160MC: “Autism Awareness” Reflection

For this module my group produced the short documentary Autism Awareness about Harrison, a ten-year-old boy with autism. I was already close to and informed on this issue as I myself am autistic, and I used my own knowledge to inform some questions I asked Harrison (although these questions may not have been included in the final product due to editorial choices). For example, I personally take issue with organisations like Autism Speaks, which put a large amount of funding towards developing a “cure” for autism, but autism is not a disease it is simply having your brain work a bit differently to most people. Based on this knowledge I asked Harrison if ever wished he didn’t have autism; to which I was happy he responded in the negative.

As well as using my own prior knowledge I read these articles on stigma surrounding autism:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2904965/

https://iancommunity.org/ssc/autism-stigma

There is a heavy stigma with how autistic children are portrayed in the media; stories about children with autism are usually framed from the parent’s perspective and in a way that portrays autistic children as a problem and a burden to their parents, rather than focusing on the issues the children face. There have even been portrayals where people are shown to sympathise with parents who express a wish to “end it all”, and this has actually proven deadly as there have been many heart-wrenching cases of parents killing their autistic children. This is why we need to stop portraying autistic children as problems to be dealt with, but as people who need understanding and support. This ties into our documentary as Harrison should be given more understanding by others to be allowed to wear his headphones and his hood up to reduce his anxiety, rather than being punished for his coping mechanism.

There are also many negative stereotypes surrounding autism; most people expect autistic people, especially children, to be screaming, kicking, violent, socially inept and in need of constant support. While these can be manifestations of autism these symptoms are usually a sign of someone not being given proper care, and also it’s important that we recognise that autism is a wide spectrum and not all autistic people suffer the same problems or show the same symptoms. These stereotypes were addressed in our documentary where Harrison spoke about how he doesn’t like telling people he’s autistic because he doesn’t think people will believe him because he doesn’t fit these negative stereotypes.

There is also a stereotype that autistic people are unintelligent, but there have actually been many examples of autistic people having Savant Syndrome, being geniuses or prodigies in specific areas (links: Famous Autistic People  What Genius and Autism Have in Common). Overall we need to focus on raising awareness of the reality of autism, dispelling the negative stereotypes and portraying autistic people as people in need of support and understanding, not problems to be gotten rid of. This is what we focused on in the end of our video, Harrison suggesting how people could raise awareness of autism.

For the production side of our documentary I’m very happy with it and with my own input. My job was sound recording, using a mic on a boom pole and I think I did a very good job of using the boom pole, managing to keep it out of shot while staying close to the action. It was tiring on the arms as well.

I particularly enjoyed using the boom pole in one scene we shot, but didn’t include much of in the final product, where we followed behind Harrison as he gave us a tour of his room, for this I had to follow close behind Sam, our camera operator, and anticipate and mirror his movements to stay close to the action while not getting in the way. I think I did a good job of it, I found a good flow of movement. We did film a lot of content, we could easily have done a longer version of this vide.

I also had some input in suggesting what shots were taken, how they were framed and later I had some input in the early stages of editing. I did also attempt to construct an original score for the piece, but in the end we went with copyright free music we found online.

Overall I’m really happy with how it turned out, I think it looks really good visually and the flow of shots and dialogue work really well. Only issue would be that there was a low frequency present in the audio, possibly due to a faulty cable, that was very loud and pronounced when played through the speakers in the presentation. If I was to change anything I would try to remove that frequency with a low pass filter in editing.

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