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Posts Tagged ‘Janet Grillo’

Autism America Radio – Saturday October 29th

October 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Autism America Radio welcomes special guests,  actor Christian Clemenson and filmmaker Janet Grillo!

Join hosts Matthew Asner and Nick Geber for two hours of talk and interviews this Saturday 3:00 to 5:00 PM PST on KTLK 1150 in Los Angeles.

Want to participate? Call in studio 877-520-1150! Listen online or as podcast on iTunes! You can also visit Autism America Radio on Facebook!

Autism Talk TV 15 – Fly Away – Interview with Janet Grillo and Ashley Rickards

August 16, 2011 2 comments

This blog post is by Alex Plank, founder of Wrong Planet

Fly Away is a film by Emmy award winning producer and newly cemented director Janet Grillo. I sit down with both Janet and her upcoming star Ashley Rickards. We talk about the film and Janet’s experience as a mother of an individual on the autism spectrum. I enjoyed watching the movie when it premiered in Beverly Hills, California.

Fly Away is a pretty big deal. It’s been playing practically everywhere including a limited run in theaters in major cities around the US. And Ashley’s new show, “Awkward.” is a big hit as well.

I know you’re going to get a kick out of this interview so sit back, relax, and grab a bag of popcorn. Oh, and you need to watch the movie onlineor buy the DVD from New Video or Amazon!

“Fly Away” The story of a sisterhood behind the scenes

July 21, 2011 3 comments

By Beth Broderick

Janet Grillo and I are both believers in the sisterhood.   There are actually a great number of women in Hollywood who have each other’s backs, but you would be hard pressed to see evidence of this in the media.   We are bombarded with images of women behaving badly toward one another … the “Housewives” hurling daggers … “Mean Girls” going for the jugular … Chelsea Handler attacking … everyone.   Some of us … in fact I would venture to say that most of us are hard working professionals who know how tough it is out there, especially for women of a certain age.  When one of us goes out on a limb with a project to which she is dedicated, we pony up if we can, we talk it up as we should … and by God we show up when we are asked.  That is the principle anyway. We also have families, jobs, or lack thereof and a host of other struggles that can make it hard for even a true believer to live up to this standard.

When Janet first approached me about playing Jeanne in “Fly Away” I knew I could not think about it for very long.   Taking the lead role in a low low budget film is huge commitment of one’s time energy and resources.   There is a ton of give and very little take in the true Indie world.  This is not the glossy world of a movie like “The Kids are All right” with major movie stars and a small but comfortable budget.  Think separate trailers, decent wardrobe allowance, assistants to run errands and fetch the stars to set asking “Do you need anything”? Can I bring you anything…anything at all?  No this is the gritty Indie world of “Can we use your clothes”?” Can you change in a tent”?   Do you mind going pee in a Porta-Potty?   I took a deep breath and said ‘yes of course I will do it”, because the story needed to be told, because I trusted Janet to tell it, because it is what a sister says. I got myself to the set.

Janet and her ‘dream team” of Pavlina and Sandra and the other bright talented women who took up the lead positions behind the camera and my beautiful movie daughter Ashley and I in front constituted a real sisterhood.   We were all moved by the story of a single mom struggling to raise a daughter who is on the Autism spectrum.  There were no divas, no raised voices the only drama involved ended up on the screen. We gave every inch of ourselves in trying to be true to it.   If you have seen it I hope you can sense our bond. If you have not seen it I hope you will, because this one is straight from our hearts.

There was another woman behind the scenes with us who is a part of the larger sisterhood and also my blood.  Laura Broderick was our Autism consultant and she was a great asset to the film. She is also my greatest supporter, my biggest defender and my best friend.

Laura is the executive director of two programs offering supported living services to persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  She has worked with this population for nearly twenty five years.   She has over a hundred employees and the clients she serves have some of the most challenging behaviors imaginable. Nearly eighty percent of the clients receiving support services from “Diverse Journeys” and “Get a Life” have been liberated from institutions.   Many were locked away for most of their lives.   Laura and her partners are undaunted by even the most extreme cases.  When the state approached her about Larry ((not his real name) a man in his mid –thirties – long hospitalized – who had poked his own eyes out in a fit of rage, Laura did not bat hers.   “No problem,” she replied.   “We will get him a baseball hat and get on with his life”.

