Monday, December 31, 2018

Autism Answer: A New Year Resolution in Film

I'm making a resolution to watch more movies in the upcoming year. 

I have a love of great filmmaking and have even written a screenplay myself. I actively engage in conversations specifically to share my desire for a more inclusive film industry. Yet, I don't carve out a lot of time to enjoy the films themselves. I catch myself too often worrying that movie watching is lazy. 


I believe the movies we make are important and of great value and yet I also think watching them is lazy? That's not congruent thinking at all! So, I will still have those conversations but I will also walk my walk by seeking and watching and recommending films that are inclusive, diverse, and entertaining. 

Allow me to make an inclusive film suggestion for you while we're chatting about it. Living with Lynette was written, directed, produced, and stars my mom, Dr. Lynette Louise ("The Brain Broad"). It also stars two of my brothers, me, my dad, and my niece. Oh, and the other actors and crew are friends who either have disabilities, mental health diagnosis, or family members that do. 

The Plot:  A wild and weird family is moving into their new home in the hopes of creating a more permanent life for themselves. Headed by Lynette -a strong single mother - the large family with diverse backgrounds and various mental health challenges is used to the curious stares of strangers. However, when the new neighbors begin to introduce themselves on moving day, Lynette can't help but notice that perhaps they are the strange ones. Soon she finds herself doing therapy on a catatonic neighbor, attempting to understand his exasperated ever-changing wife, and babysitting their young child, all while trying to keep the walls of her new home from being eaten and the carpets from getting stained before they've even finished moving in.

The Concept: My mom's intention is to create a special membership site that invites people to send in clips of their special needs loved one in order to be selected to be on the show. If this evolves as intended it will grow into an improvised web series involving all levels from severely challenged to high functioning individuals. As it grows, my mom will make it available for public viewing (so people no longer have to be members on the site). This is a fictional comedy based on our lives and my mom did an amazing job of keeping it funny, candid, and practically true. 

The Awards:  Living with Lynette was 2018 honorable mention winner in two categories at the International Independent Film Awards: Casting and Original Song. The song is funny and catchy, and I'm glad it was recognized. But it's the casting I'm particularly happiest about, because it is the casting that's different, important, and - well - my family! Actors with autism, bi-polar disorder, and even one man dying of cancer (my dad). It is the point of the show, to share what it is to be crazy and what it is to be normal and the subjective/invented line between the two, while including people with diagnosis and disabilities to play integral roles in the making of the show. And so we are honored for both awards but mostly so for the casting award! Thank you to the International Independent Film Awards judges! 

The show (free) on Vimeo: Living with Lynette
The show (free) on YouTube: 

I have taken the time to find books written by diverse people from various cultures, and boy has it been insightful and fun! And how funny that reading rarely feels lazy to me, when reading is done by sitting on my butt, or laying around in my bed, sipping coffee and dipping myself into a world noone around me can see. How funny that that hardly seem lazy to me while movie watching can. And yet, movie watching can be easily done as an activity, dipping many of us, together, into a world unlike our own; sparking conversations and ideas as a group. 

Well, silly me! 2019 will be filled with films I'll watch alone, with family, and with friends. As with the books I read I'll take the time to find inclusive and diverse stories (last night I watched ROMA, a fantastic movie that chronicles one year [specifically in the early 1970s] in the life of a maid in Mexico City. I HIGHLY reccomend this film which is available on Netflix!) that are guaranteed to enlighten me in surprising ways while reminding me to give attention to the important work of inclusive filmmaking. 

What fun I'm going to have keeping this resolution!!

I hope you'll join me in taking the time to direct your attention to things that matter to you. I also suggest taking a moment to reflect on possible contradictions in your life that will be fun to correct. Like engaging in inclusive storytelling! 

Happy New Year my fantastic friends!! 

Feel free to share film suggestions with me and follow along for my upcoming recommendations.

Hugs, smiles, and love!! 
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Monday, December 17, 2018

Autism Answer: I Was Right

Lately, I keep thinking this to myself: "I was right."

The recent reason is simply that I have spent a few years imagining and setting up for a year when I could live everywhere and nowhere, traveling easily to family and staying with them while I am helpful, moving onto other family members when they crave my help, all the while satisfying my deep desire to spend all my time with family. In my imagination, that was a life of happiness for me.

And over the past five months, that's what I've been doing. And, turns out, I was right! That is a life of happiness for me!

Today my oldest son turns twenty-five. And I am thinking again: "I was right."

I had spent years and years imagining myself as a mom. Craving and creating situations that might best serve to make that dream come true.

Now, I was younger then. Still not experienced enough to know how true it is that what I imagine and create will happen but that it will also surprise me by feeling and looking different than what I imagined I was creating.

So while my dream was coming true, while my son was being built in my belly and born from my body, and my love for him was surprising me by feeling unfamiliar despite years of preparation, I was not immediately aware that it had happened, that I had made my biggest clearest dream come true. That he had brought that gift to me on his birthday.

But I was immediately aware that I was right. About my desire to be a mom, not so much my idea of what that meant.

Indeed, I couldn't have been more wrong about that! But my son, in his interest in continuing to gift me with truth, made certain to let me know.

He didn't go to sleep just because I was singing, he didn't listen to my instructions just because I said them with love and kindness, he didn't eat his vegetables just because I patiently explained the reasons to do so, he didn't calm down just because I spoke to him as an equal rather than treating him like a lesser citizen. All these things and more I had been so certain of, despite my experience as the oldest of eight with four young brothers I often babysat ("They're different," I thought, "they have disabilities and stuff. When I have my own children they won't be adopted so they'll begin life with my style of parenting and will listen better because of that." Boy, I was a cute little fool! ;D) I had been sure I knew what living life as a mom would look and feel like for me.

Yet together my son and I (and eventually my sons and I) figured out ways to live the life I had imagined while creating more realistic and true experiences of living it. And always it was, and is, clear to me: "I was right."

Happy birthday, Jory Rand. You are a wonderful husband and father. A kind and considerate brother and son. You are perfect and continue to grow in perfect directions as a man. You are more than I imagined and everything I could hope for.

I hope with all of my heart that as you create, imagine, and adjust the life you're living, you have ample opportunities to honestly tell yourself: "I was right."

I love you!!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook) /

Jory Rand Shelton (Photo by Tim Hale @ Tim Hale photography)
Check out my son's music mixes on his Soundcloud page. My favorite, this Freestyle with his friend Genta: Freestyle by Jory