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Film & DVD

Short film 'Charlie' to begin filming in April

Local filmmakers seek local support for short movie about a kid with autism

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When trying to create a movie, the old adage is if you can’t go long, go short, at least until you can build support for a feature-length production. Yet that often belies the fact that a short film can be a complex and costly undertaking in its own right.

Case in point: Charlie, the little local film that could – or at least is trying to. The movie will tell the story of an autistic teenager and his football-coach dad, who is struggling to deal with his son’s condition. It’s being produced by Sunset Studios, an Orlando production company founded last year by Ryan and Cristina Cimino, who intend to finance the 20-minute project for just $2,500. Almost everything for the film is being donated and everyone is working for free. Food, basic supplies and a mandatory general-liability policy are the only major expenses. Still, the complicated process has already taken many months, with no footage to show for it. That should finally change in April, when a weeklong shoot is planned.

To find the project’s origins, you have to go back to a news story from 2006.

“I was watching a newscast of a young man that has autism,” Rob Tuscani, the film’s writer, cinematographer and co-producer says. “He was a water boy on a basketball team, and the last game of the season they put him in. … He shot like six three-pointers. I started bawling my eyes out watching this kid, and I thought, wow, you know, what would it be like to have this son that was, you know, perhaps a tremendous athlete, but [the dad is a] really awful person and said, you know, ‘To hell with my son. I don’t want to have anything to do with him.’”

Director Grant Martin, creator of the eight-minute The Cab, which played Enzian’s FilmSlam showcase last July, is still a student himself (at Full Sail University). He was invited into the project by his mentor, Tuscani, with whom he had worked before.

“It’s a love story between father and son, and it’s because of Charlie’s condition that Harlin, the father [experienced local actor Jim Mullins], has to condition himself to face, sort of, his past and himself,” Grant says. “[Autism] is a tough topic, and I think because we’re bringing that value into somebody who is so young, that’s just going to be a real challenge, but it’s going to be very fun and very memorable.”

The project has already benefited from its subject; autism awareness was perhaps the main reason the film drew close to 100 people to a fundraiser on Feb. 15 at 310 Lakeside in downtown Orlando. The public was invited for $25 a person. In exchange, donors were treated to food, drink, prizes, information about the movie and a speech by Dr.

Andrew Pittington, an expert in social disorders.

“I think this movie touches on such a wonderful component,” Pittington says. “Autism itself is not a one-size-fits-all condition. … I know [someone like] Charlie. … I have Charlie [as a patient]. He sees me every week. … Charlie lives amongst us every single day, and I guarantee Charlie’s dad lives amongst us, and we need to help him too.”

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