Laura and I share a bond that goes beyond sisterhood.  Though she is six years my junior ours more closely resembles the relationship that many twins share. We finish each other’s sentences, read each other’s thoughts and are keenly aware of each other’s mood.   What is remarkable about this is that we are not at all alike.  While we share many physical attributes our appearance has been shaped by the divergent paths that our lives have taken.  I have the toned and honed physique of a professional actress. Years of facials and manicures and Pilates have sculpted me into the display version of our genetic code.  Laura is tall and strong … the practical version … the girl you call when you need to move a refrigerator or plant a tree.  She has been carefree in the sun as her skin bears witness and her wolf-blue eyes are lined with care.  This does not dim her beauty, but defines it.

Laura began this work right out of college. Her very first job was the overnight shift in a group home run by the Jay Nolan Center.  This was a long time ago when we knew very little about Autism and often grouped people on the spectrum with roommates who had schizophrenia and other mental disorders.   This led to a very chaotic environment with most of the emphasis on containment.   We shared an apartment then and I was not at all happy to see her come through the door via the emergency room sporting a large human bite mark on her forearm. She had furniture hurled at her, took punches to every part of her body and at one point a young client standing atop a high counter grabbed her by the hair and jumped to the floor bashing her skull against the tiles. .  Her hands and arms still bear the scars of scratches and bites that she sustained during this period.  I was not sold on the whole idea.  Laura was unfazed. She never saw the behaviors of her clients; she always saw and loved the person inside.  She pursued her career with a vengeance seeking better ways to communicate with and build a life for people on the Spectrum.

While Laura was honing her expertise in this field, I was honing mine in the world of film and television.  We both worked hard, logging long hours and enduring endless frustrations.  I battled with the Hollywood hierarchy and she confronted the status quo of an entrenched bureaucracy.   She helped me learn countless lines and visited me on set after set, easing the loneliness of life on location.  I listened with intent to her concerns about Melissa’s medication or Jimmy’s penchant for running away or whether state funding would dry up.  Twenty five years have gone by and we have both come a long way from 800 Park Street and our childhood home.  We have lived separate lives but have never really been apart.  I have fed her cats, she has walked my dogs.  We have shared the heart ache of loves gone wrong, the passion of our politics and the stresses of our oft fractured family.  Oh and innumerable bottles of good wine.  We call ourselves the pigeon sisters, a nod to the fact that we prefer each other’s company sometimes to the point of fault.  We would be worried about, but we are too busy making plans for our next Scrabble tournament.

Our lives have intersected at nearly every turn and that is why it was so gratifying for us to work together on “Fly Away”.   It was the first and most likely only time our professional paths have crossed.  Laura helped us to make the film ever more authentic and we in turn produced a portrait of what so many families with children on the Spectrum endure.  This is the cause of Laura’s life and in that way the story of it too.

The movie was very well reviewed. We received the kind of notices that are a film makers dream.  I was deeply grateful for the appreciation from audiences and critics that our little movie managed to reach.  It is lovely to have our hard work rewarded, but in my sister’s world there is no applause, no camera to record the long days and nights her dedication requires.

Fly Away is a very personal story for Janet, but also for me. It is an opportunity for me to offer a window into a world that Laura lives in unobserved.  A world I was reluctant to enter. A world I would not have chosen for her and yet this world that has offered me a life time of lessons.   I now understand the joy of celebrating the small moments of endearment and achievement in her client’s lives. I have learned through Laura’s eyes to see difficult behaviors as simply pieces of the puzzle, simple facts of a life like having red hair or being good at bowling.   I look forward to reports about these lives as I do those of my own friends, because her clients are a part of my world now too. When two of her mostly non-verbal clients ask to be chaperoned on a date and walk the mall giggling hand in hand it is a testament.  Every small advance for one of these people is the answer to a parent’s reverent prayer.  When a young man formerly locked away begins his own recycling business it is a victory for us all. These stories are a powerful reminder that while I might make the movies, it is Laura and her colleagues who quietly and without fanfare make the real magic happen.

Thank  you  Laura and …  Bravo!

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Janet Grillo Talks ‘Fly Away’

July 12, 2011 1 comment

Janet Grillo, an Emmy Award winning producer, an Award winning writer and director, and a former Studio Executive, sits down to discuss her film, FLY AWAY.

FLY AWAY’s narration of teenager with autism is relatable for many families. The Autism Speaks Transition Tool Kit was created to serve as a guide to assist families on the journey from adolescence to adulthood.  For more information, visit here.

