THE SNOW BALL is 7-minute film made for the series, Stories from the Spectrum, a new multi-platform media project that explores the subject of autism in America, and how we as a society must prepare to address the needs of our increasingly neurodiverse population. The creator and executive producer is Kathryn Dietz, an award-winning PBS filmmaker who developed this project during her tenure as Visiting Artist at Tufts University’s Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development.
Stories from the Spectrum features short films about teens and adults who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Taken together the films testify to the tremendous breadth and variety of life of the spectrum, through intimate and strength-based stories of characters whose disabilities range from mild to severe. Film has the power to confer dignity upon its subjects and this is the aim of this project: to celebrate and give voice to people who often have none, cutting through the polarizing and stigmatizing arguments that have characterized discussions about autism for too long.
THE SNOW BALL is the first film we made for this series, shot and edited by Dael Mundy, who was then a senior at the School for the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts. An advisor for the project introduced us to Katy Shamitz, founder and director of Skills for Living in Norwell, MA, an after-school program that teaches social skills and helps otherwise lonely teens come together and develop friendships. “We are teaching invisible skills that you really need to be successful in the adult world,” she says in the film.
We watch a group of boys work together to plan the annual semi-formal dance known as The Snow Ball, figuring out logistics while working through their concerns about attending a dance. Our main focus is on two older teens, Colin and Zach, who are hoping to expand their horizons and be comfortable with others. With remarkable candor, they speak about their fears before the dance, and then celebrate their successes as the night unfolds.
Written, directed, and produced by: Kathryn Dietz
Cinematography and editing by: Dael Mundy
Live music by: The Norwell High School Jazz Band
Special thanks to: Katy Shamitz, Jess Zataut, and the Skills for Living Students
Besides being featured on this website, THE SNOW BALL was a special selection at the Boston International Kids Film Festival in 2016, and will be entered into other festivals plus featured on an upcoming Stories from the Spectrum website. To contact Kathryn Dietz, please connect via LinkedIn.
The views expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the NLM Family Foundation.