black and white, my son’s movie, with his own director credit to boot.  Jett proudly, and loudly, read his name and synopsis.  I cried again.

It’s been a long road.  I had always seen the light, but sometimes it was dim and seemed just slightly out of reach.  Moments like this defy description.  They are magical, inspiring and life changing.  Jett came to the festival, enjoyed the other films and joined me on stage for Q&A afterwards, this coming from a child who had refused to remain in a room with strangers for the first three years of his life.  Moments that seem sweet to others are genuinely momentous to me.

Jett continues to amaze me and has now asked if he can make a ‘real’ movie with ‘real’ people.  I can’t wait to help him make that happen.  He’s even agreed to act in my next film.  Something tells me, one day, I’ll be asking to be in his.