Normal People Scare Me: Hearts, Arts, and a Night of Autism Awareness

For the 2nd installment in’s exclusive coverage of Normal People Scare Me, Wrong Planet’s own Amy Gravino was on the scenes of the Autism benefit dinner preceding the movie’s premiere. In case you’re just joining us, Normal People Scare Me is the Autism documentary produced in part by Joey Travolta. Read on for Amy’s great inside scoop of the Normal People Scare Me Autism benefit dinner!

April 6th, 2006. As night crept in upon the lush, verdant landscape of Agoura Hills, California, the entourage of Taylor Cross (director of Normal People Scare Me), Keri Bowers (co-director of Normal People Scare Me and Taylor’s mom), and myself arrived at the home of actor John Schneider and his wife Elly for a star-studded celebration of all things autism.
In addition to Taylor Cross and Keri Bowers, a whole host of autism illuminati were in attendance that evening, including Joey Travolta, producer of Normal People Scare Me. Mr. Travolta is a former special education teacher, and he runs an acting camp for kids ages 10 to 18 who are on the autism spectrum. It was nearly two years ago that he interviewed Taylor, and thus the process of creating Normal People Scare Me began.

My part in Normal People Scare Me came about over a year ago, when Keri and Taylor came to New York and wanted to interview people on the spectrum for the movie. AHA-AS-PDD, a support group to which my mother belongs, advertised information about the filming of the movie on their mailing list. At the time, I still lived in New York, and I quickly decided to participate. On January 12th, 2005, after a 40-minute drive to Huntington, Taylor interviewed and filmed me.

A year and several months passed before I heard from Keri again. She contacted me via telephone and told me that that the film was nearly done being edited, and that several events for the film would be happening soon in Los Angeles. One such event was the Hearts n’ Arts fundraiser at the home of John and Elly Schneider, to which Keri invited me to attend as her guest.

One of the highlights of the evening was the presentation of the Autism Perspective’s “Hearts n’Arts” awards, for services to autism and autism awareness. Among the recipients were Izzy and Danielle Paskowitz founders of the autism surf camp Surfer’s Healing; Drs. Robert and Lynn Koegel, of the Koegel Autism Research & Training Center; Lisa Ackerman, exective director of Talk about Curing Autism Now; and Dr. Bruce Hensel of NBC4 for his one-hour report Autism: The Hidden Epidemic.

The main event, however, came after the awards: a very special never-before-seen 15-minute clip of Normal People Scare Me. This was the first time I’d seen any of the movie, and the first time I’d seen my interview in it. It was amazing. From that brief glimpse, I could already tell that the entire film would be incredible. As other guests came and went from the room (the clip was on a continuous loop), it was clear that they, too, were moved by what they had seen. A two and a half year-old dream had finally come to fruition.

Just as there had been people of all ages and backgrounds in the film, so were there at that gala. Despite our differences, each and every one of us had been touched by autism in our lives, and on that night it was what brought us together. That was what we were truly celebrating. Beyond the chatter, the glasses of wine, and the magnificent hors d’oeuvres spread, Taylor Cross and Keri Bowers’ vision had finally become a reality.

by Amy Gravino

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