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Autism, Acting, and Rock 'n' Roll!

Jamison Braly, a filmmaker shares here in this blog post about his experience directing a very inspirational music video.

I know almost nothing about autism.

I’m sure there are PSA's about it, and I am betting 20/20 or Dateline did a show about it, but I missed all of that data and am left with a vague knowledge of what autism really is.

About all I know about autism is that some think immunization shots can cause it. And in some cases, people with autism are really good at something creative (Art, music, acting, etc). Beyond that, my 'experience' with autism goes only as far as 2 guys who I worked with on a music video that I was producing.

I am a videographer. A good friend of mine in Montgomery, Alabama was the bass player in a band called All You Need and we had talked about doing a music video. Their lead guitarist, Preston, is autistic. When we made a music video together for their song “Color In The Sky” I found Preston to be a very laid back guy who took instruction very well.  Preston was very shy when in front of the camera, until he started to perform, then he came alive. His skills on the guitar are absolutely amazing and he is super humble about it. He had a few “ticks” I picked up on while he performed, but they seemed very minor to me.

One of the songs on their CD called "Right Away" was written and sung by Preston. And he played the lead guitar part. It soon became my favorite song on their CD and I insisted they let me shoot a second music video for them for this song. I even offered to do it for free.

During the shoot, I had to coax and encourage Preston to play the part I had in mind for him. When I finally asked him what I could do to make him more comfortable, he said he didn’t like hearing his own voice on the song we were playing during the shoot. So from there on out, we would start to play the song on my phone so that the guitarist could get the rhythm, I would stop the song, and Preston would sing.

During the edit, there were many shots I had to cut. Preston had some eye-fluttering I had to edit out and the occasional head-shake, but beyond that, any evidence of “autism” was not apparent.

Beyond the minor ticks I mentioned, Preston’s autism is virtually undetectable. I don’t know how autism affected his everyday life as a kid, but as a young man in his 20’s, it doesn’t seem to hold  him back, and he has a pretty large group of friend who treat him like any other friend.  He even has a serious girlfriend who is super friendly who works at the local Chick-Fil-A.



The actor in the video (Taylor) is also High Functioning autistic. I know almost nothing about him but somehow the topic of Preston being autistic came up and Taylor revealed he was too. Taylor had a habit of shaking his hands in front of his face. He usually did it before I would film him after giving him some instruction. Aside from that, his autism never really showed and I never would have assumed he was autistic if he had not told me.

I guess this post is geared mostly towards parents of autistic children. As I worked with these guys, I kept thinking how proud their parents’ must be to see how they have grown into young men with independent lives, loves, jobs, and such talents. I occasionally will read stories of parents with a young child with autism and how difficult it can be sometimes, but I thought that a story like mine (And seeing the end results of my work with them) could inspire some parents who may be struggling right now. Aside from the label of “autism”, the two guys lead perfectly “normal” and happy lives and they were a lot of fun to work with.


The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.