Here is the theatrical trailor

“FLY AWAY is now available nationally on DVD for sale/rental/streaming, or on VOD.” For info contact http://www.flyawaymovie.com, 10% of proceeds benefit Autism Speaks.

New Video DVD: http://www.newvideo.com/flatiron-film-company/fly-away/

Netflix: http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Fly_Away/70170708?trkid=2361637#height601

iTunes: http://www.iTunes.com/Movies/FlyAway2011

Amazon: http://goo.gl/1uUo7

TimeWarner Video on Demand:http://goo.gl/aykS2

An Inside Look from ‘Fly Away’ Actress Ashley Rickards

June 15, 2011 7 comments

“When you meet one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.”

This was what Janet Grillo told me at one of our initial meetings.  Growing up with horses and other animals, my family and I had a pet therapy program in which we worked with kids and teens with autism, the physically handicapped and the elderly. But it was from that experience, that I knew just how wide the spectrum of autism runs. Whether it be high functioning or more severe, as is the case with my character Mandy, it is all very challenging for each individual afflicted with autism to interpret this world.  Discovering Mandy’s world, for me, was a journey. One with many physical changes I chose to ensue upon myself so that the truth and honesty of this film could help the public understand and improve the world for those diagnosed with autism.  I feel as though my work on this film is not finished, that it is now also my job to ensure this film assists in making a change in how the world helps our kids and loved ones afflicted with autism thrive.

I found that for Mandy, the world was a very strange place to live in. For her most everything was overwhelming to her senses. It’s difficult to conceptualize how heightened the world around Mandy was. It would be as if you, a neuro-typical, had your eyes dilated while looking into the sun, your body waxed, and a hearing aid in your ear turned up too loud. Now, not every minute of every day was like this for Mandy. It depended upon the repetition of the morning and the ease of transitions throughout the day. As stress would build up inside of her due to unforeseen events, be it a visitor stopping by or a different time of day to eat breakfast, her senses would heighten to almost painful levels. At that point things as miniscule as the texture of a fabric could induce an uncontrollable tantrum. Though it is not as if she wouldn’t try to remain calm. Pressure plays a big role in easing anxiety, at least for Mandy. There was a sort of physical manifestation of anxiety that would embody an itch in her joints, or a tingling under her nail bed. The symptoms such as hand flapping, toe walking, and overall stiffness were an attempt to create a calming pressure on the afflicted areas so the anxiety, or itchiness would subside. Trying to communicate this discomfort to avoid even the start of this seemed nearly impossible for Mandy. It was as if she spoke a language that nobody else spoke, or even recognized as a language. Attempt after attempt would be made to alert those around her or ask for what she needs but no matter how clearly she felt she was explaining it; she would not be understood fluently.

For me, when I was putting Mandy together as a person, I knew there where going to be drastic differences in our physical appearances. Her sensory issues alone would inhibit her from ever shaving. Let alone the fact that there was no time for her mother to help her with such a task, the sensation of a razor, the sharp edges, the blindingly silver color and the sound it makes when it brushes your skin, would have been utterly overwhelming and painful for her to endure. Due to this I chose to not shave any hair on my body and let my eyebrows grow out as Mandy would.  Then, if you look at Mandy’s diet you would see that all the foods she is able to tolerate are not healthy. They were high in fat, sugar and carbohydrates. Thus I felt as though Mandy would not be as physically fit as any actress in Los Angeles. So I put on a little over 20 lbs for the role. During this process I ate what Mandy would eat— Mac n cheese, ice cream, cereal and juice. All of which are consistent foods, and left Mandy with grounded feeling. Something she was very grateful for and on most days, was her only chance at relative peace.

The bond between Mandy and her mother is beyond close. Jeanne loved her daughter as Mandy. She saw what others might not have and that love, faith and sacrifice enabled Mandy to not give up, to try every day to be a bit better than the last.  At the first school Mandy was at she was being grouped with other children with widely varying degrees of autism, disabilities and physical handicaps. She was not able to receive the personalized attention that she needed. The approach of the first school was more of a Behavioral Modification (which works on the ‘outside’ to modify the ‘inside’ of autism) versus Relational Intervention (which finds the inside of the child and from the inside out modifies the ‘outside’). Mandy needed an individual approach and a happy medium between the two styles of intervention. Warrington hall offered a personalized plan to help each individual child succeed in their own way. Unfortunately there is not enough awareness of what these schools really are or that they even exist. For the most part, they are not institutions and they can be incredibly beneficial. With 1 in 100 children in this country afflicted with autism, there simply are not enough of these schools in this country, not enough government aid and not enough understanding as a whole.

I was incredibly blessed to be a part of this movie. The whole team, Janet, Beth,  Pav, and Sandra were beyond amazing and it is they who made this movie the fantastic piece of cinema it is.  That being said, I am just one actress in LA who became Mandy for a few hours a day during our shoot. At the end of each day, I could leave Mandy behind and go home, as Ashley. I can’t imagine the day in and day out battle that someone who is actually autistic faces. But it is my hope that this film opens up a conversation, a change. That as a community we find ways to provide more tools and more aid to those families who are affected by autism.

Here is the theatrical trailor

FLY AWAY’s narration of teenager with autism is relatable for many families. The Autism Speaks Transition Tool Kit was created to serve as a guide to assist families on the journey from adolescence to adulthood.  For more information, visit here.

“FLY AWAY is now available nationally on DVD for sale/rental/streaming, or on VOD.” For info contact http://www.flyawaymovie.com, 10% of proceeds benefit Autism Speaks.

New Video DVD: http://www.newvideo.com/flatiron-film-company/fly-away/

Netflix: http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Fly_Away/70170708?trkid=2361637#height601

iTunes: http://www.iTunes.com/Movies/FlyAway2011

Amazon: http://goo.gl/1uUo7

TimeWarner Video on Demand:http://goo.gl/aykS2

Actors Making Connections

A powerful film directed by Emmy Award® winner Janet Grillo, FLY AWAY narrates the story of Jeanne and her autistic teenage daughter, Mandy. Jeanne has cared for Mandy since the day she was born, growing closer every day to a child who is charmingly offbeat one moment and nearly impossible to manage the next. In the dog park, Jeanne encounters Tom, an easygoing and accepting neighbor who sparks a romantic interest, but she finds juggling Mandy’s care and her own career leaves little room for a new man. As the pressures of work and her child’s needs increase, she must decide whether or not to enroll Mandy in a therapeutic residential facility. Over the course of a few weeks, Jeanne is confronted with the most difficult decision a parent can make: to let go, allowing her child to grow, but also grow apart; or to hold on tight and fall together.

Beth Broderick and Ashley Rickards discuss how their off screen friendship and respect created the onscreen intimacy and bond between mother and child.

Here is the theatrical trailor

FLY AWAY’s narration of teenager with autism is relatable for many families. The Autism Speaks Transition Tool Kit was created to serve as a guide to assist families on the journey from adolescence to adulthood.  For more information, visit here.

“FLY AWAY is now available nationally on DVD for sale/rental/streaming, or on VOD.” For info contact http://www.flyawaymovie.com, 10% of proceeds benefit Autism Speaks.

New Video DVD: http://www.newvideo.com/flatiron-film-company/fly-away/

Netflix: http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Fly_Away/70170708?trkid=2361637#height601

iTunes: http://www.iTunes.com/Movies/FlyAway2011

Amazon: http://goo.gl/1uUo7

TimeWarner Video on Demand:http://goo.gl/aykS2



Exploring Intervention

A powerful film directed by Emmy Award® winner Janet GrilloFLY AWAY narrates the story of Jeanne and her autistic teenage daughter, Mandy. Jeanne has cared for Mandy since the day she was born, growing closer every day to a child who is charmingly offbeat one moment and nearly impossible to manage the next. In the dog park, Jeanne encounters Tom, an easygoing and accepting neighbor who sparks a romantic interest, but she finds juggling Mandy’s care and her own career leaves little room for a new man. As the pressures of work and her child’s needs increase, she must decide whether or not to enroll Mandy in a therapeutic residential facility. Over the course of a few weeks, Jeanne is confronted with the most difficult decision a parent can make: to let go, allowing her child to grow, but also grow apart; or to hold on tight and fall together.

“FLY AWAY is now available nationally on DVD for sale/rental/streaming, or on VOD.” For info contact http://www.flyawaymovie.com, 10% of proceeds benefit Autism Speaks.
In this clip, ‘Exploring Intervention,’ actress Beth Broderick explains how she inhabited the daily life of a mother caring for her a severly impacted child, with the help of her own sister, who is an autism interventionist.

Here is the theatrical trailor

FLY AWAY’s narration of teenager with autism is relatable for many families. The Autism Speaks Transition Tool Kit was created to serve as a guide to assist families on the journey from adolescence to adulthood.  For more information, visit here.

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